Loveland, CO – Day Eleven was another sunny day brought happiness to our family as they left Casper, Wyoming.
“Well, it was that and the fact that we were leaving Casper,” Michelle said. “Casper was well and fine, but dusty. And we were really looking forward to a state park campground. We much prefer them over RV parks.”
Along the trek, our family stopped at some of the historic sites from the Oregon Trail.
“Laurel loves playing Oregon Trail on the computer, and I played it when I was younger, too,” Greg noted. “It was only natural that we planned our route to encompass some of the more notable sites.”
Included in their journey were still-visible Oregon Trail wagon ruts and Register Cliff outside Guernsey, Wyoming.
Greg was doubtful about the authenticity of signatures on Register Cliff.
“Anyone could have carved anything on that,” said our skeptical patriarch.
“True, and I’m sure they did, but look at some of them – some of them use letter stylings we no longer use, like the way that ‘J’ is formed, and others use name abbreviations we don’t use now, like ‘Go.’ for ‘George,’” Michelle pointed out. “Oh, and look at that one, that one is engraved with such care it looks like it was done by someone who set book type or something.”
Michelle probably had more sleep than Greg the night before.
It was hot in Wyoming, sunny and dusty. Still, the family soldiered on to Fort Laramie National Historic Site, another Oregon Trail notable site. There, Laurel earned her fifth Junior Ranger badge.
“I just eat this stuff up,” Michelle noted. “We spent a lot more time there than we really intended to spend, which meant we had to eat hastily-assembled sandwiches in the truck after walking all over Ft. Laramie, but it was just too cool to pass up.”
The family arrived in Loveland, Colorado just after 4 p.m. and set up camp. Shortly thereafter, a cool breeze started blowing and the family started bickering. It took two attempts before the family could leave the campground without a meltdown.
“Everyone was hot, tired, and cranky from all the dust and driving – but it was a beautiful evening,” Michelle said, “Of course, then we got lost in Loveland and Ft. Collins. We were relying on Google directions and they left something to be desired. Thank god for Greg’s phone and Google maps. I think Greg hates Colorado now.”
Even so, the family had a decent dinner, then returned to camp and fell asleep.
Day Twelve dawned with more perfect weather. Michelle awoke early and went for a run near the lake.
“My lungs weren’t killing me at 5,000 feet the way they were killing me at 8,000 feet,” she said. “I was still slower than I am in St. Louis. Not that I set any land speed records there.”
The family members took their time getting up and around, but then made their way into Rocky Mountain National Park.
“We drove the Trail Ridge Road,” Greg said, “and then I carried Ethan on my shoulders from the Alpine Visitor Center up to 12,000 feet. Michelle thought I was going to die.”
“True,” Michelle added, “but he’s not the only one. I remarked that I sounded like John Henry’s hammer suckin’ wind.”
Despite the difficulty of high elevation climbing, the family agreed it was wroth the trip. “We had never been in the Alpine Tundra ecosystem before, and marveled at the different plant life. We also got a family photo of us at 12,005 feet. Very cool,” Laurel said.
Very cool was right. It was pretty chilly
After their Rocky Mountain National Park adventure, the family returned to Estes Park, Colorado, and rode a big slide.
“It was scary,” Ethan remarked. “I stayed on my bottom and on my blanket but it still scared me.”
Michelle added, “After riding down that slide, I understood why they asked patrons to refrain from sliding if they had back trouble. As is usual with me, I ignored the warning and felt a little twinge on the way down.”
Next, the family rode up the aerial tramway, built in 1955. It fit about 12 people at a time, and went up and up and up.
“I did better if I faced the direction we were going. Things weren’t so great when I looked back behind us,” Michelle said.
The family eventually returned to camp for the evening. The children played on the playground next to the campsite, and the adults relaxed in the waning light as the temperatures cooled significantly.
“It’s really very pretty here,” Michelle said, “and it doesn’t bother me that we’re downwind from both beef AND dairy operations, or that the people in the campsite behind us are playing really shitty music!”
Current tripmeter reading: 3149 miles.