After getting my hair cut and packing the car - we're off!!!! Worst possible week @ work ever!!! This vacation couldn't come soon enough! We have no plans, except to drive west and find topography!!!!!! We stopped in North Platte to see the Weaver's. Deb was working, but Bob and Erin showed us around their new lake house. Very nice!!! We ate mallard, watched The Two Towers and went to bed. Oh wait - I forgot to tell you about Duck Dawg, the breeders where Bob and Deb got their hunting lab. One of their females is named Dottie...the coolest lab ever!!! She's huge, long legs...changes my mind about owning a lab. She's a 'Tom and Jen' dog. She has puppy named Tough Stuff "Toughy". If we didn't already have 3 dogs at home, and they'd give her up...we'd have taken her with us right then!!!! Now, I can't write about Duck Dawgs without mentioning Thomas the turkey. My Tom just laughed and laughed at Thomas. This is their pet wild turkey. He followed us around the whole time we were there. Goofy bird...wanted pets and everything. He thought he was a duck dog himself!!!!! :-) :-)
With bellies bull of elk crepes, we left North Platte (after a trip to WalMart - which is NOT located next door to Menards - long story!!!). We arrived in Estes about 5:00. After talking to someone from RMNP on the phone on the way in....we decided to try Aspenglen campground. Site #46 is where we ended up. (after, of course, the annual "fight with each other while choosing a spot tradition" that we have seemed to continue!!!) Anyway....the site we picked had a mountain river flowing right behind it. We have the sounds of rapids all night long!!! Yeah!!!!!
After setting up camp, we went into town to see what was going on. Tourists, but not too many really. Next weekend (Labor Day) will be much worse. We ate at a Chicago pizza place (yummy). We stopped at some of the stores downtown, and found a really cool bracelet for me at one of them. Holy heck - sticker shock. It was nice, but not THAT nice!!!! We acted like $551.00 for a bracelet without diamonds was totally normal...took their card...and promptly threw it away in the garbage can down the block. Ouch! We hit a few more shops, found a couple cool tshirts we didn't buy (Bring a compass...because it's awkward eating your friends.)....then went back to our camp. Tom beat me in cribbage...then we went to bed. I awoke at some point in the night to Tom's mountain lion sighting. False alarm...but now I"m supposed to walk to the bathroom in the dark without getting eaten...argh! Darn active imagination! :-)
First day of hiking in the mountains. A quick breakfast of Starbucks Double Shots - and we're ready to go. Our goal today, Sky Pond. What a hike!!! We left about 9:00 and finished about 5:00. How do you sum up a hike in these mountains? Hell if I know! Alberta Falls, The Loch, Timberline Falls, Lake of Glass, Sky Pond. Basically - the hike was wonderful - but climbing up Timberline Falls was insane. Yes - you heard me...climbing up the falls!!!! The trail to Lake of Glass requires one to climb alongside and sometimes IN the falls!! Going up was perfectly fine....coming down was insane!!!!! Plus, there are about 400 million 'stairs' just to get to that point in the trail. (Thank you Tisha....those step classes at the gym are paying off!!!!) But it was all totally worth it. Well....maybe not all. Tom wore his brand new hiking boots and you guessed it....monster, bloody, seeping blisters. Ewwwwww and Ouch!!!! :-)~ Gorgeous views the whole way there and back. There were some remnants of wildflowers...from earlier in the season. Didn't really meet up with too many people on the trail, which was nice! I took a million pictures on the way up...but there's no way the pictures can capture what you see. It's just amazing!! Have I mentioned how much I love the mountains???? :-) :-) Coming down those falls...I know that I mentioned how crazy it was...but oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!!! I was about in tears. I'm not afraid of heights, I'm afraid of falling. I had my heavy camera....and am not a mountain goat...as my hubby seems to be. Holy crap!!!!!!!! I just sat on the edge...before starting down the sheer drop off....gripping onto the ground....shaking my head like a three year old. I could have sat there all d*mn day for all I cared right them!!!! Ugh!! But - with several mini heart attacks...I finally made it to the bottom.
After that, we went back to camp, played some cribbage, and went to bed.
