Sometimes the mountains call, and I was hearing them loud and clear last spring, as I found myself under a mountain of photo and video editing! So Seth and I found a window between weddings when we’d be able to be away this summer and planned a trip to Estes Park, one of my favorite places. We asked my parents to come along, and this was a great getaway for the four of us to share.
And of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t return home with a ton of documentation!
day 1 • 08.15.19
Arriving in Estes Park, CO
No drive to Colorado is complete (at least for me) without a stop along I-70 for a photo with the Colorado sign.
And when we arrived at our condo, we had a greeter awaiting us:
We all had hamburgers for dinner at Latitude 105, and then my mom and I took a walk in the mountain air to end the evening (and to acclimate at least a little to exerting ourselves in this elevation!).
day 2 • 08.16.19
Seeing Estes from above
We started the day as the first people in line at the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. This tramway was designed by a man named Robert Heron who had studied European tramways and built this one based on those. Since it opened in 1955, the Estes Park Aerial Tramway has carried more than 3 million people to the summit of Prospect Mountain. And it’s still owned and operated by the Heron family.
Above: Not a bad few of Estes Park from the mountaintop! And below, in the middle of the frame is a patch of snow in the shape of a ghost (which has fittingly been named Casper):
With the help of Seth’s superzoom camera, we got a shot of Casper up close (above).
We also got this close-up of Longs Peak. At 14,259 feet, this fourteener towers above all other summits in Rocky Mountain National Park and can be seen from almost anywhere in the park.
By pure coincidence, Seth and my dad happened to buy the exact same hiking shoes. So of course I had to get some shots of them twinning!
That afternoon, we set out for our first hike this trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, to Gem Lake.
This hike gave us views of Estes Park from opposite the perspective we’d had that morning (and more great views of Longs Peak, too).
Above: An artsy take on Longs Peak (if I do say so myself!). And below: Paul Bunyan’s Boot.
Nothing like a little back sweat to serve as visual proof we were working hard!
After some photos at Gem Lake, we heading back down the mountain.
Above: One of my all-time favorite photos — us in front of Longs Peak.
Seth asked if I’d gotten a picture of his new hiking socks and then proceeded to strike the above pose. 😂
After dinner on Elkhorn Avenue, we did a little walking and shopping.
day 3 • 08.17.19
Surprised by a hail storm
We started the day with the above views of Twin Owls and two elk, then set out on our second hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’d done this particular hike during a trip with a friend in 2009 and thought it was so beautiful, so I was excited to see these spots again.
Above: Us with Alberta Falls.
We’d planned to hike a few more miles to Loch Vale, but a sudden rain and hail storm hit us here and called for a change in plans. You can’t always choose your adventures!
Bear Lake made for a nice alternate destination, and we even had a break from the rain for a bit.
One of the most prominent peaks visible from Bear Lake is 12,713-foot Hallett Peak, with its distinctive slanting top rising from the Continental Divide.
We then spent another evening on Elkhorn Avenue.
Above: The tallest mountain in the area under a mountain of clouds. And below: A visual illustration that it’s not a vacation without two kinds of ice cream.
day 4 • 08.18.19
An alpine adventure
On the last full day of our trip, we opted to venture above the tree line to the Alpine Visitor Center (after first making a breakfast stop!)
And on the way to Old Fall River Road, we stopped for a look at the Alluvial Fan.
Old Fall River Road was the first drivable road to penetrate Rocky Mountain National Park, connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. This narrow dirt road was completed in 1920, then partly replaced in 1932 by Trail Ridge Road (which incorporated some of its sections).
We also stopped to see Chasm Falls.
Finally we could see the Alpine Visitor Center in the distance (above). But before arriving there, we made another stop to make a steep, windy climb to Marmot Point:
One of the highlights of this hike was a yellow-bellied marmot sunning on a rock.
At the top!
At 11,796 feet, the Alpine Visitor Center sits at the highest elevation of any visitor center in the National Park System. Due to weather conditions, it’s typically open only from late May through mid-October.
Above: Seth’s travel camera with crazy zoom capabilities was able to capture elk in the valley below the visitor center.
For our return trip, we drove down Trail Ridge Road. Designated an America’s Byway as well as an All American Road, 11 miles of it are above the treeline — providing views as far away as Wyoming and the Great Plains. It reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet and holds the status of being the highest continuously paved road in the United States.
We stopped along Trail Ridge Road at Forest Canyon Overlook, and somehow, my hair managed to match the form and colors of the mountain behind me (above right).
Our main hope in stopping here was to have a stunning backdrop for a family photo — and while we did have that, we also had 50 mile-per-hour winds to contend with! I managed to keep my hat despite them, and I’ll always be thankful to the fellow traveler who braved standing on a bench to get this shot.
That afternoon, our deck made a nice office for some photo editing (above) and some apple eating (below).
We spent one last evening on Elkhorn Avenue, and it was so gorgeous I physically felt some pangs of sadness to be leaving the next day.
We then had one last sunset over our condo (above) and one last ice cream combo (below).
day 5 • 08.19.19
Fueling up for the long drive home
This donut shop was high on my dad’s list for this vacation, so of course we had to stop on our way out of Estes Park.
It was so early the moon was still on display (above).
And finally, a mountain goat gave us one last wildlife sighting before it had to be on its way as well.
– motion pictures –
See below for a slideshow of our adventure!
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