Rocky Mountain National Park
The view from our Blue Arrow Campground at Estes Park

Week of August 8, 1999

Well, we had an exciting first day at the park. We had only gotten a few yards past the campground when we spotted a bull elk with a huge rack of horns grazing by the roadside. By the time we got the camcorder out he was wandering off through the woods. We did get a little footage of him though. Next, we went into Rocky Mountain National Park after purchasing a Golden Eagle pass. It's a good deal. This gives one unlimited access for one year to any National Park. If you plan to do a lot of traveling like us, it saves a lot on entrance fees. Another tip, visit the park during the week to avoid some of the traffic.
Big horn sheep from a distance Once in the park, we went to Sheep Lake where we were lucky enough to see about 5 big horn sheep wandering through. I caught a glimpse of them up on the peak, and photographed them with my zoom lens. The ranger said this was the first time they had seen any in a week. They are harder to find than either elk or deer in the park.

Next we drove west up a very steep crooked road called Old Fall River Road (built by prison labor in the 1920's) to the top of a mountain, with hairpin curves where you meet yourself coming back. The drop off to one side of the road was thousands of feet with no barrier. Needless to say we hugged the other side.

We saw several nice waterfalls on the way up and lots of playful chipmunks, magpies, and stellar jays. We drove along the winding road through groves of aspens at the lower altitudes. I pose for tips!
Elk at the top of the park We went so high that we were higher than the snow and ice patches. At the top there were no trees and the temperature was in the 40’s. At the top we saw about 5 more elk grazing. We traveled down the other side a ways and saw several more groups of elk and several deer. We came back up and started down the other side back towards town. We got up above 12,000 feet at the highest point beyond the Alpine Visitor Center. Within this area is what is referred to as alpine tundra or "land of no trees" in Russian. High winds and long winters make this area the way that it is. Not far from the top we saw 3 different herds of elk on the large open meadows. There were around 15 or 20 elk in each herd. Over 400 kinds of wildlife inhabit the park.
We got very close to the ice and snow but never actually got to touch it. We came back down on a nice paved highway that wasn’t nearly as exciting as the crooked dirt road that took us up there. It started raining on the way down and rained more when we got back to the campground. I believe it has rained every afternoon since we got to Colorado. Patches of snow and ice in August...
The view from our Travel Supreme At our campsite at the Blue Arrow RV Campground, we can see mountains all the way around us. We are only about a mile from the National Park entrance.The lounge building at the campground once was a Central City (now a ghost town) brothel, and contains an ornate staircase taken from the former Windsor Hotel (built in 1879) in Denver.  For the evening, we went to explore Estes Park; a quaint town located right next to the park. Besides the downtown shopping area, it has an Aerial Tram to Prospect Mountain, and an historical museum.
At the campground the lodge (which dates 1921) contains interesting photos, memorabilia, and part of the bar of the old Windsor Hotel. The bar was run by Harry Tammen, who later co-founded the Denver Post newspaper. At one time, the bar was studded with over 3,000 silver dollars. When Calamity Jane was refused service due to her being a woman, she reportedly shot up the bar. Prior to the campground being here, most of the authentic old buildings were situated here in the late 1960s, for Rimrock, a western "town" which briefly served for filming movie and TV westerns and also had a fort and museum. Scenes from Bonanza were filmed here, and numerous western stars appeared. The movie, "The Sinister Gold Pick," was filmed here. The land was purchased in 1969, and then became a campground. After Indian artifacts were found in a local cave, including blue arrowheads, the campground was renamed the Blue Arrow RV Campground from Red Arrow. The staff is most friendly and is one of the best campgrounds that we have stayed at. Jake, the campground mascot, is an Australian sheep dog and quite friendly also. If you decide to visit the area and stay, be sure to mention that you read about the area at Southpoint!

