Established by Jim Bridger in 1843 as an emigrant supply stop on the Oregon trail, it was obtained by the Mormons in the late 1850s, and then became a military outpost in 1858.
This was an unexpected stop – we didn’t know it was there, but decided to pull off the road and visit when we passed it.
They had the whole Williamsburg thing going on with teenage employees reluctantly dressed up in the period-wear. Pretty interesting place that had a museum with lots of info on those who traveled the Oregon Trail.
It is here that the Yampa River, the last natural flowing river in the Colorado River System, joins the Green River. This is home and critical habitat for the endangered peregrine falcon, bald eagle, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. Indian rock art in Echo Park testifies to the allure these canyons and rivers had for prehistoric people.
The Park has a great museum/quarry where you can see this massive section of cliff face with all the dinosaur bones exposed. It’s crazy how many bones are pilled up in this one area. They have everything from brontosaurus bones to fossilized squid.
We camped down in the Green River Valley and before dusk took a pretty strenuous 4-mile hike up to the top of Split Mountain.
The Rockies are the kind of destination that make you forget every where else you’ve been and every where else you wanted to go. You could stay in the Rocky Mountain National Park for weeks and never see every lake or waterfall and never hike every trail and peak. So here’s the run down of our short yet amazing visit.
We drove through Big Thompson Canyon on the way into the park. The canyon makes you feel like an ant crawling through a crack in the sidewalk. All along are steep cliffs composed of massive, jagged rocks. Each of them, if you look close enough, has your name written on it – waiting to tumble down and crush you. Hence, the “Watch for Falling Rock” signs. Now in Tennessee we had “Watch for Fallen Rock” signs. Quite a big difference. The latter offers you some consolation in the fact that the rocks already fell and you just have to drive around them. “Falling Rocks” are a different story. We’ll just say that our sun roof remained closed during this portion of the drive.
Another encouraging sign in Big Thompson Canyon is the “In Case of Floods Climb To Safety”. Images of Heidi and myself climbing the cliffs from a flood only to fall back in on the rocks we are clinging to flash through my mind.
We reach the top of the mountains in the late afternoon. The sun cast perfect light on the peaks for us and the alpine tundra was fascinating. Rocks are strewn chaotically about and because of the high winds no vegetation grows more than an inch or two high. I was able to join some kids sliding down one of the large snow caps. They show me after the fact that they were sitting on Frisbees. I was not.
Our campground was on the west side of the mountains and we set up camp in time to go on a hike and get dangerously close to some moose (mooses, meese, what ever you want – I can’t tell you how many conversations we overhead that were intensely debating that very issue). When dark settled, a park ranger did a campfire program for everyone on the grounds. It was quite entertaining. He was an older gentleman, and his slideshow didn’t contain a single image take after 1988. The genius part was that during his narration for the slides he would spontaneously burst into song. “Move your finger, move your thumb, move your hand, *repeat 20 or more times* and we’ll all be happy again, we’ll all be happy again.” Try singing it next time you’re feeling down – it apparently works wonders for this old park ranger.
The Park Ranger also had a Q&A session. There was quite a variety of questions – ranging from “What is the plural of moose?” (A:”What ever you want to say”) to “What do you think of the Republicans slashing Park budgets?” (A:”Could we discuss that after the program?”).
Thinking we would learn from our Oklahoma camping experience, we purchased a spraycan of waterproofing gunk for our tent. Heidi sprayed it all over the tent and we began to wonder how long it would last. After inspecting the can, I read the bold letters “Allow to dry in a well ventilated area for 24-48 hours.” Lesson #7 from the Haun Roadtrip: Read directions on all materials before use. So after letting the tent air out for an hour and performing 23-47 hours’ worth of shaking it dry we went to bed. The fumes were so strong that we had to leave the tent door open to let the fumes out and the below 40 winds in. As for the threat of cougars, bears, and coyotes, I figured they had all passed out from the fumes and their sneaking into the tent wouldn’t be an issue.
The next morning we crawled out of our fumes and tent into near freezing weather at 4:30AM. We hopped into the car and went back up into the mountains, determined to get some good sunrise photos. At first we were surprised to find no one else up in the peaks to catch the sunrise. However, once we climbed on of the higher points it became quite evident. The strong winds and freezing high altitude temperature at 5AM were not pleasant. Sitting on a ledge we shivered in awe of the sun rising above the mountains. Trying to get every photo possible with the picture perfect lighting we nearly suffered frostbite on our fingers. The pain in my fingers as they thawed out in the car made me regret all the jokes I made about my brother’s frostbite incident last year.
We are now in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area heading west to Utah and Dinosaur National Monument. The scenery is straight out of a Western and we expect to run into Clint Eastwood or John Wayne any mile now.
2605 miles behind us as we now coast downhill to the Pacific,
Established on January 26, 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park is a living showcase of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in the wet, grassy valleys to 14,259 feet at the weather-ravaged top of Long’s Peak, the park offers countless breathtaking experiences and adventures.
The Rockies were unbelievable! We saw the mountains in the late afternoon, then camped on the West side overnight. Then back up at 4:30AM to catch the sunrise. The freezing cold and near frostbite were worth it – it was gorgeous. Plus we got to see some of the rare bighorn sheep.