Day trip to Trail Ridge Road

Click for current view

A week ago I checked the webcam at the Alpine Visitor Center on Trail Ridge Road and discovered the camera had been moved, as seen above. The shot below is from October 6. I liked having the deck in the scene for scale, but maybe if the camera is more sheltered up under the overhang, the Park Service will leave it on all winter. Or at least until the weather knocks it out.

(I just checked the RMNP website, and the camera is now in winter mode. It will show only morning, midday, and afternoon views, and the temperature will not be accurate. It will continue in this mode all winter unless the weather knocks it out, in which case it will not be repaired until crews can reach it in the spring.)

Screenshot from Oct. 6

Monday, because Trail Ridge Road had reopened over the weekend, my brother and I headed up that way and had a great time. We stopped often, both of us drawn to same things. We compared memories of things we’d done in the area, trying to pinpoint the years and our ages. We talked of our hikes and friends’ hikes and things we’d seen and done and the geology and history of the area. We referred often to an old, lovingly worn topo map, identifying peaks, valleys, and jewel-like mountain lakes. He told me about a 6-day solo backpacking trip he’d done along the Never Summer Range on the park’s western edge, including the morning he woke up and found cougar tracks tightly encircling his tent. (This is one of the few times when I would encourage someone to pack a gun, but I didn’t say anything.) And did he leave the area? Of course not. He followed the tracks until they disappeared somewhere higher up the mountain.

We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center and found it closed and secured for the winter. But luckily for me some outhouses were still open at the edge of the parking lot. I then made a point of walking around behind the main building to look for the webcam and found that yes, it has been moved. It’s now above and to the right (as you look out) of its former location and is up under a roof overhang (visible in the top photo).

We then went on to Medicine Bow Curve, where we paused to admire the vast expanse of the Rawah, Neota, and Comanche Peak wildernesses, rolling away unbroken into Wyoming. If the roof of the Rockies doesn’t humble you, try looking across trackless miles of untouched forest. No ski runs, no roads, no power lines. Just forest as far as you can see.

We went a few more miles, down to Milner Pass on the Continental Divide. Poudre Lake is there, defying physics, sitting almost astride the Divide. But it is the source of Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River (or just Poudre, pronounced POO-der by Coloradans), which drains to the east.

We finally headed back to Estes, where we grabbed a late lunch at Subway, and then on back to Boulder, where we parted company after another fantastic day together. We made a pact to repeat the drive next spring, a day or two after Trail Ridge Road first opens; the peaks will buried in deep snow then, instead of just dusted.

The only fly in the ointment was … a bit more than a fly. In Boulder I discovered my cell phone was gone. The cord that had been charging it was trailing out the passenger side door. Obviously it had gotten caught up in my lap as I exited the car … either in Boulder, at the Estes Park Subway, or at the Alpine Visitor Center. A black phone in a black and gray case lying in one of three black asphalt parking lots. Phone calls failed to locate it. Locating services (Google, Where’s My Droid) couldn’t find it. And no one called to say they’d found it.

Our best guess is that it’s up on Trail Ridge Road, probably crushed into the asphalt by now, or rendered inoperable from damp weather. I’d been unable to get a signal up there when trying to use my PeakFinder app, so it figures the locator apps wouldn’t be able to find it there.

It’s amazing how insecure I felt driving from Boulder back to Thornton without a phone. I rarely used it, and yet I missed it. So the week was spent acquiring another phone and getting acquainted with it. The lost phone was from Straight Talk and was a several-years-old model that couldn’t be upgraded. So, since Verizon’s prices have gotten better since I first shopped there two years ago, I ended up with a new LG G3. (And it was a pleasant experience, nothing like my horrible experience at the Sprint store.) It doesn’t do windows or fix dinner (unless there’s an app for that), but it does just about everything else a small computer can do. (You’ve heard, I assume, that there’s more computing power in today’s cell phones than there was in the Apollo 11 spacecraft.) And its screen is bigger than my aging Garmin GPS unit, so it will be replacing both the lost phone and the old GPS. Now all I need is the right dash mount for the car.

For those interested in Trail Ridge Road, the last time I looked, it was still open. We’ve had some freaky warm weather and hit 82° yesterday, breaking the old record for the date. Looks like we’ll do the same today. Despite that, my brother’s guess is they’ll close the road after this weekend anyway, just so the seasonal employees can go home.

Chin up, though. I saw a report saying the Park Service expects to have all the flood damage repaired and Old Fall River Road open again next summer.

