Estes Park, Colorado
May 27th through June 4, 1999
We spent a couple of working days completing research, writing, and catching up on business paperwork. If you can't already tell (from the previous entry), we found the Blue Arrow Campground, immediately next to the Beaver Meadows entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park (An unofficial RMNP site; you may also link to GORP's Rocky Mountain National Park and Pathfinder's Rocky Mountain National Park site), to be an excellent destination site. We heartily recommend Blue Arrow to all campers and are sure that we will return there many times.
It was early in the season and during the week the campground was quiet with very few neighbors. The staff were helpful and friendly and worked hard at providing a topnotch facility. We used the campground's modem hookup in the historic Recreation Hall building (below left photograph) to download our daily email and to upload files to the website. This building was formerly a turn-of-the-century brothel that was moved here from Central City. It joined a lodge built in 1919 at Bear Lake and other historic buildings from the Estes Valley (Read about Bear Lake Lodge at The Vanished Lodges of Rocky). By 1967 the buildings here at Blue Arrow formed the 'frontier town' of Rimrock, then called the 'movie set of the Rockies.' And not to be missed is a huge bar and painting from the Windsor Hotel in Denver. We were told stories of Calamity Jane and other legendary western characters that were associated with the bar. Today the bar is housed in the Lodge and mainly used for eating pie and ice cream at weekend evening socials. These days the main drinks that seemed to set at the bar were soda-pop and ice tea. While working in these pleasant surroundings, we took daily walks near the campground, drove into nearby Estes Park, and took in the spectacular vistas out any window.

Then relatives began to arrive, and we willingly began our vacation break. This area has great opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, viewing wildlife, photography, fishing . . . we later found that people were still using their snowshoes at the higher elevations. Annette's sister Arrion arrived first so off we went on a trail ride at the YMCA campground. Annette and I had already gone horseback riding there with colleagues during a recreation break at the PIDT conference and were ready for a second outing. This time Arrion was on 'Sparky' (That's them in middle photo above), Annette again rode 'Tincup' (above right), and Larry was assigned 'Harley.' Last weekend he rode 'Bubba'; weight does seem to be a factor here. Julie from Iowa was our trail guide, and John from Texas was the tail-rider. We five followed a two-hour trail out through Morraine Park, across the river, and back over the ridge. Thanks to Julie for letting us trot the horses and to her and John for trying to answer our numerous questions and for joining our family banter. We had a great time and now know why this is rated as one of the top trail rides in the U.S.

After the trail ride, we took the short, easy hike to the top of Bible Point -- the trail began near the riding stables. Bible Point is a beautiful, serene spot that overlooks the YMCA facility (YMCA of the Rockies: Spanning a Century -- an online history of the camp; scroll down chapter 7 for information about Bible Point) and has a rustic cross, a lonely but well-cared-for grave site, along with a mailbox where people have left messages, prayers, and letters to God. Its a nice place for pause and reflection. We left our timely message (left photo below). It joined an almost full mailbox of others, and those on the bottom looked like they had been there for several years.

When Annette's parents, Bill and Nancy, arrived a day later, we continued the hiking by driving up to and taking the trail around Bear Lake, inside Rocky Mountain National Park (below center). There was still lots of packed snow, and we had to watch our footing, especially near the shore line. A longer, more strenuous hike in the afternoon took us up to Nymph and Dream lakes. This is great hiking and backpacking country with trails of varying lengths, degrees of difficulty, varied elevations, and stupendous mountain scenery. On other days, short hikes were made at Sprague and Lily lakes, and into the Never Summer Ranch.

For wildlife viewing this time of year; we found elk almost everywhere. They were most numerous in Morraine Valley and Beaver Meadows, but also be on the lookout for them in the town of Estes Parks and the roadways -- especially in early morning and the evening. We saw mule deer in lesser numbers usually grazing in the lower meadows areas, same as elk. Bighorn sheep were seen near the Alluvial Fan (Falls River road) and outside the park at the west end of Big Thompson canyon. Chipmunks, black squirrels, and birds like the the gray jay (above right) and Stellers jay entertained us. At higher elevations, we spotted a few marmots -- tried unsuccessfully to imitate their loud whistle. Mallards were seen on the mountain lakes.
We completed scenic drives through the Morraine park area, over the Trail Ridge road (On this year's official opening day, Saturday May 29th but we heard that a few people slipped through the day before), and as far as we could go up the Old Fall River road. The trip over Trail Ridge led us above the tree line, thru the snow-blanketed alpine tundra area (still drifts above head-high there), across the continental divide, and on to Grand Lake village. On the return trip, we ran into moderate snowfall -- not too uncommon for this time of year. We were also surprised to meet friend and colleague Dick Trzicky, a media specialist in Gilbert, AZ, who spends his summers as the concessions manager at RMNP. We ran into him in the Alpine Visitor Center parking lot as he arrived to unload more supplies for their opening day. We took a snapshot of Dick with Nancy (below left), who knows him from telephone conversations at Vision to Action.
It truly is a small world, and we are enjoying finding connections with people that we meet. Coincidentally on our first visit to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Larry recognized the nameplate of Dr. Ferrell Atkins, retired professor from the mathematics department at Eastern Illinois University (Larry's undergraduate Alma Mater) and a longtime naturalist for the RMNP. We enjoyed a brief conservation with him and shared memories and mutual acquaintances from our Charleston, Illinois connections. A pleasant postscript was discovered when we later began to read a book, purchased at the visitor center, titled Rocky Mountain National Park: A History (1983) by C.W. Buchholtz. Among the people that the author had dedicated his book to was Ferrell Atkins. Recommend the book, it gave us a good background of the area and its development as a national park. As we travel, we find it interesting to be reading a novel or historical account of the region. That is next best to our ever-present travel and natural science guides.

We didn't forget to celebrate the parent's 40th wedding anniversary. The family spent several evenings together at Bill and Nancy's Fall River condo -- reminiscing, playing games, sharing meals, and generally having a good time. And then everyone else had to return to their homes and jobs in Kansas and Texas, but Annette and I stayed on a few more days -- another great aspect of the full-timing lifestyle, you can sometimes stretch your visit.
On our last quiet Sunday evening, we took a break from the computers and walked down to the campground lodge. We had seen a flyer about an ice cream social. When we walked into the dining room, we discovered a country band playing (above right). They were called the R&R Connection and we had seen some of the members around the campground. Jay, playing the flattop, worked the entrance office almost everyday, and his wife, on keyboard, took care of the campground store. Both couples are full-timers; work-kampers who spend part of their summers here and winter in Texas. They played and sang a wide variety of tunes, invited requests from their audience, and even accommodated talent from the floor. Our campground neighbor, here for a weekend of hiking and photography, got up and did a outstanding job performing; he then committed to returning on the fourth of July with his own guitar to again sit in and sing with the group. Annette and I got out on the dance floor and 'shook a few cobwebs' off our feet. Several other couples joined us, and we closed out an enjoyable evening there.
Let's come back next year, arrive earlier, stay longer. Fall would be great here too!
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99.
All photographs taken at Estes Park, CO and the Rocky Mountain National Park by Annette and Larry.
Updated, 8/99.
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