To say that I was anxious to get back to the top of Rocky Mountain National Park today would be an understatement.
The road was open, as I had read in the local paper a few days ago that it would be today. But when I called about 10 a.m. it was still closed. Then, when I called at 11:30, the ranger told me that it had opened a few minutes earlier — but could be closed later because storms were coming it.
They came, and the weather was terrible. I chanced it, realizing that I might get up the road to the West side of the park and not be able to return. That would have forced me to make a detour of at least 150 miles.
Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the country, climbing over the Rockies and the Continental Divide. Eight miles of the road are above 11,000 feet in elevation. At its highest point it reaches 12,183 feet into the sky and the elements.
And the elements were fierce today. I am glad that I stayed cozy in my SUV and that it functioned perfectly. At about 10,000 feet it started to rain heavily. Then, it turned to hail. At about 11,000 it started snowing. At about 12,000 feet the snow was blowing so much that I could only see a few feet ahead.
The road opened today for the first time in seven and one-half months. So I hadn’t been on top of the world since October 5 when I drove to the Alpine Visitor Center, which is at 11,700 feet, and hiked up perhaps the highest trail in the park, to above 12,000 feet.
Today I stopped at the center, but the only part of it that was open was the gift shop. The water pipes were frozen solid, so the snack-bar (for coffee) and the restrooms were closed. It was snowing so hard at the center that I couldn’t see the building and had to ask someone to point me in the right direction.
But as soon as I crossed the Continental Divide the storm abated. I even saw a bit of blue sky, as this photo of the well-named Never Summer Range attests: