The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Come for the sunrise, stay for the rainbow

Estes Park

I've been feeling the travel bug lately, but Mark and I hadn't been on a plane for over six years. So rather than making all kinds of pie-in-the-sky dreams without knowing how we'd handle flying, we looked for the cheapest tickets to a fun place and ended up taking a last-minute adventure to Denver to explore the natural wonder nearly in our backyard --- Rocky Mountain National Park.

Young male elk

I took more than 300 pictures over the course of three days, mostly of charismatic megafauna like elk and fish. But I've made a real effort to whittle it down for you so this post won't be excessively long. That said, it still won't hurt my feelings if you skip it --- there's nothing homesteading-related below.

Mountain rainbow

So what did tweak my fancy? I spotted at least three rainbows, including this one which appeared in the western sky just as the sun rose over the mountains in the east. Every moment, the rainbow became brighter as the sun rose higher until the band of colors had formed a complete half circle from montain peak to mountain peak.

Cloud mountain

But it was driving up higher beyond our home base at Estes Park that took my breath away, both figuratively and literally. Having been raised in the Appalachian Mountains, I thought I knew what mountains were. I had no idea. Just stopping at a roadside overlook gave me vertigo, the slopes descending so rapidly that land was soon lost in the clouds.

Photographing mountains

And then there was the alpine tundra at the top. As soon as Mark and I got out of the car at 12,000 feet, we knew our two fleeces, one toboggan, single pair of gloves, and lone long johns were only going to be enough for one person to brave the third of a mile of course I ripped Mark's warm clothes off his back and made a run for it.

Alpine tundra

By the time I was halfway up, sleet was punishing me for my disloyalty, the wind blowing ice pellets so hard they stung against my face. The air is so thin at that elevation that walking up a seemingly endless series of steps made it hard to breathe, and the people I ascended with soon scurried back down to seek cover in the visitor's center (where I'd left Mark). I, instead, huddled behind a small rock outcrop in an attempt to survive.

Rocky mountain peak

In case you can't tell, that moment of solitude within a very busy and very cold park was my very favorite part of the trip. (And, yes, Mark forgave me for leaving him behind.)

Shortgrass prairie

Then we returned to Denver, where we spent a short time exploring the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where city and shortgrass prairie intermingle with wild abandon. There was a dust storm and bison and mule deer and prairie dogs...and my best photo was of a fire hydrant. I think I was getting a bit tired by that point.

Sunrise over the mountains

So I'll leave you with one last shot of Estes Park, taken at sunrise just before I turned around to look the other way and noticed the rainbow behind my back. I think there's a lesson there. What do you think?

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Colorado has been on my bucket list for years.Maybe if I could swell some art I'd get there. Glad you guys enjoyed your time there. Looks absolutely stunning. Can't wait to hear about it.


Comment by bleueaugust Sun Oct 7 08:04:58 2018

Was there a trail to the lake?

We in "The East" have no conception of lots of The West...Our country is enormous! Thanks so much for your photos!

Comment by adrianne Sun Oct 7 08:58:07 2018

Jen --- I hope you get to see Colorado too sooner rather than later! It was definitely inspiring.

Mom --- I'm such a sneaky photographer.... That lake is actually right beside a two-lane road! I just angled my shot so you couldn't see it. There were lots of smaller "lakes" (what I would call ponds), though, in the area accessible only by trail, or not accessible at all.

Comment by anna Sun Oct 7 14:36:37 2018

Especially the mountain pictures are gorgeous.

You may be surprised to hear that the Appalachian mountains are becoming more rugged. Although you need to take your time to appreciate it. :-)

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Oct 7 15:19:26 2018

Anna, I was reading your adventure with rapt attention until you used the term "toboggan..." This of course is what folk in a small region call what I call a stocking cap, Canadians call a "Touque" or others may call a "Beanie"

My wife is from rural south western VA, about twenty miles as the crow flies from Mark and Anna's old homestead... I am from Minnesota.

Early on in our courtship I overheard my better half referring to someone "Wearing a toboggan.." I was TOTALLY confused! To most folk, a toboggan? It's a wooden sled used to slide down hills!

Comment by Eric Mon Oct 8 18:35:08 2018

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.