Rocky Mountain National Park

Happy 104th anniversary to Rocky Mountain National Park!

In 1915, Congress created the Rocky Mountain National Park. Named after the mountain range, this mountain range is one of the world’s longest mountain ranges stretching from Alaska down to Mexico.

Rocky Mountain National Park lies in north central Colorado covering 415 square miles. And it is not too far from Denver!

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to go on some fun hikes, experience the mountains, drive the epic Trail Ridge Road, see wildlife, and enjoy the outdoors! If you’re in this area or looking for a great national park to visit next, I highly recommend that you check out Rocky Mountain National Park!

Enjoy a photo below of me hiking a trail in this national park back in June of 2006.

rocky mountain natl pk june 2006

Secret

I have a secret. It isn’t your normal type of a secret. And it’s not going to put me in jail type of secret. I’ll share my little secret with you all as it seems fitting here in this blog. So, I really love volcanoes. I am completely fascinated by them! (I warned you that it isn’t a normal type of secret!)

I really don’t know where this fascination of volcanoes came from as I grew up in the Midwest. It’s as flat as a pancake there with no volcanoes anywhere near there.

Maybe it all stems from Mount St. Helens. I vividly remember seeing the television footage of Mount St. Helens’ eruption on May 18, 1980. And then, after nine hours of eruption, the mountain and landscape looked so different.

Sometime after that eruption, my dad traveled out west for work and brought me back a little box of ashes from Mount St. Helens. I thought that was so cool! And I still have the box.

Volcanoes came back into my interest as an adult after traveling to several national parks. Did you know that there are at least 38 national parks and monuments in the United States that have volcanoes has a central theme or a major supporting role?

I remember sitting at my first park ranger program at Yellowstone National Park listening about the fact that Yellowstone is a supervolcano*. I had no idea at the time! I don’t remember learning anything about that in my high school earth science class. Yellowstone has had three super eruptions in the last two million years and it is just sleeping and will erupt again someday.

While the roots of volcanoes are underground, you can see the features of the volcanic activity of Yellowstone all over the park – geysers, hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, travertine terraces, craters, Red Mountains, and more.

Old Faithful

After learning all about Yellowstone, I had to read more about volcanoes. I had to learn more them. I also wanted to visit more volcanic national parks or monuments. It is one thing to read about it, but so different to actually see an active mountain, sleeping area, craters, or other volcanic features in person.

I learned more than the science though from visiting the national parks. I realized the power and also the fragility of nature. Our national parks and their amazing and unique features impact us often beyond our visits there.

Maybe I should have been a volcanologist! 😉

*A supervolcano refers to a volcano capable of an eruption more than 240 cubic miles of magma. Translation = it is HUGE!

Smoky, the Black Bear

Many years ago back in 2001, my husband and I were in the dating stage of our relationship. We had a great relationship and had started talking about vacations.  He suggested doing a camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I had never camped before and hadn’t visited more than one or two national parks before.  I really liked him though and agreed to this adventure!

Our first night at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we pull into the campsite along a quiet river.  It is a beautiful campground. You can hear the water flowing along next to you and sleep under the tall hemlock trees. We grilled out and had just started eating our tasty hot dogs and the rain came. Not just a dribble, but a downpour! We quickly finished up our food and jumped into the tent.  The rain persisted on, so we crashed early on this first night of camping. 

I had a hard time falling asleep as I kept picturing the river overflowing and then carrying our little tent (with us in it) down for a ride.  I finally ignored these silly worries and fell asleep.  I woke up a few hours later to a consistent wet drip on my forehead. The tent had one little leak and it was right above my head.  My sweet man just rolled me over away from the drip, held me, and took the drip for me for the rest of the night.

We had picture perfect weather the next day and the rest of the trip. With the great weather, we set out for a few hikes targeting waterfalls. I really wanted to see some waterfalls there. 

On our first hike, we get to the base of this particular waterfall which is surrounded by rocks. These rocks are wet of course as water crashes around here at the base and splatters.  My new hiking boots didn’t think about this wetness situation as my feet went flying out from underneath me and my bottom lands on the wet rock.  I stand up to see him giggling at my gracefulness and join him in the giggles.  I was so embarrassed!  I take a few steps and manage to repeat the flying process.  So, note to anyone hiking on wet rocks – they are very slippery!

Our last hike of the trip, we planned to hike part of the Appalachian Trail to a cool view.  I don’t remember how many miles we did, but I had never hiked that far before that day.  Almost half way, we pick up our tired pace as we are almost at the view. It must be around this bend on the trail according to our mileage. We turned the bend and get to our “view”.  It was not a “view.”  We looked at each other like “this is it?” Don’t get me wrong, the view wasn’t ugly and we are still out in nature, but we both definitely had expectations for something grander like the ability to see the entire 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

One thing I tried to tell my man prior to the trip is that I drink a lot of water hiking.  I don’t think he quite heard or believed me on that one. On this same longer hike, we had a few miles left before reaching our car and I run out of water. He looked so shocked as we still had a few miles to go. I really do drink a lot of water. He shared his water with me the rest of hike. Now, he always plans for extra water for me when hiking.

He ended the trip with giving me a little souvenir – a stuffed animal black bear named Smoky. Smoky is still with us and still makes me smile! This vacation still ranks as one of my favorite vacations ever. I fell in love with my man and also with the national parks.