We decided to let Chelsea pick the trip this year, as she was graduating from High School and it seemed appropriate she could choose. She chose to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park in Northwest Colorado (which just happens to be one of my favorite places J). I wrote this trip report, but my daughter Jordan was the editor. Her comments are in bold, in paranthesis.
We took the earliest flight from Atlanta to Denver, which was the 6 AM flight. We like taking this flight because it is almost always on time, and it allows us to get to the park in time to enjoy a few extra hours in the park. We have some friends that have a loft in downtown Atlanta, and they let us spend the night there. The loft is only about 20 minutes from the airport. We got up at 3:30 AM and got ready and headed off to the airport. We got to the gate around 5 AM and surprised Jordan by having a gift for her to celebrate her 17th birthday (cause she wanted to be awake at 5 AM on her seventeenth birthday). We bought her a nano iPod, as her other iPod had worn out.
We had a good flight out to Denver and everything went smoothly, allowing us to get on the road by 10:30 AM MDT. It is about a two hour drive to the park from the airport. I took the girls up through the Big Thompson Canyon, which they had never been through (despite the fact that we have already been drug out here once before). It was a pretty drive and we even got to see some young mountain sheep on the side of a steep slope. After a smooth day of travel, we got to Estes Park around 1:30 PM. We still had some time before we could check into our room so we decided to stop by Images of RMNP and said hi to Erik Stensland, who is a renowned photographer. The later check in time gave us some time to catch up with him. It is always exciting to talk to Erik. He had a lot of hiking suggestions for us.
After talking to Erik we still had some time before we could get in our room at Mary’s Lake Lodge, so we went over to Mary’s Lake and climbed on the rocks around the water. This is a really fun thing to do that we had found on our previous trip to Colorado and again, we had a blast climbing all over. We eventually got into our room and got settled. We decided to try and do a quick hike up Lily Mountain before dark (Happy freakin birthday Jordan. Just what you wanted to do on your birthday.). Lily Mountain is only a few minutes from the room, and we were on the trail in no time. Most of the hike is in the woods. It is not until you get to the very top that you come to a large rock crag. Jordan and Cassidy were not feeling very good (I am guessing from the altitude) (or because we were so upset at the fact they had to climb a mountain in our first hour in COLORADO), but they fought through it. We raced to climb on the rocks for a few minutes before we had to hurry down to beat the darkness. This is a hike we want to do again. The rocks at the top were a blast to climb on. We could easily spend several hours rock hopping at the summit.
We originally were going to do the Odessa Lake Loop trail on the second day, but decided to do Ouzel Falls instead. Chelsea and I had done this hike a couple of hear ago, but we thought the other girls would enjoy it. This area usually has Bear and Mountain Lion sightings, but this year there was no warnings about Mountain Lions (too bad, they could have eaten me and saved me about 40 miles of death marches). This is a pretty easy hike and we enjoyed the swollen rivers from the heavy snow melt and the beautiful cascades of the waterfalls. Once we got to the falls, we decided to climb up on top of them to do some exploring. This was my favorite part of the hike. We found a way to the top of the falls. Once we got on top, Roxanne decided to enjoy the sun while I took the other girls exploring around the terrain above the falls. There was a fire in this area in the 70’s, and it is amazing how much of the burn is still visible. You can still rub black char off the trees almost 40 years later (we learned this by destroying a fine piece of Rocky Mountain National Park history). This is a testament to how long it takes for the Rockies to regenerate themselves, due mostly to the low humidity and the short growing season.
After exploring all around above the Falls (for what seemed like FOREVER), we returned to the lodge. We decided to spend some time at the pool. The pool was heated just enough to be comfortable. Cassidy and I spent a couple of hours playing around in the water. The other girls enjoyed some down time and relaxed for the afternoon. We made Jordan steaks on the grill for her birthday meal.
After a great dinner, Cassidy, Chelsea and I decided to go do some rock hopping down by the Fern Lake trailhead. We climbed up a ridge from the shuttle bus stop in the parking lot. We had a great time bouldering up the mountain, but our fun was cut short when the mosquitoes descended upon us. We had not brought the bug spray, so we were pretty miserable fighting off the mosquitoes. We climbed up all the way to a ridge before we decided we would go and climb another ridge over by the Cub Lake trail. We found some rocky ridges to climb over there and were able to spend another hour rockhopping above the Cub Lake Trail. We really enjoyed our time spent climbing, and often found ourselves getting on top of one rocky ridge only to see another one beyond that and make our way over to it. It was a cycle that we couldn’t seem to break. We enjoyed every moment of it. This is Chelsea and Cassidy’s favorite type of hiking. (Jordan doesn’t have a favorite type of hiking because she hates it all. YAY Colorado).
