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Rocky Mountain National Park
August 16-21, 2018
by Gabrielle McConnell

This was a fantastic trip, no question about it! There were 23 of us who made our way to the YMCA of the Rockies in Colorado. As luck would have it, Tamar and Sue were in town on a camping trip, so they were able to connect with us for a hike and dinners. We stayed in the YMCA of the Rockies, which, by the way, is a phenomenal place. There is too much to describe and way too many lovely pictures from everyone, so we’ll just provide a brief recap of the trip.

The YMCA—what a great place to stay and so convenient! Set on hundreds of acres adjacent to the Rocky Mountain National Park. On-site cafeteria and hike masters, climbing wall, resident elk, shuttle system … what more could one want?

The YMCA [photo by John S]
hikers statue
Who does it better? [photos by Eileen and by Chuck]
YMCA grounds from the Administration Building. [photo by Monika]

Day one: Friday, August 17

Hike to Sprague Lake from the YMCA. The rules of the Y and Rocky Mountain National Park are that we have a hike master for each 9 hikers, so we had plenty of hike masters with us. Tamar and Sue joined us for this hike as they were in town for another camping trip.

This hike was a wonderful introduction to hiking at high elevation. As everyone knows, the altitude impact sneaks up on you. The hike leaders did a great job not only explaining the trail and history etc., but also helping us adjust to the altitude. The trail wound its way from the hike center in to the actual Rocky Mountain National Park.

Breakfast in the cafeteria. [photo by Monika]
Breakfast in the cafeteria. [photo by Monika]
Preparing for Hike group picture 1. [photo by Li]
Preparing for Hike group picture 2. [photo by Li]
Sprague Lake.
Sprague Lake Group Shot.
Lunch at Sprague Lake.
Some 4-legged hikers shared the trail.
Another day in Rocky Mountain National Park. [photo by Wayne]

This evening we went in to Estes park for dinner at “The Other Side”, a restaurant overlooking water (of course). The town has so many wonderful places to visit and great eateries.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” [photo by John S]
Night falls in Estes Park. [photo by John S]

Day two: Saturday, August 18

No planned hikes or activities. Some of us went on hikes, others did a drive on the Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road is a 48 mile stretch of road that links Estes Park to Grand Lake. It is designated a scenic byway and is the highest elevation paved road in the US. It crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass, 10,758 ft. Fascinating, because it is above tree line … and cold and windy.

We learned the term “Animal Jam” from the Park Rangers. Any time you see a bunch of cars pulled over on the side of the road, there is bound to be an animal. We pulled over and sure enough saw the moose.

Trail Ridge Road. [photo by John S]
Windblown ridge near the Continental Divide. [photo by John S]
Continental Divide. [photo by Monika]
The moose was part of the wildlife. [photo by Monika]
Near the Headwaters of the Colorado River. [photo by Chuck]

We had a barbecue tonight on the grounds of the YMCA. They really do a great job. Everyone agreed that the brisket was exceptional. John was kind enough to provide the entertainment with his guitar. He was joined by Cody, one of the servers who had just arrived up from Arizona to start work there.

The Y puts on a great barbecue.
John and Cody provided sing-along entertainment.

This is the day most of us had the pleasure to meet the resident elk on the grounds of the Y. Walking through the grounds to the BBQ we saw this huge animal out of the corner of our eye. He was just standing there, eating. He was there when we walked back from the BBQ as well. Pretty amazing!

Resident Elk at the Y.

Day three: Sunday, August 19

We had another scheduled hike today with the hike masters. This time it would be the Loch with an extension to Mills Lake. The day was a bit cooler and cloudier, but interestingly enough we did not get rained on. Several in our group opted for other hikes. The thing is, there is so much to do and so many hikes to take, it is really hard to go wrong. For the Loch and Mills Lake hike we drove to a shuttle stop in the park and then took the shuttle to Glacier Gorge trailhead. There is limited parking at the trailheads, but fortunately the shuttle system works great.

The Loch, Mills Lake hike.
The Loch, Mills Lake hike. [photo by Wayne]
800-year-old tree. [photo by Wayne]
Loch hike lunch stop.
Arizona Trailblazers hikers the Loch.
Bear Lake. [photo by John S]
Bierstadt Lake Trail. [photo by John S]
Bierstadt Lake Hikers. [photo by John S]
Happy Hour. [photo by Monika]

We had an impromptu happy hour in the conference room allotted to us—nice little party before dinner on-site at the Y.

Day four: Monday, August 20

A large number of us went on a river rafting adventure, while others, of course, went hiking.

Trailblazers become River Rafters. [photo by John S]
Put in Point. [photo by John S]
Rafters shoot the rapids. [photo provided by John S. but taken by Rapid Transit Photo]
Poudre River. [photo by John S]

This evening we went out to Sweet Basilico, a highly recommended restaurant, and it was excellent. Sue and Tamar’s camping trip had ended that day, so they joined us for dinner. As we all chatted about the trip and what we’d done, what we’d seen, it was clear that we all enjoyed the trip. Many of us are already planning on coming back. The group dinner was a wonderful way to end a great trip.

Dinner at Sweet Basilicos. [photo by Tamar]

Day five: Tuesday, August 21

We checked out and all made our way to our next destination. Some extended the trip to do some exploring in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, while many of us headed back to the airport.

Colorado Springs big horn sheep. [photo by Li]
Garden of the Gods. [photo by Chuck]

I would like to thank everyone on this trip for help making it a success. I especially want to thank Monika, Chuck and Jim for logistical and carpooling help. It truly ‘takes a village’ to make these trips work.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated September 3, 2018