On our trek back into the park the next day, we took a different route to the southwest leading to Bear Lake. We stopped at the Moraine Park Museum, overlooking the Moraine Park area (a former resort town, now reclaimed by the national park). Many wildlife and historic books to select from here, with a museum upstairs explaining how the Rocky Mountains were formed. We couldn’t resist buying two wildlife books to add to our collection. From here, we stopped along the road at a picnic area to eat, and to let Gus frolic in the creek. In looking around for photo opportunities, I came across some elk bones, all shiny white from a coyote cleaning with fur lying around. The elk had most likely died from natural causes, according to a local old timer, who had been fishing and happened to be walking by.

Walk around the lake and enjoy the view On down the road, we stopped at Sprague Lake to view the lake and the scenic mountain background. Chipmunks provided much entertainment as we walked, with their scurrying about. We noted a fly fisherman in waders way out in the water. After we walked around the lake, we heard a woman screaming for help. Her father, the fisherman, was drowning! After much excitement, we found out a little later that he was okay. Didn't hear if he had caught anything or if something had caught him.

On up the road, we visited Bear Lake (elevation 9,400 feet) briefly, and decided to head back due to an impending afternoon thunderstorm. Another tip, in the summer visit the park early in the morning, to avoid thunderstorms. While visiting the park, we heard about two rock climbers who had died trying to climb Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park (elevation 14,255 feet). In fact, six people have died in the park this summer, two more from rock climbing, and another two from lightning strikes.

On the way out of the park, we saw a very large herd of elk (75 to 100) grazing in the field. Herds of elk were found everywhere in the park
To top the day off, we saw a DOUBLE rainbow all the way across the sky when we got back to the campground.

The next morning, our diesel truck decided that it was not going to crank. After about 45 minutes of trying, we finally got it cranked, and headed straight for the nearby Ford dealership. Found out the next day, that it was a bad starter and glow plug relay. We had planned to stay in the area at least through Sunday anyway since we were enjoying the scenery and wildlife so much. We got our mountain bikes out and rode into town. The shops in the town of Estes Park are interesting. One nature shop has fossils of all shapes that you can buy, including a huge triceratops, which was found in South Dakota. After checking our Internet email at the library (what a difference a T1 connection makes over a dial up!) and grabbing a bite, we headed to the grocery and then back to the campground. Next morning we found large Elk prints in the dust around our campsite at the far edge of the campground. Also spotted a pile of Elk Duds (they look similar to Milk Duds).

After picking up the truck, we headed back to the Bear Lake area in the park to hike up to Alberta Falls. Near the area, we had a doe cross the road right in front of us. The hike is one mile to the falls, with Aspen and pine trees providing shade, and large boulders all around. Alberta Falls at Rocky Mountain National Park The falls were powerful, with large volumes of water constantly flowing down. Wild raspberries were growing under rocks near the edge of a cliff by the waterfall.
We went back to Rocky Mountain National Park today and went on a long hike. We hiked 7.5 miles along the Colorado River to Lulu City. There sure wasn't much left of Lulu City though. It was an old silver mine town. All we saw was a few tumble down logs that used to be a house. We wandered off the trail and found the old mine which had iron bars across it. We had a good time playing with a golden-mantled ground squirrel (looks just like a chipmunk except bigger and with spots on his stomach). I was sitting down eating peanuts and raisins and the squirrel came right up and got on my shoe and took a peanut. While hiking back we came upon a cow elk grazing beside the river. We watched her for a while and got some videotape. When we got close to the parking lot there was a deer walking across near our truck. She went over to some picnic tables and licked the barbecue grills. We got footage of that also. On the way back over the park we saw 2 big horn sheep rams at the very top, where I videotaped them though there was nowhere to pull over to get a real good shot. Remains of the miner cabins near Lulu City
Then a few miles later we saw 2 big bull elks grazing on the side of a mountain. We got out and got some excellent videotape footage and some photos with the telephoto lens. One of the elk was a FOURTEEN point. The rack was huge, I don't know how he held his head up. After that, it started raining and we came on back to the campground. When we got to our campsite, we could hear coyotes howling in the distance. You could also look up in the night sky and see the cloudy sketch of the Milky Way galaxy.
Coming Next: Onward To South Dakota, Herds of Buffalo, Underground Caverns, Wall Drug Store, the Badlands, and Mt. Rushmore

RV Campground Directory

Questions? Want To Advertise Here? Contact Us