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Summer Road Trip 2017, Part 15: Rocky Mountain National Park to Texas

My stay in Rocky Mountain National Park was just an overnighter. I found a campsite at Timber Creek Campground just inside The Park's East Entrance. I unloaded the MiniTrail and went for a short ride to do some fishing at the Baker-Bowen trailhead. I fished for a couple of hours and returned to the campsite to get some wood and make a fire.

The Timber Creek Campground was once heavily wooded, but a pine beetle infestation left the site without its mature trees. Today it looks barren, offering no privacy from other campers in adjacent sites, particularly when compared to other campgrounds in the park.

The next morning I woke up early and made breakfast. I entertained the usual caudry of interested campers asking about the Ecamper. I finished up breakfast, dropped the pop-top, packed up Ellie, loaded the minibike and headed out for Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road in the highest paved road in the U. S. It's the section of U.S. Highway 34 that traverses Rocky Mountain National Park. It climbs out of the Grand Lake Valley over the continental divide, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet, before descending into the Estes Park Valley. Traffic on Trail Ridge Road can be heavy in the months it's open, particularly on the Estes Park side. On this day, traffic on the Grand Lake side wasn't bad.

Plowing of the Trail Ridge Road begins early in Spring but heavy snow drifts delays opening until late-Spring or early-Summer. The road remains open as long as weather permits, usually through October.

I stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center to get my passport cancelation and a cup of coffee. I also picked up a couple of stickers for a growing collection I've amassed over the last 2o days. Parking at the Visitor Center is limited given the summer crowds, so I decided to relinquish my spot and get back on the road.

From the Alpine Visitor Center there's a short section of road that continues to climb to the highest point, Lava Cliffs, before dipping into Iceberg Pass and rising back up to Rock Cut. I pulled off a couple of times to get a a few Ellie pictures and continued down the other side.

From the Rock Cut pullout, Trail Ridge Road drops down precipitously into the Estes Park Valley. This section of road is tight and always packed with cars traveling bumper to bumper. There was an accident at one of the switchback pullouts and cars were maneuvering around a motorcycle that was blindsided into the drainage ditch along the road's shoulder.

From there, it was a quick drive down to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I stopped to get my passport cancelation and, before leaving, took a picture at the sign just outside the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. I've seen this sign many times on previous summer road trips to Rocky Mountain National Park with my family. This would conclude the last National Park visit of my trip.

Now it was time to get home. I was going to visit a friend in Denver so I called him to check in and give him my ETA. I stopped for a quick bite and beer at Smokin' Dave's BBQ & Tap House in Estes Park before starting the short drive from Estes Park into the Boulder Valley.

I arrived at Shane's place in Arvada just before dark and we went to Stuben's for crab roles. I do my best to get one every time I'm in Denver. We stayed up late talking and playing records, so I decided to crash on the couch before beginning the last leg of the journey.

From Denver I drove south on Interstate 25 to Pueblo then took U.S. Highway 50 to La Junta. From La Junta I turn south on U.S. 109 towards Kim. This section of road passes through the Comanche National Grasslands, an area I like drive through when traveling between Colorado and Texas.

Just north of Kim, I take US 160 to Springfield then catch US 287 south into Oklahoma. I crossed the Colorado-Oklahoma state line just a few hours after leaving Denver. I continued south through Boise City, Oklahoma with the Great State of Texas looming just beyond the horizon.

I crossed the Oklahoma-Texas state line just north of Stratford. It always feels good crossing back into Texas. Native Texans often use the word border when talking about the Texas state line with Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

From Stratford, the road to Dallas is like an old friend: Dumas, Amarillo, Childress, Wichita Falls, Decatur, then Dallas. In total, I drove more than 4,000 miles, crossed 16 state lines and visited 13 states; every state west of the Texas panhandle. Not bad.

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