Before birds, before the other campers,
before the sun: under darkness we snuck
away, under dawn’s nose. The road was blurred,
chased by the day. We raced against the luck
of the early draw: the less-used entrance,
guard station empty, roadways not yet clogged,
wildlife wandering free. Our eyes entranced,
winding the spell up to alpine highs. Fogged
and dazzled, enchanted by rocky views
where marmots basked, elks grazed, and chipmunks ran
in wild glee, we sidestepped the endless queues.
Meltwater rushes from the mountain tops
chasing a cycle that will never stop.
Everything about the experience we had going to Rocky Mountain National Park in 2019 was magical. We knew it would be crazy crowded, so we made a point to stay on the opposite side from Estes Park (where The Whole World goes in). We got up at 5am and packed up camp like ninjas; we arrived so early there wasn’t anyone at the guard station yet. It was beautiful being there before the long lines of traffic began. We were able to park at Alpine and walk around. By the time we got to where you could park to go to Bear Lake, it was Game Over; even the overflow lot was full. On the way toward the Estes Park side we managed to score a parking spot by some picnic tables and a river; otherwise we just drove through.
If anybody knows if there’s day of the year that this gorgeous park isn’t heaving with tourists, I’d love for you to share that info with me! We have a dream to get a campsite *inside* the park so we can experience more of it. Maybe someday. In the meantime, there are other similarly beautiful, more remote, wilder places to explore.
Thank you for reading!