Take a hike, gladly, ride a jeep with the gang

The first day we walked around the town of Estes Park, outside a storefront my wonderful daughter Elisabeth spotted a bunch of people hopping aboard a big jeep.

We wondered about the adventure awaiting.

The next day, we ducked inside, grabbed a brochure, and talked turkey with the woman behind the counter. Well, elk, actually, which we hoped to see on the sunset tour on which me, my dear wife Karen, wonderful daughter and terrific boyfriend George Three signed up for Saturday. That gave us the rest of the day to talk about the trip with those with us in Colorado for Karen’s Family Reunion. The jeep sat 14, the reservation was under my name, and seats were just a phone call away. Load-up was 5:45 p.m.

We ended up with 10 total takers.

But first those that passed wanted to take a morning hike, and we said yes to that, too.

Joan, Ross, Flynne, Steve, Jordan and Lanie, great hikers all.

Joan, Ross, Flynne, Steve, Jordan and Lanie, great hikers all.

Into Rocky Mountain National Park we drove in our rented SUV, following brother Steve and his wife Joan, nephew Ross, and daughter Flynne with husband Jordan and baby daughter Lanie.

No spots ahead.

No spots ahead.

It was a great day for a hike. In fact, the parking lot around Sprague Lake was full. Undeterred. our lead vehicle, piloted by Jordan and Flynne, found a nearby spot on the side of the road.

Bird high in the blue sky.

Bird high in the blue sky.

Woods we passed.

Woods on the side.

That allowed us a walk to soak in the scenery before our hike around the lake path.

Sunny dap for a loop.

Sunny dap for a loop.

We all started off together, but eventually Elisabeth and George Three hung back so he could take his time with the great camera dad George Two loaned him for the trip.

Sprague Lake, in full glory.

Sprague Lake, in full glory.

Our park, our lake, our treat this sunny Saturday afternoon.

Bird's-eye view.

Bird’s-eye view.

I caught a crow relaxing on a dead tree.

Do you see what I see?

Do you see what I see?

And then I caught an artist capturing what his mind and hand made of this beautiful day.

What to do if you see a bear. Really.

What to do if you see a bear. Really.

After the circle, we all took off up the hill, after carefully reading the bear-watch instructions.

The kids are alright.

The kids are alright.

George Three said he was ready for anything.

That night, we were ready for the park on wheels.

Our chariot awaits.

Our chariot awaits.

In the office, we discovered that a full bus would be going up the big mountain. Our group of 10 would be joined by two other couples.

We liked the name of our ride.

We liked the name of our ride.

Niece Kimi was especially glad that our jeep was named Kimmy.

Stormy gets the shot.

Stormy gets the shot.

On the way to the park, tour guide Neil chatted us up, making sure he learned the names of all 14 passengers. Nice man. Engaging. He knew where to take us, too.

Rock climbing, worth it.

Rock climbing, worth it.

Our first stop mandated a short but strenuous climb up a rocky path. At the top was a breath-taking waterfall made by nature when a lake flooded in 1983.

Neil explains the forces of nature to our group.

Neil explains the forces of nature to our group.

This we know because Neil told us the what’s and when’s.

Elisabeth and George Three's moment.

Elisabeth and George Three’s moment.

On the walk down the hill, we all decided we’d never have found this place on our own, and declared the $69.95 price of the tour worth it.

Yes, deer.

Yes, deer.

Driving up the mountain, we all had our eyes open for animals. Neil told us to call out at any spotting. The first stop was for a deer.

Oh, a mule deer.

Oh, a mule deer.

The gentleman behind me, from Austin, Texas, informed me that this particular species was a mule deer. The guys we have up in Syracuse are whitetail.

Yes, elk.

Yes, elk.

Neil didn’t even have to do a turn-around for the big guy that appeared on the right side of our jeep.

Some folks excitedly shouted out that a moose was ahead.

I dreamed of my days of watching the TV show Northern Exposure and the majestic creatures that roamed Alaska, where my sister-in-law Jana, niece Dacia and nephew Drew on this very Jeep lived.

Not a moose.

Not a moose.

