5. Rocky Mountain National Park

It was with a heavy heart that we left the majestic Grand Tetons, but at the same time we were excited to get to Colorado to see the Rockies, friends and family. Along the way we stopped in Thermopolis, Wyoming for a couple of days on the recommendation of our good buddy Jeremy Philips. Thermopolis, apart from the cool name, is home to the worlds largest mineral hot springs, rock shops, and a sweet dinosaur museum. Great little town! Wendy was a little put off by the huge mineral pools our RV park, aptly named “The Fountain of Youth”, said it reminded her of a B version of the pool in the movie “Cocoon“. However, I found soaking with the elderly campers from our RV park, under the stars, quite relaxing.

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After soaking in Thermopolis, we moved on to the Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins. We found a good campground to explore it from, called Inlet Bay. Unfortunately, we just missed the season but in warmer weather, you can rent out everything from party boats to stand up paddleboards (SUPs). Right next to the campground is a great restaurant you just can’t miss called Al’s Canyon Grill where we waited out a few storms in the comfort of classic rock, bacon cheeseburgers, pizza and Shirley Temples (Indi). However, we were sad to miss the Tuesday special:

Canyon Grill near Horsetooth

Another highlight of this leg was not only exploring the sites of Fort Collins, but also taking our brewery visit count to four. Make sure to check out Odell and New Belgium (and the other 50 kazillion breweries) if you find yourself in Fort Collins.

We did run into some inclement weather during our stay in Fort Collins. I guess we can’t complain, as it has been sunny for 21 of the 22 days we’ve been on the road so far. But after looking at the forecast, we sadly decided to bypass the Rocky Mountain National Park. We were sure it was beautiful, but figured rain, sleet, and freezing temperatures would put a damper on our stay. Regardless, it was more or less on our way so we decided to do a drive-by. Upon reaching the gateway town of Estes Park we found blue skies, warm temperatures, and elk that were in the middle of their rutting season. Glad we didn’t make any reservations in Boulder because we headed into the park and got the last campsite in the Moraine Park campground, definitely the best campground we’ve stayed in so far on our trip.

Not a bad spot

Not a bad spot

The weather forecasters continued to be proven wrong and we got three days of sun and mild temperatures at night. The elk were in full on rutting (mating) season as advertised. We probably saw a couple hundred during our three days in the park; our last day there, we woke up to a harem of more than 15 elk probably 20 feet from our trailer (for you city folk that’s what you call an elk herd). Not only could you see the elk, but the bulls were busy bugling to announce their presence to other elk, either staking claim to their territories and harems, or posturing.

We enjoyed a great ranger talk all about the park and the non-stop elk party.

Aside from the wild life, we of course went on a great hike to Cub Lake, where Indi discovered a love of “bouldering”. We also drove across the park on Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the U.S., topping out at more than 12,000’ (3650 m).

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Our final night, we met up with our neighbors in the campground, a younger couple on their honeymoon. Jill and Ronan. Jill was from Connecticut, where they started their journey, and her husband Ronan was Irish. Well, we figured it would just be rude to not invite an Irishman over for a wee bit of Jamesons, which of course turned in to a fun evening of sitting around the campfire getting to know one another.

All in all, a great stop on our journey. Next up: catching up with friends and family in the Denver area before heading on to southern Utah.