We decided the girls were acclimated enough to go ahead and do the Odessa Lake Loop. I had kind of fudged (Lied) on the mileage originally to try and convince the girls to do this hike on Day 2. I had told the girls it was only 8 miles, when in reality, it is closer to 10 (or 50? Ya know. No biggie). I decided not to say anything to the girls but at the end of the hike, I did mention to Roxanne that the hike was longer. It was a Chamber of Commerce morning, nice and cool, not a cloud in the sky. We headed up the trail from Bear Lake at around 8 AM. That first section is a pretty good uphill. The girls were a little tired from all the hiking the day before, so we tried to just take our time and enjoy the views (That’s crap). We got to the Odessa Lake Overlook around 9:30 AM. The girls were really impressed with the views provided by this spot. It was an incredibly beautiful day, the perfect day to be on the trail. I kept telling them the good news was we would be hiking downhill for the rest of the day. We worked our way down to Odessa Lake and stopped for lunch. We rested for a while before we made our way down to Fern Lake, which was also very nice. By the end of the hike, we were all worn out.
The temperatures were starting to get warmer and we were starting to see a few more people, but we were still having a good time on the trail. From Fern Lake we hustled down to Fern Falls, and a nice hiker took a family picture with the falls in the background. From the falls, Cassidy and I took off. We wanted to hurry down to the Pool so she could take off her boots and put her feet in the Big Thompson River. We got down there and she put her feet in (she likes to do that kind of thing). I put my feet in, but in 5 seconds they were numb, so that was it for me. The girls caught up after a few minutes and we took a long water and snack break while enjoying the river. We then headed back down the trail to the Fern Lake trailhead. Again Cassidy and I were pretty far ahead of everyone and enjoying a fun conversation when I heard Roxanne yell “Run”. I turned and saw my other two girls chasing me. I was not sure why they were chasing me. From years of parenting, I know that when you have two athletic daughters chasing you, it is a good idea to start running. I heard Jordan and Chelsea yelling “You lied to us”, and I knew the cat was out of the bag on the mileage. Come to find out that Chelsea was calculating (STUPID VALEDICTORIAN) how long it had taken and was surprised that it took us 4.5 hours to go 8 miles. Roxanne then told her the truth, which is why they were chasing me. It was a funny moment and they had a good time making sure I was honest about the distance on the rest of the trip.
This was the day we had our big hike for the trip planned. Cassidy had wanted to glissade (slide down on your butt) down a glacier for several years. I have a friend in Colorado, affectionately known as Igloo Ed. I have hiked and gone “Iglooing” with Ed several times. He is great in the mountains and he agreed to take us up and teach us to properly glissade on Andrews Glacier. We met Ed at 6 AM( WAY too freaking early ) at Bear Lake to hike up to Andrews Glacier. When you hike with Ed you don’t go on established trails. Ed has these obscure trails through the woods that make you feel like you are lost the whole time. While Ed led us through the woods, he entertained us with stories of his past. We were having a great day. The only issue we had with the backwoods trail was that the mosquitoes were unbelievably thick. It was nothing to have 20 mosquitoes on you at a time. We spent a couple of hours hiking in the woods. At the end, we came out in this beautiful meadow where we could see Andrews Glacier. From there to the glacier was a pretty challenging hike. We climbed up a rock field and then past another glacier that was not glissadeable. Finally we got up to Andrews Tarn at the base of the glacier. We dropped our pack and grabbed our ice axes and headed for the glacier. We went partially up the glacier and then Ed showed us the proper technique for speed control, steering and arresting. Every one practiced and felt pretty comfortable. We then decided to climb way up the glacier so we could get a good long run down. The girls were hiking in tennis shoes and that did not work well for traction on the glacier, so Rox switched her boots with Chelsea’s shoes. That allowed Chelsea to make the climb way up the glacier. Roxanne, Jordan and Cassidy got part way up and then slid down (and then kept climbing up and sliding down) while Ed, Chelsea and I went as high up as we could. We all took a turn and slid all the way down the glacier. It was a blast. I did not bother controlling my speed or steering, I just took off. It was a cool feeling to go flying down the glacier. We all had a great time on the glacier. After we felt that we had met our quota of glissading, we made our way back down the trail. We finished in about 9 hours. It was a long but rewarding day. We are very thankful for Ed’s leadership on a great hike.
