We’d spent the night in Grand Lake, in a cozy restored cabin, resting along a small creek that fed down into the lake itself. With a bubbling brook on one side, and the great grand lake to the other, it was a beautiful restful night. We found good food for dinner (Ma cooked), and we had a relaxing evening on the side of the brook with our pipes, finished off with a good nights sleep.

As the morning broke, we were greeted by a thick sheet of frost on the truck, and by the cold mountain morning. It had been raining very heavily the last few days, and on the other side of the mountains there had been major flooding in Estes Park and the Boulder area. We had just missed it, and we were very lucky that the park was re opening the very day we wanted to drive in.

We slipped through the gates of the park, and headed up the winding road through forest and meadows. We hadn’t gone more than a few miles before we were enticed off the main road and down to a little hunter’s pull off by the promise of a clear creek and some fishing. We broke out our rods, grabbed our gear, and headed over to the water, determined to see what we could manage.

IMG_5508
Ed fishing on phone

We tried for a while, but to our frustration we didn’t have much luck. On the bright side, we did spot a few mountain deer exploring along the river, and were treated to a picturesque moment as the deer came down to the river, frolicked an then headed back out into the meadow.

We headed back to the truck, loaded up and started back into the park once again. Along the way we spotted a couple huge elk, a male and a few females tagged for study. We watched them for a while from the side of the road before continuing on. The park itself is gorgeous, full of wildlife and stunning beauty.

We stumbled on to a touch of that beauty as we took a short break about half way up the west side of the park.

IMG_5509
Hidden beauty

As we continued exploring, we wound deeper and deeper, and found ourselves immersed in a series of small lakes and gorgeous ponds, streaming down from the high mountains we were yet to climb.
IMG_5517

Alex even managed to make a bond with one of the local residents, a female deer we spotted tucked into the shaded trees above a mountainside lake.

IMG_5520
Alex w/ Deer

Breaking our commune with nature, we started back to the truck, and climbed up and up and up, above treeline, and to the top of the Rocky Mountains. In the freezing cold, complimented by flurrying snowflakes and cutting wind, I popped out of the truck, found a spot to stand and embraced the wind against my face as I looked out across the continental divide. I tossed my feet up for a signature boot shot in Alex’s honor, and as you can see – it was stunning.

IMG_5522

Standing back up, the cold seemed to leave my body (well, the shivering didn’t), and I was spellbound looking out over trail ridge road. Alex caught this moment for me, and it will always remain one of my favorite views.

IMG_5460
Standing Atop Trail ridge road at 12,180Ft

As we started down the other side of the mountains, we wound down and down and down toward Estes Park and Boulder. We took the opportunity to stop at a pullout on the East side of the mountains, and were greeted with this beautiful view.

IMG_5469 Heading down the East side of the Rocky Mountains

Then we were off, and putting the truck in low gear, we continued down into those valleys, passing waterfalls, and watching the tree’s thicken and the forests return as we dropped back down to more temperate climates. At the bottom we circled around a large protected grazing area, and spotting some wild sheep, we hopped out –

Alex and Jo Taking Photo’s Outside Estes Park:
IMG_5479

We headed down into the disaster hit Estes park, looked around for some old memories of Ma and Pa’s childhood, and then headed back into the park.

We circled back up again, and relished every view as we spent the afternoon winding back down the west side toward Grand Lake. As we left the park, we caught some of the first great clusters of Aspen trees changing hue.

IMG_5350

IMG_5539

What a gorgeous day!