Ugh….work. Such a Debbie Downer!
Wait, not so fast!
Just because you’re an adult with responsibilities doesn’t mean you can’t make an epic adventure happen in a short time span. Sometimes, you just have to get a little creative, be a bit more flexible, and just follow your nose!
This past weekend, solar eclipse weekend to be exact, I had to work Saturday morning and Aaron had to work Monday morning, but we still managed to have an amazing weekend in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Early Saturday morning, as I headed out to work, Aaron got in his truck and headed north 70 miles to the town of Estes Park (essentially the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park), to hunt down a campsite for us for the night. About halfway through my shift I got a text from Aaron that he had scored a campsite at Hermit Park Open Space along with this picture from a trail that he had hiked within the campground….
Yes please! I’ll be there soon!! 🌲🌲
As soon as I clocked out after my shift, I raced home, loaded up our fur baby Scarlet in my CRV, and stepped on the gas. Camping weekend: Here We Come!
Scarlet hates having her picture taken, but she sure does love “going bye byes in the car”.
When I rolled up, Aaron was relaxing with a book in his hammock, our cozy tent was set up on a nice shady section of earth, and it was time to crack open a cold one and take it all in. It smelled so good out there in the woods!
We got lucky to say the least. This campground was full, but had a last-minute cancellation. Win for us! What a beautiful park too, set in the hills just two miles from Estes Park.
Hermit Park features 1,362 acres of enchanting ponderosa pine forests and wetland meadows. There are reservable campsites and cabins on the sprawling property, multi use trails, and plenty of beautiful scenery.
MY TOP 5 CAMPING MUSTS:
1. Get yourself a portable hammock! They are lightweight, durable, easy to set up, and oh so comfy. (And apparently can hold two grown adults without taking down the trees 😉)
2. Pack Wet Wipes. I’m a self-proclaimed “mild germaphobe” and I love having these things around the campsite for washing hands, wiping down the picnic table after meals, or for what I call, “a camp bath.”
3. S’mores. This is kind of a camping given, right? I’ve upped my S’more game though with my telescoping S’more stick. While everyone else is still searching the woods for the “perfect stick”, I’ve already devoured three of the Hershey bars 😜. (I can’t be trusted around Hershey bars.)
4. Games! When the sun goes down and the campfire is lit, it’s time to break out the games (and the beers). In the past, I’ve enjoyed Bananagrams, Yahtzee, Rummy, Farkle, and Scattagories. This trip, we learned a new card game: Phase 10 (a fun version of rummy that would have been even more fun had Aaron not beat me so badly). Many of these can be turned into drinking games, not that I would know 😉.
5. Lastly, my favorite “Must Do” is actually an action: Walk around your campground in the evening just before the sun goes down. I love hearing the sounds of fellow campers eating their dinner, getting their fires started, chatting about their favorite parts of the hike they did that day. Everyone is friendly and truly enjoying being outside away from their screens and busy lives. It’s magical.
After a good night sleep (or the best sleep you can get in a small tent with two adults and a medium size dog), we got up, enjoyed a small breakfast, and then hiked a trail in the campground.
This trail is named “trail”. Haha
Finally it was time to pack up our Hermit Park camp and move on. Sunday night I had a campsite reserved in Moraine Park Campground inside RMNP, one of my favorite campgrounds. I have stayed in this particular campground many times and have always felt safe there as a solo camper (Aaron and Scarlet, sadly, would be leaving later in the evening because of the “adult responsibilities” I mentioned at the beginning of this post).
Moraine Park Campsite in A Loop #134. Great site! Super private, quiet, huge, and perfect hammock trees.
Aaron and I spent the remainder of Sunday on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the US reaching 12,183 feet!
Trail Ridge Road provides several spectacular scenic stops as you climb higher into the Rockies.
Trail Ridge Road winding along the mountaintop.
An afternoon storm was rolling in just as we arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, the highest of all visitor centers in the National Park System.
The calendar says August, but there is snow still on the mountain. We managed to catch some hail during the short-lived storm.
I added a new stamp to my passport this trip.
For as many times as I have visited RMNP, this was actually my first time on Trail Ridge Road! (It is only open seasonally). We truly had an incredible day up there following our noses and I can’t wait to come back up with visiting family and friends.
When Aaron left for home later in the evening, I returned to my campsite and got my campfire going.
Things to do if you are solo camping: READ in the wonderful quiet of the woods and the crackle of the campfire.
(Mom: the book is The Glass Castle as I know you are always interested in what I’m reading 😉📚)
Things NOT to do when you are camping solo: Think of this meme…
I slept remarkably well on Sunday night. Aaron insists it was because I had the whole tent and two sleeping bags all to myself.
After packing up my camp, I drove to the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead. I’ve always wanted to hike the popular 3.2 mile Bierstadt Lake Loop trail and it was a perfect early morning to tick it off my list.
The first part of the hike was a series of switchbacks climbing over 600 feet with stunning views.
Once at the top, the trail levels out a bit and leads you through the tall trees to a loop trail around the lake. For awhile there, I was seriously asking myself, “did I miss something? Where is this damn lake?” You have to hike another half mile or so (I went left at the fork) on the loop trail before you get to open views of the lake itself.
I should probably mention that I did a very BIG No No on this hike. I didn’t bring a map with me. After my lake selfie, I continued around the lake loop and made a turn that I thought was the same way I had I hiked up. I soon realized that it was not the same way I had come. Luckily, (and you should NEVER rely on a cell phone), my google map app helped me figure out where I was actually headed. I continued on (adding a bit more time and distance than I had originally intended), and ended up at a park shuttle stop. Love those national park shuttles! I hopped on the free shuttle and it delivered me to the trailhead my car was parked at.
And now finally, The Grand Finale of the weekend: The Solar Eclipse!
My special sunglasses and I made our way back up to 12,000 feet on Trail Ridge Road to view the eclipse.
Park Ranger showing off cool shadow tricks.
This gentlemen letting all of us eclipse viewers look through his cool telescope. What an opportunity to see the “mountains of the moon”.
Did somebody dim the lights up here?
After it was all said and done, I made one more stop: The Tundra Communities Trail at Rock Cut. This 1 mile roundtrip, paved trail features amazing views and sweet rock formations as well as alpine plantlife and wildlife. (The marmot was too fast for me to snap his pic this time)
What a kick-ass following your nose weekend! Hope you all enjoyed the eclipse. I hear my hometown, Buffalo, NY will be a prime total solar eclipse viewing location April 8, 2024. I’ll hang on to my special glasses until then.
Final Note: Aaron and I love maps. Here’s the map of the area we spent our weekend adventure:
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