A bittersweet farewell…

I am interrupting my three-part series about our long weekend adventure to Utah to bring you a near-real-time update. I will pick up later and finish all the posts about the fun we had this summer…soon! We left Estes Park, Colorado, and Rocky Mountain National Park on Monday, and suffice it to say, we are sad about that! But this last week and the whole summer has been magical. I will try to share the feeling here.

This summer has been the adventure of a lifetime, and we have certainly had a lot of previous adventures to compare it with! The chance to camp host at the Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake has been a real gift. Sure we were volunteers, and we had to interrupt our retirement to work 24 hours a week, but being here has exceeded all our expectations. We had wonderful bosses (Zenda, Kay, and Richard), great co-workers, and the most amazing backyard in the United States! So great, that we have already signed up for next year, however, we will be splitting the season with another couple, Patty and Dan. We will be in Estes May thru mid-July, and they will finish the season from mid-July to the end of September. Turns out that several other couples will do the same so we will have a bunch of us returning in 2019!!!

Our last week in Estes started out on Monday night seeing Graham Nash perform at the Stanley Hotel, just 4 miles from our campground! It was amazing to see him in a small venue, in the 7th row, with absolutely crystal clear sound!

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On Tuesday, we were off work, so we slept in, did a few chores to prepare for departure, and then we went into Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to say our goodbyes. We chose to go to the Alpine Visitors Center to hike the Alpine Ridge Trail since we had somehow missed that short but steep trail during our stay. I will let the photos do the talking here.

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Panorama at 12,005′ looking northwest

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Panorama looking east

 

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Looking south at the tundra in fall color

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Looking west

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Looking down at Jerry, the visitors center, and Trail Ridge Road in the distance ❤

Heading east out of the park after our visit, this photo captures the essence of the park for us…Longs Peak on the left, at 14,129, the highest peak in RMNP, and the bluest sky in the world.

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Rocky has been a huge part of the wonderful experience for us this summer. We saw a lot of the park, but we have just scratched the surface. We have definitely left a part of our hearts here, and can’t wait to come back! ❤

Although we have been graced with the presence of elk on many occasions in the campground, on Thursday the excitement about the elk “rut” became real for us, when a huge bull elk came calling, complete with his harem of 30+ females, and two competing bulls, just for fun! The rut is elk mating season and happens in September and October each year. The dominant bulls gather large groups of females and their young and then trumpet their challenges to other males who threaten their harem in a sound called ‘bugling’. This group came into a dry pond area at the edge of the campground and lingered there for hours! :-O

This first video shows the herd coming from Mary’s Lake, down a hill, and into the pond area. You can hear the bull bugling a couple of times in one minute!

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The dominant bull is in the center above the herd, a challenger is off to the left

Another short video, the challenger tries to pick off a female, the big bull says “NO WAY!”

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The big guy patrolling the perimeter

Just one more video…with bugling, of course! The whole herd came SO close; it was amazing!

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There are also dominant females in a herd, this one has a radio collar to help wildlife officials track herd movement

Seeing the elk so close, and being able to watch their behavior, was priceless! These majestic animals are fascinating and work hard to continue and improve their species during the mating season each year. It is important to stay out of their way, and watch out for the elk on the roads, as they only have one thing on their minds! 😉

On Saturday, we attended Elk Fest, or the Celebration of the Wapiti, the Native American name for elk. There were bugling contests, nature and mountaineering displays, and our favorite, the Native American music, and dance performances.

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Introducing and thanking the performers

This video shows all the performers together. The men then performed a dance honoring an ailing man, and the women performed a dance typically done when parties came back from a hunt. All the dances were inspiring and the performers show so much respect for their ancestors and history. We could learn a lot from their example.

Sunday was our end of season party for the camp hosts and staff at both Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake, and East Portal, our sister campground. It was held at the new home of Mark & Lisa, hosts who have decided to make Estes Park their full-time home. It is the perfect home for entertaining, and we had a blast, even inviting a band, led by Rex, one of the camp staff!

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Our lovely hosts, Mark & Lisa, and our lovely boss, Zenda

A slide show of candid shots throughout the party. Note: there were THREE Jerry’s at Mary’s Lake this year! 🙂

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And then Zenda gave a little speech and made us all cry and never want to leave…AND really, really want to come back next year! ❤ We really did become a family over this wonderful summer!

Later in the evening, I tried to capture photos of our co-hosts and staff. I got everyone except Barb and Larry, who had left already, but they did make appearances in the slideshow! And unfortunately, our Maintenance Supervisor Richard and his partner Dawn were not able to make it…they were missed!

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Patty and Dan, we will be splitting next season with these lovely people 🙂

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Cheryl and Dave

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Patty, Dan, a photo-bomb from Kay, and my Jerry 🙂

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Our lovely boss Kay, photo courtesy of Sharon H 

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David 😉

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Sharon and Jerry H, with a photobomb from Lisa

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Kathy and Jerry K

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Jim and Chris

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Bonnie and Bob

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Mike and Jeni

This truly was a wonderful group to work and play with, and we will miss them all! We all know that our experience in Estes Park has set the bar ever so high for all of our future work camping gigs! After we finished taking pics of each other, the band put on a great show!

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Rene, Kathy, John, Diane, and Rex

Angel from Montgomery, with a cameo from our hostess, Lisa on tambourine! ❤

The party was a perfect wrap to our season; fun, food, and laughs shared with wonderful friends!

The next morning, we rose early to finish preparations to leave. 😦

We came out of the coach to see the sunrise,

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and were amazed to find a surprise last-day visitor…magical!

After seeing our elk friend, it was time to hit the road. We were touched by the farewell crew at the office on our way out…we had the great fortune to work with the best group all summer, and everyone had a tough time saying goodbye! There were lots of hugs and happy tears and promises to stay in touch until we see (most of) each other next year. But I am confident we WILL stay in touch and share our adventures well into the future. That’s what friends do! ❤

9 thoughts on “A bittersweet farewell…

    • Thank you Richard! 😀 We are going back next year, for 2 1/2 months because we want to go to the PNW when we leave. But the following year, we may very well do the whole season again. We liked it there that much. 😍 We’ll see, who knows what other place we may fall in love with…

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