Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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Prior to arriving in Scotts Bluff, I had never read about it - it's too far east to fit in a standard Southwest trip, and too insignificant to warrant a major detour; and as such not many European tourists make it their destination (and write about it).

Scotts Bluff - the natural landmark, not the city - used to be the first large-scale obstacle of many for people coming in on their Western migration on the Oregon Trail. The park reminds you of that by showcasing a covered wagon and pointing to some wagon tracks in dried mud that apparently still persist. I didn't really find those tracks, even though I looked for them by following a short trail from the visitor center; but instead all that looking at the ground meant I saw a turtle - my first wild one, and it moved away from the trail faster than the clichés will make you believe. After returning to the car, I then drove up to the top of the bluffs - which are the remnants of an ancient high plain - took some more pictures overlooking the city and the plains to the East, and then decided I should be on my way towards Colorado.

The drive towards Rocky Mountain National Park wasn't very eventful; and after a two-hour stop in Estes Park to do laundry, I entered the national park. Almost straight away, I chanced upon some deer grazing on the hillside along the road, and then crossing the road. It was pretty hazy in the valleys, but once I reached higher elevations there was an increasing cloud cover; but at least it wasn't raining like the last time I'd visited this park.

I took Old Fall River Road, a one-way dirt road leading up to Fall River Pass. The sky was only half-covered in clouds by this time, so there still were some sunny moments. I took a short hike up to a mountain top that proudly proclaimed "12,005 feet - 2.3 miles above sea level", regretting that once more my knees wouldn't allow me to do extensive hikes. With sunlight fading and temperatures dropping - I was at 3600m of elevation after all - I left the area of the Alpine Visitor Center behind, and turned back east to descent on Trail Ridge Road. I briefly stopped at Lava Cliffs, but by then most of the scenery around me was already in shade. At least I no longer had to worry about finding a place to sleep, since I had already reserved a camp site when entering the park.

Miles driven: 261mi (420km)

Campground Accommodation: Rocky Mountain National Park (-): $20

Nebraska part written August 11th 2008 in the bus to work, finished August 12th during my lunch break.