Posted by: athike2011 | July 26, 2011

Day 14–Rocky Mountain National Park

Tried to got an early start this morning. The plan was the Ouzel Falls/Lake hike from the southern entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove the 10 miles or so to the entrance, which was by far the “off the beaten path” entrance of the park. After a couple miles of dirt road we ended up at the trailhead parking, which was surprisingly full for a Monday morning, even in a national park. I walked over to the ranger station and chatted with the volunteer who was manning it about the park and the hikes in the area. He gave me a little map, which although the trails in the NP are usually very well marked, is always handy to have.

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I had myself about 75% ready to go when three big white vans pulled up and offloaded a huge group of camp kids ready to set out on their day hike. I inquired as to which way they were headed. Sadly, Ouzel Falls was the answer. They had already set out by the time I was ready to go. On the positive side, it didn’t take me long to pass them. The trail was still quite crowded all the way to the falls, which I wasn’t expecting, though I guess given the number of waterfalls and lack of elevation gain, I should have suspected the popularity of the trail.

Just a side note, yes, there is a blurry spot in EVERY picture… I failed to notice the smudge on my camera lens until I was looking over the pictures on my computer.

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Once at the main falls the crowd immediately died out, I guess once you see the falls, there is no reason to do the extra 2.5 miles to the lake. Just past the falls I noticed a small side trail that the NP had attempted to block off. From where I was an the direction it was going it was a good bet it went to the top of the falls. Sierra and I headed off in search of a nice place to eat a snack. After a bit of a climb and some only moderately sketchy walks on very slanted rocks, we reached the top of the falls.

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We laid in the sun for a good half hour, enjoying the sound of the rushing water and the fantastic views. Before heading back down to the trail, we walked along the river for a ways in search of a way across. though there were a number of very thin fallen trees, none of them stretched the full length, and with the speed of the water and potentially deadly waterfall, no more than 30 seconds of being pulled downstream uncontrollably, we headed back the way we came.

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The hike up to the lake was slightly more strenuous than the hike to the falls, but it really wasn’t bad at all. The scenery began to change quite significantly. Prior to the hike I read about a fire that swept through the area some years before, which left it looking like no other area in the park. The lake itself was crystal clear and surrounded by snow dusted mountains. Again we sat and rested for a while, then walked most of the way around the lake before turning back around.

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[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/?q=http:%2F%2Fshare.gps.motionxlive.com%2Fshr%2Fx%2Fkmz%2Fc53b7883112f0d35194d9e47ee7c5ca2&ll=40.202722,-105.601336&spn=0.045298,0.090895&t=f&z=14&ecpose=40.16936834,-105.60133758,6549.45,0.002,44.938,0&output=embed]

The way back down proved to be much harder than the way back up. The number of people on the trail passed the Falls had at least tripled. I guess until summer is over, the day of the week only marginally matters. Once we were back to the car I cleaned Sierra up from her many jumps in the ice cold water then running through the dirt. It was quite hot now and even with everything I do to keep the car as cool as possible, it was hotter than it has ever been at the end of a hike. With the A/C blasting we headed out. A brief stop at Subway to grab a foot long to split for lunch and dinner, and a basic resupply at Walmart and we continued on our way. An hour or so later we made a stop at Starbucks to work on some blog things and Figure out where we were headed next.

Kansas was the destination, however, what does one do in Kansas? I looked at my trails.com account and in ALL of Kansas there was one trail. A lonely bike trail in the northeastern corner of the state. I did more research about what there was to do in this barren farmland. The answer, not that much. Luckily, I remember that my hiking buddy from the first 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail, Avatar (aka Jake) lived somewhere in Kansas and had just finished his thru hike last week. I checked his Facebook page and low and behold, he had just returned to Wichita not but 24 hours prior. I sent him a message and before long he called me back. New destination, Wichita, KS. I drove to within about 300 miles and stopped for the night at a rest stop.

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Left+Hand+Res+Rd&daddr=Co+Hwy+115+to:W+Wonderview+Ave+to:I-70+E&hl=en&ll=39.3088,-101.887207&spn=5.872704,11.634521&sll=39.309597,-101.893387&sspn=0.183557,0.363579&geocode=FaOSYwId96i1-Q%3BFZiHZQIdDjS1-Q%3BFUAoaAId4La1-Q%3BFUwdWAIdiFbr-Q&mra=mi&mrsp=3&sz=12&t=h&z=7&output=embed]

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Responses

  1. Hey Chris, On our numerous treks across country between Berkeley and Urbana, IL (from 2000-2008), Eugene and I frequently spent one of our three nights on the road in Salina, KS. It’s about a 10-hour drive from Urbana, and 30 hours from Berkeley.

    I really dislike western Kansas, but I found the eastern side of the state (at least on I-70) very green and hilly and soothing in comparison. We never took the detour down to Wichita, so I don’t know that stretch. Glad you found some friendly folk to stay with while you were there.

    Too bad we aren’t living in IL now, or I’d invite you (and Sierra) over for a home cooked meal, a shower, and a comfy bed in our quiet basement. I miss that giant house and beauty of the old tree-lined neighborhoods. It’s nice to read about your trip–it reminds me of good times on the road with Eugene. Glad you’re enjoying the adventure. hugs, Alice


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