06-03-19: Day 3: After setting up camp last night, we went for a short bike ride along the road passing by our campsite – I loved it. Bicycles just have a different feeling of mobility, freedom and in my opinion are one of the best modes of transportation humans have created. Our first campfire cooking attempt turned out well, although a little charred. The menu included chicken and green pepper kabobs, chicken thighs, and riceroni (which took a really long time to cook).
Ryan and I slept in one tent, Nick and Ashley slept in another, and Alex slept without shelter (but full view of the stars) until 5am when he was cold, damp, and returned to the RV.
Slow start to the morning due to a couple people not feeling fell, not knowing morning routine yet or what we were going to do for the day. We cooked eggs, to varying degrees of success, and are bananas for breakfast. We decided that we would return to the same campsite at Beaver Resivior that night so we just left our tents up and chained the bikes to a tree.
We chose to hike the Ouzel Falls trail from the Wild Basin Ranger station in the south eastern part of Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a cool trail, 3 miles one way, through subalpine landscapes, with many waterfalls along the way. The trail is named for the Ouzel bird that nests in trees along the creek bank and dives into the water for food – we actually saw one! But only hopping around on the ground. At the halfway point, Ashley was still not feeling well so Nick gave her the keys and she walked back to the RV alone while Nick, Alex, Ryan, and I hiked on towards Ouzel Lake, another 2 miles one way. Up to that point, the trail was well maintained and almost free of snow. After Ouzel Falls, we encountered more snow, sometimes over knee deep, especially closer to Ouzel Lake. Everyone handled the snow well, everyone was wearing shorts except me and Ryan had sneakers on! As we walked along an exposed ridgeline, thunder clapped in the distance. Everything we had read and heard advised not to get caught in the Colorado Rockies thunderstorms which occur almost daily in the mid afternoon. Against better judgment, we hiked on. The thunder continued and got more frequent the closer we got to Ouzel Lake. We stopped to evaluate if we should keep going or not multiple times, and always decided to push on despite the thunder, light rain, and deepening snow. Soon after, we made it to the Lake, took in the reflection of a mountain on the water with grey sky’s behind it and quickly turned around to get below the tree line as quickly as possible.
Overall, it was a great, 10 mile warm up to hiking for this trip although, we the view at the lake was a little disappointing for the amount of effort and risk we endured to get there (hiking at high elevations before acclimation is noticeably more challenging).
We took advantage of the Estes Park (Town, not inside the National Park) McDonald’s free water and got a very minimal “dinner” with the promise of cooking the chili when we returned to camp. In exchange for a solid meal, we chose to drive around the north eastern part of Rocky Mountain National Park to look for wildlife – and we found it. Countless mule deer and elk grazed along the roads and meadows, some very close to us. The highlight of our wildlife scouting was a young moose munching on a shrub in the middle of the field! Some elk got surprisingly close to it, but the moose wasn’t phased. It just kept grazing then slowly walked across the road, past a dozen or more photographers and a park ranger, then ran across a field to get to a pond in a meadow we visited earlier. An amazing sight. The only well known wildlife in the park we didn’t see was a big horn sheep.
We retuned to camp around 10, well past dark, skipped dinner and went straight to bed. I was cold sleeping in the tent last night and was determined to warm this time so I wore tall socks, leggings, pants, a long sleeve shirt, a fleece sweater, a down jacket and a hat to bed plus I had two therma-rest insulated sleeping pads and my inflatable sleeping pad under me – I was still uncomfortable and a little cold. It must have been 40° outside. The sleeping bag I brought was only rated for 50° because I didn’t expect it to be this cold and Troy, who has the same sleeping bad, said he was fine using it in the forties with layers on – I’m looking forward to warmer weather at night.
06-04-19: Day 4: Today’s primary activity was mountain biking outside of Boulder. The trail was labeled as beginner/intermediate (blue). Ryan and Alex were the only ones with real mountain bikes, regardless, all five of us gave it a try. I would say the trail was more intermediate then beginner. Early in the ride I lost control going over a Rocky section and fell off scrapping my knee and hand, but I kept going. Ashley turned around part was through the ride; neither one of us had ever gone mountain biking before. I took the rest of the nine mile ride pretty slowly compared to Ryan (an experienced mountain bike rider) and Alex, but I didn’t fall again, they waited for me periodically, we all had fun, and enjoyed the challenge. I think my next mountain bike excursion will be a little easier though.
We drove west of Denver and south along the Rockies at sunset through vast plains of pasture – it was beautiful. Our drive to campsite brought us through South Park, Colorado, yes the town that the cartoon is based on. The road to the free campsite was long, dirt, and bumpy, but that’s a small price for free camping. Dinner was leftover chili and cornbread that Ashley made before we left.
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