We woke up on Friday morning and had a delicious breakfast with John and Leslie. After breakfast, I was ready to put some miles on our rental car and start exploring Colorado, but Rob was anxious to try out a CrossFit workout with his cousin Becky. Did I mention that Becky is a bad-ass Level 2 CrossFit instructor? Probably not…but she is. So, while Rob was getting his butt smoked by Becky, I enjoyed a relaxing morning with John and Leslie.
Rob returned from his workout looking pretty exhausted (butt officially smoked!) and wanting to rest. But there was no time for that because I had a different agenda. The plan was to head north to Rocky Mountain National Park (about 2 hrs. away), check things out there and then head back to Denver to meet an old army buddy for dinner. We were getting a late start to the day, so we needed to get on the road pronto. Somehow Rob mustered up the energy to get showered and we hit the road.
About 2 hrs. later we got to Estes Park, which is a beautiful town right outside Rocky Mountain National Park. We stopped at a scenic overlook and we became so preoccupied with the wildlife there that we didn’t get a picture of the Rocky Mountains in the background! (That last part isn’t exactly true. The real reason we didn’t get a photo of the mountains is because of some other tourists that wouldn’t get out of our shot and I got tired of waiting for them to leave.) The first thing we saw as soon as we pulled into the overlook was this beautiful woodpecker.
There were actually quite a few of these guys flying around and I don’t think I had ever actually seen a woodpecker before. I had only ever heard them in the distance. Now that I think about it, I am not even positive that this is a woodpecker, but I am just going to go with it and continue to assume that it is.
The next thing that we noticed were these cute little chipmunks that were everywhere!! Clearly they were used to being fed by humans because they had no fear of getting up close and personal.
There were also several wild turkeys there as well.
Satisfied with our wildlife pictures, we left the scenic overlook (myself slightly annoyed for not getting the mountains overlook photo) and headed into Estes Park. We stopped at the Visitors’ Center and a very helpful woman suggested the best route for a Rocky Mountain National Park visit based on our time constraints. In order to drive through the entire park, you would need to have 5-6 hours. Since we got a late start, we clearly didn’t have that much time to work with (and Rob wasn’t really interested in doing that much driving to begin with). The woman assured us that we would still be quite pleased with our visit of the park even though we didn’t have time to see it all. She highlighted all of the must-see overlook spots on our route and then we were on our way. Estes Park was such a beautiful little town and I really wish that we would have had more time to stroll around, but we needed to get straight into the park if we were going to make it back to Denver in time for dinner.
We entered the park through the south entrance and paid the $20 fee (worth it). Rob didn’t get to enjoy the scenery quite as much as I did since he had to concentrate on the driving. The roads are extremely windy and you can’t exactly stop in the middle of the road to take in the view. But we definitely made use of all the available overlook areas so that we could park and both enjoy the view. Our first stop was called Many Parks Curve at 9,640 feet. Of course Rob had to do a bit of climbing of his own, so I guess his elevation was slightly higher than that!
Our next stop was called Rainbow Curve at 10,829 feet. There were lots of chipmunks at this stop as well, but we had already gotten our fill of chipmunk photos.
The next stop was Forest Canyon Overlook, where we saw some elk off in the distance!
Next we stopped on Trail Ridge Road, just over 12,000 feet. This overlook spot was supposed to be the best view of the Continental Divide. We attempted to do some hiking at this stop, but we got caught in the rain.
Our last stop was Gore Range Overlook and then it was time to turn around and head back.
We chatted with some other tourists that saw several bighorn sheep along the way. I was disappointed that we somehow missed that, but I was still happy we got to see so many elk along the way. If you ever plan to visit, you could easily spend an entire day in Rocky Mountain National Park. I wouldn’t mind exploring the whole park, but I feel that we got a good taste of it during our express excursion. Rob safely navigated us out of the park and then we were headed into Denver.
We met my old army buddy, Derek, at a microbrewery in Denver. Derek and I were both MP’s stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington and it had been about 11 years since I had seen him. Derek met Rob for the first time that night and Rob and I got to meet Derek’s daughter, Bailee, for the first time as well. It was really nice to catch up with him and Rob was pleasantly surprised at how well I hit it off with Derek’s daughter (seeing as I generally don’t care for the little ones). Aside from this one night out to dinner in Denver, Rob and I really didn’t make it back into the city to check things out. I am sure there are plenty of things to do there, but we just didn’t have enough time to check them out.
After dinner we headed back to John and Leslie’s house and had to call it an early night because we planned to get up at an obscene hour the following morning (actually, still night time if you ask me!).