Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

May 25-27, 2021

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

This is a short visit to the Rocky Mountains, first through them from Steamboat Springs to Estes Park, and then up into Rocky Mountain National Park, as high up as allowed, I hope. Maybe moose and elk pictures?

Tuesday, May 25, A Drive Through the Rockies

We started the day filling the car's front trunk, back trunk, under compartment, the back seat, and other nooks and crannies. Honestly, how will we ever be able to travel by air with just a suitcase or two per person. Then we went to The Egg - Steamboat for the hearty breakfasts that moms everywhere have said were the good way to start the day. (Science now says: "Well, maybe.")

packedmy foodM food

Then we headed out on the 179 miles trip to Estes Park. The Tesla range estimation program said that should take about 50 or 55% of a tank. In fact, it took 62% (from 97% charged down to 35%). I suppose calculating range while crossing the Rockies is tough, but such an underestimation of consumption doesn't help an EV owner's confidence for long travel legs.


Originally, we had hoped to drive from Steamboat to Estes via Rocky Mountain National Park, over Trail Ridge Road, but that highway still had not been cleared of winter snow, so we took the m-shaped route our navigators suggested (Google, Apple, and Tesla all agreed). It may not have been as spectacular as the 12,500 foot high RMNP road, but it was a nice drive, with Aspen trees, a few old homestead farms, oil wells, and high mountains all around.

flat road aspen homestead oil well

At Walden, the northern-most point in our zig-zag course, we stopped fro a quick gas station pit stop. (No, not for gas.) Next to us, a young man was tinkering in the engine area of his truck. He was in full cowboy regalia: oversized hat, jeans, fancy boots, and a holstered pistol. Walden must be a dangerous place.

stuffed mooseFarther along we stopped at a state park, Cache La Poudre, and saw a pair of moose, one stuffed and the other made of barbed-wire fencing. These might be the only wildlife we would see.

Continuing along, we made it through an avalanche zone and Cameron Pass (10,276 feet) seeing only off-highway remains of winter snow fields. Local rivers were, however, rapidly flowing with snow melt as the wound between the rocks walls beside the highway and river. It was all good competition to the RMNP route.

danger pass
river rock face flowers

Estes viewFinally, we made it to Estes Park and its downtown view of the Rockies. (That may be the best part of downtown Estes because otherwise it is candy and toffee store, t-shirt shops, and mediocre restaurants.)

superchargerWe also stopped by the Tesla Supercharger station at the Stanley hotel. The hotel itself is over a century old, but always prided itself in being modern, including electric heating because Mr. Stanley did not approve of the smoke from coal- or wood-burning boilers. ( He also eschewed internal combustion engines for automobiles, preferring his own design: The Stanley Steamer. Today, he would buy Mr. Musk's Tesla.)

elkpathWe finished our day with a hotel neighborhood walk. A few elk were also out for their evening stroll, but they did not seem to mind us sharing the area. These beasts are so common in Estes Park that I have a hard time considering them WILDlife.

Wednesday, May 26, Rocky Mountain National Park

EstesOur visit to RMNP started in the almost-dark. The mountains west of town had just started to glow.

We drove the ten minutes or so into RMNP, hoping to catch elk and moose as they start munching breakfast, but got completely distracted by the view of the mountains. At one point, we simply stopped on the road and watched as the pink sunlight moved down the mountains. It was magical. (Contact me if you want this picture, up to eight feet wide!)

Longs Peak Long's Peak

Over the next couple of hours, we did find elk at breakfast. In Estes Park and the RMNP area it is almost impossible to not find elk around every corner, but in these grassy meadows they seemed more at home.

MooseWe also saw one moose, almost hidden in the trees, completely ignoring all the tourists taking pictures. She's seen it before.sheep

We saw one mountain sheep as she was crossing the road. Still shedding her winter wool, she was not ready to pose for postcard pictures.

turkeyWhy did the turkey cross the road?

birdbird closeThese black and white birds were also confident, even while being photographed from the car window.

Many of the shots I found on my cameras were of streams and melting snow. These are fun to make and remember the sound of rushing water.

meadow meander melt
danger rush fallcourse

The highest part of our drive was Rainbow Curve, where the seasonal road closure started. I think the actual snow removal still to do was several miles away, so we had just missed the opening. Nice view up here.

road ends empty road valley
valley remaining hills

Otherwise, it was just pictures of spring, our in-car lunch, and the ranger station up at 9,475 feet where snows still filled the forest floor.

buds bug
car lunch ranger

mapSo our day in the park was complete, with an early morning trip, lunch, and a few afternoon pictures. Throughout it all, we managed to avoid the press of crowds, even though RMNP has as many visitors annually as Yellowstone, the destination we have scrubbed because of crowding. It's interesting since RMNP is only one-eigth the physical size of Yellowstone.


Thursday, May 27, Leave RMNP

earlyWe packed up early and went out to the RMNP Information Center to get another national park stamp for our "passport". Even as early as we were, there were already limits on how many people could go in the Center. I also overheard the ranger tell visitors that parking inside the park would soon be full and they should use the bus instead. Summer, pandemic crowds are everywhere!map

By 10:00 we were on the road, out of the mountains. It was a nice drive, as have all the drives been in the mountains of Colorado.

The next phase of our trip will be more family than tourism and we look forward to the family time.

I am undecided on how much we will write up. Let's see what happens.

John and Marianne