This morning we finished the hike we started three days ago. Kristen, Heather, Roxie and I reached the summit of the First Flatiron overlooking Boulder. To get an idea of the path we took, look a few posts down at “First Taste of Colorado.” It took us about an hour and a half to reach the end of the 1.2 mile trail, which put us 1,500 feet above the city we started in. We climbed a little beyond the trail’s end, but cresting the final 40′ of the mountain requires a rope and climbing shoes.
Still, the view of Boulder, the surrounding plains and the mountains in the distance was incredible.
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.
Following an uneventful day of flying, Kristen and I arrived in Denver at 5:20 Monday afternoon. Sam and Heather were waiting for us at the gate. Sam is starting his last semester at the University of Colorado this month and we wanted to take the time to come visit before they move back to North Carolina.
Neither of us had been anywhere near the Rockies before and we were a little surprised that we didn’t see a single mountain on our way to Denver. We were even more surprised that we didn’t see any on our way from the airport to our hosts’ apartment in Westminster.
After living in the Appalachian Mountains for four years, I had imagined Colorado to be just like the mountainous areas of the East Coast, only more so – twice as windy, twice as cool, with scenery twice as dramatic. Not neccessarily so. For the few people out there who, like me one day ago, don’t already know, the eastern half of Colorado is as flat as Kansas and hotter than North Carolina. The high today in Boulder was almost ten degrees warmer than at our home in Benson. These surprises weren’t dissappointments though. It’s always exciting to experience a new place, and to gain so much new knowledge off the bat reminds me why I wanted to travel in the first place (besides catching up with great friends, which was the main point of this trip).
This morning we did get to see some mountains. The foothills of the Rockies are just visible from Sam’s and Heather’s balcony. Heather took Kristen and I to see the Flatirons on the outskirts of Boulder while Sam was at work. We hiked around the base, but we got too late of a start and didn’t bring enough water to make it to the top. The mountains are not the image of snow-capped peaks and spruce trees that come to mind when thinking of the Rockies but they are just as dramatic. They are called the Flatirons because three of the large rock outcroppings look like the bottom sides of clothes irons.
After the hike we met up with Sam, lounged around at the pool, fried fish and played a friendly game of monopoly. I won.