Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado – September 12, 2014

Friday, 8:46 a.m.: It was cooler and overcast, and when I first looked out the window I noticed ice on the windshield of the rental car. When we left for breakfast, we noticed that there appeared to be frost on the trees in the surrounding mountains.

Murphy's Resort, Estes Park, Colorado

Murphy’s Resort

It took us a while to pack, and we knew we had to drive back to Denver for the Sabbath. Therefore, we didn’t have enough time for a hike. We did have time to drive through the park and investigate a few scenic views. From Estes Park, we drove into the National Park through the Fall River entrance, following Route 34 along Trail Ridge Road.

10:31 a.m.: We stopped and confirmed that there was a light frost in the trees and on the ground.

Ground frost, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Ground frost

11:01 a.m.: We continued driving west on Trail Ridge Road, gaining altitude. We finally drove above the treeline (and the clouds), finding a clear and sunny day waiting for us. We stopped at Rainbow Curve, at 10,829′ elevation, to enjoy the view and the greatly improved weather:

View from Rainbow Curve, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

View from Rainbow Curve

 

View from Rainbow Curve, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

View from Rainbow Curve

11:17 a.m.: We continued our drive west, stopping next at the Forest Canyon Overlook at 11,716′ elevation, where we walked about 0.1 miles from the road to enjoy the view of Forest Canyon:

View from Forest Canyon Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

View from Forest Canyon Overlook

 

View from Forest Canyon Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

View from Forest Canyon Overlook

A lone elk was about 100 yards away:

Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Elk

12:17 p.m.: We continued our drive west, stopping at Rock Cut, which featured the 0.5 mile Toll Memorial Trail. The trail led past “mushroom rocks.” A sign explained that “the dark-colored schist was originally sand, silt, and clay at the bottom of a long-departed sea. Molten magma from deep in the earth invaded the schist and gradually cooled into the lighter-colored granite. Mushroom shapes were formed when the granite stems eroded quicker than the schist caps.”

Mushroom rocks at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Mushroom rocks at Rock Cut

We continued to the end of the half-mile trail, where other rocks presented a short scramble to enjoy a nice view.

Rock formation at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rock formation at Rock Cut

A memorial sign indicated that there was a mountain index on top of the rock. Obviously, the Toll Memorial Trail was a memorial to a man named Toll, who had been Superintendent of three national parks during his life:

Dedication plaque for mountain index at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Dedication plaque for mountain index at Rock Cut

Scrambling to the top of the rocks, I photographed the mountain index:

Mountain index at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Mountain index at Rock Cut

The view was beautiful:

Panorama at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Panorama at Rock Cut

 

Panorama at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Panorama at Rock Cut

1:01 p.m.: We continued our drive west, with the road topping 12,000′ (slightly higher than we had hiked the day before). The road then began dropping, and our next stop was at Milner Pass over the Continental Divide, at 10,759′.

Sign at Milner Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Sign at Milner Pass

Adjacent to Milner Pass was the small but pretty Poudre Lake.

Poudre Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Poudre Lake

We continued driving west, leaving the park, and then circling to the south of it and back east to Denver. We enjoyed another Sabbath in Denver, then on Sunday flew back to New York.

So in a week of hiking in Colorado, I experienced:

Sunday: Flatirons, Boulder, 4.5 miles, 1500′ gain, 1500′ loss
Monday: Green Mountain, Boulder, 8.5 miles, 2400′ gain, 2400′ loss
Tuesday: Bear Peak, Boulder, 8 miles, 2400′ gain, 2400′ loss
Wednesday: Odessa Lake, 10.5 miles, 1200′ gain, 2400′ loss
Thursday:  Chasm Lake, 9 miles, 2400′ gain, 2400′ loss
TOTAL:  40.5 miles, 9900′ gain, 11,100′ loss

That was fewer miles than my totals from Glacier of two years earlier, but more elevation gain and loss. It was a fun trip!

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