Good morning from Fort Collins, Colorado! Yesterday was the first day of our trip and was incredibly long. We spent Monday night in a Newark Airport Hotel since we had to be at the airport around 3:45am to catch our flight. I had us take the 3:30 shuttle (which meant waking up at 2:45) figuring there could be no problems or delays since it was such a wee hour of the morning buuuut I was wrong, thank you EWR. The hotel shuttle ended up dropping us off at the air tran thing instead of the terminal, and we spent about 25 minutes waiting for it to come. Once we finally got to the terminal we rounded the corner to see a horrific line at the American Airlines desk, like 100 people. At 4:00am!!!!!!!! Who knew???? I threw some elbows and sassed the airport agent to get us to the front of the line since we had to check a bag, there was noooo way we were missing this flight. I seem to have some issue with being late to flights and I wasn’t going to let it happen this time, but we will see how it goes on the back end of this trip…
We took a 2 hour flight to Chicago, and then it was another 2 hours to Denver. We arrived by 9am Denver time, 11am back in NJ. We waited anxiously to see the checked bag on the conveyer belt, I really had no confidence in the AA workers back in Newark. But it appeared! And we sprinted out the airport doors to catch a bus to the city. Props to MJ for figuring out the city bus route rather than taking a cab, we probably saved about $70 on that. The bus route took a little longer but after one transfer we made it to the stop where the Enterprise was located for our rental car. We took care of securing that and hopped into our trusty steed for the next two weeks: a large and in charge black? Blue? Gray? (Can’t remember from my hotel room) Chevy Traverse! I love it and it drives really nicely!
On our way out of the Denver suburbs we made a few stops; the grocery store, an Apple Store to replace MJ’s lost headphones (lol), and a mom and pop store called Outdoorsgeek where we picked up our camping rental gear. The people there were really super friendly (I’m noticing that about Coloradoans) but I still felt really self conscious about my lack of camping experience. Which means I didn’t ask them to show us how to set up the tent… Which means MJ and I will be in for an experience when we reach our first campground. Stay tuned for that!
We finally got on the road for real around 1:00 and made our way towards Boulder, CO. This was kind of an unplanned stop on the itinerary because we didn’t think we would have time to go, but everything was working out for us so we squeezed it in. We drove through the town, passing UC Boulder along the way, and parked near the Main Street called Pearl St. We walked up and down Pearl, admiring the shops and bars and restaurants, street performers and general population of the area. Everyone in Colorado is so cool. We probably stood out like sore thumbs. We had a slice of pizza for lunch and then went back to the campus to walk around. It is a beautiful place! All of the buildings are a pretty brick, but not like the normal red brick. It looked western and welcoming and I enjoyed walking through the quad and the student union.
We left Boulder in the direction of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain NP. The clouds darkened and we noticed some lighting above the mountains but we kept going, knowing that the weather changes rapidly. It was a fun drive up to Estes Park; the road wound around a small river and we were surrounded by rocks and houses tucked into the wood. The views got better and better as we approached RMNP. We drove through Estes Park, which is a quaint but really nice town filled with tourists and shops and restaurants. After entering the Park officially, we made our way along Trail Ridge Road with stops at overlooks and trails outlined along the way. I’ll note that by now it was around 5-6:00 and it was beginning to storm in the mountains. But we pushed on; there were other people out so it couldn’t be that bad right? The Rocky Mountains are absolutely stunning and we couldn’t get enough of the views. It was crazy that on one side of the Mountain it was lightning and raining and on the other side it was blue skies and sunny. We were able to walk a trail at the Alpine Visitor Center, wayyyyyy up at the top. I think we were around 2.5 miles above sea level. I was so out of breath, I didn’t realize how the elevation really effects you. We were surrounded by mountains and it was stunning. After our short hike we turned around to make our way back out, it was now around 7:00 and I was nervous about driving in the dark through the winding roads. On our way out we saw animals! Some caribou looking guys and an animal called a marmot. Look them up, they’re really funny looking.
We made it back out and drove with the lightning storm, scary but cool, towards our end point of the day. We reached Fort Collins around 9:00 and stopped downtown for dinner at a burger place. We made it to our hotel by 10 and called it a night!
It was an amazing first day in the Rockies and I can’t wait to get back on the road today. We will be in Wyoming by tonight!