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Image of a snowy valley

During Sam’s visit in early May, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park. On the way to the park, we stopped to walk along the shore of Lake Estes. The view across the clear water toward the distant mountains acted as an appetizer for the views to come.

We talked briefly to a woman feeding a crippled Canada goose. One of its legs had become entangled in fishing line, and though the line had been removed, lack of blood circulation killed the leg, which now dangled uselessly. When out of the water, the goose traveled by hopping on its good leg. Other geese ostracized it and made its life miserable by pecking it. Taking pity on the creature, the woman fed it daily.

Shortly after entering the national park, we encountered mountain deer and bighorn sheep. They were still wearing their winter coats which had become somewhat shabby. Still, it was fun to watch them.

The weather was cool and ranged from partly cloudy to lightly snowing, depending on our location in the park and the passage of time. Even on a summer’s day, mountain weather is somewhat unpredictable. It’s wise to bring along clothing that can be applied or shed as needed.

Trail Ridge Road is United States’ highest continuous road drivable by conventional vehicles. On a summer’s day you can travel through the national park, over the Continental Divide and beyond, achieving an altitude of 12,183 feet. Not so in May. Typically, much of the road is closed between the middle of October and the early part of June — though Memorial Day is frequently set as the target date for opening the road.

We got lucky. This year’s spring conditions permitted an open road to an unusually high elevation. A local we met told us that in fifteen years of frequently driving Trail Ridge Road, she had never seen it open so far this early in May.