I have been extremely busy for the last couple of months (14
hours a day, 7 days a week) since I joined an optical start-up Onetta. I was on a business trip
to Denver (8/25-8/30) to
attend a conference, therefore Rocky Mountain National Park
(RMNP) was naturally the destination of my side trip to award
myself for the hard work I have done in the past few weeks.
Getting there ...
|My family came to Denver to join me at
the night on 8/30. But their flight got delayed more than
one and a half hour due to some navagation system
problem. So I had plenty of time to rent a minivan, take
some pictures of late aftenoon thunder storms and
rainbows before went to the terminal to wait for them. In
fact, my colleagues were still at the airport when I got
there because their flight was actually the same plane
from San Jose.
It's about one and a half hour driving from Denver to
Estes Park where we were going to stay for 5 nights.
The First Day ...
- Sheep Lakes -- Horseshoe Park
We entered the park via Fall River Entrance Station.
Horseshoe Park was once a lake dammed by the terminal
moraine of an Ice Age Glacier. Triangulate Ypsilon
Mountain and other peaks of the Mummy ridge form a
backdrop for the rich meadows of Horseshoe Park. These
areas including the Sheep Lakes are abundant in wildlife
and we saw herds of elks in the next few days when we
passed by this region.
- Beaver Ponds
||It is difficult to see beavers
in the day because they are almost wholly
nocturnal. But their work can be easily seen from
the boardwalk along the water's edge. Linus was
disappointed not to see any beavers around, but
he quickly forgot about beavers after he saw a
blue jay jumping over the fence.
- Trail Ridge Road
elevations of 8,000 feet to more than 12,000 feet, Tail
Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved highway in the
US. The road climbs swiftly, and also provides numerous
stunning lookout points including Many Parks Curve, Rainbow Curve, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, Lava Cliffs, etc. When we
approached Forest Canyon Overlook, we were already above
the timberline and we were in an arctic-like environment.
A short walk to the viewpoint is bordered by blossoming tundra and the view of the
U-shaped, steep-walled canyon with distant mountains is
one of the best.
Rock Cut is a good place to know some of the tundra
plants. A 1/2 mile nature trail leads across the alpine
environments. But at elevation more than 12,000 feet, we
all began to have symptoms of high-altitude sickness:
short of breath, fatigue, headache, and nausea. I was
carrying Linus on the trail (the rest of them decided to
stay in the car). After walking for less than 10 minutes,
I felt so tired that I had to stop and turned back. We
stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center for a lunch break,
but our headaches did not get any better after the break.
- Grand Lake -- Adams Falls
resumed the journey from the Alpine Visitor
Center, we did not stop by many other vista
points because we were all still suffering from
headache and car-sickness. We drove to the Grand
Lake and parked nearby the West Portal area, and
we all took a nap in the car. After about half an
hour of rest, we all recovered from the
high-altitude sickness. We then took a 0.3-mile
trail to Adams Falls
which is actually a cascade. It was a nice walk
through a lodgepole forest. When we drove back,
Linus began to have car-sickness and we had to
stop at some turnout to let Linus get off the car
to throw up. That's where I got the close shot of
an elk! After a few miles when we re-entered the
mountain area, the weather changed dramatically.
The fog (or cloud) had covered our surroundings
and sometimes the visibility was probably less
than 10 feet that we couldn't even see where the
road side cliff was. It was quite an adventurous
drive even at 5 miles/hour.
The Second Day ...
- Sunrise at Rainbow Curve
|Clare got up early with me to go
to the Rainbow Curve on the Trail Ridge Road to
see sunrise. The sky was mixed with some low
clouds which added more colors to the scene. I
haven't seen and photographed sunrise for more
than half a year. It's really a good feeling to
catch the first light of the day.
- Bear Lake -- Nymph Lake -- Dream Lake
Bear Lake is one of the most popular areas in the park.
We took the trail to Nymph Lake (0.5 miles) and Dream
Lake (another 0.6 miles). It was a pretty easy walk with
a few hundred feet of elevation gain. Linus was very
cooperative and he walked on his own for the entire
round-trip trail with more than 2 miles. These lakes
nestle quietly at the foothill of mountains with
magnificent views of high peaks. There were so many chipmunks in the area that
Iris was so excited whenever she was approached by them.
The weather changed again after we returned back to Bear
Lake area in the afternoon. Thunderstorms formed quickly and
we had to head back to our cabin and called it a day.
The Third Day ...
- Sunrise at Bear Lake
It was too windy this morning to get a good reflection
from the lake. But it still had good quality of light.
Some peaks were covered by silk-like clouds and they were
so mysterious and untouchable.
- Old Fall River Road
Old Fall River
Road was the first automobile road across the Continental
Divide in this part of the Rockies. The entire route was
open for transmountain travel in 1920. From Horseshoe
Park junction, the old gravel road leads one way up
through a steep, narrow canyon. While this road does not
offer the spectcular and panoramic views featured on
Trail Ridge Road, it offers closer contact with forests,
mountains, and meadows. Chasm
Falls is right beside the road and is worth the short
walk down to the view point. For the last few miles, the
road travels high above the timberline and it was so
windy that nobody wanted to get off the car.
- Sunset at Horseshoe Park
||Finally, it's the first day that
there was no afternoon thunderstorm for more than
a week since I was in Denver area. After dinner
in Estes Park (I had an elk steak which I did not
like very much), we went back to Horseshoe Park
The Fourth Day ...
- Sunrise at Forest Canyon
I was alone today for sunrsie. When I got off at Forest
Canyon, I put on everthing (sweaters and coats) in the
car and thought fortunately Clare did not come with me.
With temperature below 40 (4 degree C) and gusty wind,
there was no place to hide at the Forest Canyon
viewpoint. I couldn't stand still under the wind, and I
couldn't take my hands out of pocket for more than a
minute. But there was no doubt that I have seen the best
moment in RMNP and got what I want..
- Spraque Lake -- Alberta Falls
Spraque Lake is a man-made lake by Abner Spraque, the
earliest settler in Moraine Park, in the late 1800's.
Scenery is the reward here, since the mountains along the
Continental Divide are reflected in the waters of the
lake. An easy 0.5 mail trail around the lake is a nice
walk to enjoy the view.
It was the labor day weekend, and it got more crowded in the
popular places. The parking lot in the Glacier Gorge Junction
(trail head to the Alberta Falls) was full, and we had to
drove back to the shuttle bus parking near the Glacier Basin
to wait for bus. It was about only 0.5 miles trail to Alberta
Falls. In fact, we spent more time in waiting for bus than
hiking. We even walked up to Bear Lake (it was a delightful
walk through dense forests though) after returned from
Alberta Falls to catch a bus because there were always no
seats available at the Glacier Gorge stop on bus. Linus was
so exhausted that he fell asleep right on bus in less than 3
The Last Day ...
I chose a viewpoint which was very closed to the Park
Headquarter for sunrise. It was a nice and clear day to
begin with. The photos below were taken less than 5
minutes apart, but they gave me very different moods.
We drove back to Denver
and stayed in Downtown area for lunch. Although I was in
Denver for 5 days before we went to RMNP, the only place
I really knew was the Westin Hotel on the 16th Street.
Going Home ...
We had a very slow pace trip this time compared with other
national parks we had traveled before. It was much more relaxed
(physically and mentally) for both grown-ups and kids. Both Linus
and Iris were very cooperative and enjoyed the trip (although
they may not remember anything). Rocky Mountain National Park is
a place worth to visit again. But I'll choose the season with
white snow capped the mountain top and wildflowers blooming next
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