As I mentioned in my last post, we got Saturday morning off to an early start. Our rafting tour was actually out in Fort Collins, so after a 5:30 wake up call and breakfast in our cabin, we hit the road. Now I have to say, I was a little worried about this rafting. I had been once before during my semester abroad in Chile and it was quite an experience… as in while it was extremely fun and exciting, it was also slightly terrifying. For those of you who haven’t heard this story, this is the best memory I have of that afternoon:
If you’re curious, this is what the next picture in our rafting sequence was…
… that’s right. All of us, except for the guide, flew out of the raft (and I got a nice ankle injury from that). So when my mom first told me she had signed us up for a tour that got up to grade 4 rapids, I was initially a little concerned since our raft in Chile had emptied out on a big grade 4. No offense to my sweet mom, but I wasn’t sure she would be able to handle that! Luckily our Colorado rafting was less intense than I had been expecting for several reasons.
1. The river’s water level was pretty low since there hadn’t been a whole lot of rain recently, so all of the rapids would be a little less intense than normal.
2. We really liked the company we went with (Mountain Water Descents) and were impressed by their very qualified guides. It’s pretty easy to tell that they all know the river really well and have their favorite paths chosen for how to get around all of the giant rocks. They’re also really good at yelling commands, which is crucial for a successful rafting trip.
3. The safety briefing for Mountain Water Descents was pretty extensive and took at least 10-15 minutes. Compare that to my Chilean safety briefing that took maybe 2 minutes and really just covered how to row forward, backward and duck into the raft. So with that, I felt pretty confident that these people knew what they were doing and would make sure we had a great time.
After our safety briefing we all took a bus over to the river and got set up in our raft. We were brave and didn’t wear wetsuits to protect us from the cold water, but we did borrow the company’s splash jackets. The five us were able to stay together in one raft and I have to say, we did a pretty awesome job. We all paddled fairly well together and got through the river without getting stuck between any rocks, like some of the other groups did. The only hiccup we ran into was at the end… we were going through a part they refer to as “the roller coaster” and while we were getting over some of the last rocks, my dad got bumped out of the raft and flew into the water. We soon realized my dad was no longer in the raft and while we listened to the guide for directions on where to paddle so my dad could get back in, my mom burst into hysterics. She laughed so hard she fell backwards into the raft like a turtle and in the process of trying to get back up, she tossed her paddle into the river. Way to keep it together, mom. Thankfully, the rafting company has people taking pictures and video along the route, so we have this moment forever captured :) If you want to see more pictures from this excursion, scroll all the way down to this post.
We were able to get my dad in the raft again and in true papa bear fashion, he laughed about it more than any of us did. We had a great time on this tour; it was such a great balance of having fun and getting your adrenaline rushing but it also had some really tranquil moments where we could just enjoy the landscape around the river and sit peacefully.
After our rafting tour finished, we drove back to Estes Park for lunch and some time to rest. By early afternoon, we were ready to take advantage of our last day in the park and decided to go for a drive along Trail Ridge Road. Fun Fact: Trail Ridge Road is located in Rocky Mountain National Park and is actually the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. How high, you ask? Well, we drove up to about 11,000 feet before we decided to turn back around but there was still plenty of road further up the mountain. The views from this road were absolutely stunning. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.
We had all been hoping to seem some wildlife during our trip to Colorado. Apart from some turkeys on our hummer tour and some little gophers during our drive, we really hadn’t seen much. Well, we lucked out on our way out of the park. As we were driving back into Estes Park, my mom spotted something along the side of the road… elk! We were first told by someone else that had pulled over that it was a deer (which made me think Texas deer were tiny in comparison), but we later found out they were definitely elk. Chip tried several different animal sounds (including a duck quack) to get the elk to look at us, but sadly none of those attempts worked… can’t imagine why :)
The elk eventually went back into the trees where we could no longer watch, so we all got back in the car and made our way over to dinner. Another tripadvisor find, we went to Rock Inn Tavern for dinner. If you’re going there, be sure to get the ribs. So good!
Sunday morning was our last bit of time in Estes Park. My mom had booked the guys a fly fishing tour and some massages for us. I think we got the better end of the deal :) We finished our massages before the guys were done with their fishing, so we took care of packing up our cabin and got us all checked out of Rams Horn.
We went and picked the guys up in the afternoon and heard all about their fly fishing over lunch before heading back to Denver for the evening. My brother was flying out first, so we dropped him off at the airport and then met Teresa’s dad and brother for another great dinner. It was so great getting to see them again and share some seriously tasty food. I sadly can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was extremely delicious; we all cleaned our plates!
Chip and I flew back to San Antonio Monday morning and my parents flew back shortly after that back to Tucson. It was such a fun trip and I’m so grateful we were able to spend so much time with my family. Mom, you did a great job planning this vacation! Where are we going next year? :)