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Opinion column: To The Rockies

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 3rd, 2012

I flew south for the weekend recently.

Well, flew perhaps isn’t the right word, and if my car could talk, she’d tell you the same thing and that it was way too long of a trip for her. A gentleman doesn’t discuss a lady’s age, mind you, but she’s not as young as she used to be.

I digress. I took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park because it’s there, and they just don’t have mountains like this back in Ohio. Even for a bit of a computer nut like me, it’s great to get back into nature and is really something I should do more often.

It probably shouldn’t have, but it struck me as to just how crowded the park was. When I went, it happened to fall on Public Lands Day, in which visitors were admitted free, so that could explain part of it.

Traffic getting there wasn’t as swift as I anticipated. I was about six miles outside the park when traffic was stop-and-go for about two of the six. There were tourists pulled over to the side of the road, all looking toward my lane. No, they weren’t my adoring fans; all camera lenses and eyes were focused about 20 feet above me, which prompted me to look up as I passed. Above me were three bighorn sheep that I could see, impossibly perched on a crag along the cliffs that lined the road. Not wanting to cause traffic (or an accident) myself, I moved on quicker than I wanted.

I finally made it to Estes Park, Colo. Seeing that town nestled in the middle of the massive Rockies reminded me of the part of British Columbia where my girlfriend lives. It’s not just the scenery; the town itself, its architecture and what really looks like a resort town setup are really a sight to see. Not being a terribly patient man with crowds and traffic, though, I can’t imagine how the permanent residents feel.

After getting myself turned around a few times and fighting more traffic, I finally made it to RMNP’s gates. I was in.

From a photographer’s standpoint, one of the good things about having so many people visit the park while I was there is immediately knowing popular scenic and spontaneous photo opportunities. As a newspaper man, normally I try to look for angles and shots that are out-of-the ordinary. Given that I wasn’t on assignment and had limited equipment, I didn’t care.

One of my first stops got me up close with a herd of elk. To this point, I’d never seen an elk up close, and to not only behold these beautiful animals but to listen to that fascinating bugle was really a treat for me.

Up, up I drove, and the air got thinner and the temperature dropped to a brisk, refreshing 47 by the time I’d reached almost 12,000 feet. I didn’t do as much hiking as I wanted, but the amazing views of the snow-capped mountains and legions of pine and aspen trees just starting to show their autumn colors more than made up for it. I recall one other special moment. While taking in a view at about 12,000 feet, just hearing the wind whip through the peaks, it started to snow.

My journey took all day, but it was a day well spent. I got out of town for a while, I got away from work, and I just enjoyed God’s creation.

The next chance you get, I recommend enjoying the great outdoors. I think it’s good for the body, mind and heart.

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