May 26th, 4:07pm
We met with Nancy Wilson of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy on our first full day in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Conservancy, similar to the Great Smoky Mountains Association, serves as a partner to the park in creating educational publications and fundraises to support projects within the park.
An avid backcountry hiker, Nancy was quick to point out the unique flora and fauna native to this region and how much of it there is to see. “Megafauna” - such as elk, moose, mountain lions, bears - are abundant here. Just yesterday, we spotted many herds of elk throughout the park and a large male moose. Nancy also gave us a primer on what makes this landscape geologically important. The Rockies host one of the few alpine tundra regions on the planet, and is home of the Continental Divide. From Milner Pass off of Trail Ridge Road, one of the main attractions of the park, you can see the point at which the stream flows separate east or west - sending water into waterways that feed either the Pacific Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.
Our meeting with Nancy was also a great introduction to the region’s history. Major floods are not uncommon to this area. As recently as 2013, The Colorado Flood affected half the buildings and all highways in Estes Park. Nancy recalled being stuck in her office for 4 days, as many of the roads were impassable. As a popular seasonal destination, you can visit a handful of historic lodges, but there are many that you won’t see, as most were removed from park areas upon its formation. You need to use your imagination to picture the golf courses, pools, and playgrounds that used to blanket the former resort and lodge properties. Nancy also urged us to spend some time on the west side of the park once Trail Ridge Road opens (hopefully this Friday!) since it has a different culture than the east. We will keep our fingers crossed for good weather!