On Friday, September 3rd, we drove 223 miles to Estes Park, CO where we spent five nights at Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Resort. The drive was mostly along I-25, but the last 26 miles were through the steep and rocky Big Thompson Canyon and had nearly continuous curves. The campground is located a short distance from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). We had a beautiful view of some of the surrounding mountains from our living room window. Shortly after getting set up, we had a brief drizzle that provided us with a fabulous double rainbow. The campground was then visited by a huge bull elk that drew quite a crowd of campers to watch it. While the elk was still in the field below us, Jarrod and Jess arrived for their three-night visit.
After breakfast on Saturday, Jess and Jarrod took turns driving us through the eastern portion of RMNP. We first drove up the Trail Ridge Road to the Ute Trail. We hiked a short distance on the Ute Trail but the cold temperature and strong winds forced us to turn back.
We then drove down Bear Lake Road to Sprague Lake, where we hiked around the lake. We took a shuttle to the Glacier Basin campground where we hiked the Glacier Basin and Wind River trails.
After completing these hikes, we walked a mile back to Sprague Lake where we had left the car. When we arrived at Sprague Lake, we discovered a large moose in the lake that had drawn quite a crowd of spectators. After observing the moose for a while, we drove back to our campground. As we exited Bear Lake Road, we observed a large herd of elk by the road.
On Sunday, Jarrod and Jess again drove us through the eastern portion of RMNP. We first drove to Lava Cliffs, near the highest point in the park. We hiked out to the rocks, despite strong winds and cold temps. After visiting the cliffs, we continued up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center. During this drive, we passed through the highest point on the road at 12,183 feet. On our return down the Trail Ridge Road, we stopped at a couple of parking areas and went for short walks into the park.
We spent Sunday afternoon in the town of Estes Park. We first visited the Estes Park Arts & Crafts Festival. Afterward, we drove to The Dunraven Inn on Lake Estes and enjoyed some drinks and appetizers. On our way back to the campground, we passed the Stanley Hotel where a portion of the film “The Shining,” based on Stephen King’s novel, was filmed.
On Monday, we returned to RMNP and hiked the six-mile Cull Lake loop trail. It was a warm day but the cool breeze and shade on much of the trail make it a delightful day for a hike.
After reaching Cull Lake, the return portion of the loop trail was largely downhill and took us along a stream. We took a break along this portion of the trail and enjoyed dunking our feet in the cold water of the stream. After completing the hike, we stopped at the RMNP sign for our photo shoot.
Upon returning to our rig, Jarrod and Jess packed up and headed for home. We will see them again in a few days in Grand Lake. After dinner, we returned to RMNP to look for elk. We drove around quite a while and, although we did see a few elk and deer, we didn’t find a large herd of elk until we headed for home.