Notes From a Hired Pen

On the Road with Jen: Rocky Mountain High

Hello from somewhere on the CO/UT border. Today’s my last day in Colorado, and it’s been a heck of a state.

On the Fourth of July, I ran in the Liberty Four Mile, and did not need to be scraped up off the pavement. After moving on from my lovely dogsit in the suburbs of Denver, I parked myself in Boulder, which is the one town everyone told me I had to see on my trip, especially because I’m a runner. I didn’t run much – or at all, but I did hike a lot. I’m glad I stoped at the mega-REI in Denver and the outdoor specialized told me to go hit the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

 

 

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I hiked on snow. I know that this is common in Colorado, but it was weird and wonderful (until I lost the trail under the snow – but I was smart enough to turn around and head back down the mountain. Also I was tired. DAMN COLD!)

Brainard Lake was, as the REI guy promised, far less crowded than Rocky Mountain National Park, which I hit on Saturday. Since I still had traces of that DAMN COLD, I did not get up at 4am to hit the trail and instead braced myself for the crowds. I got a spot in the park & ride and made some friends on the bus ride to Bear Lake, and then ended up hiking with them until I couldn’t keep up anymore. Once we got about 100 feet off the main trail, the crowds disappeared, which was a relief.

The shuttle system here (and at Zion and Bryce Canyon) make these parks feel a bit like Disney World, though a lot cheaper ( free if you have the America the Beautiful Pass, which I do).

On Sunday, I packed up and drove six hours to Dinosaur National Monument, which felt like a dumb idea, but then I got to there and realized it’s like no other National Park I’ve been to so far. They enclosed part of the fossil find, and yes you can touch a few! It was worth it.

Colorado was, as promised, lovely. I’m glad I spent so much time here. And now I’m sitting in a hotel room and working, getting ready to shove off to my next state. This will probably be the longest camping jag of the trip. It should have been in Utah but I was so sick that I couldn’t bear the idea of sleeping outside. I haven’t camped since New Mexico. It’s time to break out the tent and sleep under the stars again.

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