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Clare
Clare

Day Fifteen: Glenwood Springs to Estes Park via Trail Ridge Road

We had a bit of a lie in this morning by recent standards, not getting up until 7am.  Breakfast was included in the price of our hotel room again and we were pleased to see that there was a better selection on offer than we had had yesterday in Cortez. There were scrambled eggs and something which looked like a mixture of small potato pieces and some kind of meat, which turned out to be corned beef hash. There was also a waffle machine and Tim had a good go at making us a waffle to share.

Before we hit the road, we had a short walk around the area of Glenwood Springs close to our hotel.

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We were walking alongside the river Colorado, the same one which ultimately flows through the Grand Canyon.

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Once we'd admired the river we jumped in the car and started off on another long day of driving.

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It wasn't long before we started getting views of the mountains.

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From time to time we could even get glimpses of snow on them.

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At times the route took us through quite rocky scenery.

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But at other times the landscape was really green.

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After around 2.5 hours of driving, we came to the shores of Lake Granby.

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That meant we weren't far from our first destination, the small town of Grand Lake.  When we reached Grand Lake we parked the car and looked for somewhere to get lunch.  We found a nice restaurant on the main street, where I went for the relatively safe option of chicken with tomato spaghetti, while Tim decided to be more adventurous and chose a plate of sausages made from buffalo, wild boar and elk :o 

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After lunch we went for a wander around Grand Lake.

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As the name suggests, the town is located next to a large lake of the same name :D 

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Grand Lake is the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado.

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It's a really beautiful location.

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We followed a path along the shore of the lake for a short distance.

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Grand Lake is at an elevation of 2,551 metres, so even a short stroll by the lake felt a bit tiring in the heat though!

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This is a popular holiday destination and so there were plenty of people here enjoying the beach.

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We even saw a woman taking her dog out on a paddle board :D 

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As we walked back up through the town we found a house called Owen Residence :D 

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The main street of the town itself was very picturesque.

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We walked back along the main street to retrieve our car and get started on the next segment of our journey. Grand Lake is situated a mile or so down the road from one of the entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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This is another place which we were able to get into for free with the 'America the Beautiful' pass. The pass alone isn't enough to enter this national park, though; because the park is so popular there have been problems with overcrowding in recent years, which have led the authorities to introduce a timed entry permit system. I had to apply in advance online on the day when permits for our dates were released in order to book a slot. Luckily I managed to get one and we had a permit to enter the national park between 1pm and 3pm today.

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When you first enter the national park from this direction, the landscape isn't actually too impressive.

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Unfortunately this area of Colorado was badly affected by an enormous wildfire known as the East Troublesome Fire in October 2020. You can probably see in the pictures that there is still a fair amount of visible damage.

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As we got further into the national park, things became greener. 

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We were driving on a road known as Trail Ridge Road, which links Grand Lake with the town of Estes Park where we are staying.

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Trail Ridge Road has a high point of 3 713 metres, which makes it the highest continuous paved road in North America.

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The road is only open for the summer months, because in the winter everything is covered in snow.

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There are lots of scenic viewpoints to stop at along the road, but I was particularly excited about stopping at a place called Milner Pass which is on the continental divide. In one direction, water drains into the Atlantic Ocean. In the other direction it all drains into the Pacific!

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We stopped at Milner Pass mainly because I wanted to take a photo of the continental divide sign, but we actually ended up doing a short walk.

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There are often thunderstorms over the Rocky Mountains during July afternoons and the forecast for today hadn't looked amazing, but so far things were staying dry :) 

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I was really enjoying the pretty path we were following until I had to cross this stream :D 

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It was a beautiful location though and we even found a little patch of snow.

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There were some amazing wild flowers too.

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Once we'd finished the walk we got back in the car and drove to a viewpoint called Medicine Bow Overlook. Apparently Wyoming is only 35 miles away from here.

 

 

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It was a scenic viewpoint anyway.

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From there we continued to drive upwards, getting more and more glimpses of snow on the mountain tops.

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Before long we reached the Alpine Visitor Centre, where there's a large car park and a cafe. This is at an elevation of 3 595 metres.

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The views from here were fantastic...

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...particularly all this snow!

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There were wild flowers everywhere too.

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From the visitor centre you can do a short walk known as Alpine Ridge Trail for even better views. It sounded like an attractive prospect but it did involve walking uphill.

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A significant amount of uphill!

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At this elevation it was extremely hard work. A sign partway up helpfully informed us that at 12 000 feet, every breath we took was only giving us two thirds the amount of oxygen that we'd receive at sea level.

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The higher we climbed, the more impressive the views were though...

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...and there were more and more flowers.

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Eventually we made it to the top.

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We were now 12 005 feet above sea level, or 3,569 metres.

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Once we'd got our breath back we could enjoy the views :) 

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There had been signs all along the trail explaining what all the different flowers were, but I'd mostly been too tired to look at them. The one bit I did take in was that these two yellow flowers are called Alpine Sunflowers :) 

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Soon it was time to head back down. Down was definitely a lot easier than up!

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From the visitor centre we still had a reasonable amount of driving to do before we got to Estes Park.  At one point we ended up in a traffic jam and weren't sure why... until we realised there were some elk by the side of the road. You'll have to zoom in to make them out on this picture!

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We arrived in Estes Park around half past four and checked into our hotel. Again, it's nice and spacious with two large beds... A lot of these American hotel rooms seem to have two beds. For reasons I don't fully understand, they all also seem to have fridges and microwaves!

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The best bit about the room is probably the view from our balcony :) 

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We settled in and had a quiet evening. Tomorrow is going to be another early start!




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