We found the Rockies today. Heather was nice enough to lend her VolksWagon to me and Kristen for the day, so we took a road trip.
We drove north of Boulder, through the village of Estes Park and into the Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent four hours driving 29 miles along Trail Ridge Road – the main scenic highway through the park. We came out of the park alongside Grand Lake – a centuries old mining town and resort area, grabbed lunch at Maverick’s Grill and then hooked up with I-70 to head back to Boulder.
The mountains in the Front Range near Boulder are unlike any I’ve seen before, with their red-brown faces and prarie grass hills, but while we were in Colorado Kristen and I really wanted to get a glimpse of the craggy snow-capped peaks that our nation’s western states are famous for. The Rocky Mountain National Park didn’t dissappoint.
What has really stood out to me about the Rockies is the diversity of the terrain. In one drive we saw stony flat mesas; pale red cliffs of dried lava; 8,000-foot peaks covered in spruce and fir trees standing alongside barren, 13,000-foot mountains still cloaked in a remnant of the ice and snow that fell months earlier, all separated by endless plains of prarie grass and piles of clay boulders that loomed over our lime-green Beetle.
Seeing the Rockies for the first time, I instinctively want to compare them to the mountain ranges I’ve already experienced. At first glance, I want to say they are more impressive than the Appalachians and not quite as breathtaking as the Alps. Neither of those statements are really true. The more I travel and experience places, the more I realize just how unique every spot on Earth really is.
For a skier or rockclimber, the size of the Rockies will certainly add to their draw. For the casual observer, day hiker, photographer, vacationer or general mountain nut, I would have to say that the mountains of Colorado are no more or less attractive than their East Coast counterparts. They are just completely different, and definitely worth seeing for yourself.