We’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.
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.
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? Aren’t they adorable?
As 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. Hmm, was the thin air and lack of oxygen effecting me? Possibly!
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.
The Tundra Communities Trail is a 1.1 mile hike. The first quarter mile is taxing considering it’s at 12,100 feet in elevation, but it levels out after that. The trail winds through alpine tundra scattered with delicate wildflowers during the months of July and August. The trail eventually leads to Mushroom Rock.
I walked to the first interpretive sign while Al checked out some other signage at the parking lot. I was huffing and puffing as I continued up the trail. Gosh, I thought to myself, “I haven’t walked far at all. Why am I so light headed?” And although I promised Al 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!
The 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 back up the RV 😁
I 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 … sigh!
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.
If 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…