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Rocky Mountains III – North America’s Backbone – From Boulder, Colorado to Cody, Wyoming

September 27th, 2010 Posted in The Mother of all Trips

A National Park a day keeps the doctor away!

Next Must See on our list was the Rocky Mountain National Park. Guess how we got there… Right! Winding roads and clouds in blue skies! Not that I want to complain, but I started to grow a little tired of that…

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But however boring those winding roads get after a while, the Rocky Mountain National Park is definitely worth this luxury problem.

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Rocky Mountain National Park is different from other parks, because nowhere else in the US can one see so much alpine country. And it is easy to access. I have seen some alpine landscape in my life, some definitely more breathtaking, but never felt to have all different kinds of scenery put together in such little space. The Rocky Mountain National Park is not small, don’t get me wrong, (I could express this better in German), but somehow it manages to present all its varieties along one road, which is (again, West Hartford!) in perfect condition. Traveling along the „Trail Ridge Road“ makes it easy and convenient to access vista points that highlight the most stunning and amazing views. But see for yourself.

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More than three million people visit the park every year. Whatever time they plan to stay here, a week or only a day like us, they get to see high peaks (78 of them exceed 12,000 ft), glaciers, or at least snow covered valleys between the peaks, alpine tundra, lakes left over after the big melt down of the last ice age. And with a bit of luck visitors get to see more wild animals than we did. We only saw some deer, nosy little grey birds (they didn’t introduce themselves, so I can’t tell you their names) and a single squirrel. But rumor has it that there are also bears, bighorn sheep and beavers.

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What you will see in huge numbers, because they can’t run away, are pine trees. They are everywhere along the road and covering the lower boulders, standing close to each other like soldiers and, again like soldiers, all kind of looking alike.

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The vista points and sights were dubbed with quite a bit of fantasy. There is „Farview Curve“, „Bear Lake Road“, „Horseshoe Park“, „Many Parks Curve“ (the parks are mountain meadows), „Never Summer Mountains“ and „Grand Ditch“.

The „Grand Ditch“ is a manmade horizontal scar along the western side of the „Never Summer Mountains“. It was made to divert water from the wetter western side of the Continental Divide to the drier Great Plains in the east.

That reminds me: The Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide at the „Milner Pass“ (elev. 10,759 ft / 3279 m). So we were now, like all water flowing down from here, actually on our way towards the Pacific Ocean!

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Milner Pass was named after the surveyor of a never-built railway route through the Rockies.

Places like this always make me aware of how important we and our so called civilization really are; not at all, I must say! The oldest peaks were already there when they simply protruded as little islands above a shallow sea approx. 135 million years ago. Dinosaurs were reigning the planet at that time… One can only try to imagine what erosion, the grinding forces of glaciers and wind, water and weather contributed to form this extraordinary landscape. And even if the scarce tundra plants need decades to recover if clumsy or empty-headed tourists step on them, they will definitely outlive us. Some people find the idea that all of this will still be here after mankind finally succeeded to extinct itself frightening. I don’t, I am even able to find some comfort in that perception…

We left the park at the western end of the Trail Ridge Road and reached the „Grand Lake“, which speaks for itself.

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After having lunch on the deck of the above shown boat-restaurant-general store-thing, we decided to end the day in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But to get there, we had to… Yep, you guessed it! Winding roads (which grew straighter as the landscape grew flatter) and blue skies with beautiful clouds.

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I actually didn’t expect too much from Wyoming, but I was proven wrong. The landscape changed into what I would call Cowboy Country.

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Cheyenne, Wyoming welcomed us with a stunning sunset. There are probably more things to say about Cheyenne, but we didn’t make it into the city. We were exhausted and not ready for any kind of sight seeing or nightlife any more.

Wyoming, the „Equality State“ showed itself from its pretty side again the next day. And as some times before I found that I prefer landscapes like this to the narrowness of mountains. I like to be able to see on Friday who is coming for dinner on Saturday 😉 And with a little imagination I can even see Cowboys driving huge herds of cattle on the horizon.

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And in Cowboy Country there has to be a Fort, right?

Seeing a sign at the side of the road (always look out for brown road signs, they point out scenic places!), we decided to leave the Interstate and take a detour to Fort Laramie.

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It says „Mormon“, not „Hormon“!

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This is the so called „Fort Frog“. If you lick its skin, you will see colors. You can also say „Fort Frog“ 25 times to reach the same state of mind…

The landscape changed and totally put a spell on me. I must admit, I fell in love with Wyoming…

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I can understand, if my compulsive cloud obsession is not everybody’s piece of cake. But this is MY blog. So either live with it, talk to your shrink, or simply scroll further down!

Shoshoni, Wyoming. On our way and not really pretty, but it was necessary to take some pictures for Claudia: Schau, Claudia, so wohnen die Schoschonen!

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The last, let’s say 200 miles to Cody brought a change in the scenery again, but still some amazing clouds 😉

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And believe it or not, there were other people with us on the road!

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This train seemed to have no end, but in the end I saw the end.

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At last we arrived in Cody, hoping for a speedily served dinner and a good night’s sleep. Didn’t work out… A rodeo was coming up that weekend and Cody was pretty much booked out to the last park bench. After pounding the streets for an hour we had to take a suite in a fancy hotel with a menagerie of stuffed animals in the lobby. We got the impression that we paid at least for the polar bear and one or two wolves together with the rooms… However, we slept well and were fit enough the next day to tackle Yellowstone. Read more about that in the next article.

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