A Rocky Mountain Park Adventure: Mike and Christina

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Our good friends Mike and Christina hosted my wife and I for a few nights while in Boulder. Our last day included a three hour tour in Estes Park, so with camera in hand we loaded up the SUV. We had no real agenda other than enjoying a quiet afternoon in the mountains. Shortly after entering Rock Mountain National Park we found an innocent looking one way dirt road winding up the mountain. The 11 mile road had several treacherous switchbacks and vertical cliffs but was well traveled and reasonably easy to navigate. We stopped every few miles to enjoy the aspens, snap a few photos, and marvel at the alpine meadows. We hiked a bit at 12,000 feet until our lungs and the bitter mountain wind urged us to descend. Mike carefully consulted an iPhone GPS map and I confidently concurred with the chosen direction. There were two paved roads that joined our dirt road at the summit so we had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. The decent to the valley floor at sunset was nothing short of breath taking and even the elk greeted us with bugles at the bottom. Little did we know that our oxygen starved brains betrayed our “excellent” map reading abilities and led us down the wrong side of the mountain, 140 some miles from our intended destination. We stopped at the nearest hodunk local bar for dinner and when we asked the spitfire waitress the best way back to Boulder she exclaimed “Oh, you’re from Minnesota? You had best just stay the night!” In the end we concluded that the populated highway, thru Winter Park, was safer than going back up and over the mountain at night. Our 11 mile, “three hour tour”, into Rocky Mountain Nation Park suddenly required 3 hours just to get back home. We were quite tired upon arriving back in Boulder but were in good spirits and already laughing at our silly mistake. Ten hours of mountain driving might seem like forever, but with good company and a camera it was all worthwhile.