Bierstadt_Lake_Sunset_1The clouds fill with warm color at sunset over Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Today marks twenty years since my first visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.
How do I know exactly what day it was? It was the day before the torrential rains started falling in Fort Collins that led to one of the worst flooding disasters in that Northern Colorado town. (Here is a little background about that flood.)
I was in town visiting Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine as I looked at my options for graduate school. I wound up going to Temple University for my MBA in marketing instead but moved to Fort Collins five years later after falling in love with the town that weekend. Dream_Lake_sunrise_3Early morning light illuminates Hallett Peak above Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Par, Colorado
As I thought about the content I wanted to write for this blog post, I came to the realization that my visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in July 1997 was my first to a national park on my own. It was the first park I chose to explore.
During that weekend in 1997, I explored the park on horseback. My horse, a palomino paint, was named Clown. He was a sweet horse, even when he tripped on the trail, bumping me off the saddle and onto the rocky ground.
I met Aeric two months after my trip to Colorado. He loved hiking and being outdoors, and when I met him the farthest he had traveled west was Pennsylvania.
I couldn't stop telling him how much he would love Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Elk_RMNP_2016_19Two bull elks (Cervus elaphus) practice their sparring techniques on a sunny morning in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado In 2000, we took a cross-country trip from our home in New Jersey and headed west. We would visit numerous national parks on that trip—Canyonlands, Mammoth Cave, Zion, Death Valley, Black Canyon of the Gunnison—but, like my visit a few years earlier, Aeric fell in love with Colorado when we visited Rocky Mountain National Park. He loved it so much that he returned to Rocky a month after we returned to New Jersey from our cross-country travels.
We decided in the summer of 2000 that Colorado was where we wanted to be so when I finished graduate school in 2002, we sold the house, packed all of our belongings and headed west.
Bluebird_LakeOuzel Peak overlooks Bluebird Lake on a cloudy afternoon in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado We rarely camped in Rocky but we visited often, exploring many of the trails throughout the park.
The last hike Aeric and I took together was in Rocky—to Bluebird Lake.
Aeric died in October 2012.
After Aeric died, I found I went to the park at least once a month to photograph sunrise and wildlife.
The park, unknowingly, became my respite from a crazy, depressing world that enveloped me in 2012. It wasn't the only place I explored in Colorado and throughout the west at that time in my life but it was the most consistent.
The park did and has continued to play a big part in my life.
Moose_Trail_Ridge_Road_2017_1A moose (Alces alces) walks across the tundra at first light set against the Gore Range near Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Rocky was where I fell in love with Colorado and initiated my ultimate move to the Centennial State. The park was where Aeric and I took our engagement photo.
And Rocky is where Richard and I met in 2015 when we were both living on the road visiting national parks, among other destinations, in our RVs.
Marmot_16A yellow-bellied marmot stops and stands with a mouth full of grasses on the alpine tundra at sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Now I find myself living with Richard at the base of Rocky in the RV we bought together. It is wonderful to look out the window every morning and check the clouds and the Continental Divide to see what sunrise potential is brewing. It is wonderful to have elk, deer and turkeys walk right through the campground.
Twenty years later I am still in love with Rocky as much as I was on that Saturday in 1997.
The park has changed a lot in those 20 years—more from the perspective of number of visitors—but I still find a lot of solitude in this beautiful park.
Pika_3A pika carries a mouthful of grass across the rocks near Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Unfortunately, my photos from that first visit to Rocky are packed away in a box deep in my storage unit as there isn't room in my RV for all of my prints and negatives from my film days. There are, however, plenty of digital photos I am sharing here from the more recent years in Rocky. Maybe it is an important sign that life has started over again for me. And there is Rocky still my constant companion through it all.
Enjoy the memories you make in this beautiful national park straddling the Continental Divide in northern Colorado. If you haven't been, what is holding you back?