Everything appears to be on the up at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Alpine Ridge Trail

No Rocky Mountains, no Estes Park.

No kidding.

Our days in the still-quaint but bustling Colorado village for my dear wife Karen’s Family Reunion were dominated by the looming peaks that make up the Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, even walking along the tourist-trap T-shirt shops, the window-treatments trumpeted the fact that this year marks the 100th anniversary of that glorious park that runs up into the mountains.

On our last full day of our trip, we stopped doing things halfway. Oh, Karen, daughter Elisabeth, boyfriend George Three and I had thoroughly enjoyed our hike with brother Steve and his family and jeep tour adventure with sisters Jana and Lynne and their tribes on Saturday. Chronicled here previousl here previously, they both were a think of beauty.

But the day before we were to say our goodbyes and fly back to the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, we decided to form a car caravan and drive as high as the park’s Trail Ridge Road would allow us. Brothers Steve and Scott had been there on previous visits to Estes Park and heartily endorsed the endeavor. They filled car one, with nephew Ross and cousin Beth and boyfriend Joe. We followed with George Three volunteering to take the wheel of our rented SUV. Steve suggested the best time for the journey would be after our group dinner at Dave’s Roadhouse Bar-B-Que joint. Agreed.

He's up there.

He’s up there.

Yes, the journey is full of twists and turns. Literally and figuratively, such as when we spotted an elk high on a hill to the right and George stopped on a convenient pull-off. I pulled out my iPhone 6.

Everybody's got to eat.

Everybody’s got to eat.

Proud at home.

Proud at home.

My zoom caught the moment in full majesty.

And then George did his best, cautiously, to catch up to Steve, who hadn’t stopped. Elisabeth and Karen spotted his black Toyota several turns, way up ahead. Heck, he wasn’t going anywhere he could lose us, anyway.

Every lot attached to an impressive vista we approached, we looked for that car. And passed it by as the road continued to turn around upon itself. And go up, up, up.

The shops were already closed.

The shops were already closed.

Then we saw Steve pull the car into the biggest lot yet as the road flattened and continued off. We followed, got out, let out breaths in wonder. Not wise, that, here at just short of 12,000 feet above sea level, but the beauty of it all was oh-so-stupendous.

The Continental Divide somewhere below.

The Continental Divide somewhere below.

We stood on the walk, looking down at the valley below us. We cared not that the shops were already closed for the day.

More mountain.

More mountain.

On the opposite side of the parking lot stood a Vision Quest.

Stairway to heaven.

Stairway to heaven.

There lied a foot trail leading to The Peak. People were climbing up and down. Steve and Ross went up. Scott went up. Elisabeth and George went up.

Karen and I decided we had to go up.

I want to take you higher.

I want to take you higher.

We held hands for the first part of the journey, stopping to breath frequently. Then we separated, continuing at our own paces.

Click on any gallery photo for a description. Click on the any gallery’s bottom right photo for an enlarged slide show.

At various points of rest, I cheered on others who passed me. As I climbed, others resting or on their way down cheered me.

One last rock to clear.

One last rock to clear.

Just before the last rise, a rock formation rises right there where you walk.

Picture-perfect location.

Picture-perfect location.

Then, oh, when you get to the top of that last path. It’s a gathering spot of note.

Look's like we made it.

Look’s like we made it.

Those in our group who’d gotten there before us were still admiring the spectacle of it all. We looked, singlularly, and milled about in groups, too.

Notice the jackets. When we started our trip in Estes Park, the temperature was 84ยบ F. In the parking lot, it read 44ยบ.

Down goes the sun.

Down goes the sun.

This also happened to be one heck of a spot to shoot the setting sun during the course of the hour we spent in the lot and on top of the peak.

How can you beat these?

The sun setting with the moon also in the frame is a pretty good result.

After carefully walking down the stairs we sat in our cars until the sky darkened, hoping for a special star show.

One by one, all other vehicles departed. The already whipping winds increased, buffeting our side-by-side cars. First I climbed out and looked up. The moon was bright, but not many stars were out and I quickly jumped back in. Elisabeth and then George and finally I ventured the 50 yards across to the rest rooms and returned back inside.

Steve was the first out of their car, and we all followed him and looked up.

Last gasp.

Last gasp.

Bright beacon.

Bright beacon.

You can count if you'd like.

You can count if you’d like.

It all looked brighter to our eye, except for the sliver of light at the horizon, which was darker than what my iPhone 6 captured for some reason.

It was quite amazing. We felt alone and quite together, the last nine left in Colorado for the first Miner Family Reunion. We all hugged our goodbyes and jumped in the two cars. George valiantly twisted us down that mountain for our last night in Estes Park.

Tomorrow: Thursday: Thank you blue cottage

Friday: One last look at the village

How high up would you like to drive? How high up would you like to climb? What is your favorite picture, and why?

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57 thoughts on “Everything appears to be on the up at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Alpine Ridge Trail

  1. What a beautiful area… always good to get out of the city into nature. I really liked the photo third from the bottom of the fading light creating a silhouette of the mountains. Very nice.

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  2. Some nice shots. It is really green there and with some wild flowers. I liked the shot looking back down those stairs. That was quite a climb. In the photo Bright Beacon I can see a small planet? to the right.

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  3. Some incredibly beautiful shots here, Mark. But I think you’ll agree that nothing can compare to seeing those mountains in person. It takes your breath away…literally, at that altitude. Good on you for making the climb ! โ˜บ

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  4. Well done on making the climb. I no longer remember the elevation I reached. There were two large rocky mountains along the way, and we climbed the tallest of the pair at the end of our excursion. I remember many times I struggled to climb on, and how sore I was days into it, but it was truly the experience of a lifetime, and I’m so glad I did it while I was young, because not only can I not imagine rock climbing now, but I can’t imagine doing the hiking for days and days, either. ๐Ÿ™‚
    So beautiful. So majestic.

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  5. It’s too hard to choose a favourite picture Mark. I like the majestic elk, I like the sunset shot, I like the people shots. Here in the Canadian Rockies, one of my fave places is the continental divide; on one side the river flows toward the ocean, on the side it flows inland. It’s like magic! โค
    Diana xo

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  6. wow, these are stunning photos, mark. and they just kept getting better and better. i tend to feel the altitude when venturing high up, but it would all be worth it to see this. –

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  7. Yes – that’s the one! No matter how high you can drive to a location nothing beats reaching the summit by foot. I have yet to be at the summit of a peak at sunset. It is now on my bucket list

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  8. I love this virtual visit bro Mark. I’ve never been to the top like this before. Had to stop about half way up. I love the sunset series. I also love the snow and ice series. and the scenes from the road. Oh heck, I love them all. A job well done, and done with obvious love.

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  9. Loved the photos – but I started to panic when I saw you guys were standing there at 12,000 feet with the sun quickly setting – and you still had to make it back down. Those switchbacks are scary enough in full sunlight, I can’t even begin to imagine what they would be like by the moonlight!!! Good thing you didn’t eat up there. I went to the Pikes Peak race years ago, we situated ourselves at about 10,000 feet (above the tree line). I had made the mistake of eating breakfast prior to going up. Intestinal gas seems to expand exponentially the higher up you go – can be quiet painful (just saying – for future reference).

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