(Continued from previous post)
DAY 5 - Trail Ridge Road to Frisco
Loaded the car and were at Beaver Meadows entrance at 8:15. Swung by Sheep Lakes again to check for sheep, and again, no luck. Also no beavers at Beaver Ponds. Drove Trail Ridge Road, stopping at most (but not all) of the overlooks and recommended short trails. Our favorite trail was the Tundra Communities trail at the Rock Cut overlook. Nice to have the interpretive signs along the path with information about the tundra ecosystem, and the kids liked climbing the big rock formations at the top. Our favorite overlook was Farview, past the Alpine Visitor Center. In fact, I hesitate to say it because most people think otherwise, but I thought the section of the road from Alpine VC to Grand Lake was even prettier than from Bear Lake Rd to Alpine VC. Sure, the other side has more stunning views, but when I pictured Colorado, I pictured the tall pines, rivers and lakes we saw on this side. We also walked part of the Ute Trail, maybe 1/2 mile one way. I didn't think the views got any more magnificent the farther along we walked. Stopped at Holzwarth Historic Site mostly in hopes of seeing moose. There were some people walking/running along the road and looking into the woods. When we asked, they said a mother moose and her cub just walked into the forest, but we couldn't see them. Thought the trail there was worth the time anyway. Continued to Adams Falls, which we thought was the biggest disappointment. If you've never seen a waterfall before, you might be impressed, but we weren't. It was 2:00 by the time we left Grand Lake, which was consistent with the timeframes I had read about here.
Overall, we were happy with the amount of time we had in RMNP, but can see how a full week would be even better to explore even more of this beautiful park. We were disappointed that we didn't see any wildlife (chipmunks excluded!) other than the occasional marmot on TRR and the elk at the YMCA. We saw 1 bear and 1 moose in Yellowstone/Grand Teton, so I was really hoping for a big horn sheep sighting this time. Oh, well - that's what makes wildlife wild!
Arrived in Frisco at 3:30 and checked into the Showshoe Motel. We thought this was a great location and a great value. Originally planned on staying in Breckenridge but couldn't find anything within our budget, so ended up in Frisco instead. So glad we did - it's exactly how I pictured it - a small, charming mountain town! Went to Peppino's Pizza for dinner. Husband and older son thought the deep dish was as good as any they've had outside of Chicago. Walked along Main Street (have to give a shout-out to the very friendly and helpful people at the Visitor's Center!) and down to the marina to have a look.
DAY 6 - Frisco/Dillon/Breckenridge
Rented bikes from Rebel Sports - very nice, helpful, and energetic staff who gave us suggestions on places to stop, points of interest, and other potential rides to take. They drove us up to the top of Vail Pass and we rode down the trail. It was well-maintained and all downhill, through absolutely amazing scenery the whole way. It was probably our favorite activity of the trip. When we got back to Frisco we rode around the lake path to Dillon. As a reward, we had lunch at the Tiki Bar instead of a picnic that day. Thought the food was just OK, but since it's right on the water, you can't complain. Rode back to Frisco on the same path instead of taking the water taxi - it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. We decided we were biked out for the day, so turned the bikes back in and drove to Breckenridge. Took the gondola to Peak 8 and the chairlifts to the top. My husband is the only one who has ever skiied in the family, so the boys and I were amazed at the length and incline of the slopes. Beautiful views of Breckenridge and entire area from the top. The boys talked us into buying 1 trip on the Alpine Coaster, which they loved. (They would have loved to do more, but this place is way over our budget! Plus, they had already been on an alpine slide when we were in Jackson, WY) Had dinner at Fatty's in Breck, and took the side trip up to Sapphire Point back in Frisco - awesome views of the lake and Frisco.
Our hats are off to Summit County - what a great place for a summer vacation! Could have easily spent a more leisurely week there to have time for hiking and the countless other outdoor activities available.
DAY 7 - Frisco to Great Sand Dunes
Original vacation plan called for rafting in Buena Vista this morning, but we decided to wait and raft another time when the water levels were better. Husband has always wanted to try kayaking, so we rented kayaks on Lake Dillon instead. He thought it was very peaceful and relaxing. I had the 14-yr old with me, so it was neither peaceful nor relaxing! Drove through Leadville and Buena Vista. Mind you, we didn't get out of the car, but aren't sure what the attraction of Leadville is other than its mining history. Seemed like a very economically depressed area, and not a place I would want to spend much time. After Buena Vista, took the side trip to St. Elmo ghost town. It's down a very long road, partially gravel, but with amazing views of Mt. Princeton. I think this is the closest we came to a peak of that size, and it was dizzying. The town of St Elmo is definitely worth a stop if you have the time - the whole excursion took about 1 1/2 hours. I cringe at mentioning feeding wildlife, but the boys did enjoy feeding the chipmunks, which is apparently condoned by the town as they sell sunflower seeds for that purpose at the general store.
After a few hours on what was the most uninteresting drive of the trip, we arrived at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge. What a gem! The room was huge and spotless - another great value, considering it's right next to the park vs. a 30 minute drive in (Alamosa). We read earlier that the lodge had gas grills we could use, so planned on buying hot dogs or something easy to grill for dinner. Didn't know that the only meat at the store there would be packaged bologna, or that the only store we would pass between Buena Vista and the lodge was a liquor store! So, we ate at the restaurant there at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis. Food was ready quickly, and luckily there was still some of the famous pie available. The boys swam in the indoor pool while we sat on our patio and enjoyed watching the hummingbirds crowd the feeders out back and the sun set over the mountains with the dunes in the foreground. Beautiful!