Last summer, I was able to hike through the Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, Colorado. I had been there many times before — as a grad student living in Denver, back in the day, RMNP was a frequent place to visit, when we needed a break, and needed to get out of the city. And, on the rare occasion that I was able to come back to Colorado over the years to visit, heading up to Estes & RMNP was an absolute must for me. To this day, it remains one of my most favorite places, and a beautiful escape from life. I don’t make it up there as often as I would like, due to the longer drive, but if you are ever in the Denver area, head to Estes and the park. It’s worth it.
I’m on a personal mission to visit as many National Parks as I can in the coming years. The boys & I visited the Great Sand Dunes NP for the second time over Memorial Day weekend, and I have solo hiking trips planned for both Arches and Canyonlands the first weekend in July. Black Canyon in Gunnison and Mesa Verde will be next on the list, merely by proximity (and therefore, checking all the National Parks in Colorado off my list) with other’s like Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and the Grand Canyon to follow.
Last year’s visit to RMNP was a special one for me, as it was the longest hike that I had done to that date, and definitely the longest one I had done solo. As hikes go, this one has been hard to beat in terms of sheer beauty. If you want to be at one with nature, get into the mountains. While the trail I had done was rated as “moderately trafficked,” there were very long stretches of time where I didn’t see a soul. In fact, I was able to sit next to the most gorgeous stream, with the most gorgeous view, alone for almost an hour while I enjoyed my surroundings, meditated, and soaked it all in. There were three lakes along the trail, and most hikers it seemed turned back after reaching the first lake. Running into people happened less and less the farther I went.
This hike taught me a lot; for starters, I had the wrong shoes, but what’s a girl to do. (serious lesson learned on that one. My trail shoes are NOT meant for distances longer than 5 miles!) I was physically exhausted, because while the length wasn’t anything substantial, the elevation gain was consistent through the entire hike. Mentally, it also gave myself a lot of clarity. When you are hiking for 7 hours (I stopped a LOT to enjoy the surroundings), and you are alone, you cannot help to think about everything under the sun. It was an eye opening experience for me, personally, and as a hiker.
These photos cannot possibly do this trail justice, as the beauty I witnessed was unlike anything else. I know this is only one trail in a very large park, and I look forward to getting back to RMNP in the future to explore other areas, as well as camp, but I find myself longing to be back near something this beautiful. I haven’t done a trail this long since this one last July, and that’s hard for me. Full time single parenting, plus working 40+ hours a week again, really has decreased my ability to “get out and go.” My boys are still pretty young, and long hikes like this just aren’t possible, but I look forward to the day they are.
All in all, being in this space was a life changing experience, and I cannot wait to explore this park, and other’s like it, more in the future. We are so fortunate to live where we do, and have easy access to this kind of beauty. After exploring Europe for three years, I made it a personal goal to explore our own country more as an adult, and make sure my kids knew what kind of opportunity we have in our own backyard.
But in the mean time, I’m going to reminisce about the splendor that was this trail!