Our Journey begins - Fall 2002

"Go west, go west," was the call. Again we heeded it. What better way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (in October) than a trip to visit some of our favorite places. We both love living in the Shenandoah Valley but the west keeps calling us. It fills a need we seem to have for the wild and beautiful places - different than those of the east. The parks, with their fantastic scenery and quiet places refill and renew us. So out come the books and maps as we begin to plan. We'll include some of our old friends - Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches and Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. We'll add some new parks and hope they too will become old friends, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Basin, and Kings Canyon and Sequoia. Visits with family and friends will round out the trip. We reminisce about our past trips, we look at past photos, and we talk and plan. Triptiks and tour books are ordered and reservations are made.

Jim Geary at work on our travel journal.Finally the day has arrived, the cooler is loaded, the car is packed with clothes, cameras, binoculars and all of the paraphernalia we will need for seven weeks plus on the road. We decided to leave a day early and spend the night with my sister and her husband to give us a head start and to see the photos of their recent trip to China. The next morning we head out early with no special stops planned for sightseeing. The mid west is a place to drive thru on our way to the west. It seems funny not to have our "covered wagon and trusty steed" with us but this will be the start of a different mode of travel for us - a passenger car and motels. Things look pretty dry through West Virginia and Kentucky. We notice again the horse farms of the bluegrass state of Kentucky. We plan on stopping for a picnic lunch using the state rest areas. We stop for the night in East Louisville KY and the traffic is horrendous. Dinner that night is our usual first night meal of fried chicken and potato salad. We usually get an early start simply because we are early risers. We head through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri and spend the night just east of Kansas City. We're here tonight in Goodland Kansas and head for Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park in the morning.

That morning we had passed vast fields of beautiful yellow sunflowers and a really strange fog like cloud that gave the atmosphere a dismal look. More to come if I don't throw the computer in the trash can. Excuse spelling errors - spell check won't work!!

Estes Park Colorado, August 27th,

Greetings to All,

I'm using the library computer to write this, no telling how long it will be before I can send it.

Approaching Denver, we could see in the distance a heavy curtain of haze, smog, smoke or all of these. Just barely discernable through this dirty gray blanket were the Rockies, a sure sign we were in the west. That morning we had passed vast fields of beautiful yellow sunflowers and a really strange fog like cloud that gave the atmosphere a dismal look.

As we drove north towards Estes Park (our home for the next four nights) weAs we drove north towards Estes Park (our home for the next four nights) we could smell the air changing – clean and fresh as we drove though Big Thompson Canyon. could smell the air changing – clean and fresh as we drove though Big Thompson Canyon. The smell of pine was in the air. Signs kept warning us that in case of flood we should climb to higher ground. “Climb where'” we wondered. “Up these steep rocky sides of the canyon?” The Big Thompson River gurgled and tumbled over the rocks on its way to the valley below. Obviously the people who had chosen to build homes along the banks were not worrying about any flooding. It was quiet and peaceful and beautiful. I could easily imagine spending a month or two here.

We arrived in Estes Park late morning but were able to check in to our motel just a short walk from the downtown area. We unload the car, settled our “stuff” and headed downtown for lunch and a look-see. Estes Park has one long main street as do many western towns. It is lined with shops of all kinds, restaurants of all kinds and some lodging facilities. There are NO accommodations inside Rocky Mountain National Park which is where we really wanted to be so Estes Park serves that purpose. In past years we had staying at the campgrounds inside the park. Later in the afternoon, we decided to drive up to Bear Lake (elevation 9700 ft plus) and take the short hike around the lake. We had done this in 1992 but things sure had changed. The rugged trail was now a carefully laid out walking trail that was now handicapped accessible. The once unobtrusive “facilities” and ranger station were now porta potties and a travel trailer with Ranger Station emblazoned on the side. The signs told us that the previous facilities had been destroyed by arsonists, three juveniles who had been caught and charged. These facilities would have to suffice until the new ones were completed.

Hike around Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.Our hike around the lake was as wonderful as we had remembered it. Big beautiful pines smelling of the scent of vanilla. Cool glades where various plants grew, logs decayed and various scurrying sounds were heard. Birds were twittering and we caught our first sight of the beautiful stellar jay – the western equivalent to our blue jay. He was beautiful in his dark blue and black plumage flying from tree to tree hoping for a handout. TheHike around Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. squirrels were busily eating pine cones. Lots of people were taking the hike which only proved again how we are loving our parks to death. Like many of the other National Parks, Rocky Mountain has installed a bus shuttle system to try and alleviate the crowding and lack of parking. On our next trip up to Bear Lake we would take advantage of it. We remembered one of our earlier trips up here when the wind was howling and the snow was swirling around us. All for now, Time to go and get a late breakfast at “The Egg and I” and unfortunately I have a doctor's appointment for a sinus infection. If it is clear tomorrow, we will do Trail Ridge Road at 12,000+ feet. This afternoon it is another hike to try and get used to this high altitude.

Hike around Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.Wednesday, the 28th -- A bad sinus infection with a high dose of antibiotic caused a slight change of plans. Decided to take a drive up in to the mountains and stop at one of the visitor centers. New in 2000, it is a beautiful place constructed of ponderosa pine with a great wildlife exhibit. All along the top of the displays are various quotes about nature. One I particularly like was "Wilderness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit." Our spirits must need this permanent home! After that we drove up and around to the various views. Saw lots of elk. Stopped at our old campground just to see and remember. Drove down to Moraine Park and tried to hike up and around but it was too much with me sick and the high elevation. Watched a big herd of elk in the meadow below with one big bull elk sporting a huge rack lying in the meadow. It is rutting season and he every once in a while would "bugle" as if to say "these are my women, stay away!" Hope to pack a picnic lunch and drive up Trail Ridge road tomorrow and make a day of it. Elevation is 12,000+ feet and views are spectacular.

Love to all,

Pat and Jim