Thursday, October 11, 2007

07Oct10 ­ Lincoln Nebraska to Rocky Mountain National Park

I could really get used to this.  We awoke before day break and watched out the skylight as the late night stars dissolved into a beautiful sunrise.  By the time we left the campsite, we were the only ones there.  On the way out, we filled our water tank. We had made it all the way from Albany NY to here, three days and three nights with about ¼ tank to spare.
Nebraska seemed to go on and on.  We took three hour turns at the wheel.  On my off shift periods, I connected my computer to the internet via a CDMA wireless card and caught up on e-mail, checked in with my work teammates, and attended teleconferences.  An inverter plugged into a 12 volt circuit kept the computer fully charged, and I used the other outlet to top off the cell phone and Bluetooth earpiece. All the way across the country I never once lost connectivity.  Scary thought actually.
We hoped off Interstate 76 east of Denver and savored some rural sights as we headed more northerly towards Greely and Rocky Mountain national park.  Greely has developed into a feedlot center and is surrounded by the large industrial feedlots we’ve read so much about. Immense waste lagoons just down hill from paddock after paddock of mud and excrement caked cows. The stench was horrific and did not stop until we were climbing up the front range above Loveland.
Within 10 minutes of leaving Loveland, the road began to climb rapidly, and the vegetation changed from agriculture to open range and high desert.  Loveland is at 5,000 feet.  Almost in a blink of an eye, bright yellow and orange aspen trees in their full fall glory appeared and the road entered the narrow gorge of the Big Thompson River.  We wound back and forth steadily climbing.  The steep rock canyon walls seemed to grow taller and taller by each turn. We’d reach a bend and be rewarded with the glorious view of  back lit aspens, surrounded by pines, golden sunlight sparkling over the mountain stream rushing down and out to the plains below. A peak’s shadow would engulf us, we’d turn, and repeat the process over and over.  We were very happy.  Our long journey westward had finally brought us back to the terrain that puts us at the most ease. By 6:30 (now in Mountain Time zone) we had nestled the camper into a beautiful and secluded campsite, high above the populated road valley on the shoulder of Long’s Peak (just a few hundred feet shy of Mt Whitney – California’s tallest. The sun set, changing the surrounding mountain peaks shades of orange and pink.  The temperature is now in the low 50’s.  We’re camped above 9,400 feet and can really feel the altitude as we move about, take short hikes, and take care of camp chores.
The camper is luxurious, but small, so we move about in the cramped space with a newly learned ballet.  Each thing has its special place.  Any item out of place, is in the way of something else.  We move things about to get them close to where they are needed and used. Just stowed enough so they don’t rattle, but not so deep that they are difficult to get at and use.  We keep learning and adjusting, moving slowly in each maneuver so as not to bump an elbow, or a knee, or a head, or to knock something loose,
This area was first occupied by the Ute (or Mountain People) over 6,000 years ago.  They lived in bands scattered throughout Colorado and Utah.  Their nomadic lifestyle led them to move about, following the game that traveled through predictable seasonal routes.  In the early 1800’s fur trappers and traders arrived to take beaver pelts which lasted until the 1840’s when a drop in price forced that market to collapse. An 1858 gold rush in the Rockies created the boom towns of Denver, Golden, and Boulder.  The traders eventually spread word of the area’s beauty and tourism grew.  This park was created by Congress in.  At that time, a small band of powerful Coloradians felt that the large mountain range would be taped for its vast repository of natural resources. As it is, a water diversion tunnel was dug more than 15 miles long from the west side of the range (Colorado River drainage) to the east and after passing through two additional sizable tunnels provides agricultural irrigation to the parched farmland below. When you look at the jagged, snow capped peaks it is hard to believe someone would have the vision and skill to dig such a hole.  On the southwest side of the park, Grand Lake and Lake Granby form the headwaters of the Colorado River.  

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