Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Rocky Mountain National Park - Day 3 - Adventure and Homecoming

Shira surprised me last night by convincing me to cut our trip short to avoid getting Covid symptoms 1,600 miles from home. And she surprised me again at 4:30am when she suggested we hit up the Bear Lake area for a sunrise hike. Naturally, I was in.

We got to the Bear Lake parking lot at around 5:00am and the place was already pretty parked up. The advice is to get to this parking lot early if you want to start one of the area's iconic hikes, and that advice is no joke.

By 6:00am, we had made it to our destination: Dream Lake. The pre-sunrise hiking was refreshing and had an air of excitement to it. I'm really glad I had brought along a head lamp this trip for Shira, 'just in case.' The 'just in case' I imagined was that we were going to be out hiking past sundown, not that we'd have to cut short our trip due to a Covid-19 exposure and so we wanted to log some early morning hiking. But still, it was a good grab on my part.

Dream Lake was gorgeous and there were a heap of photographers waiting in one corner for the sun to light up one of the rock faces in the distance. We took tons of photos in the pre-dawn light and then started our walk back to the car. We caught sunrise on the way back and it was absolutely gorgeous.

This bonus hike was definitely a highlight and I'm glad Shira suggested it at 4:00am.

On the way out of the park we caught sight of some wild turkeys and deer. I also saw a couple of exotic looking blue birds. They seemed to have the shape of magpie's I'd seen in Australia. And sure enough, that's what they were: A Black-billed magpie. I wish I'd been able to grab a pic. Apparently they are super common and hardly anything to get excited about.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully: we packed up, headed to the airport and our flight home was easy. As we headed home I struggled to wrap my head around the flurry of emotions that have accompanied this adventure. The utter disappointment of not being able to bring the kids. The joy and excitement of exploring a gorgeous landscape and seeing unique flora and fauna. The frustration of having to make the adult decision of leaving early. The appreciation that our trip could have been totally canceled but wasn't. The relief that these problems are of a temporary nature and that exciting travel is still in our future.

One thing that made me feel better was the act of writing down lessons learned. This let me add some additional value to the whole experience. So here they are, my top lessons learned:

  • Be mentally prepared for the idea that Covid may derail your plans at the last minute.
  • Throw all the snacks in the back of the car before heading out for the day. The extra trip or two to load the car will be worth it. Leaving the snacks on your Airbnb's counter does you no good.
  • We learned that the temperature lowers 5 degrees for every 1,000 feet in dry conditions and 3 degrees for every 1,000 feet in wet conditions. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it means that the 60° F in Estes Park at 7,000 feet is going to be 40° F at the 11,000 foot trail head. This is no joke, and we should have brought gloves and hand-warmers for the higher elevations. Not grabbing the trekking poles from our car was just dumb.
  • The Nuun tablets were smart to bring to stay hydrated. But bringing Tail Wind or drinking more calorically dense Gatorade would have been smarter.
  • Always bring a headlamp on hiking trips. This move paid off in an unexpected way.
  • I need to reconsider my threshold for what needs to be packed in my carry-on luggage when I travel. I'm all for the convenience of checking bags, and I thought I was OK with having the checked items never arrive. This time some of my checked items really never did arrive and it was an eye opener. Sure, USB cables and toothpaste are easy to replace. But my DSLR battery charger and prescription eye drops should never be flying in my checked luggage. Can I live without these? Technically, yes. But they're way hard to replace, so better to keep them at my side.
  • Always bring the DSLR, regardless of how heavy it is, to National Parks.
  • Only operate on one airline reservation at a time on airline websites. Do not attempt to open a new tab and try to cancel another reservation while in the middle of completing one.
  • Backcountry Navigator was a real win because the general purpose maps let us improvise hikes on the fly.
  • Always check to make sure Backcountry Navigator has downloaded offline maps for the area by switching to Airplane mode and testing this out. Sorry babe, I so thought I downloaded maps to your device.

No comments:

Post a Comment