After dropping Marcy at the Denver airport, the kids and I headed out for 10 days of Daddy time. Marcy is off to London for a conference and we’re going to start our adventure with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
After some quick research on where to camp, I decided to head west on I-70 and then work our way north towards the western side of the park. Since the east side of the park was pretty much booked solid and I hate fighting the crowds, we took our chance on finding somewhere a little further west. As luck would have it we slipped into Willow Creek campground just before dark. Not only was this a perfect little campground, but the hosts were a young couple with five kids.
One of the hardest things to find while traveling is other traveling families with young kids. We encounter mainly retired couples, young adventure travelers and foreign travelers, but rarely find other full-time families on the road. That not to say that they don’t exist, just that they are rare. When we do stumble upon another family we try to make the most of the opportunity. While the kids dive into endless play, the adults share best practices and stories from the road. In the end, everyone forges new relationships.
Following a morning of play, we loaded into Brienne and headed into the park for some Rocky Mountain adventure. We started with a stop at the visitor center where we learned about the park’s current struggle with the mountain pine beetle which has infested huge portions of the park’s pine forests. Morgan provided a moment of levity when she reminded the park rangers that “a dead tree is more full of life than a live one”. Thanks Wild Kratts!
From there we headed east across the continental divide into the alpine region of the park where we found our first herd of elk. The herd bull was busy keeping his cows away from a satellite bull and we watched the show for a while. I explained in simple terms what was happening and the kids just couldn’t grasp the concept. Once I rephrased the story and explained that the bull was trying to sneak a kiss and that the cows were saying no, the kids found it hilarious. “kiss, kiss, kiss”. “no, no, no” repeated the kids.
After that we wound our down the eastern side of the Rockies towards our campsite for the night. Before we made camp, we found another group of elk with two bulls completing vocally for the herd of cows. The sound of their bulging was amazing and despite the crowd of onlookers the majestic bulls went about business as usual. That night we fell asleep to the sounds of bugling bulls…and car alarms.
I don’t know why, but at every campground there seems to be at least one idiot that can’t seem to find out how to control their car alarm. In an urban environment this is of course no big deal, but it’s almost comical the regularity that it occurs in the wilderness. Too many people on this planet…and in this park. My advice to everyone, go visit your National Parks ASAP. Many are already crowded and it’s not going to get any better. There are only so many parks, but there are more people every day.
The next morning we took a quick walk around a lake close to our campground and were rewarded with two moose and a small heard of elk. These were the first moose that the kids had ever seen and watching them feed on marsh grasses in the lake entertained us all.
After the hike we headed into Estes Park to mail off our quarterly tax check to the IRS. Some things don’t change even when you live in a van…
By now I had my fill of the crowds and was ready to move on. We quickly stopped by another visitor center and enjoyed a ranger talk about the winter habits of the parks creatures. Some hibernate, some change colors, some move to the golf course, and some keep on living as before. It truly amazing how these animals have adapted through time.
We decided to take the old original dirt road back to the continental divide. It was a cool drive with some gorgeous views of the changing aspen trees and several waterfalls, but again too crowded for me. Time to get out of here.