The signs were everywhere in and near Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Watch out for wildlife in the road. Elk viewing area here. Have you bear-proofed your campsite?
We camped at Rocky four nights. And yes, I did see elk, deer plus a number of birds that can live at such high altitudes, but no bear. I also heard a pack of coyotes near the campground. But this is what else I brought back.
MARVELOUS SINGERS. Day and night we heard the call of male elks, trying their best to lure females into their harem, as described in park literature. They’ve come down from feasting on green stuff high in the mountains to mate. The male elks toss back their racks and bugle. I fell asleep listening to them.
GAGA OVER WILD ANIMALS. People will stop their vehicle, often some big-ass pickup, in the middle of the road when they see elk. The drivers of the shuttles that haul hikers from one trail to another say it’s not the elks but the humans who create traffic problems in the fall.
FRIENDLY PLACE. The park may not have that wow-factor of say Grand Canyon, Arches and other red-stoned parks, but the mountains are powerful. The rangers were friendly. So were our fellow campers. One camper gifted us his leftover bottles of water, which we in turn gifted what was left to neighbors when we were packing up. The couple’s daughter later came over with two peaches as a thank you.
HIKERS PARK. One shuttle driver called Rocky a hiker’s park. The park service keeps it as natural as possible. We got caught up in it, hiking nearly five miles the first day, and then took it easier the next two, although the last was at an elevation well over 9,000 feet.
SMARTER IS WARMER. Last November we camped in our tent at three national parks — Grand Canyon, Zion and Arches — and nearly froze at night. Those sleeping bags were supposed to be good to zero degrees. Ha. But this time we were better prepared. The nights at Rocky did get down into the 30s one night, but our system of using double sleeping bags kept us warm.
LIGHTER IS BETTER. We used to hike a lot back East but at a much lower elevation. The boots I used then felt like blocks of cement on my feet at Rocky. I also envied the retractable hiking poles of fellow hikers. Guess what I am buying next?
SMARTER THAN THE AVERAGE BEAR. As warned by the rangers, we had to keep everything except our tent and sleeping bags inside our car and covered so the bears wouldn’t be tempted. We also had to lock our car because bears have figured out how to open doors. Two cars had their interiors totally trashed this summer.
SIGNS OF HUMAN LIFE. Numerous signs and messages caught my eye such as the one announcing the atheists of Boulder were responsible for keeping a section of roadway clean in that city. Then there was silly tourist stuff in Estes Park. I could buy a sign that said: Hippie Parking Only — All Others Will Be Stoned. But I didn’t. Then there were t-shirts with such sayings as “DUDE, I THINK THIS WHOLE TOWN IS HIGH, Elevation 7,522.” Nah, I didn’t buy that one either.
PHOTO AT THE TOP: That’s our lunch spot at Nymph Lake.