Day 11--Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I awoke way too early to the sound of two men at the campsite next to us chatting over their morning coffee and couldn't fall back asleep. Still, we decided to have a lazy start to the morning and stayed in our tent until nearly 8:00, reading books and our map of the park, and then had a leisurely breakfast. We were impressed by the beauty of our campsite in the mountains, which we had not been able to fully appreciate the night before. The day was sunny with tons of white puffy clouds, and we were excited to explore the Rocky Mountain National Park.
After we got packed up, we returned to Estes Park to take showers at a Dad's Laundromat. We then found a little local place that could give us our long-overdue oil change, so we pulled up some plastic chairs to the side of the road and ate our lunch of bread and cheese white admiring the view and making a plan of attack for the day.
It was after noon by the time we arrived at the Visitors' Center to get a stamp for Ben's book. The rangers there dashed all our plans for the rest of the day. We had hoped to take a scenic drive up to the snowy heights, but they told us that it was raining up there and there was basically zero visibility. Our second choice had been a trail that ran near our campsite from the night before, but they also nixed that, telling s that it ran past one of the highest pints on the mountain and that we would be seriously in danger of being hit by lightning.
Extremely disappointed, we decided to go off the beaten path. We went down Mary's Lake Road to a separate and far less frequented section of the park. There was another small visitors' center and a mountain on each side. We selected the shorter hike and started our climb of Lily Mountain.
The volunteer at the second Visitors' Center told us the hike was just over a mile, but it certainly felt longer than that. We got out of breath easily because of the uphill slope and the high altitudes, so we had to stop and rest several times. The view was beautiful, and we took plenty of pictures as we explored. Ben also took plenty of time out to look for more rocks for his growing collection, and he found a walking stick for each of us in the woods. We also off-roaded it a bit to get better views. However, we did not make it all the way to the top, because the sky got very dark and the thunder sounded very scary and we were afraid of getting stuck out there in the rain. Apparently these fears were unfounded, however, because it was bright and sunny again by the time we reached the bottom and took off for Denver.
A guy named Austin camped at the site next to ours. He was about our age and having a week-long adventure of his own while driving from his home in Arkansas to Colorado, where he planned to work with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) and begin missionary training. We spent most of the evening talking with him, trading travel stories, and laughing about the disapproving looks we got from all the middle-aged people with their RVs. Ben and I went to bed satisfied but tired, happy that we had been able to talk with another young traveler.
5 / 40