Preface: Last year while road trippin’ out west with a good friend, Taylor, I came up with a central theme, or lesson if you will, for each park. So, five big lessons for five national parks. In an effort to avoid my all too typical lengthiness, I will separate these into five separate posts!
Rocky Mountain National Park – When you get a rare opportunity, take it. You never know what might come of it. It could be the best or worst time of your life, and either of those will help you grow as a person.
As part of our impromptu trip, our first morning in the park Taylor and I went to the visitor’s center to get advice on a good day hike. The ranger not only suggested Fern Falls, which was an absolutely beautiful hike, but also suggested we drive the open 12 miles of the Trail Ridge Road. After 12 miles, they closed the road as it was still early in the season but she told us we could take the opportunity to walk along the road, which would be impossible once they opened it to the rest of the park.
After our hike and some mouth-watering vanilla ice cream in Estes Park, we decided we would use the remainder of our day and the day’s light driving the 12 miles along the curving mountain-top road.
When we got 12 miles in, we shortly debated whether or not we wanted to continue on walking, as we were exhausted from the day, but decided we really wanted to take advantage of the rare opportunity. We must have walked one or two miles past the ‘Road Closed’ sign, with snow higher than both of us combined to our left and rocky cliffs to our right.
We ran around and sang and jumped on the ledge and took goofy photos until we were completely out of breath (which wasn’t too long due to the large change in altitude). Then we did it all over again. It was liberating playing up in the mountain tops, looking down on the rest of the park. Our booming laughter rang throughout the thin air and down the cliff faces.
Later that night, Taylor and I discussed our highs and lows of our time in the park and both agreed that our time on the Trail Ridge Road was our favorite experience. And it wouldn’t have happened if we drove up to the ‘Road Closed’ sign and turned around. It also would not have been as fun of a time if we had just walked up, took a few photos, and went back. We really freed ourselves from social constraints and just let ourselves be wild.
The lesson here is that when you are given an opportunity, take it. You might regret what comes next, you might not – but you will definitely regret the opportunities or chances you never take.
The second part of this lesson is to stay wild. Let yourself let go. Be goofy. Laugh. Jump around and sing and dance, even if people are watching. Liberate yourself in every manner.
This lesson carries over to the other parks and is something I try to apply every day in my life. People tell you to not care what others think and that what they do think is none of your business…but really…you shouldn’t care. Live your life for you and when an opportunity presents itself, take it. If it changes you, let it. Regardless of the outcome, whether it be positive or negative, you will grow and learn from it. Isn’t that the point of life anyways?
Hike Details: Fern Falls
5.2 miles roundtrip, trailhead elevation 8165 feet, total elevation gain 700 feet, rated moderately difficult.