Colorado Rockies Trip (Last updated on 2009/04/23)

5/4 Going to Colorado

Going to the airport.

Woke up at 4:15AM, I went to bed around 1:00AM last night so it was quite tough waking up. The only thing moving my body was the will for not to miss the trip! Had a cup of orange juice, turn on the drier which I needed to monitor all the time due to a broken timer. I did not get it to dry before I have to leave the apartment before completion. Oh, no... Took a shower, finished packing, stretched my body, and left home around 4:45AM, The outside was around upper 30s, so it was quite chilly but sky was clear. I am glad about the no rain because I need to drive under stress, I don't think I could take that. Drove under dark sky on I-275 to the airport, I was tired from continuous work without taking any day off. I was barely keeping up with the traffic. Anyways, I arrived at the airport at 5:20AM, The machine at parking entrance was not working well since it did not recognize my credit card, so I kept the paper ticket instead... I tried to park near the terminal, but there was a construction going on so I had to park where 5 minutes away by walking. Used an elevator which is working this time, and walked up to the terminal. Checked bags in, which was quite smooth and quick because not many people were waiting. So I just walked away from the counter within few minutes after I arrived there. I must have looked very sleepy since the security person asked me how I am feeling. Passed security with no problem. I was a bit concerned because I could put my survival knife in my carry on bag instead of the check in bag by mistake (Done)

To Chicago: AA1137 DTW(6:50am)-ORD(7:00am)

Arrived at the gate. I thought about buying a bottle of water but so many people were lined up at both Quizno's and Starbucks... I changed my mind. The lounge was a bit cold so wearing fleece was just fine. I guess it is still not quire warm day yet. I upgraded myself on the first class before check in, which was almost empty. So I feel I wasted my upgrade points. The boarding started normally, and departed on time. Flying through hazy, morning air, I could see fog lying on the ground. I get to see a couple of towns, and reached Michigan lake, then saw downtown Chicago in a distance since it was approaching from northeast. Landing to west, arrived at the gate 6:55AM, bought water and scone at Starbucks as my breakfast.

AA1137 at Detroit Metro Airport Chicago downtown in far south


To Denver: AA1103 ORD(8:25am)-DEN(9:55am)

Waited until 7:55AM when the boarding starts. I was taking many short naps during the time. I am so sleepy... I should have not pushed myself this hard... The Plane had on schedule departure, since it is going to be a 2 hours flight on Midwest, not much things to see so I was napping most of the time on the way. Made my feel a bit better. The plane flew from Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and finally, Colorado. I started to see a part of Rocky Mountains in far west, the initial announcement indicated the plane is going to be landing to the west. Since my seat was on right hand side, I guessed I could not see the mountains. but they changed the route at the final minutes, so ended up landing to the north. I get to see the airport and downtown, and coming in from the south.

AA1103 at Chicago O'Hare Airport Denver International Airport insight

Heading to Pikes Peak

The plane arrived at the airport at 10:00AM, walked down to downstairs and took a train to the main concourse. Denver International Airport has West and East wings at the main building, and three separate gate complexes are connected by an underground transport system. The train played some short music when opening and closing the doors, it was pretty cool and makes me energetic for a bit. After getting off the train, I went up to the ground level, I had to wait for a while until the bags came out. Got a ride on Hertz shuttle bus, which stopped for extra 5 minutes at another terminal. They insisted I should upgrade the car to an SUV but got a Mercury Milan anyway because of the price will increase by $12/day. I even skipped the navigation system option to save money. Getting a mid-size car was the best deal at the time. Since this is not a business trip, I had to buy insurance. Left the parking at 10:30AM. As I was driving out, I could see the all the Rocky mountains and also the Pikes Peak which I was hoping to get there.

