A Travellerspoint blog

Rocky Mountain National Park / Roosevelt National Forest

Estes Park, Colorado

storm

I wake up in my hostel room and the guy across the bed from me asks if I want to go exploring with him towards Fort Collins. I immediately and enthusiastically reply yes.

It's a hot day in early June. We head about 35 miles NW from Denver to a little town buried in the mountains, Estes Park. On the way up a bighorn sheep is resting next to the road. We drive through deep canyons with sheer cliff faces bordering us in. There are ranches and large grazing pens here, and we stop at a horse farm where they offer rides. Declining, we watch for a bit. We stop at a small goods store with a tower and water mill, and climb the stairs to the top. We pass through a charming little village and grab lunch, authentic Mexican, on a rooftop of a ski villa. From there we sight lines running into the mountains, and after asking around find they are gondolas. Up we go!

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In the area immediate to the landing are a high concentration of visitors. We venture out to hike to the peak of this mountain, which is not far but does allow some peace and solitude. There are approximately several thousand chipmunks on this mountain.

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On the way back down the gondola it begins to rain. We head towards town, where in the center is a small rocky plateau with sheer cliffsides. An owl and family are nested here. We hike through a meadow along a small stream and hike up a trail to the top. Here a historic building rests its ruins. The roof is gone, and the floor is crumbled, instead a metal platform has been installed. I am standing under the arch of a brick doorway as it begins to thunder and rain. I point out that standing on metal isn't the best place to be, and we hustle back down the mountain, breaking into a run as it begins to hail. We take shelter under buildings as much as we can and make our way back to the car under full aerial assault.

We drive further into the mountains and witness elk jumping a fence. Further up more elk are to the other side of the raincloud, resting in a field.

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The rain lasts an hour before easing off. We drive deep into the mountains here and wander. By evening we have made it to Fort Collins, just in time to catch a music festival in downtown. We grab dinner and go to a pub where a singer-guitarist is playing.

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Posted by starsbyday 09:39 Tagged hiking mountain forest Comments (0)

Devils Head Fire Tower

Sedalia, CO

sunny

About 15 miles SW of Castle Rock, after a long road winding through campsites and mountain ridges, we arrive at 4 PM to a parking lot with just one other car. It's an overbearingly hot day in late June. The first thing we see on the trail is an aspen grove. A few hundred yards ahead we come to a clearing where trees have been felled along the mountainside. A commemorative sign informs us this is the result of a tornado one year ago one month ahead. I joke to my friend that it is apparently tornado season.

We continue up. It is fairly steep, and there are benches and picnic tables dotted along the trail. We pass two middle aged men mountain biking back to the parking lot. Along the edge of the trail are rock outcroppings, which we eagerly climb to get a view of the mountain range and vast forests below us. Although we photograph, each new outcrop offers a better view than the last, rendering the older photos obsolete.

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Near the top we come out of the rocky forest into a valley, a hollowed out basin on the mountain peak, filled with grass and a slow trickling stream. There is a cabin, laundry drying on the line and smoke rising from the chimney. We catch the smell of smoked meat. There is a trail through the grass to the other side of the valley, but we proceed ahead to the red metal staircase. There's a sign showcasing its history. One of the first firewatchers was a woman who took a ladder up, well before the staircase was ever built. She is pictured in a full dress and tight, pinchy shoes, but looks full of bounce. Between when the metal staircase and platform were built and when they installed a lightning rod, the platform would be struck by lightning often. In the summer months, there is a lightning storm almost every night. The mountains here are also subject to frequent, but swift, rain and hail storms, and regular snow in winter. There are photos of the packmules who used to bring up supplies for the fire watcher.

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We begin climbing the staircase. Near the top, the path goes across a hollowed out path in the rock. However, as it had rained heavily lately, this path is flooded! My friend hops up and walks across the tops of the surrounding rocks, which to either side overlook a cliff. I put my back to one side of the rock and my feet to the other, and thus inch across over the gap. My friend finds this hilarious and films me.

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We reach the other side and there is a covered room with glass all around it. Inside are housed instruments, historical photographs, visitors' sheets, and various maps. The room is locked, given that it is evening.

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The platform is on top the highest point of this mountain, and overlooks 100 miles in every direction, from Denver and the great plains to Pike's Peak, to all the other mountains around us. We spend a lot of time up here, circling the platform, gazing out. It is a long while before we want to head back down. When we were driving back, night was already setting in.

Posted by starsbyday 09:08 Tagged hiking mountain Comments (0)

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