It just seemed right to get a photo with trees, grassland, mountains, and the open road to start this post – because this was exactly what our day consisted of. Our planned route looked something like this:
To be sure: it was a very, very long day in the car (and in my case, driving). A car too small for us but also very comfortable. Regardless: I really pushed for us to have a day of natural wilderness in several forms – and this, we got thoroughly over the course of the day! We started at…
This national park is made of a 48 mile main road (Trail Ridge Road) and then the optional 11 mile switchback-laden, guardrail-free Old Fall River Road… presumably named for all the cars which have fallen off the damned thing). We decided on doing ~25 miles, up to the Alpine Point tallest point in the park, and then turned back around. Photos of this initial portion of our outing are as follows:
Arguable the coolest part of the trip was experiencing the alpine tundra above 10,000 feet of elevation, with the attendant leftover snow in August, herds of elk, lack of many trees at all, and thin oxygen.
But mostly, the views were just glorious:
We reached the halfway point going up, turned around, and made our scenic way back down, exiting this park and instead entering the winding road extending through the…
A location I was hoping to see anyways, it worked out well that we needed to drive through the forest on our route east. And what a Coloradan forest it was, with all the rocky outcroppings; coniferous trees; small rivers and streams with multiple signs warning about climbing to safety during a flash flood. The usual!
We (eventually) got out of the winding Forest roads and onto the open road to a larger suburb of Fort Collins CO – and then we QUICKLY made our way directly east, to the…
Pawnee National Grasslands
The final stop for the day was the most dissimilar from the rest of our (mountainous) trip. We drove very (very, very) fast eastward, trying to beat the setting of the sun and getting ourselves ensconced deeply into the prairie proper, to get the real flavor of the place.
Luckily for us: the prairie was functionally empty of humanity AND extended into eternity… so we had plenty of space to ourselves:
We followed the GPS to wherever it said “the national park” was located (more on that in a second) and it took us down some rather rough roads indeed:
As we continued, we actually got some grand photos of the fauna.
The Wildlife Shots Section:
The GPS, it turns out, led us to a random privately owned farm in the middle of NO WHERE on a road marked “not for public use.”
A road which we sort of drove down to see what was there (nothing but a gorgeous sunset across amber waves of grassland):
I kept us in the area as the sun set, as I was really hoping that being so, so very far in the middle of nowhere would give us a pass on light pollution and allow us to see the stars in their unimpeded brilliance. Instead, the aforementioned storm system rolled in and we got front row seats to…
The Heat Lightning Show:
I did try and take a single decent shot of the night sky – and this was it, complete with a streak of a passenger plane/UFO on the right of the frame:
At day’s end, the sun long since set, we drove our way out of the prairie, and eventually again reached towns, and then cities, and then the highway, and finally (in an exhausted state, after singing most of the Hamilton musical’s lyrics from memory as the slap-happy kicked in), we got back and promptly passed out.
What a hell of a great day!