A Perfect Day

Rocky Mountain National ParkWe’ve all experienced those days when nothing seems to go right, you know Murphy’s Law and all, but then there are those days where everything comes together perfectly.  Our last full day in Rocky Mountain National Park was just that; a nearly perfect day.

After three consecutive days of hiking, we opted to take a break from the trails and take a scenic drive.

Trail Ridge Road is known as the highway to the sky and stretches 48 miles between the towns of Estes Park on the east side of the Continental Divide to Grand Lake on the west side.  There’s an eleven mile section that traverses above tree line with the high point being at 12,183 feet in elevation.

There are numerous scenic pull-outs along Trail Ridge Road and all worth stopping at to take in the amazing scenery.  This is a great way to enjoy a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains in all directions.

Since we’ve had the privilege of visiting this National Park several times previously, we knew to plan the entire day to truly enjoy all that this scenic drive has to offer.

We packed a picnic lunch allowing us time to meander without a schedule.

We left our campsite at Glacier Basin Campground around eight in the morning.  It was a beautiful sunny morning with a crispness in the air.  Our first scenic stop was at Rainbow Curve.  From this vantage point we were able to see the Alluvial Fan in the valley below.

Continuing up highway 34 (aka Trail Ridge Road or as Al and I like to call it, Ogden Ave. As newlyweds, hubby and I lived near Ogden Avenue aka highway 34 in northern Illinois.  So it’s kid of a joke between us) our next stop was the Forest Canyon Overlook.

Trail Ridge Road

It’s August 18th and I’m glad I wore my earmuffs.

From the Forest Canyon Overlook there were spectacular views of some of the park’s remotest areas.  Because this scenic overlook sits at an elevation of about 11,700 feet, the views were directly in front or below me.  There were stunning mountain peaks in all directions.  The winds were particularly gusty and cold during our stop and I was glad I donned my earmuffs.

Tundra Communities Trail

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park. The view from the Tundra Communities Trail.

PikaOur trek quickly continued just past Rock Cut to the Tundra Communities Trailhead. Although hiking wasn’t on the days agenda, a stroll was.

You see, ever since I read about Pikas I was on a quest to see these little guys up close and personal and this should be the perfect place to find the cute critters.  Did you know they are related to rabbits?Rocky Mountain National ParkAs we were about to pull into the parking lot, I noticed two birds flying very close to one another.  Actually, a little too close and rather strange.  I blinked to clear my vision and then asked Al, “Is that one bird or two?”  Boy, did that get hubby’s attention as he urgently responded, “Of course, that’s one bird.  Do you need me to drive since you’re experiencing some double vision”.  “No, no I’m fine. Yes, it’s obviously one bird. I think I’m ok now”, I responded as we pulled into the parking lot.  Keep in mind, we were driving a high mountain road with no guardrails or room for error, thus hubby’s concern was most definitely warranted for several reasons.

Safely parked in the parking lot….. with a smirky little chuckle, Al says, “You don’t plan on doing anything silly like hike this trail, do you…. especially since you’ve already experienced double vision?”  “No hon, not to worry.  I’ll just walk up to that sign up there. Ok?”  Ah, we both knew better.  Of course I was taking that trail.

Rocky Mountain National ParkHere’s an excerpt from a publication (5280) I used to discover the trail; Take a 1.1 mile hike on the Tundra Communities Trail.  The first quarter mile of the hike is taxing (especially since you’re at 12,110 feet), but it levels out after that and takes hikers through wildflower strewn alpine tundra to see Mushroom Rock.  Well, this article had me with wildflower and tundra.  How could I resist?

I walked to the first interpretive sign while Al checked out some other signage at the parking lot.  I was huffing and puffing.  Gosh, I thought to myself, “I haven’t walked far at all.  Why am I so light headed?”  And although I promised hubby I wouldn’t hike this trail today, Mushroom Rock was calling to me.  “Come on, it’s only a mile UP the trail”, I thought.  How difficult could it be?

Since I was having a little trouble breathing and felt a little woozy, I started doing some deep yoga breathing.  My friend, Carol, would be so proud!

Trail Ridge Road

Al hikes no further than the first sign

PikaThe deep breathing was working so I continued my stroll.  “So how much fricken further is that mushroom rock?” I wondered.  I kind of promised Al I wouldn’t venture further than the first interpretive sign, but here I was already further up the trail and he was now at that first interpretive sign.

