Monday, September 26, 2011

Lots of Snow, Lots of Water

Originally published on June 10, 2011

Our days in Estes Park are happening just as we'd planned. Slow pace, no set agenda, take it as it comes. We've been blessed with beautiful weather - low's in the 40's, high's in the low 70's. The cooler temperatures which arrived on Wednesday have slowed down the rising river levels considerably and we are told that unless something unusual occurs, our threat of flooding in Estes Park has been greatly reduced for the time being.

On Wednesday, we decided to take a drive over
Trail Ridge Road. Because of this year's excessive snowfall, the road which normally opens prior to Memorial Day, did not open until Tuesday. We were told that we'd see incredible amounts of snow. And we did! The drive itself is simply spectacular, but when you add driving between snowdrifts three times as high as the roof of your car, it adds another dimension altogether. We enjoyed stopping at several of the overlooks and then an extended stop at the Alpine Visitor Center and Museum which they had been unable to get opened on Tuesday, so we were there only a couple of hours after their opening for the season. They had only managed to plow the entry way, so snow still covered all the windows and you could see where the snow had covered the building completely. The folks who drive those snow plows in for the first time must see some amazing sights. We saw some of the equipment along the road and Bill made the remark, "now there's some heavy duty equipment." It's not exactly like those we have in Tennessee!!

Hiking was in the plan for Thursday, but the day dawned cloudy and very windy, so we put off hiking until today. Estes Park has a 4 mile bike/jogging/walking path that circles Lake Estes. Somehow we had failed to check that out during our last visit here, so we decided to make that our exercise on Thursday. From the numbers of people on the trail, it is obviously well used and well loved. It is mostly flat with a few slight inclines thrown in, but makes for a great walk.

Bear Lake Road in RMNP is probably the most popular area in the park with many picnic areas, shuttle bus stops and trailheads along it. It climbs quite steeply in the 11 or so miles and ends at Bear Lake where one of handicapped accessible trails encircles the lake. We had not yet driven to the end of Bear Lake Road and I wanted to check out the snow levels because two of the hikes I have planned leave from this parking lot. Prior to our arrival in RMNP, I had been monitoring their website and knew that at last report, there was still more than 50 inches of snow here. When we arrived at the large parking area, we noticed several rangers stationed at the entrance to the area and realized they were STRONGLY discouraging anyone from setting out on any of these trails. The snow is still more than 4' deep, but with warmer daytime temps, it gets softer during the day, then refreezes at night making conditions icy and not at all safe. You don't have to tell me twice, but we did enjoy watching a few complete ___________ (insert whatever word you want) do really silly things. One woman in particular wearing flip flops gave a show worthy of Funniest Home Videos. I was a bit disheartened because it is not likely we will be able to do any of the trails from Bear Lake.

This morning (Friday), we woke up to sunny skies and calm winds, perfect for hiking. We were headed to Bridal Veil Falls, a 6.5-7 mile (depends on which source you use) hike that receives high reviews. Some say it's the prettiest waterfall in the park. That's debatable, but what we did find to be true was that the waterfall at the end was simply a nice place to rest after a stunning walk. This trail has it all! Beautiful meadow walking, rushing streams, flowers galore, birds all along, aspen groves and the best part is you ascend just over 1000' feet in three miles, but it is so gradual, you rarely realize that you are hiking up. The trail is mostly smooth and wide. Overall, it was one of the most beautiful trails I've ever hiked. And yes, Bridal Veil Falls was just the icing on the cake. It was a perfect day!

The afternoon nap is currently in progress, but we plan to drive down to Loveland later this evening. It's about 20 miles away through the Big Thompson Canyon which is a spectacular drive. Loveland is also the better place to get groceries and buy gas. I've also learned that there is a Chik-Fil-A in Loveland. I have been craving Chik-Fil-A since about the time we left Tennessee. So how's that for fine dining on a Friday night?

Big day planned for tomorrow. Farmer's market and biking in Boulder. This is an amazing farmer's market that is HUGE and the Boulder Creek Bike Path runs along beside it. We park in a lot a few miles away and ride to the farmer's market. Just like we do at home!! That's also a great incentive for not buying a lot of stuff at the market. We can only buy what we can carry on the bikes!

Thanks for reading!

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