July 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment
I was lucky enough to have a few days off around the 4th of July and decided to spend the time driving around Colorado's portion of the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountains are a mountain range that runs from Canada to New Mexico. Of the 96 "Fourteeners", peaks rising to greater than 14,000ft, Colorado is home to 53. Including Mt Evans which has the highest paved road in the US. Flying into Denver, the mile high city as it sits at 5280ft or 1 mile, is and experience of itself. Landing on the billiard table like high plain on which the city is built makes the front range of the rockies and the fourteeners behind it look all the more impressive.
I really wanted to drive Trail Ridge Road which cuts across Rocky Mountain National Park with passes as high as 12,000ft. From all accounts it is a spectacular piece of road, with many "overlooks" (don't try searching maps for "lookout", Aussie vernacular evidently, as you won't find any) and ample opportunity to see wild life, large and small.
Out of Denver I made a bee line for the Mountains and drove up the Peak to Peak road for my first night's stay in Estes Park. I was pretty happy with how well the car suited the roads and made it to Estes Park early enough to head further up into the hills and explore the Bear Lake area that afternoon.
The American National Park infrastructure seemed eerily familiar having visited Disney parks as a kid. The views were well worth the shortness of breath from my first little walk around at over 10,000ft elevation.
Estes Park had the familiar feeling of an alpine gateway town. The place was buzzing with people coming in for their holidays, making last minute preparations for all kinds of wilderness adventures. This did not feel like Texas, a welcome change from big trucks and fast food.
From the number of people in town and the queue trying to get into the park the previous afternoon, I was on the road well before dawn hoping to take advantage of the blue hour and the open roads. The traffic was light and the still, crisp air was well worth the early start.
Shooting into the pre dawn light was a little tricky but I think these images do a good job of capturing the intense calm and tranquility of such imposing landscapes.
By the time the Sun was creeping over the Mountains I was almost at the tree line and the peace of the valleys started to give way to alpine severity. Some of these outlooks had sheer drops down thousands of feet to the valley below.
As dawn passed the traffic started to pick up a little but the roads lived up to their reputation as they snaked across the tundra.
A little further and the visitors centre indicated that the top of trail ridge road had been reached. Almost as if it were planned, the stairs snaking their way up to the overlook were being supervised by two large Elk. They were clearly used to the foot traffic and just continued to soak in the morning sun as people went up and down from the overlook.
After a few mor stops, I'd crossed the Rocky's and was on my way down through Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park and on to Silverthorne. The final thing to tick off my whirlwind trip to the Rockies was a trip up the highest paved road in North America, up to the 14,258ft Peak of Mt Evans. It was the morning of the 4th of July as I reached the summit.
At over twice the heigh of Australia's highest mountain the view from the top is more like that out the front of an aeroplane than one from a mountain top. Mt Evans is not particularly steep but the slopes immediately below you fade away into the endless horizon to really give a sense of floating above the rest of the state. Well worth the drive, just be aware you are going to be going to driving really really slowly if you decide to take a significantly lowered sports car up there!
Click here to take a look at the full gallery from this trip.
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