We wrapped up the last little bit of summer with a Labor Day weekend getaway to the mountains — which also happened to be our first trip to the mountains together as well as our first lengthy road trip together. And in that theme of firsts, we also had our first trip together to a National Park. All of which made for a beautiful experience!
day 1 • 09.01.12
On the road to Colorado
In true road-trip spirit, we opted to follow the signs on I-70 to Prairie Dog Town in order to see the world’s largest prairie dog (above), as well as a variety of other animals. Seth has a soft spot for prairie dogs and was ready to possibly take one with us if only he could get his hands on it (below right)!
Above: There’s nothing quite like that feeling of finally reaching the mountains after the long drive across Kansas!
day 2 • 09.02.12
Rocky Mountain National Park & Granby, CO
We stayed in Granby for the first part of this trip and thus first visited the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d previously been only to the east side, and Seth hadn’t been to the park at all. So it was great exploring this new-to-us place together.
Our first hike was on the Green Mountain Trail, a 3,100-mile footpath that traverses the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. But we only had to travel 1.8 miles to reach Big Meadows, the largest montane meadow in the park:
Five different water sources flow through or around this expanse, which makes it an ideal habitat for wildlife like moose, elk and deer. But as far as we could tell, we had the entire place all to ourselves — surrounded by a number of peaks towering over 12,000 feet.
After enjoying Big Meadows for a while, we hiked back to the trailhead and then went for a drive to see some other views on this side of the park.
And that evening, we took in some more sights as well as a pizza dinner in Granby.
day 3 • 09.03.12
Grand Lake, CO >>> Estes Park, CO
We started this day driving past Grand Lake — the largest natural body of water in Colorado — on our way to Trail Ridge Road. This road crosses Rocky Mountain National Park to connect the towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park. It’s the highest continuously paved road in the United States, running along the Continental Divide.
We stopped to explore a little at Milner Pass and definitely took heed of the warning above (although we didn’t see any bighorn sheep).
The views are just incredible from the top of Trail Ridge Road. And although driving it was pretty intense for Seth, he was so sweet in telling me just to relax and enjoy the ride.
After reaching our hotel in Estes Park, we went out for an evening on Elkhorn Avenue.
day 4 • 09.04.12
Rocky Mountain National Park
Proudly wearing shirts we’d purchased the day before, we headed out for our last day in Rocky Mountain National Park — planning to hike for as long as we had light. We started from the fairly remote Wild Basin Trailhead in the southeastern part of the park.
After reaching Ouzel Falls and feeling the temperature falling as the sun got lower, we opted to turn around and head back toward the trailhead.
Above: Something about this tree growing out of a rock seems so poetic to me!
We paused one last time for some photos at Copeland Falls, feeling sad to be leaving the park and heading home the following day. But as we drove back into town, we had an unexpected treat in the form of elk sightings (The one in the first photo below was really bugling!):
Above: A final pretty picture in the last light of the day.
day 5 • 09.05.12
On the road to Kansas
We drove from wildfire smoke on the mountains to windmill-dotted stretches on the plains.
I’d been hoping to see sunflowers, and Seth kindly pulled over for me to capture these at the side of I-70.
And after a stop for fuel in Alma, Kansas, we were all but at the end of this all-too-quick adventure!
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