Since when I arrived at the airport, I was getting a bad headache, maybe because of the altitude. Denver is located at almost a mile high from the sea level. While driving to the south on I-25 from Pena Rd, I could see the clear sky and mountains on the horizon. Seeing AF academy on the right hand side, I kept driving, and arrived to Colorado Springs,  At 12:30PM, stopped at McDonald's off the I-25 on the way to the Pikes Peak. The place was in a such a chaos, because of the messed up order. Several cars were waiting outside to get their orders, and more people inside before me waiting for their orders. The manager had to give away a bunch of free stuffs, it was a special hour... After eating 10 pieces of nuggets, I did not feel like finishing up the fries. I was drinking cola but did not work on my headache well. Anyways, afternoon weather in the mountain is so unpredictable, I continue driving to get there as soon as possible.

On the way to the peak, the both sides of the road becoming more rocky, and a bunch of curves. Local folks can drive at 50mph but I had to push myself a little to keep it up. I am driving a rental car and this one is much bigger and heavier than what I drive normally.  Arrived at the entrance of the peak at 1:15PM, told I can only go to 16 of 18 miles stretch, I cannot go up to the summit yet.

drive up slowly, made stops to take pictures, also I picked up a guy on the way who wants to go back up and ski down. It was nice talking with him. He used to live in Detroit. Reached at 16 miles mark, see a park ranger blocked the way, so I had no choice but climbing up at Devil's playground. Which is at 13,000ft. I could see the summit which I cannot go... The weather was not well, I needed a wind proof jacket. No rain was falling but I did not like the condition. I get to see some people going down the hill with ski and snowboard Stopped at a lake for a while While I was trying to climb up, I was totally out of breath, had hard time climbing up, but I made it through. I could taste the all different symptoms of altitude sickness, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, loss of balance. After reaching to the highest point there, I looked around and saw the weather is coming down, Stated to head down after 2:30PM, got to I-25 by 4:00PM, by the time when I got back from the road, my headache is getting better. The rule on the downhill portion of Pike Peak is to put the gear at lowest to prevent the brake to have vapor developed inside of
the system due to prolonged use of the brake. So, I put the transmission gear to "L" and see what happens, the car actually drives a lot faster than I hoped. I kept using the brake but did not cause the problem, phew.. On the way back, I stopped for a moment at a lake. The surface of the lake was waking due to breezy condition. I did not get a reflection of the mountains...
Exiting from the Pikes Peak highway, drove back on 50mph Stopped at Crystal Creek Reservoir for a moment. The store there shows the soil containing several kinds of stones...

  Denver Airport

Mercury Milan


The toll booth for Pikes Peak


At 16 miles

Skiers going

At mile 2

Devil's playground


Going to Fort Collins

Driving back to Denver on I-25 isn't too bad until I passed the Colfax Ave, which is the central part of the city. It was still during the commuting time, so took a while to head north on I-25. I get to see people waiting at the entrance of the freeway. Also  Getting
Arrived at hotel in Fort Collins at 6:00PM,checked in, rested for a bit and headed to refuel my car and eat dinner. I bought several bottles of water, and some snacks for the hiking tomorrow.
I stopped at Denny's nearby. Had fried chicken sandwich, which was not too bad but the server was kinda slow. Come back to the hotel, stayed up until 10:00PM. Went to bed.

Heading back to Denver Area

North of Denver

Miles driven, 260miles

5/5 Rocky Mountain National Park (Day 1)

Heading to Rocky Mountain National Park

Woke up at 6:00AM, sunny but chilly weather. I know this is going to be a nice day! I looked out the outside from the hotel room, and I could see no cloud over the mountain. Packed gear, and left hotel around 7:30AM, drove south on I-25, to CO-34 toward the national park. at 8:00AM, arrived at CO-34, the road is wide, and  driving through a canyon, the car had a serius was cut for a moment.
The speed limit is mostly 45mph, but many places indicate I should be driving at 30mph, even 15mph. Driving on the road was quite fun, both sides were  Since I cannot drive like locals do, I had to let them pass for a couple of times. Any how, I did okay. I checked the radio on 1610AM, it was saying something but I did not get it... At 8:40AM, arrived at the office, checked on the condition of the park, I am cleared to go to the bear lake.
Maybe I could go to the flattop mountain.
Drove up and arrived at the parking lot which I gear up and started to walk.
The path was snow covered and the only way I know I am going to the right direction was to see some footprints on the ground.

