As I mentioned before, we had 36ish hours at home. Around 4am on Tuesday, we woke the family and headed to the airport for our 7am flight. And for the first time I can ever remember, our plane took off EARLY (I love you, Southwest Airlines!).
It was only after we were comfortably sitting on the plane that I remembered: we’d forgotten Jack Henry’s booster seat for the rental car. So that was fun. Related: I’ve got a brand new booster seat for sale.
After a brief panicky moment where we realized that the boys had left their backpack on the bus that took us to the rental car place from the airport (it was found immediately – that bus was still in the parking lot 10 minutes after dropping us off, which I consider a miracle. Oh, and everything was in it, which included an iPod and iPad. Sheesh.), we headed to Boulder for breakfast. We ate at The Buff, recommended by a friend who lives there, and it did not disappoint!
By going through Boulder, we planned to take a slightly more scenic route into Estes Park (EP from here on out)…however, we didn’t realize we’d really be rerouted due to damaged roads from last fall’s disastrous flooding. But, that was fine. We were treated to a pretty view of the St. Vrain Creek the whole way. Which was nice, because the rain started to fall on that drive, and it stayed majorly overcast and rainy for the next 36 hours.
Kind of a huge bummer when the reason you’re in Colorado is to hike, and the weather is unseasonably cold and wet.
However, we made the best of it. We bought ponchos, ate a snack, and got started on our first hike of the trip shortly after getting to EP. We all loved Gem Lake. The trailhead is located just outside of EP and not in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) proper, which made it super easy to access. I was too worried about rain while we were on this hike, so I kept my camera in the van and just used my phone. This was probably the hardest hike we did, and everyone loved it, from the views to the difficulty to all of the rocks to climb on for the 11-and-under set.
Sidenote: these boys of mine nearly gave me heart failure several times with their rock-climbing antics and getting too far ahead on the trail this first day. I *may* have tried to put the fear of God in them by making them read the back cover of a book on people who have died while hiking in RMNP (and the story on the back cover is about a 12-year-old boy from the Midwest who was never seen again after he got too far ahead of his family and presumably fell to his death. I know, I am the funnest mom ever.)
We ended that day by settling into our amazing condo (people, seriously…if you’re going to EP, stay here), getting dinner at a place we’d never have tried if it weren’t for TripAdvisor’s recommendation (and it was delicious!), and went back to the condo and crashed by 9pm. Since we’d been up since 4am.
Day 2 in EP started out with more rain, but since our plans included not much more than RMNP, we decided to tough it out and take the drive up Trail Ridge Road that morning. We saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. Unless you count thick fog as something. Matt made us take this mile-long walk (thankfully not a hike) up in the Alpine region where it was 37 degrees, heavy fog, and steadily drizzling. As you will see in the pictures below, I wasn’t thrilled.
So we ate lunch in the van up at the top of Trail Ridge Road, turned around, and drove back down. We crashed at our condo for a while, and when the weather looked slightly more favorable later in the afternoon, we talked the boys into going on another hike: Nymph Lake (which we’d seen last time we were in RMNP in 2011) and on to Dream Lake.
It was raining on us as we started, but the drizzle stopped as we made our way up to the first lake. The trail was muddy and we stopped often to watch the water running off the mountainside in various cool little trickles. And then, we heard it ahead: a waterfall. We totally weren’t anticipating it, and it was raging due to the recent rain. It made wearing a poncho and being cold totally worthwhile! Dream Lake was beautiful, but I would definitely love to see it on a not-overcast day sometime with my own eyes, knowing it looks like this.
Making that last hike happen made us feel like the day wasn’t totally lost, and we all appreciated that had it not been raining for 2 days, the mini waterfalls, huge waterfall, and overflowing streams wouldn’t have been near what we got to experience.
By the time we made it to dinner at Poppy’s, we were really tired and hungry. There wasn’t a lot of talking until there was food in everyone’s belly…these children don’t stand a chance of avoiding the hangry gene.
Up next: the prettiest days ever in RMNP.