Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Rocky Mountain High"

We arrived Thursday evening and stayed in a campground just outside of the West entrance to the park so we could get showers and organized for our backcountry trip (National Parks rarely have showers and it is quite annoying). That night in our campground we were treated to the mating calls (technically referred to as a “buggle call”) of the bull elks. Apparently September is high-season for elk to pair up, so the males walk around day and night making this high-pitched shreaking very strange sound that sounds nothing like a buggle. They were loud and buggled all night in the forest, but we actually enjoyed it… some of the guys have great calls, some guys will definitely be lonely this fall. The next morning we were treated to our tent being frosted and frozen solid, welcome to Colorado in September!

After defrosting the tent, we headed out to the trail head, strapped on the backpacks and walked into the wilderness for a night. We hiked about 6.5 miles and up about 1800 feet along the East Inlet Trail to Lake Verna which is nestled in a valley at about 10,000 feet. The hike scenery was spectacular as it winded along a river up the canyon, but the climb was steep and we were quite tired by the time we got there. The altitude takes your breath away when you hike here, there just isn’t as much oxygen available at 10,000 feet. We made camp, hung our food between some trees to keep it from the bears (yes we are back in bear country), and enjoyed the afternoon. The Rockies in the fall are great, warm sunny days, the pine trees are fragrant, the aspens are turning and the evenings are brisk. We didn’t have any bear encounters, but a large moose or elk or elephant walked through our camp. We couldn’t tell what it was, but it was large and made these snorting sounds as it trumped along up the path. The next morning we were relieved to find that no animals had foiled our complicated food hanging system, so we had breakfast, packed up and headed out. We got showers at our campground from the night before and drove the main park road which takes you above the treeline and to the East side of the park. This road is the tallest road in North America, topping out at 12,100 feet. It provides sweeping views of the peaks and tree-less alpine tundra. It rivals the Glacier National Park “Going to the Sun” road, but we still give Glacier the edge. We are now headed back east to see a few things before heading home, goodbye “Wild West”, we enjoyed you for the past 2 months. Check out the pics:

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