Previously on “Rocky Mountain National Park: the Miniseries Within a Maxiseries”: the second half of Day Three of our road trip was spent in and on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, amidst a splendidly arranged mountain collection that shames the pitiful hills of our Indiana homeland.
The most conveniently paved entrance to RMNP from the southeast is US Route 36, through Lyon and into the town of Estes Park, crossing here over scenic Lake Estes.
In the wild, we saw more flora than fauna on our trip. I have to include this batch of flowers because my wife thought well of it. I’m terrible at distinguishing one flower from another, but my amateur Internet research says these are either “alpine fireweed” or “purple”. Weeds are my enemy back home, so I’ve decided purple is a flower.
Before meeting any large animals, it’s important to know your warning signs. This…is a warning sign.
In the event that a bear emerges from the woods, this is the exact point to which you should run, not walk, back to the sign and read further for lifesaving instructions. Screaming while you run might also convince the bear that you’ve called “time out” and that he should pause his attack until you’re good and ready. I glanced at the sign, but the 95% of it that I forgot as I walked away probably said something to that effect. Or maybe it gave handy directions to the nearest armed park ranger. I don’t recall.
We met exactly zero bears. We were instead besieged by golden-mantled ground squirrels who took advantage of the complete lack of “If you see a squirrel…” signs and had little compunction about approaching us tourists. Fortunately for us, they have one weakness: lack of food. It’s guaranteed to send them running away from you.
I wasn’t kidding about their boldness. This one nearly infiltrated someone’s bag until he realized the paparazzi were stalking him and split. Even squirrels hate paparazzi.
This black-billed magpie watched and waited. We knew not for what. He thinks he’s as intimidating as Snoopy’s vulture impression, but he’s not.
A few feet away from our walking path: a batch of sleeping snakes. No one volunteered to count them, or to lift their heads for easier identification purposes. They value their anonymity and rest, and we valued our hands and lives. Ours was a tactfully negotiated truce.
Before we left Estes Park, we stopped briefly outside one of their most famous man-made attractions: the Stanley Hotel, the original inspiration for Stephen King’s famous novel The Shining. Stanley Kubrick’s version was filmed elsewhere, but the somewhat more coherent 1997 Steven Weber miniseries was partly shot here. Unfortunately its fences and manned security gates were foreboding to those of us without reservations. Spending a night there probably would’ve been a unique experience that would’ve destroyed our budget. We settled for admiring it from afar.
One more shot of scenic Lake Estes on our way out of town. Even driving away from RMNP, panoramas kept surrounding you on both sides of Route 36 for a few dozen miles.
The comprehensive view of downtown Denver from I-25 South was nice to have for architectural reference, but mortal skyscrapers are no substitute for the grandeur of the Rockies.
To be honest, I wish we’d had enough energy left to dally at RMNP for many more hours, but the combination of Red Rocks, Dinosaur Ridge, and Lookout Mountain even before we’d arrived at the park had us in a beat-down state of surrender. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we had more of the Rockies yet to see in the days ahead. No bears, but definitely more Rockies.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]