We left Chicago at around 6:30AM flying into Denver on Southwest. This was my first time flying Southwest after a lot of flying, mostly on Delta. A few things were different — the main one being no predetermined seats. Southwest has everyone line up by check in number and then you board taking any seat you want. This is apparently for efficiency since people who want to hurry to find their seat will board faster and people boarding later will just sit in a seat since they don’t have to make their way to any specific seat. Janet and I were able to get seats together about 2/3 of the way back on the plane both in and out of Denver.
By the nature of leaving at 6:30 AM, we got to Denver quite early. After claiming luggage, we went to Avis. (Side note: Avis somehow charged two different rates depending on whether I was logged in or not. I’m not sure what settings I had going on, but when I was logged in, using my standard work account, the car cost about $150 more than when I was logged out.) While walking down the row to our car, we passed a green Mazda 2 which yielded some entertainment. Upon reaching the end of the row, we realized we had passed our car and turned back to arrive right at that very same Mazda 2 — which was actually fine, it served the purpose nicely.
Our first stop in Denver was the REI, with the only real reason being the need to acquire a single isobutane canister for the Narrows hike later in the trip. On the way out of Denver, heading toward Rocky Mountain National Park we stopped at a Sam’s Club and a Walmart (Colorado doesn’t have Meijer) for supplies. We ended up getting into Estes Park around 3:00 in the afternoon, just in time to come to a complete halt on behalf of some elk in the road.
After marveling at our first wildlife spotting, we noticed there were more elk wandering through town. We drove up into town a bit to see about 12 elk walking around what was a Senior Center. Pretty soon, they headed back over to the lake, and like the gawking tourists we were, followed them there in the Frog. This was a sizable herd and we were not by any means the only ones who wanted to watch them. We parked and spent a good bit of time wandering in the park with the elk and taking pictures and videos. I did get one good video of two bulls doing battle, but at the moment, I’m not sure how to cleanly embed video in this page. Maybe later.
After our elk curiosities were satisfied, we continued up into Rocky Mountain National Park for a drive through tour. We stopped briefly at the ranger station, discovering that it was apparently the last day they were going to be open for the season. This didn’t really affect our plans at all, but it did mean we were there on the border of what’s considered to be the normal season. As we drove up into the park, we came upon a second herd of elk just at the park’s official entrance. We stopped along the road there to again watch the elk, listen to the bulls bugle and got to see the kids play fighting.
Up up up and then down down down again into the town of Grand Lake just a bit after sunset. There we found the Bighorn Lodge, which seemed a suitable place to stay for the night. It had a hot tub, which was a major advantage for Janet given that she had just run her marathon the day before. You might wonder who runs a marathon and then goes on a hiking vacation and think that such a person might be rather insane. I couldn’t really argue with you on that one either, but that’s a different story, and not really my story.