First we stopped at the Beaver Meadow visitor centre http://www.nps.gov/romo/ & picked up some Junior Ranger booklets & found out about the roads (some were closed due to snow)
. We drove up to Bear Lake parking area first, with some amazing views of the mountains and the Aspen trees turning their beautiful sunny-yellow colour. We chose an easy hike to the Alberta Falls - only 0.8 miles, but it seemed like longer! On the way it began to snow and the kids were just buzzing - dancing around and sticking their tongues out. On the way we saw our first chipmunk which was very small, very fast & very cute! When we reached the falls we stopped and had a snack on the rocks by it, admiring the amazing view over the golden aspens to the snow frosted mountain peaks in the distance. Of course we had to get some footage of the kids and I singing 'Rocky Mountain High' (By John Denver). After seeing the Rockies, I can understand why John Denver loved these mountains so much. We returned to the truck by catching a free bus to the parking lot, as it was really starting to snow heavily. We drove down to another lake, called Sprague Lake, where we attended a talk by a ranger about beavers. By the time we arrived there, the weather was changing AGAIN and the sun even came out! This happened frequently while we were in the park. Very interesting talk and though we didn't see any beavers, we could see their handiwork in an old dam and an abandoned lodge. The lodges they build are so strong, that the ranger was telling us he had got a photo of a black bear standing on one trying to get inside, but it couldn't do it. We returned to the Bear Lake area, to visit the actual Bear Lake, which was only a short distance from the car park
. Kate by that time (who has a cold, again!) was getting really grizzly and saying she was cold, so we only stopped by the lake for a moment, and then walked back to the truck. Bear Lake was so serene & peaceful, with the pine covered hills and craggy rock behind it reflecting in the still waters.
On the way back through Estes Park township we saw a large gathering of wild elk - in the local golf course! It is their mating season & they come down from the mountains to do their thing... We saw only females, but I could hear a male bugling in the distance. These are big, big deer, and the males are a lot larger (with their towering antlers too) so you wouldn't want to get too close to one or come across one on a dark road while doing your 75 MPH!!
It rained quite heavily during the night and was still drizzling heavily in the morning too. After breakfast we hopped in the truck and the temperature gauge said it was 8 degrees! By the time we got to the town of Estes Park, we realised that there was no way we could go into the mountains without jackets (none of us had any as the weather elsewhere had just been too hot to consider buying any). We stopped at an outlet store - jackets started at $30 adults and $50 for kids (and they were discounted!) so luckily we spied a Thrift store (Op-shop in NZ terms). Fred & I got a warm jacket each for $2 each, but we couldn't find jackets for the kids. We had to make do with a couple of jerseys for them, which were too big, but at least they kept them a little warmer.