Back in Colorado; enjoying a few more days in this state…August, 2022

Day 1 8.24
I thought it was an awesome sign to see this rainbow as I flew into Colorado from California.  I originally thought I’d be getting in my 4Runner & heading back to Kansas today.  But, when Danny was out here, he told me he wouldn’t be home this weekend.  He was going to his family’s lake house through Tuesday to relax, do maintenance & had some appointments down there concerning the property.  So, I thought, why head home yet if he’s not going to be there?  

I knew I could easily figure out a plan to stay & hike for a little bit longer in this wonderful state…while I miss my cats soooo much & think I’m a pretty bad cat-mom, I was in no hurry to get back home & give up my daily hikes & all this beauty.  

Once I landed & shuttled back to the off site airport parking, I was super glad to see my 4Runner!  Except, one of her back tires was flat!  Yikes!  And, it was nearing 6pm.  The parking attendant got an air compressor & very slowly filled the tire (it had 5# of pressure in it!)  I was calling around everywhere trying to find someone to fix it tonight.  After I was back on the road, I headed to Walmart, the only place still opened, but they couldn’t do it.  Across the street was Les Schwab, which was supposed to be closed, but when I drove up, they still had a bunch of workers there.  I pleaded my case & they agreed to fix the tire!  Yay!!! Les for the win! I felt so grateful & fortunate that they helped me out.

After I had four inflated tires to travel on, I made brief stops for gas, ice, 1/2 1/2 & a bag of salad, then I was on my way.

I decided to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park.  I’d been here lots of times before, but theres amazing hiking & I’ve certainly not done all the hikes.  They have a timed entry permit system in place now, but there are hours you can drive into the park before or after those times.  It was late & very dark by the time I got there.  I’d used All Trails app to take me to the trailhead…OOPS!  That didn’t work.  I pretty much knew as I was going up to Bear Lake road, I was in the wrong spot, but had no cell service to check it out.  Fortunately, there was a night photographer in the lot that gave me the directions.

As soon as I read them off his phone, I remembered how to get there.  It was another 40 minute drive, going through the dark park hoping not to encounter any animals along the way.

About 11:30 or midnight, I drove into the fairly empty Longs Peak trailhead parking lot & soon was tucked into the back of Camper….I was tired for sure.

Day 2 8.25
I was NOT climbing Longs Peak, but so many hikers/climbers here were.  The parking lot began filling up around 3am & was totally full by 6am.  I made some coffee then had to repack my pack after having been gone for a week. Then while I drank my coffee, I tried to get a tent campsite at Moraine Park Campground inside RMNP.  It was Thursday & I’m not looking for an RV site as most are, & there ended up being several available for tonight. So, for $15 I had a place to stay for the night. 

I hit the Chasm Lake trail a few minutes before 8.  This would either be there 3rd or 4th time I’ve done this trail.  I know it’s hard…rated a ‘Strenuous” trail, but mostly I remembered the rock scramble at the end to get to the lake.

The first part of this hike is through the forest & I spotted both deer & elk on my way up the trail.  For the second part of the trail, you hike through tundra…which is stark & beautiful.  This part of the trail is all rocks & big tall stone steps.  So hard on the legs & feet.  By the time you get to the top, you feel like youve been on a stair master for a couple of hours.

Water coming out from the lake making this beautiful waterfall.  This is the fall you see before the trail heads down.  The rock wall that is directly above the falls, is the wall you have to climb to get to the lake.

You hike right above this waterfall, so a closer photo was necessary.

And another waterfall on the right side of the wall.

I definitely remember this part of the hike from the past…no real trail up this wall of rock.  Just carefully stepping & pulling up & getting to the top.  Coming down is always sketchier & I crab walked down one small face.  Whenever I have to scramble like this, of course fear of falling is the main thing…it’s not so risky as you’d die, but it would be oh-so-easy to sprain or break something.  I always hear Professor Moody’s (from Harry Potter) voice in my head grumbling, “Constant Vigilance!! Constant Vigilance!!  It always feels like a lot of mental work & I know it’s  physical work for me anyway.

Such a pristine mountain lake sitting below the desolate looking Longs Peak.

Look at where the rocks are on the left side of the photothats a pit toilet (nice!)  Its been re-done, since I was up here with Danny, but we voted it the best outhouse view.  In the old one, it had an open top, so when youd sit down, you could see out to magnificent views.  Now the whole thing is enclosedbut its still sitting in a pretty sweet spot.

The last mile hiking down was almost brutal.  Everything below my waist hurt & it was like Id never hiked before in my life.  When I got to the 4Runner, I just wanted to lay in back & put my legs & feet up for a long long time.  I hike some hard hikes, but they arent usually this killer on my body.  But, I was hungry, so I changed into my Chacos, drank lots more ice water & started my drive back into Estes.