I waved to him, he waved back.  I pointed in the direction of the trail and he waved me on.  That was his way of saying it’s ok, go ahead without me.  Not that I needed his permission mind you, but out of courtesy for his concern for my well being I did want him to know where I was venturing, as if he didn’t already know.

He and I have become well versed at “our” version of sign language.  Must be all those hand signals I use to help give Al driving direction as he backs up the RV 😉Trail Ridge RoadTrail Ridge RoadI captured a couple photos of Mushroom Rock but more importantly I captured several shots of the cute little Pikas.  I was so engrossed trying to follow the fast Pikas that I could’ve cared less about any symptoms of hypoxia. Gosh, they are so fast as they scurry between, up, and over the boulders.  I was lucky to capture any photos at all.  Trust me when I say I took lots of photos of rock and vegetation with no Pika in the frame LOL.  Boy, I love that delete button!

Pika

A Pika – they have the cutest little butts!

Pika

Busy Pika foraging for food

Although our perfect day continued with sightings of bighorn sheep, elk, and moose the sightings of the Pikas will remain my highpoint of the day.  There’s also something about the tundra and its fragile ecosystem that intrigues me.PikaPikaIf I didn’t encounter any other wildlife that day, it still would’ve gone down as a very memorable and special day.  But it got better!  Next up…. our perfect day continues…

Marmot

in addition to the Pikas we saw lots of Marmots

Hagen Living World Pet Tunnel, Red/Grey
Pika: Life in the Rocks

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62 thoughts on “A Perfect Day

    • Pika only live in the Tundra (above tree line) and it’s said that global warming is effecting them and their survivability more so than the polar bear.

  1. Being born in Michigan and now living on the edge of the Great Plains, being above tree-line is not an every day experience. This post and its predecessor have brought back some wonderful memories. Thank you so much.

    • Thanks…. we just moved up to Longmont to St. Vrain State Park until Friday. One of these days I may even get caught up with all my posts, but all this gorgeous scenery keeps me away from the computer – probably not a bad thing 😉

    • Thanks Nina. The Tundra is such a harsh environment. It never ceases to amaze me how the little plants and cute critters can survive in such terrain. Love it 🙂

  2. I’ve been on that road there a few times myself Ingrid and hiked many of the mountains at RMNP and I know how the altitude can do some very strange things to a person’s thinking (and some of that disorientation can be great fun especially if you’re not thinking that your life might be in danger!).

    I LOVED this story of your adventure and the drawings and photos of the landscape helped me feel like I was right there. I also loved the photos of the pikas and marmots (they never pose like that for me!) and was fascinated by those mushroom rocks which I know would have been calling me too. Glad you kept going so you could photograph them and also that you’re back safe and sound. ~ Rick

    • I’m sure you’ve explored this National Park in depth. I barely touched the surface during my 5 day stay. I definitely got lucky when the pika stopped for me. The little rascals rarely hold still.
      Always nice to hear from you 🙂

  3. Dave first trip to the Rockies in ’99 was the start of his wanderlust, brought back some great memories of our vacations there. We’re looking forward to the days we can summer out west, seems they want us back here next summer though.

    • Ah…. gotta make the $ while you can. We’ve called CO home for twenty years, and this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to explore as many nooks and crannies as we have. We’re loving it and will probably spend next summer back in CO again.

  4. I’ve been going up Trail Ridge my whole life and have never seen, or thought to look for, a pika. We’ll be up there in a week or so and will definitely be on the lookout. Thanks for your post!

    • Where do you like to stay? We enjoyed our time at Glacier Basin CG but the stay length is so restrictive. I look forward to your post on RMNP 🙂

      • Until a couple of years ago, at my folks’ house in Loveland. Now my job keeps us tethered to RV parks with dependable WIFI so it will be a day-trip to RMNP on a weekend. Still better than an office 🙂

  5. If I thought there was a chance to see pikas, I would have been up that trail as well. I was always on the hunt for them in Yellowstone and in Yosemite, but in many places due to climate warming, I learned that their habitats have moved up in elevation. I never did find them so I was so excited to see your photos…wonderful! And Mushroom Rock, what a great formation. Can’t wait to hear what’s next. 🙂

  6. You got some absolutely adorable photos of the pika:) Great work! They are really cute. I love the ears.

    The first day our daughter arrived two years ago we took this road so she could get acclimated to the elevation (she lives at 400′). We stopped and walked this same trail you did. It was amazing how she had no trouble at all. We climbed the rocks at the end of the trail so we could watch the skiers going down behind. We attributed her amazing adjustment to her long distance running. I still can’t believe that she didn’t need any time to adjust. Oh, to be young again:) Glad you stuck it out and made the walk. I am sure your lungs and body aren’t totally 100% yet.

