First I should say we don’t actually have a backyard. BUT we are only an hour and a half away from one of the most famous and well loved National Parks in the United States, Rocky Mountain National Park.
2015 marked 100 years of Rocky Mtn. being a National Park, and over 100 years of tourists coming to marvel at its glorious mountains, wildlife and plants! It also was the first time I ever explored the park. That is not to say I haven’t spent a fair amount of time outdoors and in National Parks, but I had never actually made it to Rocky. Even though I lived so close!
My first encounter was in August with my parent’s for a quick drive around the park. In summer glory it was just warm enough and everything was very green and vibrant. There was also thousands and thousands of tourists, as the park has grown in popularity over the past few years, with 2015 having over 4 million people! That’s impressive considering just a decade ago they had half as many. If you want to look at more nerdy stats, go here.
This massive amount of people made it hard to see everything and park and get through the gift shop etc. etc. It was still really neat to see and I’m glad we went. This also meant that we came out on the Western side of the state, something I had never done. This means a drive through more mountains and getting home late, but it was well worth the adventure.
Fast-forward two months and the lovely cool of Autumn is upon us. I decided to pack up the family and go camping in Rocky for the last weekend of the camping season at Moraine Park. It was also Elk rutting season!
What is Elk-Rutting you might ask? When all the male elks and their harems get it on and Males fight over females, as big dumb animals do. They are also really elegant animals, that have captivated people for eons. Their mating call also sounds like that of some alien species…the native americans used to think of them as spirits. Regardless, it actually makes for crap sleep, but beautiful photos.
The camping part was an absolute blast, it was the first time Lily, my 8-year-old stepdaughter had been tent camping. She camps with her grandparent’s frequently but they have a camper on their truck and us mountain girls call that cheating ;).
Lily loves helping set up the tent, and using new camping gear we bought such as little camp pots and a foam mattress pad, queen size, for us to all snuggle onto. We used a combination of a gas camp stove and a fire for marshmallows, hot dog, vegan dogs for me, oatmeal, sandwiches, and a variety of chips and such to snack on.
Lily got the cool honor of getting to fill out a packet and search for animals through the 24-hours we were there. She saw deer, chipmunks, elk, squirrels, some rabbits and plenty of plant life to keep her busy and occupied. The best part was that we had no service so it was an unplugged weekend to talk, laugh, do some photography, and enjoy the little things.
We also drove to the top of the mountain to see all we could see….at the Alpine Visitor Center. Where we hiked up to 12,005 feet and it almost killed us….
The views on the drive were truly spectacular and Lily loved the chance when we stopped to run around and be blown away at the vastness of the world in front of us! Ryan almost had a heartattack. After almost 5 years together, I learned on that trip he had a hatred of heights.
The biggest struggle was getting the campfire going, because I had a stupid attack and we didn’t pack enough kindling and paper to get it hot. WHOOPS… luckily someone else was there selling wood and kindling so we got to enjoy our fire pit eventually.
For a simple 24-hour getaway we got a lot out of the adventure. We problem solved, we laughed, we had fun, and we learned new things about each other and the world around us. For $50 I bought an annual pass, and we can’t wait to go back. The campground was $18 for the night. A few souvenirs and coffee was another $25 or so, but the photos and memories were priceless.
Get out and explore!
Rebecca Lee Robinson