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Colorado 2008 Trip

Day 3 of 10

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Sunday, June 29th
Drive to Rocky Mountain National Park

Maybe I'm just not a city person, but I found it hard to sleep with all the sounds at night -- trains, busses, and occasional people yelling in the streets. I looked forward to leaving the city behind and sleeping in the outdoors.

We got some last minute supplies (pillows, for one), then packed up and left Denver around 1:10pm. We arrived at the town of Estes Park, just outside the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, around 2:45pm. Staying at Estes Park is one option if you're visiting Rocky Mountain, but I thought it would be much nicer to camp inside the park.

We stopped at Estes Park for a few more last minute groceries, then arrived at our campground around 3:30pm. I'd reserved a camp site at Moraine Park campground about a month in advance. With 247 sites, it's the largest campground in the park. There had been only a handful of available sites when I'd reserved. If you are reserving, bear in mind that some sites are far removed from the parking area. Ours, luckily, was not too far.

Each site has a tent pad -- a raised gravel surface bordered by wooden beams. You are required to put your tent on it. It's a nice surface, but unfortunately our pad had no shade, so it was uncomfortably hot inside the tent during the day.

After setting up the tent, I sat down to eat my dinner. As I did so, I looked around at the beautiful open forest we were in and thought that just sitting here eating was better than anything I would be doing in Denver. The surroundings make a huge difference. It didn't hurt that the weather was perfect for camping. It was slightly warmer than what we're used to in the Sierras, which meant it was a little warm during the day, but perfect at night.

There are black bears in the park, but the recommendations are very different than at Sierra campgrounds. They say it's ok for you to put food in your car. In fact, you're required to, since there isn't a bear box at each site, like there is in the Sierras. This made it a bit more difficult to deal with food, since the distance from our car to our picnic table was about 75 feet. So we constantly had to walk back and forth.

After dinner, I drove toward the campground entrance, where a man was selling fire wood, ice, and ice cream. Just before I reached him, I saw a male elk in the field near someone's camp site. A car was stopped on the road, its driver trying to take a picture. Several people were in the field, trying to get a picture. This would be a recurring theme (people stopping to take elk pictures). I pretty much got my fill here, firing off a couple dozen shots.

Elk near camp site 1 (there's also a deer in the foreground, barely visible)

Man taking picture of elk

Man taking picture of elk

What are you looking at?

I bought some fire wood ($4 per bundle, $1.50 for kindling), then drove back to our camp site. Along the way I stopped to take pictures of the meadow backed by forest and mountains. There are several sites here that have a great setting, right on the edge of the meadow with commanding views of the mountains above.

View from near site 139

We didn't have a camp fire that night, instead opting to take a walk around the campground. We walked along the "D" loop, marveling at sites 147 and 149, which have incredible views of Moraine Park below and Longs Peak beyond it. (In Rocky Mountain, meadows are called "Parks"). We wondered how many months in advance the people at sites 147 and 149 had to make reservations to get those beautiful sites. If I ever return to this campground, I'm going to try to get one of those sites.

I want site 149 next time, with a great view of Longs Peak

After walking around the "D" loop, we took the trail down to the road, where there's a shuttle bus stop. If we wanted, we could use that shuttle to get to some of our hikes, but the Moraine Park bus only comes once every half hour.

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