Wednesday, July 9, 2008
One of my daily blog reads is Brian over at "RV Boondocking the Good Life". A week or so ago he mentioned wanting to ride Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Brian had done this before and declared that it was a spectacular drive. I have known about this road for some time but had for some reason never explored it. Brian's post brought this possibility back to the top of my list. A couple of days ago I decided to make a day trip to do just that.
Today was the day and in true retiree fashion I decided to start the journey at about 8:30 am, right at the tail end of the morning rush. I was super excited because Rocky Mountain National Park is a real gem...and a huge one at that. My "mountain fix" quotient was also running miserably low and need some adjustment. I have been to RMNP a number of times and it is undoubtedly something very special. The thought of exploring someplace new in the park had me giggling like a little girl.
Fall River Road is the original road into RMNP and was completed in 1920. It's a dirt road that is narrow and twisty and steep in some areas. The speed limit on this road is 15 mph but I don't think anyone even considers going faster because to do so would mean you couldn't look at the incredible beauty all around (hard to enjoy scenery whilst plummeting thousands of feet off that narrow road into the valley below).
I picked today, Wednesday, for this trip because I reasoned that even though it was high tourist season, it was mid week and the road had only opened last week. There surely wouldn't be too many people on this road mid week? The start of my trip seem to confirm my logic. I breezed through the west side of the Denver metro area and headed up through Golden, CO and the Leftist Republic of Boulder. Traffic was light, the weather was good.
As I expected, once I got to the gateway to RMNP, Estes Park, things got more active after all this is a premier destination in the middle of July. I did not however, expect what I ran into on this one way, dirt, narrow, twisty, steep road.........Traffic jam!!!!!!!!!
Incredible, there seemed to be very little traffic right until I got to the one way, narrow, twisty, steep road and then all of a sudden WHAM! I was behind a line of I don't know how many cars....because the road was so narrow and twisty, I could only see about 8 cars ahead. Yes, you heard me, I could see 8 cars ahead of me and about the same behind me.
The scenery was indeed spectacular but it was really hard to enjoy while driving in a caravan. This caravan included cars from just about everywhere in the US. I saw plates from Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma. Those are states whose drivers are considered by Coloradans to be "flatlanders". Flatlanders are not someone you want to be behind while driving in the mountains, especially on dirt, narrow, twisty, steep roads! This road is narrow enough and the hair pin turns are tight enough that if your not used to driving these types of roads....you can't negotiate the hair pin turn and have to back up and give it another go. That happened on 5 or 6 different turns....4 or 5 cars had to stop, back up and turn again.
My original plan was to take at least half a day doing this relatively short road. I wanted to stop at every pullout and look, take pictures and commune. Just about every pullout though was jammed with cars. People would stop and wait for people to get to their cars and pull out so they could have their parking place.....all the time blocking the who knows how many cars behind them.
I wasn't more than a mile into the road when it became clear that I should just cut my losses and get back up to Trail Ridge Road as soon as possible. It was incredibly beautiful but surreal at the same time. Imagine slapping the main street of any busy metropolitan area into a rustic wilderness and that's what I had today.
After about an hour "commute" I arrived at the junction with Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road is the "new" road in the park. It traverses the spine of the Rockies reaching an altitude of 12,183 feet. After driving both I think the raw power of the scenery on Trail Ridge makes it more to my liking. It was crowded too, but because it's more modern, wider and paved it didn't seem as crowded. That is until you tried to pull off the road. Just about all the parking areas were full or almost full.
I did find a few places that were not totally jammed and was able to get out of the car and adjust my mountain fix meter a bit. I kept trying to take some good pictures to post and then when I got home I realized that what I needed for this post was to take pictures of the hordes of people on either side and behind me that I studiously framed out of all of these pictures. THAT, really would have been and enlightenment to the reader.
Anyhow, I enjoyed this beautiful creation called the Rocky Mountains as best I could and headed back home. Somewhere just on the north side of the Leftist Republic of Boulder I spied an interesting thing. Seems as if a developer has created a high density development called the Holiday Neighborhood on the site of an old drive-in movie theater called the Holiday. As part of the development the sign for the drive in was saved and restored....a unique and commendable thing.
The drive back home was pretty hot with a lot more traffic than I experienced on the way up. Now that I sit in the comfort of home I'm thinking that this trip didn't really restore my mountain fix meter the way I wanted so maybe I'll have to head off to one of my special places next week. Before I do however, The Circle is scheduled to see Baxter Black, the premier cowboy poet, in concert this Saturday and I am looking forward to it. Coincidentally, Saturday happens to be my 61st birthday. More on that in a future post.
Thanks for visiting.