Just to warn you, this will the first in a long line of posts about our most recent trip. But that’s a good thing, right?! Originally we were going to take another cruise with the kids back during spring break. That, of course, was canceled for obvious reasons (i.e. the pandemic). We rescheduled the cruise for the week after July 4th, but, again, and somewhat foreseen, it too was canceled. Since this happened, myself and Andrea decided to have a crazy long two-week vacation in fine road trip fashion! We did not have much time to plan it, but we were able to procure a night stay in each of two different National Parks. The rest of the trip we were just going to play by ear and find lodging in whatever part of the world we were in at that time.
Our trip started on Friday, June 26th after we finished our work shifts. We traveled through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas before finally making our first scheduled stop at a National Park in Colorado. From there we went to other parks in our National Park system in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. After 16 days on the road and driving back through Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana we were back home on Sunday, July 12th. The total drive was an astounding 6,670 miles! On top of that we drank almost as many ounces of soda (seriously, though, we drank way too much soda on this trip). You may be correct for thinking we were crazy to do this trip, especially during a pandemic. We knew we wouldn’t be around many people as we were going to be spending most of our time either in the car or on a hiking trail far from other people. The trip was totally worth it!
States Visited Today
Days 1 and 2
On Friday, June 26, 2020, we left at about 5 pm after both of our work shifts ended. We went straight to St. Louis to our hotel room at the Red Lion in downtown. This hotel was originally booked for a Rage Against the Machine concert that was supposed to be held in May. But the coronavirus, or COVID-19, hit America sometime in March. Soon after that everyone decided to either cancel or postpone their concert tours. We had a few other concerts that we had planned on going to in the summer that were postponed as well. After the postponement, Andrea was given a voucher to use anytime for the same hotel so we decided to use it then. The room was OK and the bed was comfy. There were a plethora of stains on the carpets of the halls and some in the room though. Oh well. It was a room for the night.
The next morning we woke up early and had breakfast at an IHOP further into Missouri. The grease didn’t settle on our stomachs very well though. We wanted to go to the Missouri State capital building in Jefferson City but a rather large thunderstorm was going through the area at the same time so we just continued on with our drive. We went through downtown Kansas City and was detoured away from the highway until we reached Topeka. Below is from when we were going through Kansas City.
We did not stop at any of the sites in Kansas at all. Most of the National Historic site visitor centers were closed anyway. It was kind of nice to see the prairie again though (I went through Kansas way back in 1999). It was a lot prettier than the miles of flat farmland that makes up western Kansas and eastern Colorado. We stopped for lunch at a rest stop in Kansas. The first photo is a small look at Topeka, the capitol of Kansas.
As soon as we crossed into Colorado the roads turned terrible. We stopped for food at a Burger King in Burlington, Colorado, a tiny town attempting to be a tourist destination for Western enthusiasts. Upon exiting the car we were greeted with the smell of cow poo. The inside of the Burger King had many flies too. It wasn’t the best experience. We stopped at a hotel in Limon, Colorado for the night after driving almost 800 miles that day. Here is a view from our hotel room.
On this day, Sunday, we woke up quite early yet sat around for a little bit. We didn’t have to be at our next destination anytime soon as we had a timed entry. After I showered we scrounged for some breakfast at a gas station across the street.
A little more than two hours later we were in Estes Park, Colorado. Along the way we were treated to our first look at the Rockies and a little bit of downtown Denver.
Andrea wanted to check out the Stanley Hotel. It was the inspiration for the book The Shining by Stephen King. Andrea was quite excited the whole time we were there, so that was good. It was a nice, expansive hotel and was built by the Stanley Steamer guy.
Next, it was a short drive to the Rocky Mountain National Park visitor center where we ate a small lunch from our provisions. By noon we were ready to enter the park with our timed entry ticket. Check out the line to get in!
We made our way to the parking lot for the Bear Lake Trailhead.
The lake has a trail around it with views of the mountains.
From here we made our way up in elevation while following the trail to the first of of the three small lakes, Nymph Lake.
On the way to the next lake we came across a small stream flowing down the valley and we, of course, like all of the other dorks, took some pictures with us by the small waterfall.
You may notice that I am wearing glasses and grew some facial hair. I’ve never had facial hair before in my life, but getting to work from home has allowed me to try it. And, normally, when I am out in public I have on contact lenses for my eyes. But, after having to wear a mask and it fogging up my glasses, I decided to go back to the contacts for the rest of the trip.
The next lake was called Dream Lake. Along the way we encountered some snow for the first time.
Then finally we made it the last lake, Emerald Lake.
It took us a lot longer than expected to get to the last lake. The views at Dream Lake and Emerald Lake were stunning, so it was definitely worth it. Somehow we were somewhat tired after that hike. It might have had something to do with the altitude as we were well over 7,000 feet above sea level. We were able to take a short break at Emerald Lake and eat a snack though. And we made a friend who wanted to get some of my nuts!
The way back to the parking lot wasn’t too bad other than us getting rained on a little bit. From there we mostly rode up Highway 34 through the rest of the park. The Rockies were amazing to see along the way. We did a few short trails at or near the tops of mountains. It was quite windy up there and the trails tired us out some more.
Here are a few of our stops.
Forest Canyon Overlook
Tundra Communities Trail
And some more from the mountain road.
After making it back to the valley I wanted to see the beginnings of the Colorado River. It was about a 1/2 mile to get to the river itself. Along the way we saw one deer.
Continuing through the valley we saw some more wildlife. There was a whole herd of elk in a campground. This little guy was off by himself grazing.
And we saw a female moose off in the distance too.
We finished the day with a drive to Kremmling and had some small town Chinese food. All-in-all it was a great way to officially start our trip. The day was nice and sunny and the mountains were gorgeous. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the park and maybe do some more traditional mountain climbing.