May 6th, 2018
My first day day in Rocky Mountain National Park (from now on I'm using the abbreviation RMNP) started off with us waking up late, mostly because we had been exhausted from the plane ride and waking up early in Boulder the day before. We got up around 8 and decided we would go hike Bear Lake. We were really excited to also stop at the Bear Lake Visitor Center to get cancellation stamps for our national park passports, which I wrote about here. We were slightly disappointed but not very surprised to find out that Bear Lake was still mostly frozen. There was a lot of snow pack along the trail and I think I saw about 10 people wipe out along the less than 1 mile trail, so that was pretty inspirational. I didn't really take any pictures around the lake, partly because it was sunny and mid day, and also because the lake was frozen and didn't look terribly interesting.
After our hike around the lake, we went to the visitor center and ended up talking to one of the rangers there named Allen for a good bit. He was super friendly and knowledgeable. We wanted to do the sky pond hike and asked him what he thought about it. He strongly advised against it. Apparently there's a rock scramble along the way that goes straight up a waterfall that is completely frozen, and it's incredibly dangerous. So that was a slight bummer. We got our stamp for the lake and headed back down the windy road.
Along the way we decided to take Trail Ridge Road to Rainbow Curve. The road closes after that, but the views are supposed to be incredible, so we felt like we had to. The drive up to Rainbow Curve is incredible and I can't wait to come back to do the entire road. The views never end and the 11 miles it takes to get there feels more like 5 minutes. You're constantly looking around and seeing mountains. I can't stress enough how everyone needs to visit RMNP. If you haven't and you're on the fence, leave now. Get up from whatever you're doing and go.
I took a few pictures along the way, but they're all cellphone pictures and nothing to write home about. There's going to be much better pictures to share from today, so just hold tight.
After we finished that drive, we went back to Estes Park for lunch. I was feeling BBQ and happened to find one of the best BBQ places I've ever been to right along the main road in the Estes. Smokin' Dave's BBQ and Tap house had an insane selection of delicious food, and I ended up getting most of it. Here's a picture of my meal, which was only 16$ I believe.
Ignore the fact that I couldn't resist taking a bite before taking a picture, it's THAT good.
If you're ever in the area, you need to check this place out. The portions were really generous. I mean, look at that picture. There's half a chicken and then a giant pile of pulled pork. I don't think we even ate the rest of the day because we had so much food. You won't regret going here.
I basically had to shower after eating at Dave's, on account of me being covered in their BBQ sauce, so we ran back to the hotel to get cleaned up a bit. After I washed away the guilt from eating 10,000 calories, we headed off to Moraine park, which is apart of RMNP. Lauren wanted to see Elk, and I wanted to start getting some images since I didn't really get to shoot anything in the morning.
The drive to Moraine is easy, you just take bear lake road and after a few miles it opens up to a giant field, which is Moraine. You'll see signs and probably elk too. We parked and walked down to the river (Big Thompson River). At this point, it started getting really moody and cloudy and we were worried about rain. Luckily for us, the weather is constantly changing in RMNP so it cleared up after a bit. There's a trail along the river and a ton of wild life along the way. We saw a bunch of elk on the other side of the river, but I only had a 70-200mm lens with me, soI wasn't able to get any super tight shots.
Like I said, It was super moody out for a bit along the river.
Lauren followed a pair of ducks all the way down the river, which was super funny to watch. Only she would be fascinated by ducks when we're surrounded by elk and incredible views. After we walked for a bit, we decided we should plan where to go next.
I know it sounds like we're jumping around a lot, and that's because we are. We only have two days here and can't spend too much time in one location. RMNP is so big and there's just too much to take in. I could easily spend a month here and not see everything. So we decided we would go a trail we saw on our way down from Bear Lake, Storm Pass Trail.
This particular elk had wandered away from the rest and decided to start her modeling career. (Wish I had a bigger lens to get closer)
Storm Pass was an instant classic. As I was taking pictures, a man approached me and asked if we had seen any moose. I guess right before we drove up the road there were a bunch of them crossing right in front of this mans car. Unfortunately, we didn't see any but we basically spent the rest of the day looking for them.
After I talked to him a bit, I went back to shooting, and had realized the weather changed again. There was now crazy clouds and light bouncing off the backdropped mountains. I was super happy to capture an image of it.
No, this isn't edited. The clouds actually looked like that. It was crazy.
After capturing some images that I liked, we headed down the trail. We decided to just take a short hike to Sprague Lake and then turn around and come back. Along the way we spotted a TON of birds, but none of them would sit still long enough for me to get any images (that changed later this week). Sprague was beautiful but there wasn't really an image to be had there, so after spending some time walking around, we turned around and headed back to the car.
We were pretty exhausted at this point, but I wanted to try to get a sunset. We decided to go back to a cool spot we saw along Trail Ridge Road to shoot, but didn't end up getting any good light at all. I did manage to get a long exposure of the clouds sweeping over the mountains, but I wasn't happy with the light. Instead, I shot a 10 image panoramic view of the mountains, and just spent the rest of the time enjoying the view. I had to severely lower the quality to get this image uploaded. The original file size was almost 100MB's.
No light, but still a crazy view.
Once it got dark, we went and drove around Estes a bit. Lauren wanted to drive past the Stanley hotel, which she says inspired Stephen Kings "The Shining." This time, I think her facts are right (I googled it before writing this).
That was about it. We went right home and went to bed because we had more plans for tomorrow.
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And as always, thanks for reading.
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