Driving on U.S. Highway 34 at Canyon Rd

Arriving at Estes Park, Co

Aiming for the flattop mountain

Began climbing 10:00AM, rested for every 30 minutes, the weather was quite nice and warm, so I was walking with t-shirt On the way up. I was passed by a guy with ski, advised that I should have snow shoes. Also the guys coming down from the mountain also told me that the condition of the hill is not good without proper gears. Snow on the field was sometimes packed but also some are very loose, I had to Decided to leave at 1:00PM, I was coming down okay but the snow was very loose, and I could not walk without getting stuck. I even lost the trail and was wondering the forest for 15 minutes...


Heading back to the hotel

3:00PM find the right path, Arrived to the parking left at 3:30PM.

Drove back to the park office at 4:00PM get to see some slovenlier stores on the way back.
From RMNP- Back to the hotel at 6:00PM, took shower, relaxed Went outside to find a place to eat around 7:00PM Ate at McAlister, left around 7:45PM. I didn't know about them expanding the business to Colorado, They only had stores in Indiana, and now three more in Colorado. I had a French dip and salad, since I skipped the lunch. Going back to the hotel, bought some postcards. Went to bed around 10:00PM


Heading back to Denver

Heading to Ft. Collins

Miles driven, 130.

5/6 Rocky Mountain National Park (Day 2)

Heading to Rocky Mountain National Park

Woke up at 6:00AM, my leg muscles are sore due to the long walk yesterday. Still sunny in the morning, but I already see some clouds. Had breakfast. The weather forecast noted that chance of rain after 2:00PM... I wanted to go back to the park again so I just stretched my body and left the hotel at 9:00AM, Drive to the park was easier than yesterday, maybe because I know the place now. Bought some waters at a gas station nearby, packed three bottles of water into my backpack.

Arrived at Bear Lake parking at 11:00AM, (Got to the I-25 to CO-34 at 9:30AM) Because I arrived later than yesterday, I see more cars parked. Geared up and started walking.

Arrived at Nymph lake at 11:23AM, and I could not find the way to the Dream lake, so I had to  give few tries just following different footprints, and finally got the right one, which I needed to
climb up a bit and have to go around the huge rock, the path is snow covered I had to be careful approaching I did not see much people hiking today so it was very quiet, I could hear no sound except wind moving the trees, branches of trees bouncing back from the buried under snow. to the Emerald at 1:00PM. I also got lost a few times but finally come back to the parking.
To go to dream lake, I needed to climb up hill and round a big rock, it was confusing without seeing the right track. This time again, I hope I had snow shoes because the trail was not in good shape, sometimes even scary. Arrived at dream lake, then kept walking on the trail. Finding the emerald lake was a lot easier. I get to see a couple of skiers coming down on the wall, saw a couple of birds around me. I had a couple of bag of small chocolate, pieces of beef jerky for my lunch and  All the lakes are still frozen. The surroundings were very calm and quiet too.
Left the park at 2:40PM. Drove back on CO-36 to CO-34, Back to hotel at 4:15PM. Took a shower, got

