Monday, October 11, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

After a weekend of short fuses, and a Monday morning starting to look the same way, we took off for the incomparable Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado.  For those of you who are fans of The Shining, the Stanley Hotel where the movie was filmed is in Estes Park.  I was told years ago that they charge non-guests who wish to enter--I've never looked into it as parts of that movie still disturb me.

Once again we left later in the day than I wanted, so we only had a couple hours available once we arrived; and once again, we were tardy in picking up Grandma from the office.  The good news?  The kids finished earned their Junior Ranger Badges for RMNP this afternoon!  Our $20 entry fee is good for the week, so if life (and gas money) cooperates we might go back Wednesday to see more of the park--and take more pictures since we've been a bit slim on the shutterbugging.

Due to time constraints we only made it to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Hwy36 out of Estes Park and the Moraine Park Visitor Center around the corner.  Today was the first day this fall that the Trail Ridge Road has been closed, they were hoping to have it reopened tomorrow.  Maybe we'll be lucky and it'll be open Wednesday if we can make it back.  Regardless, it's pretty much unheard of for it to have remained without closure for so long!

An information plaque outside the restrooms of the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.
It faces the part of the visitor center building that has the detail in the bottom right frame.

At Beaver Meadows we collected our passport stamp, the kids' Junior Ranger booklets (different booklets for different age groups at this park), and purchased Junior Ranger pencils and 12 postcards.  Two maps of the park were acquired at the entrance gate when we paid our fee.

We arrived at Moraine Park just in time for the last Portraits of the Past tour of the season.  Today was closing day for the Moraine Park Visitor Center.  (If Trail Ridge had been open it would have been the last day for the Alpine Visitor Center as well--the highest visitor center in the National Parks system).  The tour had to do with Abner Sprague and his family settling the Moraine Park area, the resort they started, the improvements the various family members did on their respective 160acre lots from the Homestead Act.  It also talked about Imogene who stayed with Abner and his wife Alberta for 6-weeks from Wisconsin and felt the breathtaking views of the mountains healed her heart after a painful divorce from her first husband (a Civil War veteran whom she started a soldiers' home with in WI).  She ultimately started her own lodge on the 160acres she purchased for $200.  The dance/reception hall was the last building she had built on the property, and it is the only one the government kept when they bought the property from her grandkids for $40,000.  It is now the Moraine Park Visitor Center.

View of a hilltop across Moraine Park from the parking area of the visitor center.
FYI--we're on a hillside, you can't actually see the meadow in between,
(or Bear Lake Road) just the Ponderosas in the immediate foreground
of a gentler part of the slope.

During the tour we stopped on the front porch of the William Allen White cabin, a newspaper editor from Kansas (Emporia, I believe).  He, his wife, and their two children (Bill and Mary) would spend the entire summer at their cabin in Moraine Park (until Mary's death due to a horse-riding accident back in Kansas).  William had built a studio--we should have taken a picture of the steep steps up the hillside to it--where he'd spend his days writing.  He wrote over 20 books (24 or 28, can't recall now) from that little studio cabin and his wife would carry his meals up to him three times a day when he was on a good writing streak.  There was even a bed in there!

The White's cabin is used by the Park for their Artist in Residence program during the summer.  A different artist lives there for 2weeks all throughout summer.  They are selected via juried application and are required to provide two free programs to the public, and one piece of art to the Park.  This summer they had two painters, a composer...and I suddenly don't recall the other two or three.  Previously they've had dancers, quilters, all kinds of art genres!  The studio is not available for the artists' use, nor for public gawking.

When the tour finished, the kids and I tromped up to the studio and sat on the porch to finish up their Junior Ranger booklets so we could dash off to fetch Grandma from the office.  The view from that little porch was absolutely superb--if I had a means of ensuring we could eat regular meals I'd live somewhere like that!!  The pictures just don't do it justice!

Looking up the studio steps.  There's a quantity of stone steps going
down the hillside between here and the cabin.

Longs Peak from the studio porch looking across Moraine Park
(with the fuzzy edge of my red sweater creeping in)

Possibly Hallett Peak...Or Taylor Peak, or Otis Peak, or Flattop Mountain...
didn't have a Ranger with us to help identify.  As viewed from the porch of the studio.

An attempt at a better pic of the recently snow-capped mountains,
on the 'upper road' heading from the White cabin to the visitor center--
believe it's Deer Mountain.
Bear Lake Road is barely peeking through the Ponderosa
in the left foreground.

Once the booklets were completed we made our way back down to the main trail to return to the visitor center and the now-needed restroom.  I mention this because of the humor/disaster that followed.  I had not zipped up all the pockets on my little backpack and when I got momentarily caught between the door and the uber-high-mounted toilet paper holder trying to get into the stall, my calendar popped out of the pocket and landed squarely in the unused toilet.  Gratitude is expressed that there's only 2.5months left in it so I don't feel absolutely wretched that I've wasted an ENTIRE calendar.  The Rangers were kind enough to fetch a trash bag for me so I could safely carry it home....

A picture of a magpie SecondBorn took in the parking lot. 
There were two of them muttering along, and we made other sightings
of magpies while we were on the tour.

A picture I took of a magpie while we were waiting for the tour to start.
Immediately after snapping the pic it started eating stuff off the plant.

We stopped in Estes Park for a drive-thru bite to eat, opting for Taco Bell since both locations in Cheyenne should be completely shut down for wretched service and horrifying food.  Placed our order, paid for our order, received our change....and sat waiting for at least five-minutes.  I was actually taking the opportunity to do some facebooking so didn't note the specific time passed.  There was nobody waiting behind us.  Finally, a gentleman poked his head out the window and asked what I needed, "I haven't received my food yet."  He turned around, and a moment later our bag was passed out.  At least it was edible, and it wasn't a mess in a wrapper like in Cheyenne.

A brief history of RMNP can be found at

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