After lunch we wanted to go on the drive up to Trail Ridge Road (which is the highest road in the U.S.A and goes right through the actual mountains) but when we got to the gate it was still shut - closed because of snow
. So we decided to take a ranger's advice and go to an area where beavers were known to be active. We walked along a big open area with the pine tree covered foothills surrounding us until we came to the river, where we found some old beaver dams. Kate was getting a bit grumpy and wanted to sit down, so I stayed with her while Fred & Josh scouted further upstream. Fred came back after about 10 minutes to say they found a huge beaver lodge and a beaver had passed by them only about 2 feet away! But when Kate & I followed him back, there was no sign of life and we never did get to see a beaver!
The altitude was starting to affect us (we were about 9,000 feet above sea level) and we were very tired, even though it was only a short walk. We decided to go back to the campground, but first we stopped at the visitor centre again so the kids could get their Junior Ranger badges - which they did. Fred talked to the ranger there who said the Trail Ridge road was now open, and that he highly recommended we not miss it. So ignoring our tiredness we drove up Trail Ridge and it was well worth it. Amazing views of the endless stretch of foothills & valleys, plus the snow capped mountains all around. We stopped at one pull-off area, and the kids were just buzzing as there were dozens of chipmunks all over the stone wall there. They were really bold and came up and sniffed our hands
! Then we continued to drive up into the Alpine Tundra. We could see where the snowplow had cut through the snow at the edge of the road - some parts the snow looked to be about 2 feet deep! We drove past the highest point on the road, and made another stop at the Alpine Visitors centre (which was just about to close). The kids had a great time kicking around in the snow at the edge of the parking lot, and we all found the dagger like icicles hanging from the edge of the roof pretty fascinating. Fantastic views on the way up & down.
Nearing the bottom of the road down we saw lots of cars parked by a corner and across the road in a small clearing was a big male Elk & a couple of females. The male was bugling, which echoed around quite dramatically and it was just awesome to see this magnificent beast in his natural habitat. Back at the 5th wheel we toasted marshmallows for desert and wished we could have a few more days in this exquisite mountain wilderness.
Woke up to a beautiful sunny blue sky, with the ground outside all frosted white - even the water pipe connected to the 5th wheel was frozen solid. We hopped in the truck and went to a different part of the Rocky Mountain National Park today. The first walk we did was at a place called 'Alluvial Fan' - an area where a dam burst in 1982 sending a massive (29 million gallons!) flash flood pummelling down the mountain side, sweeping huge boulders and trees in a huge fan shape through this area. The kids had fun playing and climbing on the boulders, while we looked at the pretty waterfall. We had lunch in a picnic area there, and were charmed by a little chipmunk who scampered back and forth and even near our feet at times. A very raucaus bird chattered to us also, we discovered later it was an American Magpie.