FIELD NOTES FROM THE ALPINE TUNDRA
Our friends and summer ambassadors, James and Rachel, of Idle Theory Bus, share their travels and reflections from a two week visit in Rocky Mountain National Park, bringing Munk Pack along for the ride. To learn more about James and Rachel’s adventures, check out their first post with Munk Pack.
To take advantage of the small crowds of early June, we ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Rockies were benevolent, granting us 2 weeks of leftover snow, rushing rivers, and frozen lakes. We chugged up the hairpin bends of Trail Ridge Road and camped under the star-studded skies. After exploring the front country, we left civilization behind for a weeklong backpacking trek in the park’s rugged wilderness.
Heading up this trip’s adventure crew are the mainstays of Idle Theory Bus, my boyfriend James and I. The last 2½ years, we have traveled in our VW bus Sunshine, exploring and creating art along the way. My teenaged brother and sister flew into Denver to join us on a 2-week journey of a lifetime.
Every summer, these two rascals hop on for an annual road trip we call “Summer Camp is Where You Park It.” They each stay in their own tent, us in the bus, and we explore some of the most grand and remote landscapes of North America.
James and I are passionate about getting younger generations into the wild. With video games and pervasive Internet access, many kids don’t know what it means to be unplugged for a few days. That’s why we began “Summer Camp is Where You Park It,” to share our love of the outdoors with these teens. This year promised to be nothing short of magical.
The greatest feature of Rocky Mountain National Park is its access to the alpine tundra, one of the most fragile and unknown landscapes in the world. It is both surreal and breathtaking to drive all the way to the high, seemingly barren ridges. We spent entire days above 11,000 feet, peering down from the Continental Divide as lounging elk sunned themselves on warm rocks.
A steep incline led us to the top of Fall River Pass. We hiked some squiggly trails to the ridge of the tundra. Flora is sparse, yet colorful at 11,000 feet, especially this time of year. Two ptarmigans, mottled ground birds, wandered their slow way through blooming forget-me-nots. We watched a shedding coyote pounce on a small rodent and run through the snowdrifts, snack clutched between his teeth.
As the sun slipped below the snowy peaks, we cooked up dinner in the bus. Dusk brings silent solitude on Trail Ridge, so plan to stay late during these long summer days. The last rays spread over the sky and we practically danced with joy in the purple light.
We drove down, darkness pierced by our orange headlights, unsure if we were giddy from the altitude or the day’s incomprehensible beauty. – @idletheorybus
Up Next: FIELD NOTES FROM A FIRE LOOKOUT