(Grand Lake CO)
The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Kawuneeche Valley, promised abundant wildlife and fewer tourists. Both were appealing to me. Together with a ‘first-come’ campground at the foot of the 12,000ft plus Never Summer Mountains I was hopeful for a rewarding few days.
The Arapaho called it Kawuneeche, meaning valley of the coyote. And, Never Summer Mountains because it remained cool, and the high peaks were usually snow-capped the year round. Things have changed as there was little snow, and no coyote were seen or heard.
Never Summer Ranch
It was a short one mile hike from the campground to see the Never Summer Ranch. A family had homesteaded with intentions to ranch. However, the father broke his hip while working the fields. So, the plan changed and it became a dude ranch with rental cabins, fishing in the Colorado River, hunting, and horseback riding in the surrounding mountains. It became a popular destination after the Trail Ridge Road was built over the mountains.
Colorado River Headwaters
Another hike from camp followed the Colorado River to its headwaters. No bigger than a creek, it meandered through a marshy area northward in the valley. I walked for about an hour and a half hoping to perhaps see moose; but, no luck for me. The Beaver Ponds were along the way. However, there was no sign of beaver or their work.
A two mile one-way hike up the mountain with a 1200ft increase in elevation took me to Big Meadow. The ranger said that elk and moose could usually be seen there. At about 10,000ft, I was hopeful to find them; but, none showed up. My timing was off, or they were gathering elsewhere.
I chose the west side of the park because it was promoted as the best chance to see wildlife. Perhaps it was the wrong time of year; or I didn’t get far enough into the mountains. I was disappointed as I only saw a few birds, and a couple of squirrels during my entire visit.
Camp: Rocky Mountain NP-Timber Creek CG
Scene: Mountains, river, ranch, meadow