Photos? You wanted photos? Sorry, it never occurred to me to take pictures. We were too engrossed in maps, binoculars, and conversation.

Click map for larger Park Service PDF:


10 thoughts on “Day trip to Trail Ridge Road

  1. What an excellent daytrip! Had just checked the NPS webcam page and saw the new cctv angle with the new winter op mode. So quickly clicked to your site– and found your in-person account! You had a perfect day up high– have you ever been on top this late before? So sorry about your phone and the nervous feeling you had driving without that tool. But isn’t the G3 something great… i have even loaded the mobile nook app & if i take my glasses off, can read comfortably. Has already saved me several pounds in airplane books and a couple hundred $ by not needing a new nook tablet. (but i really wish it had a keyboard instead of this virtual one) So envious of your location– thanks for posting about your day!!

    1. Nope, never this late. Late September was previously the latest. We had such a great time. Traffic was pretty light, and as always, there were the tourists who’ve rarely seen snow. We passed two different groups out by the side of the road building little snowmen. Still not that much snow on the peaks. About what you see in the pictures. It’ll be awesome next spring. We won’t follow the plows and press up on opening day, though. Maybe the Monday or Tuesday after that.

      Love my G3. Got it without much thought because (a) my daughter-in-law has one and (b) Verizon was running a special on it. Hope I don’t get too carried away with it though, as I only have a 2G data plan. I’ve never been terribly competent on a regular keyboard, so my finger jabbing at a tiny cellphone keyboard is laughable.

      1. You could summit Longs alone, but wouldn’t want to follow the plows up TR!! Actually, don’t blame you for letting those daredevil types go first. And in the spring, you can take lots of pix with the G3– amazes me this phone is better than my 1st digital SLR. Oh, try holding it landscape… the keyboard is a teeny bit larger. And it is still 1-finger typing, but i use my middle finger at about a 45°angle from the screen and kind at the point where the side of your fingernail extends past the nailbed. Much easier/more accurate than a thumb or index finger… and settings will let you have clicking keys 😁 but my nail clicks on the screen, so turned the sound off!

        1. Sorry, forgot to say verizon lets you change data plans as often as you need, up or down. Quite a change from sp****. I started with 2g, but went to 4 while getting the apps and games and just playing with setting it up. Right now i am at 2 again. I think it costs an extra $15 per gig to add but lots higher fees if you go over. Ok, will go away now!

          1. Yes, I looked closely at what happens if I go over 2G, and I think I understood that it would be another $15 (maybe it was $25) for another gig for that one month. Not a killer as long as I don’t do it very often. I watch it closely and have warnings set. I’m using my wifi while working through all the set-up and initial downloads, and that will help to keep it down.

        2. Ooo, I’ll have to try that middle finger thing. Index finger isn’t that great. I made the keys a bit higher (stretched them, vertically) and that seems to help a little.

          From the videos I’ve seen of opening day on Trail Ridge, it looks like a plow leads the press cars up the road but the road is already cleared. The plow is just there to lead the parade. We want to avoid that initial congestion by going a day or two later. Nothing daring about it.

  2. Just saw a fb from the Estes Paper – it is snowing high, raining low and TR is closed. So now waiting 20 mins till NPS updates their website for this morning to see if your brother’s prediction is true… the other park webcams are snowy; hope we haven’t already lost the passhouse cam– i don’t know what time it updates, yet, still showing Sun afternoon shot. Sure glad you ran up there last week!

    1. The Friday before we went up, the park’s website said the road was closed. But my brother called them and they said the road was open but that they were having trouble getting their page to update. (It was too late by then for us to head out.) So we went the following Monday. I would encourage anyone thinking of going up there to CALL park headquarters and make sure. For now I wouldn’t rely on the park’s website.

  3. Sometimes the best times are when you are completely there – and not using a camera or phone. The “images” recorded those times somehow rarely fade or lose that feeling of the moment.
    Thank goodness they leave those bathrooms available at the top even when the main building is close. Whew! Been glad of that a few times myself.
    Funny how we have gotten so used to phones all the time. I used to know where/which tall spots you have to stop at in CO to get cell service – easier now with more towers (Happy when places disguise them!)
    Appreciated this great post – been dealing with Husband in ER and more doc visits, so chances of travel probably snowbound at this time. Will be catching up with reading as I can..stupid laundry never takes a vacation….

    1. I decided long ago to forget the camera and just “be there,” recording everything on the emulsion of the mind.

      So sorry to hear about the hubby. ER doesn’t sound good at all. I’ll be thinking about you both. Keep me posted.

... and that's my two cents