|Moraine Park is now a haven for elk who fed here
morning, noon and night, but was once dotted with rustic lodges from
end to end.
I guess everyone did OK because they were all still
sleeping when I woke up at 5:30. After taking my own pee break and grabbing
a morning Coke I started down the interstate at 5:45. I had to admit that
Nebraska was not nearly as boring as I thought it would be and the traffic
was light--prefect conditions for my lead foot. I pushed the van 80 mph
down the interstate.
At Odessa, NE I had to get more gas and quicky calculated
that we were now getting about 17 miles a gallon. Of course, we were now
heading uphill to the great plains so this didn't come as any surprise.
I woke up the boys when I stopped at another rest area at 8:20. After
pounding down some Lucky Charms we quickly entered the Mountain time zone
and gained an hour back, and in another half hour arrived in Colorado
at 9:20. We were practically there!
Almost immediately the topography changed. No longer
in the middle of croplands, we were now in semi-arid desert-like rolling
prairie. Beautiful in its own way but boring as hell. There were some
decent views but for the most part it was a dull drive until we got to
the metropolis of Sterling, CO just after 10 AM. Not more than an hour
after we left the Rockies came into view for the first time. I was almost
home. All that I needed to do now was guide my little semi through downtown
Denver without incident.
To say that traffic sucks in Denver and along I-25
would be far too kind. What I had thought would and should take about
60 minutes took close to two hours. We could have made it down to Colorado
Springs fast on horseback. Eventually we made it to the girls hotel and
had to wait about 45 minutes for Yumi to return from the airport after
returning her rental car. We were finally all together and decided to
grab a late lunch at Chili's.
Now all we had to do was sufer through the I-25 traffic
north and make our way to Rocky Mountain National Park. I figured it would
take us at least 4 hours, but we managed to get there in a little more
than three! We were able to check in after a brief wait but I noticed
the rangers on duty seemed sort of nervous and out of focus. A few moments
later I realized why: One of theirs had been missing for a few days. Backcountry
ranger Jeff Christiansen had not returned from a routine backcountry patrol
two days earlier and everyone was on edge.
Upon our arrival to our campsite at the Moraine Park
campground, it became clear that my ability to fit large things into small
areas would again be put to the task. On our reservation request we clearly
stated that we had two larger tents so we figured our site would be able
to handle this simple request. Nope. Our tent pad was probably no larger
than 13' x 13'. With a 4-5 man tent and a 3-man tent it was not going
to be big enough. Happily, I was able to configure the shelters so that
all but a foot or the larger tents fit the pad. The space hanging over
would we used to store our duffle bags. Not a big problem though we grew
tired of the boys constant chatter and giggle from their tent set up a
mere 3 inches away.
Camp now set we decided to hit the sack early and refresh
ourselves for the upcoming week.