As far as Labor Days go, this one was probably my favorite. It was so cool to spend the day with mom and get to show her around my favorite places in the park and brag about my life here. We started the morning with homemade hashbrowns and eggs and a long, cloudy drive into Estes. We got in around 9:30 and had to take an urgent pee break before we could head to the Bear Lake park and ride.
It started raining as soon as we pulled into Estes, and none of us had rain gear because for once in our lives, mom and I were unprepared. However, when we got about 1/4 of the way around the lake, blue skies and sunshine came out because Julie Baker has such a sunny disposition. Fortunately, the sun appeared right when we were at this point on the lake, and we got to see this breathtaking view.
We explored the whole perimeter of the lake, enjoying the mountain air, the blue sky, and the smell of Christmas. We almost hiked up to Alberta Falls, but we decided to use our time shopping in Estes instead, so we went back on the shuttle and drove down to find a parking spot. Thankfully, mom has the best parking lot mojo in the world, and we found a spot in 0.5 seconds. We went into several shops where mom bought a few shirts and stickers for her car (since I live here now, she can represent CO). We had lunch at Grubsteak, where even mom could have a burger! I had yak, mom had elk, and Logan had veggie (bless his heart...). In the middle of lunch, it started pouring down rain and we weren't sure if we were going to be able to do trail ridge road. We decided to go shopping for a few more minutes and then play it by ear for trail ridge. Our deciding factor ended up being the fact that mom wanted a RMNP Centennial Celebration shirt, so we headed back into the park!
We got lucky...again. When we started up Trail Ridge, the sky was grey, it was snowing, and you couldn't see much of anything. We pulled over at Rainbow Curve so mom could take a picture of the trees, and were graced with a surprise rainbow because it was so cloudy and rainy. But by the time we made it to Forest Canyon Overlook, the sky was turning blue and the clouds were rolling over the tops of the mountains in the most pleasing way I've ever seen. Mom and I stopped at almost every opportunity to take pictures of the coolest day in RMNP I've ever experienced. Logan slept in the backseat most of the drive and didn't get out or wake up unless we saw something that I felt like he absolutely needed to experience. The first of which was a herd of elk bugling because one of its members was separated across the road. Thirty seconds before, mom had said "now all I need to see is a herd of elk!" and lo and behold, we drove upon a herd of elk. About 5 minutes later, we came across BIG HORN SHEEP! I've seen them before, but not this close...
Standing by the side of the road taking pictures, I made very good friends with a park ranger. He was telling me about how much he loved his job, how cold he was, and how much he appreciated being able to do this. In between reminding people to not get any closer and waving cars through the traffic jam, he gave me a hug for actually having a conversation with him.
All day long, we were in the right place at the right time. Between Bear Lake, the rainbow, the herd of elk, and these big horn sheep, mom and I were so thankful we decided to brave the rain and snow and drive Trail Ridge. We made it to the Alpine Visitors Center and got out to shop and climb the stairs to 12,000+ feet above sea level. Mom got a RMNP shirt, I got a sweatshirt, and Logan woke up enough to go get a cup of coffee and watch some marmots play. While Logan was in the cafe, mom and I braved the 38 degree weather and climbed to the top of the Alpine Ridge Trail, 12,005' or 2.3 miles above sea level. Neither of us were dressed appropriately (I was wearing shorts) and the wind got so strong at the top that we both ended up with windburn. However, on our way up, we heard a pack of coyotes yipping and barking and howling across the ridge, again proving that we have a knack of being in the right place at the right time.
We finished up trail ridge, stopping to take a few more pictures of elk and trees and remarkably moody mountains, and then turned around to drive it backwards. We were going to go out to dinner and then watch the VT/OSU game, but we decided pizza during the game was a better decision. We got a little loopy on the drive down the mountain (who wouldn't?) but all in all, were very satisfied with a surprisingly beautiful day.
(Hover over all pictures for captions, click for a bigger image)