With all the policy issues and all the science I had packed into the trip to Colorado, I couldn’t imagine a visit without experiencing the glory of the Rockies from within the mountain range rather than from the high plains looking up. The logical spot to visit was Estes Park, which is home to Rocky Mountain National Park. Yes, friends, of course it was a stamp in my Parks Passport.
As you might imagine from the number of posts related to this trip, it was mostly non-stop action. My Beloved Husband and I were thus pleased to take it easy on our final whole day of the trip. After a leisurely morning of organizing and compressing our possessions and the large stack of paper we had acquired, we eventually set off for nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. We consulted with the rangers at the Visitors Center about possible activities, but lacking snow shoes, our options were somewhat limited. We ended up driving the Trail Ridge Road to the point where it was closed for the winter. The road was clear beyond that point, so we walked further up the road to look at the scenery. It turned out that no matter how carefully I had planned for gradually increasing our elevation, we still were not well-adjusted to the much higher elevation of the park (around 10,000 ft) so there was a certain amount of huffing and puffing even though the incline wasn’t severe. Still, we had a wonderful drive, a lovely walk, and the freshly snow-covered mountains were beautiful.
We both enjoyed strolling about Estes Park, which is tourist town with a frontier flavor. We arrived in town toward the end of the annual duck race, which apparently involves participants purchasing plastic ducks which are all released upstream and float down to town. There were plenty of people clustered around the bridges and accessible spots on the water to cheer on their yellow and orange friends. The duck race annually marks the very beginning of tourist season, but with the recent snow and a bit of a nip in the air, the turnout was not quite what they hoped. Indeed it was more than a little sad to see restaurant patios all prepared for outdoor seating with the tables topped by six inches or more of snow. I still refused to complain about the precipitation in the face of the ongoing drought, but the locals took care of the grumbling for me.
Early in our romance, my BH learned that I am a horse racing fan for three days a year- the days of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. I attribute it to reading “The Black Stallion” series as a youth and to being at a very impressionable age when Affirmed became the most recent Triple Crown winner in 1978. He was ridden to victory by18-year-old jockey, Steve Cauthen, who was really dreamy, if rather short. Anyway, my BH and I have an annual date to watch the Kentucky Derby together, and we were quite pleased that in spite of the time difference between Churchill Downs and Colorado, we stopped for a beverage at exactly the right time to watch the pre-race coverage. We each chose a horse to cheer for: my BH chose, “It’s My Lucky Day” in honor of our spectacular vacation, and I chose, “Normandy Invasion,” since I have commented several times that after mastering the logistics of this vacation, I was more than ready to organize the D-Day beach landings. Neither one of our horses finished in the money, but because my horse finished fourth, my BH had to pay the tab.
After a wonderful dinner at a barbeque restaurant, we started the drive back to Denver to be close by for our early morning flights the next day. Overall it was an amazing trip that was everything I had wanted it to be. I got to see firsthand some of the people and resources I had been working on, and I gained an even stronger connection to my adopted state. I did not intentionally work for an office that represented a state of such extensive scientific and natural resources, but I’m glad I took advantage of that bounty.
I will end with one last story to summarize how much my fellowship has influenced me. I had been commenting to people all during the trip that my world view had changed significantly since working on Colorado issues, but there was one moment that illustrated it most vividly. As we were driving out of the mountains, we rounded a curve and my BH said, “Wow, look at that!” I replied, “I know! Wow, I wonder whose water that is!” He looked at me oddly and explained that he had been looking at the fascinating striated layers of the rock on the mountain. Somewhat sheepishly, I explained that what caught my eye was the big water diversion pipe that passed overhead.