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Dave and Jan's travels, day 105:
Rocky Mountain National Park

1st September
Rocky Mountain NP is seriously high. The park actually starts at around 8,500 feet, with at least one peak sneaking above 14,000. In fact, because it's so high to start with, you don't get much of the spectacular rock we saw in Grand Teton. You also - as far as we could tell - get very little wildlife.

What you do get is the open moorland of the alpine tundra, which has a desolate beauty all of its own. Mind you, if you've ever been to Dartmoor, you've already got the general idea. What is beautiful is the vast number of lakes that nestle in amongst the highest peaks.

We started with an evening visit to the Park Rangers, where we met Ferrell Atkins, one of the longer-serving rangers. He proved to be a mine of information about the park, its history, and where we should go. Not only that, but he has his own web site, which shows some of his photos of the park that are a whole lot better than the ones here - recommended if you're interested in this place.

Armed with expert advice, we started our stay with a couple of nice day hikes that took us up into the mountains to see several lakes. See pictures at the right. 

Our last three days in the park were spent backpacking up somewhere called the East Inlet trail, which provided great contrasts. Following the advice of Ranger Atkins and of one of his colleagues, we had two day hikes from within this region which took us a long, long way from the beaten trail, to the extent that we went whole days without seeing anyone. Given the park's 2 million plus annual visitors, this was quite a feat, although the park is huge. The high forest did eventually give way to spectacular mountains above the tree line, and we had a lot of fun losing and finding our way in areas without maintained trails.
One characteristic of this area seemed to be a profusion of fungi, all different colours, sizes, textures and shapes. At right is one that looks like it ought to house pixies, but others looked nothing like plants at all.

Finally, one special thing about Rocky Mountain NP is its weather. A typical day starts with a blue cloudless sky, and by about 1pm the clouds gather, and there's often an extremely spectacular thunderstorm going by mid-afternoon. If you go to this place you will get wet, the trick is to just get used to it. The clouds blow past extremely fast, so the transitions from fine to rain and back can take place so frequently you're almost permanently taking macs on or off! One afternoon we returned from a beautiful walk to our tent, ten minutes passed and then the clouds gathered from nowhere, and we retired to the tent. Ten minutes later it's pouring rain, we're sitting in a substantial stream - the tent floor is doing a creditable impersonation of a water bed - and it all looks pretty gloomy. Half an hour later we're outside again making dinner in the dry. The picture at right shows the scene the morning after, with everything drying fast in the morning sun.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Lakes in the mountain

Campsite after the rain

East meadow

Fairy toadstool