Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

What’s on the West side of the Rocky Mountain National Park?

Tuesday August 19, 2014
Moraine Park Campground
Rocky Mountain National Park




We get another pretty early start.

We are out at 6:00 this morning for our drive to the other side of the park on Trail Ridge Road.  We didn’t make it before sunrise but the colors are lovely in the yard and down our road.





Wildlife is definitely out in the morning.

Along the way we have to stop for these two who mosey across the road and then the back one just stands there.  We could go around him and sort of forced him to move but it is fun watching them and hardly anyone else is on the road.




Further along the road this chubby fellow is enjoying his breakfast.   Lots of wildlife out early in the day.



The plan is to drive the 40 miles to the other end of Trail Ridge Road and see Albert Falls, the Kawuneeche Visitors Center for the west side of the park.  After that visit Grand Lake the lake and Grand Lake the town.   Then we’ll start back up the road stopping at the four numbered stops which we have not seen yet.   It’s a big agenda but what else is new?



Looks like the boys are up to something.

We are rolling right along through Rock Cut when we get stopped again and see some ruckus going on along the side of the road.









Are they practicing for the rut?



Looks like he’s bugling but I didn’t hear it.





Now what elky lady wouldn’t be interested in handsome here?





We do actually reach Adams Falls on the west side.


After watching these guys spar, we drive without incident down to the East Inlet Trailhead for a hike to Adams Falls.  We bypass the Visitor’s Center in favor of the earliest start on the trail we can get.  The trail to the falls only is about a mile round trip and thus is very popular.  It’s an easy walk to the Falls which is within a gorge that evidently follows a geologic crack formed during the uplift of the Rockies and as subsequently altered by glacial scouring and water erosion. 

At the trail head we see the warning sign which is quite exciting but even though we walk a ways beyond the falls on the trail, alas no goat.




There is a very nice viewing platform running along two sides at the falls and a nice volunteer there to answer any questions.  He suggests when we tell him we are on a Moose Hunt that we walk on up the trail to the meadow which he describes as stunning.



The falls come tumbling down, round the curve and head for another fall.




We follow the trail to the meadow enjoying the wild flowers along the way.











The meadow is indeed lovely.  Doesn’t this seriously look  like great moose habitat?




I follow the trail all a round the meadow and start climbing up where I just might see a mountain goat if I had time.  But, story of my life, I don’t.  So I head back.  We follow the river back to the falls.







Grand Lake surprises us.  We weren’t expecting it right here.


Back in the car we are headed for the VC when David sees what he thinks is Grand Lake so we pull in to check it out.   Sure enough this is one side of Grand Lake.

There are lovely wildflowers along this public shoreline.  We see houses along the lake edge, one double kayak coming into shore and a couple of water skiers further out.   Not usually my kind of lake on which to kayak but that isn’t on the agenda for today anyway.












Looking at the lake, we have our backs to the 13.3 mile Alva B. Adams Tunnel which begins at Grand Lake and extends under the Continental Divide to deliver snowmelt runoff captured each year on Colorado’s Western Slope to Northeastern Colorado. David has read about this so when he turns around he knows exactly what it is.

The project cost $160 million was constructed between 1938 and 1957. The tunnel is named for the U.S. Senator from Colorado who played a key role in convincing congress to fund the project. Your tax dollars at work. The things we will do and the money we will spend to allow anyone to live anywhere they want and in any numbers is amazing to me. Carrying capacity of the land is just never an issue



Be sure to see the town of Grand Lake David was advised.

A park ranger David spoke to recommended that we for sure go into Grand Lake since it is “just a great western town with wooden sidewalks and not touristy like Estes Park”.    So naturally he wants to see this town.  



It definitely has wooden sidewalks all around the town.  On the main street and every commercial side street as well.  It has lovely flowers along the streets.  It is a very cute town.  

But to say it isn’t a tourist town is a laugh since every store but perhaps one is totally geared to tourists.  I did not see a “real” grocery story anywhere.  As of 2012,  Grand Lake had a year round population of 492 and an average income of $49, 284 but the estimated medium housing value was $379, 034.  Can you say summer homes??  





We do see one thing that looks like it might be for the full time resident. Maybe two.  Grumpy’s is a great name for a bar.  But otherwise Grand Lake looks like a made for tourists town to us.





