I made it to Colorado late last night and continued on to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park this morning. To be honest I thought I was headed to Estes Park, a state park, but it is a city. So, learning new things all the time. The drive was again reminiscent of my family's cross country bike trip...wheat fields, corn fields, oil pumps, crop irrigation, silos, farms. Memories of my family and cycling will always be woven into these types of landscapes.
The mountains are amazing. It is like another world and I can see how living on the east coast, or in Ohio, in the 1800s, it would be hard to believe they exist. I can imagine the awe people felt viewing Bierstadt's work for the first time...I am feeling the awe Bierstadt himself must have felt when he first saw this mountain range. I stopped in the Estes Park visitor center and then continued on to the park, mildly stressed about finding a campsite. Talked to a park ranger at one of the park visitor centers and she was so helpful (they are all super knowledgeable, go park rangers). I found out only a few spots were left for camping in the whole park...and they were first come, first served campsites. So I drove around like a crazy person, going into the park when the campsite was the opposite direction, thinking I'd be homeless for the night. But as they always do, things worked out fine and there were plenty of private campgrounds along the way I could have stayed at if I needed to. I made it to Long's Peak campground and there was a spot! #winning. The drawbacks to this site: no running water. So I will be a dirty bird this week. The benefits of this site: FREE and in the national park. I set up my tent to stake my claim, thinking I'd sleep in it tonight, but turns out it gets cold in the mountains at night, so the camper van won again.
Thankfully all of this was worked out with enough time for me to hike and paint. I decided to head up to Biersadt Lake, named in honor of Bierstadt and his love for these mountains. He never painted here as far as I know but how could I not paint here! It was a difficult, or challenging, (which one is harder? Dan and I couldn't figure it out when we were hiking in Bear Mountain and these were the trail descriptions) hike up to the lake. About a mile and very steep, but so scenic. I was pretty giddy with excitement to even be there in the mountains. Aspen trees twinkled in the wind (their leaves look like sequins), and sage brush covered the mountain face as I hiked up. I picked a little leave and rubbed it in my fingers to release the sagey scent. I got to the top and it is forested with pines. I stopped walking and just stood there - it was completely silent. A different kind of silence than I've experienced before. Soft, steady chirps of bugs and birds started to fill my ears, the slight movement of trees in a light breeze. My own voice seemed terribly loud. Amazing the things you can hear if you just stop and listen.
The lake is a nice lake, nothing spectacular, but the mountains behind the lake really make the scene. I hiked around the lake searching for "the view" and there it was, beckoning me "coooome paint hereeeeeee!" The first part of my painting experience was lovely. A beautiful view, right by the lake, and I left my phone in the car to eliminate distractions. (I have an emergency GPS device courtesy of Dad). I felt some discomfort and longing at times to check my email, send a text, etc, and when I did I started walking away from my painting for a minute, thinking about what the next step was, and coming back more focused. The second part of my painting experience was terrible because of BUGS. They weren't mosquitoes, or they didn't bite me, but they were so obnoxious and penetrated the bug spray I applied at my car. I was painting frantically at the end just trying to stay strong and get something down on my canvas through the swarm. Oh my gosh they were relentless. Bierstadt cites "tormenting swarms of mosquitoes" and dude I feel you.
I forgot to mention they have hiker shuttles here, and I had a lovely conversation with the driver. I took the hiker shuttle to the trail head, and hiked back to the parking lot a different route on the way down. Overall successful first day in the park and I already know three days will not be enough time here!
|First view of the mountains!|
|RMNP! Had no idea it was their centennial - exciting!|
|Baby elk, awwww.|
|Staked my claim at Long's Peak campground. Still slept in my car because nights = chilly.|
|Long's Peak and a few other mountains.|
|Moose! He was a celeb...tons of people stopped so I just got a quick picture from my car.|
|Steep ascent to Bierstadt Lake.|
|Aspens! They twinkle in the wind.|
|Hmm, maybe I'll follow the path and paint there?|
|Yep! No clue which mountains they are. Well. Besides the Rocky Mountains.|
|Big, bright, fluffy clouds.|
|Great view, awful bugs.|
|Selfie because I really do like this baby hat.|
|Bierstadt Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park.|
|A little ominous on the way down.|
|Anyone else see the "black bear" that scared the poop out of me?|
|Stunning view as the sun set...|
|I wondered why there were so many flies on my car. Then I realized the live flies were eating the dead flies. Euuuuuwwwww|