A Lovely Day in Rocky Mountain NP

July 19, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Mark and I made reservations at a campground just outside the park, found a friend to watch the dog, piled all of our gear into the car and took off for the mountains on Friday night. We had planned on getting up early the next morning and climbing and awesome, long, grade III route the next morning. But, Friday night, after putting up the tent, we found out that Mark didn’t have a helmet.

While many people (and even many trad climbers) might feel completely comfortable climbing any route without a helmet, it didn’t seem worth the risk to me or Mark. So, we decided to drive back to the Fort on Saturday morning, grab the helmet (and a few other forgotten things) and then head back to Estes. We would climb someplace low and easy on Saturday afternoon, and then get up early and do our long climb on Sunday.

There’s good pics in the gallery.

Rocky Mountain National Park

But, it turned out that Mark’s helmet was not back at the house. It wasn’t in the basement, car, backpacks, front yard, or under the poppazon. It was gone. We drove back to Estes empty handed. Neither one of us felt much like climbing when we got back to the national park just before lunch. Instead, we took our picnic lunch up Trail Ridge Road, and sat and ate it at 11,000ft.

Beautiful rock and snow

We drove over the continental divide – our first time on this road in a few years – on a lovely day. It was also our first time above treeline all year, and we were both happy to find that neither one of us had a problem with the altitude on Saturday.

Eventually, we randomly found ourselves at the Poudre Lakes, the actual start of the river that carved the beautiful and amazing Poudre Canyon and runs through Fort Collins. We were so excited to find this spot, that we parked the car and headed out for a quick afternoon hike.

Wildflowers in the glacial valley

The Poudre River trail runs along the side of the river, through glacial valleys and rocky canyons, until it pops out near Joe Wright Reservoir off of highway 14 near Cameron Pass about 20 miles to the north. I would love to backpack this trail someday: start at Trailridge road in Rocky Mountain and end up in the familiar playground of the southern Rawah Mountains at the top of the Poudre Canyon. What a great adventure!

Standing in the young Poudre River and looking down stream

This weekend, though, we were not prepared for that adventure. We walked a long the scenic trail for a couple miles and then headed back to the car. We drove back over the divide, gawking along with the tourists at huge herds of elk and yellow-bellied marmots along the way. We ate junk food for dinner, chased mule deer out of our neighbor’s campsite (one got away with a banana), saw a badger for the first time, and enjoyed a mountain evening.

We talked around and around, and eventually decided we could do the climb without Mark’s helmet the next morning. And that’s a story for another post.