We spent today driving through Rocky Mountain National Park. We were kind of surprised and delighted at how beautiful and interesting it was! We absolutely loved it. I hadn't been sure what to expect, so I just envisioned - well, rocky mountains, which seemed sort of boring - but it was just spectacular, especially with the colors changing, and the elevation was so high that for a long stretch we were above the treeline looking down, which was an intriguing point of view. The mountains have a gently rolling feel to them, so different from southern Utah, and they're covered with Colorado blue spruce and pinion pine and quaking aspen, which makes for a startling bright-goldenrod-on-dark-forest-green patchwork right now, in autumn. It looks like a hiker's paradise, with miles and miles of rugged trails and places to explore. We decided to come back, and plan a whole vacation with time to backpack and camp here.
It was also freezing. I pulled out my down Northface jacket for the first time this trip, and was glad for it. It was probably only in the 50s, but the wind was merciless.
We stopped at a high point - literally, it was like at 11,000 feet or something - to go for a short hike. It was windy and barren above the treeline. I guess it's technically tundra, because of how harsh the climate is and how frequently it freezes. There was almost nothing up there but rocks and lichen and low plants and crickets. Colby found a pika, which tickled us just about to death. It looks like a miniature capybara, or a teeny teddy bear, or a cartoon mouse with no tail. Mostly that last one. It kind of reminded me of Feivel (like Feivel Goes West), but not wearing clothes and no Russian accent. Also it made a noise like a squeaky toy, which is why we noticed it in the first place. Colby considered this find a mark of success on the trip, because his whole goal of the park was to see a pika. Score. At the end of our hike we climbed a rock and almost got blown off. If I haven't convinced you of how windy it was, let me just tell you - it was mightily windy.
The scenic drive was... really scenic. We stopped for a lot of overlooks and also at the alpine visitor's center, which had already turned off its water for the winter. They're hoping to be able to stay open through the second week in October, although that hasn't happened for the last two years due to snow. The whole middle section of the park road closes every winter from early-mid October to Memorial Day. In the spring they have to clear 35-foot snow drifts off the road. This is seriously harsh country. The park road is also the highest continuously-paved road in the United States.
We took another little walk around Bear Lake, down the southern leg of the park road. It was a gorgeous, clear, glassy little lake, and the fall colors were breathtaking.
It took us most of the day driving through the park, and when we were done, we decided to head for Laramie, Wyoming to spend the night, only about two and a half hours away. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. We got there by 6:15-ish and started calling around to hotels. And hotels kept telling us "NO VACANCY" "NO VACANCY" "NO VACANCY." I hardly thought Laramie was such a happening place. I finally asked the kid behind the counter at one of the hotels what the heck was going on. Apparently the University of Wyoming has a big football game tonight, and there was a big concert last night, and oh also it's Parents' Weekend right now. Ohhh, nice.
So we got some gas and some Chinese and hit the road again. Except while we were getting gas a well-meaning couple in a truck stopped us and pointed out that our car was leaking... something. So things are rapidly going from bad to worse - we're tired and hungry and have nowhere to sleep tonight and our car is leaking and we're in Laramie.
Luckily we figured out the "leak" was just condensation from our A/C. So that solved one problem. The Chinese solved another, and then we headed for Rawlins, still tired, but hopeful.
Most of the hotels in Rawlins were also "NO VACANCY" tonight. What the heck? Is Wyoming a major vacation destination now? because nobody told us. So now we're at the STD Express Inn (just kidding about the STD part, at least in the name) the #1 jankiest place in town, but also one of the only places in town which actually had rooms for tonight. I'm sure the entire place is like empty. There was another nice Indian man running this motel, who Colby chatted with. We didn't get the honeymoon suite this time, not that we'd want it in a place like this. I killed an already-dead moth on the bathroom floor tonight. And the fitted sheet isn't actually fitted, just gently spread across the mattress. Gag. We think the $42 price is in memory of the year this place was built. And decorated.
Well, if we were looking for adventure, it just found us. What a hoot.