As metro Denver has grown ever larger, Rocky Mountain National Park has almost become an urban park. Yesterday the campground emptied and we watched a huge line of cars leaving the area after the weekend. Nevertheless, there are still too many people here for the space allotted. The typical weather pattern here is a bright, sunny morning with storm clouds gathering over the mountains in the afternoon. Sometimes they generate brief showers; sometimes they clear out again by evening. So, the typical visitor pattern is to get up and get going. Hiking is the thing to do here and the parking areas at the trail heads fill quickly. On the Bear Lake Road, the most popular road in the park, extra lots have been built and shuttle buses run up and down the road at frequent intervals to drop off and pick up hikers.
We did not get up and get going today, because there were sprinkles on the windshield in the morning. But as the sky brightened mid-morning, we headed down Bear Lake Road to investigate. Rangers stood at the parking lot at the end of the road and turned most cars away, because there was nowhere left to park. But when we got to the entrance, they let us in, saying one spot had just opened up. We couldn't believe our luck, but when we circulated through the lot, nothing was vacant except for the handicapped spots. I brought my handicapped hang-tag along and with it, the rangers allowed us to park. It feels kind of weird to use a handicapped tag when you are there to go for a hike, but the rules are the rules. We felt slightly guilty, but not guilty enough to leave and take the shuttle bus.
Bear Lake is an alpine jewel. It was perfectly still when we hiked around it and in some spots trees began to exhibit fall colors. After my breathing problems yesterday, I took it slow and easy. We were at 9,500' altitude here. Still feeling good we decided to take the longer and hillier climb to Alberta Falls. By now the shuttle buses had begun to bring more and more hikers to the park and the trail began to fill. We are here after the high season on a week day. I hate to think what it must be like here on a holiday weekend.
We are here for elk rutting season. People tell us that the male elk fight for dominance and you can hear them crashing together and bugling as they decide who will father next year's crop. We haven't seen a single animal during the day, so we went out at dusk. As usual for national parks, you don't need to spot the animal; you just look for a group of parked cars. We saw one magnificent male with a huge rack who yodeled every so often, but we couldn't tell who he was yodeling at. Rangers hovered nearby to ensure that none of us went too close to take selfies.