Rocky Mountain High

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 Road Junkies 1 Comments

Day 11: Loveland, CO, to Castle Rock, CO
We started the day today in the scenic Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado. We were eager to drive the famous Trail Ridge Road, often called the highway to the sky. Built in 1931, the road ascends to 12,183 feet. The views are magnificent, and, as you can see here, there are no guardrails to mar the view. This was a little bit disconcerting if you thought too much about it or if you looked out the passenger window when riding on the cliff side of the road and saw the sheer descent next to the road's edge. We visited the park's Alpine Visitor Center perched more than two miles above sea level. No utility or phone lines connect it to the outside world. Electricity is supplied by a diesel generator and water comes from snowmelt. The latticework of massive logs bolted to the roof hold it in place during hurricane-force winter storms.We took a brief hike at Milner Pass, where fresh snow was on the ground. At an elevation of 10,758, we didn't complete the entire one-mile trail, which included a significant amount of climbing.We've seen lots of aspens on the trip and finally today saw some moving toward their beautiful fall yellow. After leaving the park, we visited the mountain village of Grand Lake. Our primary mission in Grand Lake was letterboxing. We succeeded in finding a series of six letterboxes. Along the way, we encountered this very unusual wildflower growing near the lake's edge. We've tried to identify it and haven't had any luck yet. The letterboxes we found today were all by the same "planter" and had some beautiful hand-carved stamps. We ended the day in Castle Rock, CO, exhausted and determined to slow things down tomorrow. We're adjusting our schedule and moving some events from "things to do tomorrow" to "what to do on our next trip to Colorado."