2015.07.02 Alberta Falls and Trail Ridge Road

 

The patio lawn furniture was wet when we got up, prompting some of us to speculate that it had rained overnight.  Mallory set us straight by explaining that it was just “mountain dew”.  Thank you, Mallory.

The main attraction for today was to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and do a trail hike to Alberta Falls.  This is a popular trail hike that advertised itself as being 0.6 miles.  Perfect for our group.

Since we got a bit of later start than normal and arrived in the park after 9am, we decided to park and ride the shuttle 15 minutes to the trailhead.  On the shuttle, PK sat next to a young man named Thor from Denmark.  PK would make a great United States ambassador.

Alberta Falls Trailhead

Alberta Falls Trailhead

KK and PK Walking on Trail

KK and PK Walking on Trail

The walk up to Alberta Falls turned out to be much longer than what was advertised.  By our estimation, it was closer to 1.5 miles each way.

One of my favorite parts of the walk was listening to the roaring water.  It is easy to forget how powerful nature can be, but a trail hike like this one reminds you in a hurry.

A completely unstaged walk up the trail

A completely unstaged walk up the trail

Some parts of the trail went straight up

Some parts of the trail went straight up

A Chipmunk

A Chipmunk

Getting closer to the top

Getting closer to the top

All smiles on the trail

All smiles on the trail

After well over an hour, we reached our destination – Alberta Falls.  There was a large area that hikers were taking pictures, resting and eating.

Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls

Scott and Erin at the Falls

Scott and Erin at the Falls

Looking down the Falls

Looking down the Falls

Family at Alberta Falls

Family at Alberta Falls

Every vacation, we laugh because when you ask a stranger to take your picture, you never know what you’re going to get.  Actually, you can make a pretty safe bet that they are going to chop off your legs, include half the picture of sky or foreground, or some other ridiculous error.  We try to ask people with nice looking cameras to take our picture, but even that is not a sure bet.

By the time we finished our hike, everybody was ready for lunch.  We drove till we found a nice looking picnic area. We had forgotten to buy ice to put in the cooler with the sandwiches, but everyone’s desire to eat was greater than their fear of food poisoning.  Sometimes you gotta take some changes.  (Everybody lived.)

We are crowded around one table because the other table had ants on it

We are crowded around one table because the other table had ants on it

A couple at a nearby table packed up their stuff and the lady walked over to us and offered us their canister of bear spray.  They were going home and didn’t need it.  We asked where they were from and she told us Holland.  “There are no bears in Holland!” were her final words to us.  We wished them well.  More international relations from our family.

Our next adventure was to take a drive on Trail Ridge Road.  This was sure to be a highlight of the trip.  This is the highest continuous paved road in the United States.  KK and PK had driven it once before and had been talking it up.

Near where we picnicked we passed dozens of piles of limbs, which had been neatly stacked.  We assume it was related to fire prevention, but it seemed to go against the National Park practice of letting nature happen.

Piles of trees

Piles of trees

Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide and 11 miles of the road are above the treeline. This drive through the tundra was easily the highlight of the road.

Selfie on Trail Ridge Road

Selfie on Trail Ridge Road

Scott and Erin on Trail Ridge Road

Scott and Erin on Trail Ridge Road

tephanie took this picture of the flowers which covered the tundra

Stephanie took this picture of the flowers which covered the tundra

Yellow-Bellied Marmot on the side of the road (he was very much alive)

Yellow-Bellied Marmot on the side of the road (he was very much alive)

During one stretch of the road, there was a massive field covered in snow, with a parking lot near.  This was a popular spot, and as you can guess, there were plenty of snowballs being thrown around.

Miles, Marissa and Mallory in the snow on Trail Ridge Road

Miles, Marissa and Mallory in the snow on Trail Ridge Road

As you travel along the road and look at the mountains on the other side of the pass, many of them would contain lakes.  The shot below is of a mountain with a lake right in the center of the picture.

Lake on the Mountain

Lake on the Mountain

After a serious visit to the Alpine Visitor Center and Gift Shop, we traveled back across the Trail Ridge Road to get back to Estes Park.  The Alpine Visitor Center is on the west side of RMNP and we were impressed it only took us 45 minutes to get back to our house.  We have been advised by the rangers that starting tomorrow, the crowds are going to get pretty crazy.

Erin grilled us some steaks for dinner, with all the trimmings.  Erin definitely spoils us, and nobody has a problem with that!

After dinner, our group split into two.  PK, Scott, Erin, Miles and Mallory played some Mexican Train Dominos and the rest of us went into Estes Park for some shopping.

Estes Park

Estes Park

Shopping in Estes Park

Shopping in Estes Park

The crowds in town were not bad at all, but it was about 7:30 before we pulled into the parking lot at the end of the main road.  We managed to walk all the way from one end of the shopping district to the other.  KK even found a few bargains.

A relaxing way to end an action-packed day.

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