Gross, slimy, stinky - that's how I feel this morning. I needed a shower in the worst way...and so did Tom. So we're off to find one. There aren't any in the park, so we headed into town. The lady at Starbucks (first priority) pointed us in the direction of Dad's Maytag Laundry and Showers. $4.00 each. Clean, friendly establishment....and Safeway is right next door. After getting clean, we grabbed PBJ supplies at Safeway...plus more supplies to fix the monster, bloody, seeping heels of my mountain goat. We decided to give Tom's feet some time to heal, so we made it a driving day. Across Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake. Gorgeous views along that never ending road!!! We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top, for some postcards for the kids...then continued on. Last time we were here, an ice storm made us turn around....so we can now see all the things we couldn't see then. The trees are all dying on the west side of the park. Burrowing Pine Beetles, they tell us. Very depressing. Grand Lake is at the other end of the road....pretty much a bummer town in my opinion. It wants to be a tourist town so bad....but in the winter, unlike Estes, it's very cut off from the world....so it just can't keep up. Tom bought me a gorgeous turquoise and opal barrel pendant and silver chain. I love it!!!! We didn't stay long on the west side. We did eat lunch at a little food place there on the outskirts of town. Very good burgers. While we were there, one of the workers was returning from a supply run. She dropped a 3 gallon glass container of pickles in the parking lot. I felt so bad for her...and there were pickles everywhere!!!! :-)
The drive back took forever because of construction and people who don't know how to drive in the mountains. Sweetie III did great...but I was very glad to get to our campsite. Driving that road once a year is good enough for me. My little car just isn't geared for it. There isn't enough compression in the motor to keep from having to use the brakes more than we'd like. But anyway!!!! Back at the campsite, we pulled out our camp chairs and read for a while. Nothing like reading in a chair...outside....with mountains as a view. I always have a hard time focusing on the book!!! :-)
With both of us craving chocolate....we went back into town - had a brief, but annoying, argument (we're married....we have a quota to meet!)...and came back to make supper. Did we ever get the chocolate...I don't even remember....we were pretty upset with each other there for a while. :-) We made Dutch Oven Chicken Enchiladas...then played some cribbage and went to bed.
The grasshoppers here are insanely loud. Little mini electric bug zapper sounding things! After 3 or 4 tries...Tom found a way to bandage his monster, bloody, seeping wounds enough to try some hiking. We considered Lake Haiyaha - a shorter 2 mile hike...low elevation gain (750 ft total)...but you all know Tom. He didn't want to 'hike with the geezers'.....so....off we go. Deer Mountain here we come. Beautiful hike (but which one isn't?). Guess what we did right off the bat on this hike?? You guessed it....we argued - and this one was a good one. Do I remember what it was about....yeah, but I simply blame it on being so close to each other for so many days in a row...and nothing more. The hike was nice....tons and tons of switchbacks....but it was nice. The top was great! 360 degree view of mountains and Estes Park. We met a couple from Albany at the top....and talked to them while eating lunch. They took our picture for us (one of the few that exist with both of us in it!)....and it was about that time we noticed the really gnarly looking storm system heading our way....of course!!!!!! :-) Again - we were rained and hailed on, the whole way down. It's tradition...why fight it? Again - Frog Togs rock!! Once at the trail head....we went into town (again)...after stopping at the camp for dry clothes. I had a couple of postcards to mail to the kids. The postman we talked to went to school at Creighton. Everyone here used to live in Omaha...I swear!!! The laundry/shower people are from Omaha...the Starbucks people lived and went to school there...and now my postman. There are actually Husker gear stores here...it's horrible!!!!!! We went back to camp and made some Dutch Oven Pizza Bake in the rain. Yes - it's raining again. Tom fashioned a rain hut for the dutch oven...and we retreated into the tent. 45 minutes later, it was still raining...really, really hard....the food was starting to burn (we could smell it)....but our tent was in the middle of a LAKE!!!!! (by the way, this is all Tom's fault....up on the mountain earlier that day, he said something about the thunder being weak here...yeah, it wasn't so weak sounding then!!!) :-) Anyway....back to the lake our tent was in the middle of....ugh!!! The rain was splashing off the water, and splashing into the tent....it was a good couple of inches deep...all the way around the tent. We finally got out of the tent, with minimal water getting inside...and used