librarian + adventurer


Memorial Day Weekend, pt. 2

May 25-28

Aspenglen Campground in RMNP
Site: 24
Amenities: Restrooms, water, firepits, tent pads, food lockers, picnic tables, helpful park rangers, firewood for sale, really cute dogs at the firewood place

When I was tasked with finding a new campground, I went to my favorite adventure-finding site: The Outbound. I had an idea of some sites I wanted to try, but I wanted to look at other people’s pictures and synopses of the campgrounds to make sure they would live up to my expectations. I found Brynn Schmidt's adventure and decided that Aspenglen had everything that I wanted in my campground (...if it wasn't going to be Moraine Park, at least). So after we packed up camp and went on our hike, we drove through the park to the Fall River Road entrance station! On our drive over, we were pleasantly surprised to find some sheep - I haven't seen sheep in the park since mom and I drove my car out from 2015. We were so excited to see them, AND see them being chased around by some elk!

Since Sam was supposed to be arriving shortly, we rushed to the campsite so we could be totally set up and take him back to see the sheep once he arrived! We were able to get checked in early, so we set up the tent and then I went back to the ranger station to wait for Sam so that I could get his extra car checked in and parked. Since there's no service at that campground, I wasn't getting Sam's texts saying he was stuck in the entrance line. I was starting to get worried, so I had Logan grab the car so that we could drive a few miles out of the park and regain service. Turns out, Sam was just stuck in traffic at the entrance station, so we got back in line and met him along the road to our campsite. We parked his car and carried his stuff to the site, got situated, and then went on a "wildlife ride" to see if we could find more animals. I think Sam brought some luck with him, because sure enough, on our way back we again saw sheep in an area that I have never seen sheep before!

After watching the animals, we started to get hungry so we went back to camp for dinner. Sam Baker is arguably the best fire-starter I know, so he got to work on our campfire while I started prepping our foil wraps (which are one of our favorite camp meals, and one of these days I'll get around to sharing the recipe!). 

We sat around the fire talking, and eventually decided it was time for bed, knowing we were gonna get up relatively early for our hike to Gem Lake in the morning.  


After we hiked to Gem Lake, we decided to go into town. I think we picked the only campsite in the Aspenglen Campground without trees that you could use to hammock... (pro tip if you're trying to camp in Aspenglen...don't get site 24 if you want to be able to hammock). Instead of going back to the site in the middle of the afternoon and sitting all day, we decided going into Estes for beers and ice cream would be a much better use of our time. We wanted to go to the open air bar, but they've changed owners and it was just generally disappointing. They were out of everything that we wanted and there were no shady spots left. But we did play giant jenga, so it wasn't all a loss! After we had our drinks, we decided to go ahead and do Trail Ridge Road. Sam really wanted to see the giant snow drifts, and the weather was looking questionable for Monday, so we went on up! Before we even reached Many Parks Curve, we hit traffic. Traffic like that in Rocky can only mean one thing...animals. As we slowly inched forward, I went ahead and put on my zoom lens out of anticipation, and we were so excited when we rounded the corner and saw a moose! I've only seen a moose in the park one other time (on our hike to Cub Lake), so it was super exciting. We didn't stop in the middle of the road, and I wasn't hanging out of the sunroof like I usually am with animal sightings, so I only grabbed a couple of pictures, but it was really awesome to see. 

After we passed the moose, the traffic cleared out. We headed up trail ridge so that Sam could get his snow drift pictures! Trail Ridge was much less snowy this year than previous years, we had such low snowpack and it was a little sad to see. On our drive up, though, we passed the Alluvial Fan and knew that we wanted to stop there on our way back. We didn't spend a ton of time on Trail Ridge, so we turned around in order to get to the Alluvial Fan.

I honestly don't know how I've been coming to Rocky for 6 years and have never been down this road. But, this is a new favorite part of the park - especially for out of state visitors! There's a super easy walk up to the waterfall, and some room for adventure if you're like Sam and want to stand on top of the tallest rock. While Sam went up to the tallest rock, Logan and I hung out at the edge of the waterfall, marveling at the fact that we come here all the time and had never once stopped here. Eventually Sam came back down (after slipping once...), and we decided it was time for dinner so we headed back to camp.


When we got back to the campsite, Sam and I were getting things together to cook dinner. All of the sudden, an elk appeared right next to us! With nowhere else to go, we both hopped in the back of Logan's car to protect ourselves incase he decided we were a threat. The family in the site next to use all stood up at the exact same moment, and slowly carried their plates into their camper. A few seconds later, the daughter popped back out and ran over to get their basset hound to bring inside. Sam and I couldn't stop laughing at the fact that the parents wouldn't come back out to save the dog! Meanwhile, the family across the street just continued on as normal and didn't even see the elk at all!


As we got dinner ready, I grabbed a couple of pictures of our campsite. We jigsawed the tents to make them both fit on the pad, and it was really such a beautiful site (despite the fact that we didn't have any hammockable trees...). We chowed down on some corn on the cob & hotdogs before playing uno with the lantern light. After a long, brutal game, I made a huge mistake that ended up letting Logan win... it was hard to come back from that. We played a couple more times before heading to bed. It was threatening to rain, so we made a contingency plan of sleeping in Logan's car if it started thundering. Apparently, it poured down rain, but I slept through it entirely. 


We packed up our tents pretty loosely, so that the water would start drying out, and then headed towards the park exit. We originally talked about doing Calypso Cascades, but we got out of camp pretty late, and instead just walked around Lily Lake until storms rolled in and we had to head home. It was an absolute blast camping with my little brother, and I'm sad that we are only getting to do it once this summer!