Alas, it was a big, brown elk. Cool, still. Happy, yes.

Neil also pulled off at a spot with a majestic vista. This National Park at dusk …

And the valley below.

And the valley below.

Setting sun …

Orange you glad to see this?

Orange you glad to see this?

I look at clouds that way.

I look at clouds that way.

The last stop was our friend Sprague Lake from our earlier visit.

Kimmy with the wings up.

Kimmy with the wings up.

Beverages and snacks, included in the price, were unloaded to picnic tables. Our choice was beer, Lime- or Berry-a-Ritas, soda and water, and chips, cookies, power bars …

Everybody but the guy with the iPhone 6.

Everybody but the guy with the iPhone 6.

The group there before us left us their campfire and a bag of marshmallows, too.

On the way back to the storefront, Neil put the sides and top of the Jeep up. The temperatures had fallen. We all were wearing the sweatshirts they’d told us to bring for the trip. He put a soothing soundtrack on the PA. A good time was had by all.

Tomorrow: Denver really is a zoo

Sunday: The crush baseballs, don’t they?

Have you ever been to a National Park, and if so, what did you think? Have you taken a group tour, and if so, how did it go? Which is your favorite photo, and why?

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54 thoughts on “Take a hike, gladly, ride a jeep with the gang

  1. MB your photos are particularly clear on this post. I like the first shot of the Elk because you captured another photographer in the foreground which I think is a cool perspective. That crystal clear lake is pretty stunning too. It makes me want to leap in even though I know it is fffffreeeeeezing. Your Colorado series has definitely made me want to check this place out.

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    • Thanks so much, DE. The photographer in the foreground is daughter’s BF George Three, so I like it particularly because of that. And baby Lainie ran through the stream and loved it while mom and dad Flynne and Jordan couldn’t stand the cold! I hope you get to check this place out with your eyes and lenses, my dear friend. ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely photos – as always. Looks like your family had a great time!!! I particularly like the one of the last rays of sun on the face of the mountain. I took my kids up to that National Park – told them to wear jackets because it was going to be cold (there was snow on the ground) – they refused, and I have multiple photos of them shivering with little blue lips because they were so cold.

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  3. Awesome scenery and photos Mark. And that Jeep is one heck of a piece of engineering – love the side loading and steps, very efficient and professional (you had to know that as an old trucker I’d be looking at the transportation – would love to check it out sometime :D)

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    • It was really efficient in the body mechanics, Paul. And it had to have a lot of guts to get us up that mountain, too. Neil said it had 520 HP, and I told him to get those Broncos going in honor of Denver’s NFL team. He liked my sense of humor.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve made me want to visit Estes Park again, Mark! I was there during mating season. There were elk holding up traffic walking down the main drag downtown:). It was amazing! Beautiful pics and I’m glad you had a great time!

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    • I can only imagine those majestic beasts on the main drag downtown, Kate. Oh, what a sight that must have been! I’m glad my posts have brought back such great memories, my friend. πŸ™‚

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  5. They do shoot horses, so surely they crush baseballs. I tell you what, those pics don’t even look real. How can the sky be so blue and clear? You’d think there’d be a sky full of pot smoke on the breeze, but no. Just Bob Ross happy trees. What a great family memory.

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  6. What a great photo display of the day, Mark. Can you believe the blue in that sky ?? I once said I didn’t know how any one could hunt elk, then one appeared at our campsite. It was like a very large horse with antlers, up close and personal. ☺

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  7. Excellent pics my friend, the commentary was superb, had me feeling as though I was one of the party.
    The scenery is beautiful, a great expedition for which I think was admirably priced.
    Thanks for the tour.

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  8. WOW! I mean like a bold, underlined, 87 font large WOW! First, as a side note, how weird the way the sides of that bus opened up! LOL! The elk was so cool, and the view there is AMAZING! I love that guy painting! Add I totally L.O.V.E. that photo of the crow so much, I want you to enlarge and frame it for the Little Bitty! That’s so cool! πŸ˜€ Yes, you’ve made up my mind… next road trip: Destination Colorado! Thanks for sharing!

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