09/26/2001: Wednesday 9/26/01
I woke at 4, and at 5. I got up at 5:30, dressed, and went out to see the stars. It was already getting light enough to drown out any stars which I couldn't see back home, anyway. but everything seemed much sharper up here at 8,000 feet. I am writing, sitting at the dining room table, watching the sky brighten above the Rockies through a picture window.
Max rose at 6:30, and I made bacon and eggs for breakfast. Karen joined us by 8. We packed up, and were gone a bit after 9.
So, First we made a stop in at the Safeway and Conoco in Estes Park. Then we drove into the Rocky Mountain National Park. We took the Fall River Road up to the top. This gravel road, build by convict labor, was a single, steep lane rising along the mountain side. The view was sparse, since the trees grew tight along the road. Karen was both a bit claustrophobic because of the narrow tree corridor, and acrophobic, when the tree tops disappeared below one side of the car or the other. There frequently was a 50 foot drop a foot from our tires. Anyway, she didn't enjoy the rough road up.
I was also out of sorts by the time we reached the Alpine Visitor's Center. I decided later that it was because of the altitude (11,796' at the shops to 12,000 at the top of the Tundra Trail). We had a chili dog at the cafe, and managed to get a table with a view down to the treetops below. The elks are in rut, and we could see a herd down below. With our 15x binoculars, I could see make out the alpha male, a 4-pointer. We then climbed the tundra nature trail. We were far above the tree line, and I found climbing to be very hard up there. Even after ten days mostly above 5,000 feet, and spending the night at 8,000', this 12,000' is thin air territory. The weather was clear and warm, but the wind chill up top was easily below freezing.
We left the tourist stop and started to continue west on US 34, but after a couple of miles, decided to turn back, and take 34 back toward the downhill junction with the old road. The views from 34 were much more spectacular than from the old road, and the driving much easier. The aspens were golden, some turning to red.
I was dishrag-exhausted. I figure it's the altitude, more than the last dozen nights short of sleep, and weird diet.
We wound around the east end of the Rockies, taking WY 7 south to Boulder, and then US 36 and I-25 south to Denver. Karen wanted to visit a friend who is in paralysis recovery after an unfortunate incident involving his new BMW and a big deer. He may regain the use of his hands, at best.
We settled into a La Quinta at I-25 and Colorado, after trying 3 rooms. I basically retired and turned on the idiot box. Karen went to visit her friend in Englewood till 11.