Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? No, I don’t mean in a picture, on television, in the theater, or on IMAX. Have you ever driven through the Great Rocky Mountains? Perhaps many of you have driven through a portion of them, but did you observe the grandeur of these magnificent granite formations?
Carol and I visited the Rocky Mountain National Park, just after viewing the total solar eclipse in Glendo, Wyoming, as we celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. It was a spectacular trip. The word “spectacular” is the keynote for this trip.
The Rocky Mountains, commonly called the Rockies, start in northern British Columbia, Canada, and extend about 3,000 miles south to New Mexico, USA. Several facts about the spectacular Rocky Mountain features are: 1) the Sangre de Christo Mountains run from New Mexico through Colorado; 2) the Rio Grande has its headwaters near Wolf Creek in Southern Colorado; 3) Pikes Peak is near Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs; 4) the Grand Tetons and Big Horn Mountains are located in Wyoming; 5) Branff National Park is in Alberta, Canada; and there are many more! This mountain range should not be confused with the Pacific Coast Ranges, the Cascade Range, or the Sierra Nevadas.
Some geologists say the Rockies are well over 55 million years old on a 4.54 billion-year-old earth; some say they were created about 6,000 years ago when the earth was created; and others say the Rockies were created just after the great flood about 4,500 years ago. But whatever age is ascribed to them (only God knows their true age), my Precious and I had a great trip.
The original Native American Cree name was probably “as-sin-wati”; loosely translated as “seen across plains, look like rocky mass.” But their present name was given by Frenchman Jacque Legardeur de Saint-Pierre in 1752 when he called them “les Montagnes de Roches” (pronounced: lay Montanye de Rosh) – or, the mountains of rocks. And that evolved into the Rocky Mountains. Seventy-four peaks in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) are over 12,000 feet; twenty-three more top out over 13,000 feet; and two peaks are over 14,000 feet (called 14ers). That’s a total of 99 spectacular peaks in only 415 square miles.
This continental ridge is 70 miles wide at its narrowest, and 300 at its greatest span. I read that the lowest elevation of the Rockies is 3,400 feet above sea level where the Arkansas River flows from Colorado into Kansas; but I didn’t know the base of the Rockies reached that far. And the highest point is magnificent Mount Elbert in Colorado at 14,400 feet.
Driving through Boulder, CO, we started our tour through the RMNP in the town of Estes Park, CO. situated at 7,522 feet. The east entrance to the park is on highway 36, only 3.5 miles from town. If you are driving from the south or west, you can take exit 232 on I-70, west of Denver, and drive north on highway 40. Follow the signs.
Hiking is a common activity. Starting at the parking lot near Bear Lake at 9,475 feet altitude, seven lakes are within 4.7 miles walking distance. That is: 4.7 miles – ONE WAY. Save your energy because you probably want to come back. We walked around Bear Lake – only 256 feet away – and back to the car.
We drove down Devil’s Gulch but couldn’t figure why the name because it’s a spectacular drive. The next day, we left Estes Park, drove to I-70, took exit 232, and entered the Park from the other side. Did I say the scenery was spectacular? Well, it WAS!
Going through Idaho Springs, Granby, and Grand Lake, the west entrance was 145 miles from Estes Park and the views were breath-taking. We visited the Alpine Visitor Center and the Trail Ridge Store above the tree line at 11,796 feet and took pictures of a coyote pouncing on an unseen rodent – probably a mountain vole, yellow-bellied marmot, or some other high-altitude critter. Words and pictures cannot adequately describe our emotions and experiences as we saw God’s handiwork in the high Rockies.
This trip caused me to focus more intently on my relationship with Almighty God: the Creator of every natural thing we saw. The song by Stuart Hamblen sums it up: “How big is God, how big and wide his vast domain, to try to tell these lips can only start. He’s big enough to rule the mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.”
If you get the opportunity, I encourage you to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park. And you can call them les Montagnes de Roches if you prefer.