We never did get that stupid camper level. We kept trying, but it never happened. Mom and Dad got up at 4:30 a.m. on Monday to go get pictures of the sunrise. I heard them moving around and when I rolled over noticed that MOTS had slid in her sleeping bag to the foot of the bed. SHe was awfully darn close to sliding right off the bed onto the adjoining couch entirely. Since I couldn’t get her to wake up and move I had to drag her and the sleeping bag back up to the top of the bed again. This was a theme of the week. Every morning MOTS was at the foot of the bed again…
After Mom and Dad left I went back to sleep. I got up at 8, right before they came back and when they got back I woke the kids up. While they were getting dressed Dad was looking for another great hike. The website he used recommended the Ouzel Falls hike as the best waterfall. We all thought it sounded great and the little trail book we bought said it was a “moderate” hike, so we decided to give it a go.
The first challenge was finding the trailhead. This hike was not located in the “major” areas of the park, instead found in the Wild Basin Area farther south on Highway 7, about 13 miles outside of Estes. When we finally found the entrance the helpful ranger handed us a map and told us to drive down a dirt road for about 2 miles to reach the trailhead. I mean it. It was a true dirt road. One lane, with occasional pull-outs to let oncoming traffic pass. We came to what looked like a parking area and pulled in, but we didn’t see any sign of the trailhead. Around a bend we noticed that the road continued and followed it on foot about another 100 yards to a huge (mostly empty) parking lot and trailhead. Joy.
Everyone used the comfort station at the trailhead and off we went. We were very excited to learn that the rare Fairy Slipper Orchid was in bloom while we were there. Another ranger told us where we could find some. Such gorgeous flowers!
The first interesting stop on the Ouzel Falls trail is Copeland Falls. Most of the trail follows the St. Vrain Creek, so the sound of rushing water is never far off. This time of year the falls are really spectacular due to all of the snowmelt swelling the river. I heard that later in the summer they are far less impressive!
One thing that we learned while in RMNP was that elevation gain on the trails was just as important as distance. The Ouzel Falls trail is only 2.7 miles (one way). This is not a terribly difficult distance. The difference maker is that you gain 1, 510 feet in elevation over that 2.7 miles. Folks, that translates into walking uphill the entire way in. It’s tough. Compound that with the adjustment to higher elevations and you just get plain tired, faster.
Aside from the toughness, there was incredible scenery!
Just past the bridge from where the previous picture was taken began the real climb. Stairs. Stairs that went on for. ever. I am not kidding. Halfway up the stairs (didn’t know that at the time, of course) we met a couple of cowboys coming back down the trail on horseback. I remember thinking that they had the right idea. Horses… yeah.
At the top of the stairs (finally!) we found Calypso Cascades. Beautiful!
At the Cascades I ran into a very nice group on their way back down from Ouzel Falls. I asked about the remaining hike. They said it was a series of switchbacks up the side of a mountain for a serious gain in elevation, but “the falls are beautiful!” They then cheerfully headed on down the trail. It was at this point that my radio buzzed. Dad was about halfway up the stairs and fading fast. Mom was at the first bridge with Captain Chaos, who had simply run out of steam. This trail was just too hard with only a light breakfast and few snacks. We decided to turn back. It was already lunchtime and we were all feeling pretty done in.
We met up with Mom and Dad at the bridge and then all started back as a group. I carried Captain Chaos on my shoulders part of the way out. I will say that going downhill was far faster and we covered the trail very quickly getting back out. The fact that we all needed a bathroom and were starving incentivized us as well!
We finally made it back to the trailhead and while all of us used the Comfort Station again Dad walked down and brought the car up.
We drove back into town passing a sub-division of obscenely large homes. There was a short debate about the status of the buildings (are they apartment buildings or single-family homes?) before deciding based on the fact that they all had individual driveways that they were indeed single-family homes. Which led to speculation on who could afford to live there. It was finally decided that the elk must live there, clocking in and out to entertain the tourists. Okay, so hunger was messing with our heads, alright?
We laughed hysterically all the way to Estes Park McDonald’s. Even Captain Chaos ate everything we put in front of him. We were all so hungry!
After lunch we headed back to the camper for much needed naps and some pictures!
Every night at 6 p.m. Yogi Bear would come out for the flag lowering ceremony and greet all of the kids. It was really awesome!
After the flag lowering we headed into town for some new shoes for Captain Chaos. He did some major puddle jumping on the trail and his shoes were soaked through with little hope of drying before the next day. So, new shoes it was. Light-up Spiderman shoes with velcro straps even. Lucky.
After some time in town it was back to camp for some much needed showers. Unfortunately Jellystone showers have no temperature control, only a little timer. There was only one temperature. Scalding. This led to the fun little shower dance and Captain Chaos new fear of showers, but, I digress. After showers it was bedtime. Funny how exhausted kids don’t take too long to fall asleep.