I Live In the Rockies!

Today I drove up to 12,800 feet and then climbed up to a ridge at 13,100 feet! I am on vacation but this is all right here at home! I can’t get over living in the Rocky Mountains. Here is the story…

We decided to drive out to mount Evans for out Memorial Day picnic. We took I-70 up to Hwy 103 and then drove up to Echo Lake and then you turn off unto a road that is controlled by the park service and it costs $10.00 per car to drive to the top of the mountain. However because there is so much snow the road all the way to the top, which is at 14,000 feet, is closed. You can only go as far as Summit Lake, 12,800 feet, so they only charge you $5.00.

Hwy 103 leading up to Echo Lake and the road for Mt. Evans is a scenic byway and runs through the Arapahoe National Forest. The scenery was just beautiful and we stopped along the way to take lots of pictures. We came to one picnic area that had a mountain stream with lots of waterfalls flowing right through it. We walked down the stream for a long way and played then we hiked back up again and had our picnic lunch right by the biggest waterfall of them all. It was really amazing. After lunch the kids and I crossed the stream and climbed up some boulders to the top of the next ridge. That was great too.

After lunch we continued the drive up the mountain to Echo Lake. The lake parking was very small and very full so we decided not to stop and continued on to the access road for Mount Evans. After paying the $5.00 we started up the road and it was much more narrow than the main highway. There was snow on both sides of us by now and in some places it towered over the car in a giant wall. The drop off on the side of the road was very scary at times. The main difference in the mountain roads here and the ones we drive on in Tennessee is that we are above the tree line most of the way up and there is nothing but rocks under the road. We even saw a mountain goad running along the road but the stupid camera stopped working just as I tried to take pictures.

After the longest 9 miles of my life we finally made it up to Summit Lake. What an amazing sight! Everything was covered in snow and the lake was still frozen over. It was not very cold and we were able to walk around without freezing to death. They had a trail open across the melting snow that took you out to a ridge overlooking a giant valley. We made the hike over and it even snowed on us a little while we walked. By the time we got there the sun was out again and it was very warm. Ethan took his jacket off and ran around playing in the snow while Natalie, Maddy and I just sunbathed on a big rock. The altitude really made it hard to walk up the slope so we all needed a little rest.

After chilling out a little I decided I wanted to try to climb up the ridge. Ethan elected to come along and we set off. Much of the snow was melted off but it was still about two feet deep in some places. We had to take about three breaks along the way up the ridge but we finally made it to what I decided to call the top. After waiving to Natalie and Maddy we took lots of pictures and headed down again. I asked one of the park rangers how high we had gone and he helped me figure it out. Final height 13,100 feet!

After climbing back down we headed back down the mountain. More white knuckle driving and then we stopped at a cute little gift shop at Echo Lake. We continued along Hwy 103 rather than backtrack but we were too tired by then to stop and enjoy much more of the great view. We did stop at one more National Forest picnic area, there are about 20 along that loop of highway, and I found myself on top of a 1,000-foot cliff. It was an amazing view and you could just walk out to the edge and look down. Very scary!

On our way home we found at least another 500 things to do and places to go. When I was talking to the ranger at the lake he told me he has been hiking and climbing the mountains of Colorado for 38 years and he still does not know Colorado. There is literally a lifetime of experiences waiting for us here. I will post pictures on MySpace right now. If you are reading this on my blogspace go to www.myspace.com/daviswatts to see the pictures.


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