Do you remember times like this?

Down one side street we find another public access to Grand Lake. Since we’d already seen the lake, I wasn’t going to take any pictures but  it seems a teen gathering is going on today.  The girls are on the farthest dock and while we are looking around a crowd of guys comes down the street and takes over a dock closer to us.  

In true mating fashion the guys eventually begin to drift in the direction of the girls.   Then they start doing their guy thing, horsing around.   This causes a number of the girls to head back to town.  It was just hilarious watching it.   Do you remember when????






We actually go into two shops though neither of us buys anything.


Back up on the main street of course called Grand Avenue, I do find two shops open year round that we actually go into.  The first of course is the bookstore.  I’ve done my part this month for independent bookstores so all I do is look around.






The second is The Quacker Gift Shop where you can find all things Duckie AND get your picture taken with Ducktor Bill.





Just look at all those Duckies.  I still have many duckies stored away but only two are with us now and I didn’t think they’d take it well if I brought home more to share the ride.   The feel they are very generous to include Mini Winnie the Pooh aka MWP.




I did think it would be OK if I get my picture taken with the Ducktor.  He’s quite a bit taller than I am so putting my arm around his neck is a bit of a trick.




Walking back to the car I see my favorite T-Shirt of the day in XL of course.





Rocky Mountain National Park does not have a lodge but Grand Lake does.


“So now”, I say to David,  “it’s time to finally get back to the park and to the Visitor Center, right?” 

As many of you know, David is a bit more of a tourist and shopper than I am.  I think he has agreed until he sees a sign for the Grand Lake Lodge. I know this isn’t a National Park Lodge but he wants to see it anyway in case it is “vintage”.   I’m not sure if his affliction is nostalgia, vintage or both.

Sure enough, parked out front are a vintage roadster and a vintage fire truck.  He couldn’t be more happy





He’s right about the lodge too.  It opened with a grand ball in July of 1920.  There is a great short history of the lodge and the area on the Lodge’s website if you’d care to read it..   Henry Ford was an early guest here.  Today you can stay in the lodge rooms, eat in the dining room, sit and swing on what they call Colorado’s Front Porch overlooking the town of Grand Lake, the lake and the lodge pool.   You can have your wedding here as well in their outdoor “chapel”.   Hear that Carrie?  










As in all good old lodges, the interior is dark and rustic.  I must attest that these willow rockers are the most comfortable rockers I have ever sat in.  And no Paul I did not sit in those little bitty ones.












I pick up my 4th and final RMNP Passport Stamp at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.


Kawuneeche VC

We do finally make it to the Kawuneeche Visitor Center where I get my 4th and final Passport Stamp for Rocky Mountain National park.  Like the other visitor centers this one has great displays about the history and geology of this area.  It also has some very helpful comparison charts between the East and West Sides of Rocky Mountain national park


If you cannot read them, click the picture.   Most important to us was knowing that the only moose in the park are in this valley.






Remember we are still on a Moose Hunt.


We’re now back on the drive headed for the last stop going west, #12.   Remember we are still on a moose hunt although we sure haven’t been anywhere since the falls that they might be.  Well I take that back.  The owner of The Quacker Gift Shop told me that moose often wander into town and that just this morning a huge bull had been in the church yard right by here house.   Well unlucky us we saw not one moose in town.  But as we are driving along,  there is an unmarked dirt road going off to the left.  These sorts of things pull the steering wheel when David is driving and we are soon bumping down the dirt road which ends at a bridge over the little Colorado River.  It’s a pretty little river here.   I could easily wade across it.





We walk across the bridge and down the road keeping an eye out for moose when we notice that we are walking on a portion of the Continental Divide Trail.  Now how cool is that.






We hike the road/trail just beyond this great old barn sitting out here as I guess a left over from some ranch or homestead.



This again sure looks like prime moose habitat to me but I’m not a moose so I guess not.  We’re running out of time to find this mythical meese since they are only on the west side of the park and we are about to begin our trip East.