Avant Garde Brewing was off the beaten path & I was hoping to eat & drink there.  I’d read that had a big stout on tap now.  They also had a food truck, but it was serving only whole pizza’s…too much for me & I don’t enjoy camping leftovers.  So, I tried the small pour of the beer….good, but not amazing & a brief respite from the rain.

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Estes Park was so full of people, I didn’t want to check out any of the little shops.  The gear store that used to be here years ago, looked gone or at least moved from it’s originally location & I didn’t see any other ones.  I’m sure theres one here (why wouldn’t there be this close to all this hiking?), but I probably didn’t look hard enough for it. Penelopes was recommended for a good burger & it was at one end of town, so I was able to miss walking with/through all the crowds.  The burger tasted good….I hadn’t had one in awhile & there was one lonely table outside I was able to grab…boy, I’m tired.

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I found my site at Moraine Park campground…nice views, but the tent area was way back off the road, which would have been nice if I was in a tent, but it also had no view.  I was just parking for the night, so I backed in, ate the other 1/2 of my burger, had a cocktail & then it started to rain.  It rained for a long time, with a few booms thrown in.  I booted up my laptop, downloaded photos & worked on the California part of my trip’s adding it to Tripscribbles.  I tucked in around 9pm, body super tired from the hike today.

Day 3 8.26
I slept for a long time last night, staying in bed later than normal this morning.  It was overcast & I wasn’t sure what the forecast was for the day…no service in camp.  I read my book & enjoyed a cup of coffee.  I wasn’t planning on a doing a big hike today, since I was meeting a friend this evening for a hike, but I wanted to stretch my legs & make sure everything was working after yesterdays torture hike.

Cub Lake trailhead is right around the corner from the campground & its a hike I’d never done before…a little more than 4 miles RT & the first 2/3 of the trail are mostly flat.  It would be a good one to hike late this morning.

It’s obvious when you begin the trail, you’re views are of a burned scarred area…never the prettiest, but that’s sometimes the way it  is in the mountains.

There’s red & orange in some of the leaves along the trail.   You can definitely feel there’s a change in seasons coming soon here in the mountains.

Cub Lake is mostly water lilies, but what is more obvious is the burn area that surrounds the lake.  Not the prettiest view, but hopefully the land is healing from the fire.

The skies were growing darker as I got near the end of the trail.

I drove away from the trailhead & through the scenic park.  Then I went to the Alluvial Fan….I come to this spot everytime I visit this park.  I think this waterfall, created by a huge rockslide, is so beautiful!

I left the park & drove back into Estes to try out Estes Park brewery; it was just OK, but I picked up a mixed 6 pack of their beer to bring home for Danny.  Right across the street is the Rock Bottom brewery, so I tried one of their beers too…it was also, just OK.  

A couple of weeks ago, when Joanie & I had dinner in Boulder, she was telling me about how she wanted to do a couple of hikes here in Rocky Mountain National Park…sooner than later.  Joanie, a published photographer, lives in Longmont & works in Boulder & has hiked in RMNP hundreds of times.  But she explained about a new angle she wanted to shoot at Gem Lake & about the rockfall event at Lake Haiyaha.  So, I said, “Could we hike it when I get back from California?”  She said yes & we made a plan.  

I love love love big huge rocks & hiking through them (not necessarily scrambling up them though).  We met in the Gem Lake parking lot about 5pm today under raining skies.  This place was awesome!  Boulders the size of cars & small houses were here…how had I never been to this place before?  It sits outside Estes away from the park but still part of the park.

Gem Lake.  This is the view in most everyone’s photo…but Joanie was on a mission to find the better shot & it was up on top of that wall that sits behind the lake…yikes.

Fearless Joanie, making her way scrambling to the top on the backside of the wall.  

We made it to the top!

We found the view Joanie was looking for.  On a clear day, you’d be able to see Longs Peak.  I’m sure she’ll be back here to get this money shot! (or in her case, the calendar shot.  Joanie’s photography has been published on calendars here in Colorado).

Wet women hiking up slick rock….but it’s sure fun to hike with this lady!

I was glad to climb back down with both of our bodies intact.

We weren’t in any hurry to get back into the park, so we stopped at the Bottle right off the road.  I told Joanie about the beer they had I wanted to try called Atomic Pumpkin.  Sherry had mentioned it to me when I was at her place & how it sold out really quickly; it's a fall seasonal beer.  It’s lightly pumpkin flavored with habanero peppers.  Before I’d left Sherry’s, I’d stopped & bought her a couple of 6 packs as a thank you for letting me crash at her place, & also picked up a 6 pack for me & Danny.  But, I’d yet to try it.  Both Joanie & I ordered one & loved it!  

After our beer, we drove back into the park & slept in the Bear Road parking lot.  I’m sure people have always parked in the lot to be there super early in the mornings.  There are long hikes starting from here (Danny & I did a 14 mile hike from here one time) & so many people want to be in a certain spot at sunrise.  But the timed entry regulations have probably made it even more advantageous to get here early…or as in our case, really late the night before our hike.  So, we drove back into the dark park, & tucked into our respective vehicles for the night.