    I loved the mushroom rock!! I think it was 33 degrees and very windy the day we did the walk early in June. Thanks for the memories:)

    • Ah yes, to be young again. That’s fantastic that Jessica had no trouble with the altitude. It does stay pretty cold up there even in the summer. That had to be fun seeing skiers. I’d like to get back up there in early June to see all the snow and the Alpine Visitor Center. So many places, so little time. We’ll need to prioritize LOL.

  7. We saw two motor homes traversing the drive last weekend, and I just about died when I saw them heading toward us. There is no way I would take ours on this drive, for sure. In fact, the drive was so packed with people and the trails along the way so crowded that we could not pull off on the overlooks along the way. It was such a pretty and unique drive, but we will have to go back again when it is not so crowded to really see and experience it. Definitely enjoyed seeing it through your eyes and photos!

    • Yes, it does get crowded and you were there on a three day weekend putting the crowds at max levels. A couple of years ago we too wouldn’t even consider taking our RV on that road, but now? We may drive it next summer pulling the 5er but we’ll do it during the week and get a super early start and won’t plan on stopping. It’ll be because of relocation and the shortest route. Hubby and I are feeling more confident in our abilities and certainly more adventurous 🙂

      • Our motor home has a gas engine, not a diesel, or else we might think differently. Anyway, that will be a drive you will always remember, for sure! Guessing you are going elsewhere besides south Texas this year?

        • Yep, those gas engines can have a tad bit of trouble pulling the mountains. Texas it is. We’re heading to Galveston Island for November and then back over to Rockport for Dec and Jan. I’m hoping the winter won’t be as brutal as last winter, but I hear rumblings it will.

  8. Perfect post! I have a girlfriend who had several “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!!!” moments while driving this road in their motorhome. Your post made me smile in remembrance. Thanks.

    • Oh my gosh! I would never recommend driving this road in a MH or pulling a trailer unless one is very well versed and used to mountain driving. Definitely not for the faint of heart. I’m sure that was one adventure she’ll never forget and wouldn’t repeat 🙂

  9. OMG that Pika is so cute! I had no idea these animals even existed until I read your awesome post. Thank you! I also really loved your photo of mushroom rock. Thank you for taking us along on your excursion!

    Michael

    • You welcome 🙂 Reading about these little guys is fascinating. They survive is such a harsh climate. The tundra has such a unique eco system that I find intriguing.

  10. The cute little Pika’s did a good job posing for your photos. It’s hard to beat a perfect day in the RCMP. I wanted to make the drive you did, but due to limited time, Rainbow Curve was a far as we drove on 34.

    • That’s too bad Larry that you made it only as far as Rainbow Curve…. the best was yet to come. I got lucky capturing any shots of the quick little Pikas. Thankfully I had my camera on the ‘burst’ mode.

  11. “I’ll just walk up to that sign there,” hahaha! Oh, I can’t even begin to count the times that I’ve done exactly as you did — it’s just impossible to resist the call of a beautiful trail, even if it wasn’t part of the original “plan.” Love those adorable pikas! Your captures of them are delightful.

    • Thank you Laurel. Oh yes, “just a little further” has almost gotten me into some not so good situations. Must be the wanderlust in me. Those Pikas are the cutest!

  12. That little Pika is adorable. Mushroom Rock was well worth the huff and puff.

    Last last time we were in Colorado, I experienced being lightheaded for the first time. I think as I get older my body is definitely changing. I use to be able to do heights and now my knees shake. I will remember the deep breathing exercise.

    • Oh Marsha, I can so relate to the body not performing like it used to…. so frustrating. But that day I was bound and determined not to allow anything to keep me from encountering the cute little pikas 🙂

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