Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado Snow!

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We really weren’t expecting snow on this trip.  I mean, September 30???  Snow???

Driving from Mesa Verde to Rocky Mountain National Park was tough on our RV.  The roads were  steep, “Awesome” was really straining sometimes. The view was really beautiful.   Then we had the wind. The forecast called for gusts of up to 75 miles per hour and we reached our KOA campground in Estes Park, right outside Rocky Mountain National Park,  just in time.  Even though we were protected by trees and other campers, the wind still rocked the RV.  Dan decided not to use the pop outs that night.  The next morning we still had wind, and storm clouds were gathering over the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Our plan was to enter the park, and drive across Trail Ridge Road.  Trail Ridge Road was 8 miles across and  11,000 feet high  connecting the east side of the park to the west side.  It’s highest point was 12,183 feet.  With the winds, the coming storm, we knew this was not a job for “Awesome”.  Fortunately, nearby we were able to rent a very small car.  We  loaded up with drinks, cameras, snacks, and as we found out later, not near enough warm clothes, and headed into the gathering storm.

The roads inside the park are very well marked and maintained. It was easy to find our way.  First stop was the Ranger Station to pick up the Junior Ranger books, and watch a movie about the park and the building of Trail Ridge Road.  It was amazing to me that this road was started in the 1920′s.  How in the world did they have the equipment to do that??   Driving through the park we stopped at a turnout to watch a large herd of Elk, lounging in a beautiful meadow, below a snow kissed peak.  The road climbed quickly, and as it did, the sky got darker and the wind stronger.  Suddenly, the snow came, gently at first, then harder and harder.  Dan pulled the car onto an overlook and  we all got out to see the “view”.  The wind whipped the snow harshly into our faces, making it VERY cold and VERY hard to walk.  We loved it though!  We laughed, jumped up and down to keep warm, and the kids tried to catch snowflakes on their tongue.  Growing up in the midwest, sometimes we would get an early snowfall at Halloween, but snow in September?  Incredible!!!  When we couldn’t bear the cold any longer, we raced as best we could against the howling wind back to the car, laughing all the way.  Along the way we passed a group of young Asian tourists, laughing and enjoying the snow as much as we were. 

The higher we went, the harder the snow came down.  The wind grew stronger and the snow was really starting to accumulate.  We had reached the highest spot, 12,000 feet and we could barely see the road.  I kept telling Dan we needed to turn around.  Not only could we not see, there was a real danger of us getting to the end of Trail Ridge Road (we were almost there), the Park Rangers closing the road and not letting us go back.  If that happened, we would have to drive south, through the west side of the park, then head east, then back north to Estes Park, probably about a 4 or 5  hour drive.  Since it was nearly 4pm now, that would not be a fun time.  But where to turn around?  It was impossible to see.   We couldn’t see if anything was in front of us, or coming from behind us.  One side of the road was the top of the ridge, the other was a sheer drop off.  Good times!!!!!! Thankfully the car was small, and didn’t need much room. Dan took a chance and in a very long 5 point turn, had us heading back down the mountain. As we hit the lower altitudes, the snow turned into rain.   Later, we found out that at 4:00pm that day, Trial Ridge Road was officially closed for the winter. 

We spent the rest of our time in the park at the lower altitudes. There was plenty of see. elk, ealges, and a beautiful lake.  We spent a day in Boulder and found the best bookstore we have ever been in.  It was a local place called Boulder Bookstore and had 4 floors of books, used and new.  We were in heaven!  

Our campground was closing for the season in a couple of days, (another thing we hadn’t planned on) so we knew we had to reluctantly move on.  We spent another day driving through the park and watching the elk.    This was peak mating season and we were warned again and again to stay away from the elk.  For the first time we were able to hear their mating call.  What a surprise.  The sound was a high pitch bugle, followed by a series of yips.  During the “yip” part, the male Elk urinates on himself and that attracts the females.  Go figure.  Tristan and Tessa finally finished their Junior Ranger book, and after some serious quizzing by the Park Ranger, they received their 4th badge. 

With the winds staying high, we decided not to visit Pikes Peak (14000 feet) and instead headed straight for another tourist area, the Royal Gorge.

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado pictures

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