Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 7

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 7

Rocky Mountain Bound:

Yay! We are finally on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park! First, we had to make a pit stop at the mechanic in a nearby town called Loveland. We pulled up and parked in between several other VW buses. The shop owners were on a lunch break so we decided to cook up some quesadillas in the parking lot. Finally, the long awaited day had come where we could get the hex-bar fixed (that broke back in Tennessee). We had the replacement part with us and it was fixed in a few hours. We had the chance to chat with the friendliest mechanics we’ve ever encountered and got some great recommendations on things to do while in the park.

And we were off! We chugged up the backgrounds climbing higher and higher as we neared Rocky Mountain National Park. Twisting and turning around corners that offered vistas even more beautiful than the ones before it.

“Can you believe we’re really here?”

“Not one bit.”

The bus was running pretty hot, and I don’t blame her. Those mountains were steep and she needed a break. So we pulled over at a stop that gave us our first peak at the glaciers ahead of us. We played with the chipmunks and waited a while until she would start back up again, although it felt like ages. Minutes later we were passing by the “Entering Rocky Mountain National Park” sign to welcome us to the first big destination. After getting some advice and maps from a ranger at the visitor center, we headed back through the quaint town of Estes Park to find the trail head in a seldom visited corner of the park.

We began to climb the 7 miles to the top of Estes Cone (which looks like a nipple looming above us). I closed my eyes as I took in the warm afternoon breeze that rippled through the aspens and the smell of fresh pine needles around us. Most of my hike was spent huffing and puffing up the steep mountain trail while trying to keep Conrad in my view ahead of me. The higher we climbed, the more our view of Longs Peak opened up in front us.

“You want to climb that one when we finish this trail?”

(Climbers must have repelling gear and a bivy permit, which we did not)

The final stretch was a tough one, and the trail could only be spotted by finding the rock cairns to guide the way. A fun rock scramble on our hands and knees welcomed us to the very top of Estes Cone and the views were worth the work. Every place i set my eyes on amazed me. Gusts of wind rippled through my body as I stared at the snowy peaks of the Rockies that were surrounding me. We enjoyed a snack and tried to hide our food from the sneaky alpine squirrels. We stayed as long as we could before heading back down the mountain as light was leaving us.


“I guess we should find somewhere to sleep, right?”

So we headed back down the mountain to find a desolate country road in the park.

“There it is! I found our spot!”

We parked on the side of State Road 7 with a nice mountain view in front of us. Time to pop the top and get cooking.


The next morning I woke to Conrad nudging me and trying to get some words out. Eventually I heard “It’s sunrise” and I shot out of bed so fast that I knocked my head on roof. (Probably the 40th time on the trip). It was too cold to leave the comforts of the bus so I shot some pictures of the pink morning light shining into our bed. Then I fell back into the comforts of sleep.


Hours later we woke and got ready to do another hike on the east side of the park. The bus had other plans. We tried and tried and tried to get her started, but it seemed she liked the view so much, she didn’t want us to leave. A few hours later, my AAA membership came in handy and we revved to a start.

“She sounds pretty angry today.”

“I guess it’s back to the shop for us.”

So we cruised through the park and through Roosevelt National Forest  towards our friends at the shop in Loveland. Our day was spent gawking at the towering white cliffs above us as the road followed a bellowing river. We made it near Loveland when it was time to stop for gas. She had been running fine the whole day so we decided to turn back around and head to the west side of Rocky Mountain. Silly us.


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