That evening we got a chance to meet up with Aaron & Jenny Deschane and two of their boys, Peyton and Cameron, for dinner. Aaron is the founder of RMNPForums.com, which I am an active participant of, and I had met him and his wife previously during one of the Igloo trips I went on. They are wonderful people, and Aaron is super enthusiastic about the park. He is a blast to spend time with and the girls enjoyed tormenting his boys while we talked. We went to Poppy’s. The meal was great, but the conversation was better. He was at the park to promote “Thank a Ranger Day”, which is a project he and several members of our forum have been instrumental in nurturing.
This day was Roxanne’s birthday. We had decided to give the girls the day off of hiking. Every one relaxed and enjoyed the day. (Especially my favorite daughter Jordan) Chelsea had come down with the crud that Cassidy and I had before we left, so we figured it would be a good time for her to get some rest. We hung out at the pool, read our books, and did some shopping in town. We had a nice, relaxing day with Roxanne. She and I did a short hike to Rabbit Ears, which was fun. It was an area of the park she had never seen. It was an enjoyable walk through the meadow to a small campground where there is a rock formation that resembles rabbit ears. That evening we went to Smokin’ Daves for dinner and after an hour wait, we had an excellent meal.
We wanted to take the girls to Chasm Lake, as this is one of our favorite hikes in the park. We had tried to do it a couple of years ago, but were not able to finish it. Jordan had decided to use her “hike pass” and skip the hike. I offered her that “hike pass” as a means to entice her to come to Colorado and she decided to cash it in on for the Chasm hike. (but was rejected by GOD himself) We got to the trailhead about 7:30 and there was quite a bit of cloud cover, which was not was forecast, so we assumed it would burn off and we would have a great hike. We had only gone about a mile and it started sprinkling on us. We decided to give it another 15 minutes and continued to hike through the forest. At the end of the 15 minutes, it was raining pretty hard. We could see that that the clouds were darkest over where we were headed. We had rain jackets, but didn’t think it made sense to head up on the tundra during a storm, so we headed back. It turned out to be the right thing for us. When we got down to the parking lot it really started pouring and it continued to rain and storm all morning until well after lunch. It started clearing up some in the afternoon, so we decided to go over to Fun City to ride the slide and play some putt-putt. After two races down the slide, we have determined that Jordan is the fastest slider in the family. Roxanne won at putt-putt and Jordan didn’t hurt anyone (she is not good at putt-putt)(but VERY skilled at actual golf), so we considered it a good outing. We had a quick dinner at Village Pizza before we headed up to Rock Cut to watch sunset. The weather was kind of iffy, but we decided this was really our last chance to go to Rock Cut. We drove up Trail Ridge Road and went through a couple of rain showers and it was raining lightly at Rock Cut, but we decided to walk up to the rocks anyway. Once we got on that trail to Rock Cut we never felt another drop. We could see rain all around us, but it never rained directly on us. It was a very enjoyable couple of hours as we climbed on the rocks, watched the weather and was mesmerized by a sunset that lit up the sky.
We decided we had to try Chasm Lake one more time. We made Jordan go with us, using the rational the “hike pass” did not have a rainout clause. She was a good sport and went along willingly, but not quite happily. (I’m always happy) There were some clouds to the East and a lot of fog, but we decided to give it a try. We got the Longs Peak parking lot and the clouds to the West were very thin and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. We headed up the trail and had a great hike. Chasm is a beautiful hike that starts in the forest and ends up going through the tundra to a big pile of rocks at the base of Longs Peak. The girls enjoyed the hike, even though it was challenging and after a couple of hours we were at Chasm Lake. We got a quick snack and the girls decided to relax a little bit and soak up the sun. I took off to the North side of Chasm and started rock hopping up the mountain side. I went for about 30 minutes and decided to take some pictures and explore around some more. I had a great time climbing all around before I headed back down to the girls. We ate the last of the snacks, and then we headed back down the mountain. We got all the way down just as the clouds moved back in. By the time we got back to the lodge, it was storming again.
We enjoyed some more pool time and had another good meal, this time at the restaurant at the Lodge. We headed back into town to get ice cream one more time and do some last minute shopping.
We got up the following morning to get ready to return to North Carolina. After a morning of packing, we headed for the airport. It had been an excellent vacation with some great hikes, great fun and lots of memorable family time.
Rocky Mountain National Park - July 2010 - Colorado
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
The End
Day 1 pictures
Day 2 pictures
Day 3 pictures
Day 4 pictures
Day 5 pictures
Day 6 pictures
Day 7 pictures