our big kitchen spoon to dig a trench...and help get the water away from the tent. Yes - you heard us...we dug a little trench. The parks' handbook specifically says not to do this....but we were under water...on the park's tent pad. Poor planning on the parks' part. :-) The food tasted wonderful - a little crispy on the bottom though. We set up our chairs under some pine trees and ate dinner out of the rain. After getting the camp bear proofed for the night (there was a bear sighting in the camp a week before we arrived, so the park officials were even more strict about people bear proofing their sites)...we hid in our tent from the next many storms that passed through. The tent, even with the small trench, was still surrounded by standing water....but we were dry and warm inside. This tent rocks!! (Mountain Hardware, Hammerhead 2)
The lake around the tent had receded and I woke up hungry. No oatmeal bars and double shots for me...I wanted breakfast food...real food. Our little furry friend woke us up again this morning. Our friend is a rodent of some sort...he/she lives in the tree right above our tent. He doesn't like us much, and lets us know regularly. He actually throws nuts at our tent most mornings...while he's yelling at us for being there. It's hilarious to wake up to!!!! :-) We ate at the Wapiti. The food was good (but they ran out of milk, and we didn't get any...bummer!!!!) We met a couple from Massachusetts eating there. We had seem them a couple days before, well...Tom had seen their motorcycles....he was actually drooling over them. BMW - don't ask me what model...but Tom would know if you ask him. They were sitting at the table next to us...and were the only other people eating in there at the time. I made Tom wait until they were done eating before he bugged them....but after that we talked to them for a good hour if not two. They were on the second leg of a motorcycle trip. (91,000 miles into the second part....I can't remember the exact mileage of the first trip...but it was insane)....they decided to take a year off, and drive around the country on matching BMW's. Very fun and interesting people to talk to. The guys talked about bikes...while Deb (his wife) and I just sat and politely listened to the boys. Impressive trip they were on!!!! We went back to camp, and hung out some clothes after washing them in the river running behind our site. We also hung out our tent rain fly...to let it and the tent air out a little. We pulled our chairs under the pine trees...and read while watching another weather system move in. The weather here is awesome...and it changes in a heartbeat!!!!!! :-)
I didn't write any more about this trip...just didn't ever get around to it. I know we did some more hiking. We were going to stop at North Platte on the way home so we could see his sister in law (who was working when we came through on our way to Colorado). We were an hour or so out of the park...and called them to tell them we were coming. They had decided to get tickets to the Husker game...and weren't going to be around. We didn't plan on driving all the way home in one day...but I guess we had no choice. That was one heck of a long ride. We got home late that afternoon (Saturday)...spent Sunday unpacking and such. Robin was due to arrive Monday (Labor Day). She was going to live with us a while, until they found a place to live. Aaric is coming back to Omaha in a month or so. Man, it will be nice to have her back!!!!!!!!!! And not going back to work with "Roger" was the best end of vacation gift ever. The mess that I came back to at work was no cool....but things were looking up!!!!! Welcome back Robin, you're never leaving again!!!!
Oh, I do remember some more of this trip. One day we picked a hike....but then, after talking to a park ranger at the trail head, we decided on a different hike altogether. Flattop Mountain. What a beautiful hike. Long and really, really rough. The elevation change was pretty high, making the hike difficult for my flat-lander lungs!!!!! It starts at the Bear Lake Trail head I believe. A million switchbacks through forest, then the trees start getting fewer and fewer. There is an awesome view of Emerald Lake (see the first year we went to Colorado for our hike to Emerald Lake)....it was absolutely straight down from where we were.....cliff....vertigo...but awesome to look down and see it from where we were!! Eventually, we moved above the treeline....and wouldn't you know....a gnarly looking mountain storm started towards us. Lightning, the works - and us above the treeline....never a good thing!!! We pressed on, until we met an older gentlemen...a local. He was making a beeline down the trail. Said the weather looked even worse on the other side. We asked him what he recommended....he said get below the tree line as quick as you can. After much debate...we finally did. Both storms missed us, and if we had kept going, we would have hit the summit of Flattop Mountain. As it were, we're going to have to do it again another year. We're both pretty bummed!!!!!! :-(