The day we were leaving Longmont, temperatures dropped 30 degrees and a storm was coming. Our friends said we could stay as long as we liked, but I was eager to actually do some camping in the Rockies. There was only one campground open this early in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and that was Moraine Park, closest to the east entrance. It was dry camping. (Water was turned off for till summer.) But we filled up our tank at our friends’ house, and we made it to the campground by 11:00. We had just gotten tucked in to a beautiful spot overlooking a meadow when it started to snow.
For the next six hours, it snowed, hailed, sleeted, and rained. There is nothing so cozy as sitting in Bessie during a wintery storm, propane-warm with mugs of tea and blankets. We cooked grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch, and watched it all from our widescreen window. Kate read; I finished a jigsaw puzzle I’d started at my dad’s house in Missouri, and we didn’t care if the bad weather went on for days.
It did stop, though, and before dinner, we took Gypsy and Bailey out for a snowy walk. This was Gypsy’s first experience with the icy white stuff, and she didn’t care for it much. With each ginger step she shook her paws and looked up at us like we’d done something to turn the world wrong. Bailey, on the other hand, loves snow. She romped and rolled, in doggie heaven, and Gypsy flattened her ears at the sight of it.
At dusk (which was incongruently at 9:00), a large herd of Roosevelt elk munched its way right through our campsite. The male elk lose their antlers in the winter, so they don’t look nearly as impressive as they do in the fall, but they are still noble beasts, and we felt so lucky to watch them safely from up so close. They came back through in the morning for a second show.
That morning, the snow was gone from our campground and the clouds were lifting. We put the fur kids in the car to go see some more of the park. We went to Bear Lake, which was just nine miles away but much higher and packed in feet of snow. We left Gypsy and Bailey in the car while we hiked the short trail to the lake. It was mostly frozen over and buried in snow, just a small thawing patch hinting at spring. The fir trees were all laden with fresh snow. After spending the winter in shorts in Florida, we were delighted to experience a tiny slice of winter’s brilliance.
We drove west on the main highway through the park, stopping at a picnic spot to let Gypsy and Bailey walk around some more in the snow. This time they both had their winter jackets. (I’d laughed at Kate last fall when she bought Gypsy hers, but I’m sure it made the cold less insulting.) Gypsy got braver about the snow here, but she was happy to get back in the car.
The highway was closed further up, but still plowed for a mile or so for hikers and bicycles. We parked at the end and enjoyed the experience of walking down the middle of the road with Bailey. This time, we left Gypsy sleeping in the car.
The next morning I woke before dawn, took a peek out the front window and was enthralled by the view. At least two inches of snow had fallen, still clinging to all the trees and bushes. Everything was frosted white. I quickly dressed in layers, finally taking advantage of my flannel-lined jeans and down coat, and I headed out for a good long hike, snapping away at the beauty all around me. I was awestruck by it all, and once again so grateful to be on this trip, seeing so much of this crazy gorgeous country we live in.
By the time I got back, the snow was already starting to melt in the bright morning sun. We left after breakfast to head toward Wyoming and the next incredible national park.