Last week the school year ended here in the Beehive state, and on my birthday no less. Talk about a birthday present: Summer vacation as well as bidding final farewell to the job and faculty I have loved. It was a bittersweet morning, but that quickly changed. Jim was out of town presenting his Master's research at the ACSM conference in Denver. Once school was done, Aeryn and I boarded a plane and headed to the Centennial state where she got to hang out with her dad while Jim and I got to play. Dinner for my birthday, jogging in the morning, and the trip we affectionately refer to as our "mini-honeymoon" had begun.
Destination #1: Rocky Mountain National Park
At the entrance to the park! It's our goal to visit every National Park together and this let us check off the first one. I had been there before, but Jim hadn't. It was a serious blast. We hiked, camped in the park, and saw more elk that we thought humanly possible.
In case you were wondering, yes, there is enough service up at Bear Lake to still play Words with Friends with your mother who happens to be out of the country.
We hiked up to Alberta Falls, which was a pleasant little hike despite half of the trail still being snow-packed. On the way up we passed a gentleman who said a little chipmunk farther up the trail was charging a quarter to have his picture taken. No foolin'.
Any experts out there who know what this thing is? I'm guessing it's elk but those pointy chompers have me confounded about that. I'm an Earth Science person and claim no knowledge on this matter whatsoever. Regardless, Jim felt rather affectionate toward the little bugger.
Trail Ridge Road was open up to the Alpine Visitor center. At that point, they quit plowing the road and it was still a few inches deep in snow. Or feet. Take your best guess on that one! The red sign on top of the snow is warning people of avalanche danger and to stay off the snow. I was tempted to take a picture of the people climbing behind the signs to telemark ski but conserving battery power on the camera prevented it (Since I left home without the charger, spare battery, or having charged the one in the camera at that time. Brilliant.). Use your imagination and let's all hope they made it home alive.
This picture is quintessentially us. It doesn't matter where we are or what we are doing. I am at least carrying a jacket at all times and Jim lives day and night in shorts and flip flops. Even with 15 ft. walls of snow and a decent wind chill. The visitor center was still closed for winter but there were several people at the top. This is a natural turn-around point for the numerous bikers who torture themselves endlessly by riding this thing. I admit it's gorgeous, but the narrow shoulders and deep cliffs made me question their sanity and appreciate Jim being a great driver.
Having no kids for this trip was strangely liberating (temporarily of course). We hiked Deer Mountain, Alberta Falls, Bear lake, "The Pool", and meandered around the streets of Estes Park. Going to be in town? Try the blueberry cheesecake ice cream or macadamia nut brittle from Hayley's. You won't regret it.