Day 4 8.27
It was 5am when we both got up…neither of us had slept well.  We got ready in the dark.  The parking lot was full by now…with the timed entry people started showing up around 3am & many were already on the trail by the time we got up.  Joanie had suggested we leave in the dark at 5:30am to catch the sunrise reflection on Dream Lake.  Boy was it cold & super windy this morning!  I layered on a bunch of warm stuff including a wool headband.  Then we turned on our headlamps, hit the dark trail.  We definitely weren’t the only ones, but it wasn’t as crowded as I’d anticipated given the full parking lot.

But, the windy day ruined the sunrise reflection in the lake.  It’s a beautiful lake no matter what though.

Then our trail veered off to the left & started an uphill climb.  Back in June, a big rock fall happened at Haiyaha Lake…an event that had never happened before in this park.  It was big enough to stir up glacier silt & cause the normally clear blue water to turn this amazing color.  Joanie told me she wanted to come up here & photograph it while it was this seafood green color.  I’ve hiked up here once before….easy to remember because in order to see the lake, you have to climb through & up some giant sized boulders…very carefully.  But, this was a once in lifetime opportunity to see the lake this color…it was truly amazing.





The color of this glacier silted water was so incredible against all the colors of green along the creek.

So much fun to hike with this woman!  So grateful we got to meet up a couple of times this year & hopefully we can do again sooner than later.  

We stopped back by Dream Lake on the way back…different lighting later in the morning creates different photos.  But the chilly wind was still blowing.


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I stopped in Boulder after I left RMNP to eat & drink at one of my fave breweries, Avery.  Home to the Tweak…one of my top two BA stouts.  They don’t have it on tap anymore; they’ve quit making it every year.   The one stout I had wasn’t my style…too much stuff in it; but the red colored beer is some sort of brewed mix of wine & beer…surprisingly it was fantastic.  But it’s only on tap…..can’t take any of this lovely beer home to Danny.

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I also stopped back by my fave liquor store & picked up another 6 pack of Atomic Pumpkin & more Tweaks…I’m ready for fall & winter as far as beer goes.

I was going to be passing through Denver this evening, & Sherri was back in town & invited me over for a beer & also dinner.  We talked about her recent trip to Wisconsin, upcoming trips to Ireland, Switzerland, hiking in the Dolomites & a cruise to some very out-there islands.  It has been so nice to see her more often & I never tire of hearing of her travels…past, present or future.  She also had a new foster kitty….really made me miss my own cats.  

Sherri’s sweet foster kitten named Lavender.  I hope the little cutie finds a good home sooner than later.

I said thanks for the invite for dinner, but I’d only slept about an hour last night & thought if I stayed to eat, drink more & visit with another mutual friend that was coming over, I’d probably end up on her couch another night.  

It was time.

Time for me to head home.  

Danny was out of town for the next three days at his family’s lake house, so I wasn’t rushing home to see him, but I just knew it was time to leave.

The sun was beginning to set as I left Colorado.  I could literally look back & see the sun setting on my summer in this fantastic state too.

Day 5 8.28
I slept in a rest area for about 3 hours last night, but pulled onto my road & into my driveway about 7am this morning.  When I walked in the door, I couldn’t tell if my cats were glaring at me or just trying to remember who I was.

As much as I love packing & loading up my 4Runner when I’m readying for a road trip, I really don’t enjoy the unpacking.  It’s the sign of the end of a trip & it takes forever.  I hate all the mess it creates, so I’m usually on it pretty quick to get started.  

This morning though, with only 4 hours sleep in two days, I climbed into my bed (which people think I always miss, but I really like my bed in the 4Runner better…mostly because it’s usually somewhere super gorgeous with a view of the night sky, the ocean, or  the mountains….never just the ceiling like the one above my bed at home).  I slept for a little more than an hour, then began the process of cleaning everything (this is why it takes so much longer to unpack than to pack up) which I’m slightly OCD about, sort, organize…you get the point…the rest is just boring.

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I’ve written about my summer in three different trips, but this is the longest I think I’ve ever been gone in one stretch & I LOVED IT! I wished when I was in  California, I’d had my own car, but as I look back I’m grateful I didn’t….too many fantastic places to explore between there & here & I might have been gone until winter set in.

The stat that’s the craziest, is that I’ve only been home 40 days in the past 5 1/2 months.  I’m super grateful I was able to see Danny 4 different weeks during that time…the most we’ve spent traveling together in a summer ever.  

And, I think my cat has forgiven me….for now anyway.

As I write this, everything has been cleaned & packed away in the gear closet or back into Camper.  

Tomorrow I make out a new packing list for Florida…we leave to go see the girls soon, so I’m in full-on Gki mode.  I’m ready to play, dance, pretend, make magic, eat ice cream, give & get a thousand hugs.

Happy travels!

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