After I acquiesced to my wife’s demand for a slow, careful descent down Lookout Mountain, our scenic Day Three continued north with a two-hour drive along the east side of the Rockies, through Boulder (very fancy and well-manicured, though not a single Mork & Mindy statue in sight) and northwest to the cozy, wooded town of Estes Park, home of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The drive can be accomplished in less than two hours if you keep your eyes focused on the road and ignore your surroundings. That’s a terrible way to experience the Rockies, though. I had a hard time deciding how often to stop, which views might stand out the most on camera, and which ones to pass by without stopping. Along that entire stretch, beautiful vistas were as common as mile markers. We thought highly of them, anyway. I don’t know if people who live near mountains take them for granted or genuinely wake up appreciating them every day, but we’re used to the topography of Indiana, where the nearest mountains are in West Virginia and all those rolling hills in the southern half of the state stopped impressing me around age 5. Then again, I can imagine Kansans driving up and down State Road 37 between Bloomington and the Ohio River, oohing and aahing at how not-flat everything is. It’s all about your geographic context and personal perspective, I suppose.
I have to admit to myself here that God’s majestic monoliths don’t really beg for puny human captions. This is me stepping back, shutting up for the space of several pics (some taken inside the park, some on the way to the park, all clickable for plus-sized goodness), and letting you enjoy the kind of views that have inspired many a landscape painter, poet, mountain climber, and cinematographer.
Something about the contrast between the mountains and man’s minuscule, mundane creations appeals to me on a certain level.
Once you’re in the heart of Estes Park, all that nature is obscured over the next few miles by a dense cover of wall-to-wall tourism that tries its best to creep into every shot. (On height and elevation alone, “Tiny Town” is a misnomer.)
Within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park were a few different points of specific visual interest — some close to each other, some miles away from the others. The park is all about the sprawl between vistas. The flat Sheep Lakes area reportedly hosts flocks of bighorn sheep, but I guess they thought our visit was the perfect time to stage a walkout.
Not far down the road: the Affluvial Fan. Everybody likes waterfalls of all shapes and sizes.
Affluvial Fan closeup. It was a pretty, convenient place to stop, stretch your legs, and glimpse small wildlife.
[Coming soon in Part 2 of this miniseries-within-a-maxiseries: those glimpses, and other objects dwarfed by amazing colossal nature.
Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]