Dream Lake

Emerald Lake

Mountain view


Leaving the park, going back to Ft. Collins

Heading to Denver downtown

Going to Denver to have a dinner with my friend from school

Left hotel around 5:40PM, driving on the south on I-25 again. The west bound traffic was jammed and I can see a couple of police cars at the scene. I am glad I am heading to east bound.
On the I-25, the volume of traffic was quite large despite I am going to the opposite direction from the commute. On the way, I saw lights at a ball park, so I think Rockies were playing tonight.
The weather was holding so it was only cloudy. which is good because I hate driving in rain where I don't know much. Got off at Colfax, and drove along the street, I get to see the downtown area, as well as a capital building. Passed a few more miles, and arrived at the hotel my friend was staying. He is for ASTM conference so he does not much things to do in the evening.
I picked him up, it's been a three years since the last time I met him. By following the direction, we are heading to Red Robin's restaurant in Aurora, but we could not find it. So, I also checked the place in different city, jumped on I-275 to I-70, then got off at (?) where shopping mall is located. Arvada) We both had banzai burgers, and enjoyed unlimited fries. The discussions were interesting, I guess we both changed a bit. Left the restaurant and headed back to the hotel, including a cruise to a city where he wants to go tomorrow. Left Denver downtown around 10:15PM,
Driving under rainy condition, and lots of constructions on I-25, during the night. My car telling me it is low on fuel, so  Come back to the hotel 11:15PM Went to bed around midnight.

Banzai Burger at Red Robin's

Miles driven 330miles

5/7 Heading back to Detroit

Going back to the airport

Woke up at 6:00AM, news in the morning was talking about Democratic candidate race held at Indiana and  Took a shower, stretched a bit then headed downstairs for breakfast.
There weren't many people this time. the past couples of days were a chaos because of many high school students were staying. I wrote cards to several of my friends just like I did while I was on a business trip last week.

Packed my bag, put everything in the car, and got a copy of receipt. Left the hotel around 9:00AM, drove to the post office at local Fort Collins, which is in the same building of federal building.

Drove off to the airport at 9:30AM. Driving on I-25 was okay, just few constructions. However, once I get on I-270, the rain was falling hard. Continue until when I get to the airport. Stopped at Diamond Shamrock (Which I only know the name from Kansas) to get the gas before returning the car. Had to stop at a gas station to fill up the tank before returning it to the store. Now they are charging $7.45 a gallon. Went back on I-70 East, since intersection with Pena Blvd has passed, I had to drive north on Airport Blvd then get back on the Pena Blvd. The speed limit was 55mph and I see many cops on the road, I gave up driving fast. Got off at the rental car return exit, and  Arrived at Hertz location at 10:48AM, which is the exact timing when I checked out the car. Miles driven: 733.

I don't have to pay for extra hour or day, just for three days rental. Get on a shuttle bus to the terminal. Took a while bur arrived okay, the shuttle bus was leaking the rain water
Checked my bag in, headed to the food court to eat my lunch. I picked up burger at Burger King.

Denver Airport inside

To Chicago: AA2067 DEN(12:55pm)-ORD(4:50pm)

Now it's delayed to 1:45PM. While waiting for the plane, another announce told us that more delay is possible since Chicago weather is not good. The plane took off at 1:45PM and arrived at Chicago around 5:00PM so I guess it was not too bad. The air surrounding the O'Hare is a bit bumpy. No rain, which is good.

AA2067 at DEN Outside of Denver is just plain farm field

To Detroit: AA510 ORD(6:45pm)-DTW(9:05pm)

The departure of this flight was also delayed. I can see because when I checked the weather on TV in the morning, Chicago weather is not good, I decide not to change the plane this time
it is much cautious choice until I find out the connection flight is actually delayed or not. I made that mistake last time, on the same flight, AA510... This time it worked okay. I was waiting for the boarding and something not right, The departure was pushed back to 6:55PM, 7:12PM then the actual departure ended up at 7:30PM. The weather condition was raining hard, a trail of water kept raining into the cabin... The pilot said the delay was due to maintenance, but since I saw no employee coming into the cabin but only see several
passengers who were on the standby list coming in, I had to think it was because they want to put more people in...

Hard rain started. Departing Chicago finally...

The problem stricken again, about 6 international airliners were departing just as we are going, so we waited for another one hour before we can go. The plane took off at 8:20PM, arrived to DTW at 10:20PM. Got to my car and drove back to home around 11:30PM. Since I had to take care of few more things, including watching drier, I did not go bed until 1:30AM... On the way home, I saw the price of gas was around $3.79 a gallon, which is 40 cents more expensive than in Colorado!

Costs: $900


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