Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 8

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 8

Rocky Mountain National Park

It was time to trek over the famous Trail Ridge Road, the only way to get to the other side of the park. We chugged up the mountains and curved around bends as the air thinned and the wind sped up. Eventually, we were driving on the ridge lines of the Rockies.

“Can you believe we are 14,000 feet in the air?”


Twisting and turning and the smell of other cars burning through their breaks welcomed us to the top of the world. We cruised past glacial fields of snow and herds of elk eating the grass. I couldn’t count the number of times I screamed “wow look at that!” during our drive across the great Rocky Mountains.

“How do you think people got across these mountains before roads?”

“They used wing suits of course.”

A few hours later, we made it back to (relatively) even ground on the west side of the park. On the hunt for a campsite, yet again. This time, we decided to splurge and stay at a real campsite rather than the side of the road. This was mostly because we were running low on water and had a pile of dirty dishes to clean. We managed to find a spot and set up for dinner outside. We watched the sun creep behind the mountains and welcome in the stars around us before heading off to sleep.

An early morning wake up call was not welcomed here as we packed up our bags to head out on a backpacking trip. Packed up and buckled in, we were eager to head out on the trails for the next two days. Again, the bus had other plans. It took all of our effort and resources, but we eventually got her started with the help of a park ranger. He towed the bus out of our camp spot and then helped me push her until she roared to a start. That was a close one, but we were finally off to our destination near Grand Lake.

We found the trail head and headed out into the wilderness for the weekend. We were lucky enough to snag a back-country permit near a great stream and waterfall. It was time to set off on our adventure so we meandered through a The beginning of our hike was slow and smooth as we passed through flowering meadows and ponds. Then up, up, up we went towards our destination. It was then that I understood the importance of good backpacking gear. We had our sleeping bags tied on our packs with rope and water bottles swinging from their carabiner clips.


“Sleeping bag down!” I yelled every few minutes as I watched Conrad’s careful arrangement unwind in front of me. Eventually we made it to a nice stopping point near the falls and ate our PB&J lunches while fighting away flies.

“Time to keep moving”, Conrad nudged me to get up and finish our hike. We crossed stream after stream on little wooden planks until we made it to a secluded camp site off the main trail. A little bridge helped us across a creek that flowed heavily below us. It was time to set up camp and take a nap under the pines. Later, we hoped over trees that had succumbed to being eaten by the pine beetle and made dinner on a log in the stream. After some chilly baths in the stream, we nodded off to sleep, wrapping ourselves in as many clothes as we could find.


Morning came again and so did the time to pack up our stuff again (it’s a lot harder to fit it in your pack the second time). The hike back was accompanied by several “Ow I’m sore” comments as we set out to finish our 15 miles. We stopped at the same waterfall again and enjoyed chatting with a local woman who does interviews with tourists. She saw our Lifestraw and wondered how a tiny little thing can filter so much water. We ended up taking a wrong turn on the way back and did part of the loop on an equine trail. We spent a lot of the day dodging poop and holding our breaths. At this point, we resorted to holding our plushy sleeping bags and battling through the hike. Finally, we landed eyes on the bus and were happy to be home.

Now, we headed back over Trail Ridge Road and got to see the other side of the beautiful Rockies as our time here came to a close. It was too late in the day to move on to our next destination so we decided to stay another night in the Rockies. We found our lovely spot on State Rd 7 from a few nights before and tried to ignore how smelly we both were. Finally sleep.


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