Life is a Highway, Part 6: Rocky Mountain National Park

When in Colorado….go view the Rockies.

I’ve seen them in photos, and I’ve seen them on a Coors beer can.  But nothing really prepares you for seeing the Rocky Mountains up close and personal. They’re bigger, grander, whiter, more majestic than you could ever imagine.  When your first view of the range is like this one, I swear, something hits you in the chest and you realize just how big and amazing the world really is.

IMG_20150503_144245256_HDRColorado is lovely, but we had a horrific winter in New England, and when I arrived at the park, there was snow on the ground.  A lot of it.  It’s spring, and the snow still came up to my waist – which meant some of the trails were closed and/or too treacherous to attempt without ski gear.  But, this was all a new adventure, and so I figured, “Why not?” and found a short, low-ish altitude hike to what was promised to be a waterfall.

Now, most of you know I’m a runner, but this girl is pretty strictly pavement-only.  But the trees, the mountains, the air…it was all too much, and something inside me said “Go for it!”  I decided to briskly walk/half run some of the trail, which is… challenging…when you think the snow is packed down and you take a step, and it’s suddenly up to your thigh.  And so ok, running the trail was not the best idea I’d ever had, but here’s a first-hand Pro Tip:  If you’re running downhill and you slip, the momentum stops you from falling on your face. Sometimes.

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Image from frank.notfrank.com

When I reached the top, after miles of snowy steps, it was gorgeous.  No water, and therefore no waterfall, (still all snow), but gorgeous, nonetheless.

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Not only was I astounded by nature, but along this trip, I learned fellow travelers are a different (and nicer) sort of people.  Most are more than happy to hold your camera at the bottom/top and take photos of you – as many as you want – as long as you return the favor. After all, everyone wants proof they climbed Mount InsertNameHere.  But I digress….

Seeing as there was no actual running waterfall to admire, I had a bit more time on my hands, and decided to take the scenic route back.  I followed a less-packed down path, but halfway back, it began to rain.  Then it began to sleet.  Then it began to full-on snow.  (Inclement weather will be a common theme during this trip.)  I hightailed it back to the car, and along the route out of the park, there was a stopoff with a giant rock formation.  And what do curious Jennas do when they find something like this?  Why, they climb it, of course!

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At first glance, it’s not so bad.  Scrambling, scooting, pulling yourself up rocks the size of your body…it’s fun, it’s a workout, and when you reach the top it’s a particularly gratifying feeling of accomplishment.  It’s a really magical thing, to stand up tall and look around you, at the vast landscape below.  And when you’ve had your fill…well, that’s when the trouble starts.  You have to find a way down.

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After my grueling descent back to solid ground, I hopped back in the car, and soon found yet another stopoff.  This time, there was the sound of rushing water, and after a steep hike down the side of the road, I found a ravine.  Full of water.  With a tree lying across it.  And I’m sure you can guess what happens next…

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You don’t know the meaning of “discomfort” until you accidentally sit on a pine cone.

Of course, once again, it’s not the getting out there – it’s the getting back. This was one of the more uncomfortable tasks I’d encounter during this vacation, but I’m happy to say I made it with nary a scratch.  (Wet jean/shirt cuffs, a bruise, and a cut notwithstanding….)  When I got back to the car, it was already starting to get dark, and I had miles to go before I sleep (and miles to go before I sleep), so I bid the Rockies farewell for now, turned west, and left them at my back.

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7 comments

  1. Isn’t a ravine full of rushing water called a stream or a river? 😉
    ANYHOO these photos take my breath away. Quite literally. But I still cant get over how wintry your trip was, considering it was in MAY!

    1. I think it is actually a stream when it’s not half-frozen – otherwise it was a sort of dry riverbed with some water that’d melted…I couldn’t go into most of Yellowstone due to snow, so I skipped that whole park!

      I’d like to do this trip again in the later spring and actually get to hike the more difficult trails, when they aren’t “skis only” 🙂

    1. Thanks 🙂 The log want so bad, it was the pinecones up the arse that was so scary! I know the water looked rushing, but it was like 3″ deep!

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