Waking up in the Rocky Mountains is unreal. The sounds of nature filled the air – birds chirping, trees rustling, iPhones ringing…
Ok so we set an alarm to get up early, but it was still pretty awesome getting out of the tent and being in the mountains. We chose to get up earlier than necessary because we had a short drive (well, 6.5 hours) and wanted to hike before we left. The campground provided some trails, so we took and map and went on our way.
All over the place were signs about bears and mountain lions and how to handle a situation where one of them attacks you. If a bear threatens an attack, you’re supposed to speak quietly and back away slowly, and if it attacks you’re supposed to fight back (according to the sign). As for mountain lions, you’re supposed to make yourself appear as large as possible while avoiding eye contact and also fight back if they attack. These are interesting tactics because if either of these animals were attacking me I would scream like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert and run like Justin Bieber if a tween were chasing me at a Justin Bieber concert.
Keeping those counterintuitive defense tactics in mind, we headed into the mountains. It was a beautiful hike, as the sun was rising while we trekked along. I could really tell how the difference in elevation made me more tired than normal – when we had long uphill stretches of trail, I felt like a fatty.
About halfway through or so we came to a clearing that gave us this gorgeous view of the Rockies:
But enough of that – we hiked back to the site, ate some breakfast, made our way down the winding road from hell and headed to Utah.
To get to Utah we took I-70, which quickly became my favorite highway in the country, or at least this part of the country. The views from the road were equally as beautiful as the sight over the Rockies. It winds directly through the Rockies, going in and out of tunnels and over bridges. A long stretch of the road follows along Clear Creek, which creates a gorge-canyon type formation through the mountains and makes you feel trapped yet awesome. If you ever get the chance, drive I-70 through Colorado.
As we made our way down the highway, we took a detour through Loveland Pass. This is a route that some trucks are required to take because they’re unable to go through the Eisenhower Tunnel with explosive material. I heard about the pass on TV when I was little and thought to myself “someday I’m going there.” Boom. Childhood dream fulfilled. Watch out, Mars.
The pass goes way up into the mountains and is the highest pass in the country to stay open year round. At its peak it reaches 11,990 ft and is where the Atlantic and Pacific continental divides meet. The drive up was terrifying – hairpin turns with no guardrails and sheer cliffs. After I was done scream-crying, we got out of the car only to realize that, in the middle of June, it was freezing. We donned our sweatshirts and climbed up a small trail to get a better view of the scenery:
Instead, it snowed. In the middle of June, in Colorado, we got snowed on in our shorts and sweatshirts. Mind. Blown.
We headed back to the car to get out of the freezing cold, wind, and snow. As we left, we realized that there were people biking up the pass, which is several miles long. There’s also an 800 foot elevation change from its connecting road. I’ll stick to my motor vehicle that has heat.
After driving for some time, we lowered in elevation and it began to feel like summer again. Then we switched drivers and entered Utah where it REALLY felt like summer again. The scenery changed dramatically from only 2 hours earlier:
In one day we avoided bears and mountain lions of the Rockies, went 12,000 ft up only to get snowed on, and drove through the blistering heat of the Utahan desert. The buttes (lol) entertained us until we finally got to Arches National Park in the great town of Moab, Utah.