Thursday, June 16, 2005

Driving up into the sky

We visited Rocky Mountain National Park following Janet's SALSA meeting. There were some problems with this little vacation: I didn't really have time for it; I had a sore throat and the rental car (a Dodge Neon) illustrated very well why American auto makers are failing so badly (my knee was in contact with the steering wheel, "blind spot" visibility was poor, using the remote lock always activated the horn, which was inappropriate in the quiet of the mountains, etc..). Furthermore, our first day (Sun., June 12) was rainy where we were, and snowy higher up, precluding my desire to show Janet Trail Ridge Road. Instead, we remained at lower levels. Janet was especially interested in the elk. We read that the antlers in this season are growing rapidly and covered with a velvet which they will rub off later in the season. We saw evidence of this on aspens throughout the park. It was a pleasure to stay at the Stanley Hotel, and the next day was spectacular and sunny. But it was very windy, and Trail Ridge Road was still closed! We drove to Bear Lake and hiked from there to Bierstadt Lake, named after the painter (Google images) whose depictions of it called attention to the area's beauty and contributed to the formation of the National Park. Just as we were about to leave the park and head back to Denver I happened to run into a ranger who was turning the "road closed" sign so that it was no longer visible. Trail Ridge Road was now open! Although it was nearly 7 PM, we went for it. At about 8 PM we reached 12,000 feet and saw accumulated snow on the sides of the road over a meter in height. In spite of the cold and wind, it was exquisitely beautiful. After an excellent dinner at the Cafe Basilico (recommended by our friends Bob and Mereth Meade) we went on to Denver, returning home the next day on insufficient sleep but glad for the chance -- almost missed -- to drive up into the sky. We have pictures here!

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