As we are driving back the dirt road to the main Trail Ridge Road we see a number of cars pulled over at the intersection.  There’s even a yellow vested volunteer.  Boy a lot has happened since we have ventured down this road.  I didn’t think it had been that long.  How do they get these volunteers out here so quickly?    Sure enough…..WAY over in the meadow are two moose up to their shoulders in grasses munching away.   From such a distance my pictures aren’t very good and there is this one skinny tree that keeps getting in the way.  BUT, we see the moose.  Nothing like in the Grand Tetons, but moose they are.  Real live moose.

Here are some moose facts for you.  A mature male may stand up to 7.5 feet tall and weigh up to 1600 pounds. They can charge at 35 mph.  Bulls grow velvet covered antlers each spring culminating in a flattened rack 6 to 7 feet wide.

Female moose stand 5 to 6’ tall at the shoulders and weigh 600 to 1000 pounds. 





We are now going backwards on the drive.  The last stop is #12, the Holzwarth  Historic Site.




Next to the parking lot is the miner’s cabin that predates the Holtzwarth ownership of this property.  It is one of the oldest buildings still standing in the Kawuneeche Valley. 

In 1902 Joseph Fleshuts homesteaded 160 acres with the intent to live on the land for at least 5 years.  Life must have been hard because in 1911 he abandoned his cabin and was never heard from again.  A few years later it became part of the Holtzwarth property.



From here the mostly level trail continues down to the Colorado River, and offers sweeping views of the Kawuneeche Valley.  In the Arapaho Indian language Kawuneeche means "valley of the coyote".




This is a huge piece of land although I cannot remember anyone saying how many acres and amazingly google won’t tell me either.



Again we pass over the Colorado River.






I have to laugh at the couple standing right in the middle of the bridge. I guess there must be a signal there. But does it have to be exactly in that spot right in the middle. LOL





As we cross the Colorado River information signs tells us that we are only 10 miles from its headwaters in the Never Summer Mountains and along the western slopes of the Continental Divide.   From here the river travels 1400 miles to the Gulf of California. But on the way it is repeatedly stripped of its water by a series of dams. 

Downstream hundreds of tributaries enter the Colorado.  This vast watershed supplies most of the water for agriculture, industry and growing populations in the west.  To meet these demands, modern civilization has harnessed this once wild river with many dams and diversions along its course until only a trickle reaches Mexico.  In fact I’ve read that the river dies 75 miles from the Gulf of California now.   I find this very sad.




The Holzwarth Historic Site is sometimes referred to as the Never Summer Ranch. Technically, however, there were two distinct businesses in this area.

In 1917 German immigrants Sophia and John G. Holzwarth Sr.,built their homestead here  on the Upper Colorado river at the foot of the Never Summer Mountains.  They intended to start a cattle ranch.. Their location on the west side of the Colorado River (then known as the Grand River), and next to the newest national park, soon began attracting friends and then other guests. The family decided to open a guest ranch, which they called the Holzwarth Trout Lodge.

As tourism in the area increased over the next decade the Holzwarth family began development of a dude ranch on the east side of the Colorado River, which became known as the Never Summer Ranch where guests stayed in Rustic Cabins or in a Lodge that once stood in the meadow near the Miner’s cabin.  Hunting, fishing and horse back riding were the activities.

The name of the ranch was taken from the nearby Never Summer Mountains. The Arapaho Indians called the range Ni-chebe-chii, which translates into “Never No Summer”.



The Buildings of the Trout Lodge remain and you can tour several of them.  Others are now residences for park personnel

The first cabin built on the original ranch was the Mama Cabin, where Sophia, John’s wife, would prepare home-cooked meals for guests, Subsequent buildings and cabins at the lodge were built between 1919 and 1945, with the Rose Cabin being last.



A volunteer gives us a tour of the Mama Cabin.  Inside we find that the furnishings in an early 20th century ranch house are not that different from those in our late 19th/early 20th century farm house.  


Holtzworth Mama Cabin 



The original cabin was build onto in the back just as our farm house was.  But here the bedrooms are left in the front so I’m assuming the back door into the ice box room and then the kitchen might have been the more likely entry for the family.  Front doors seldom open into someone’s bedroom





At the time of the move from Denver, all 3 of the girls were grown so only John Jr moved with them.  His bed was on the opposite side of the room from his parents.  The guide assumes there was some sort of wall here at one time.




The furnishings have been left with the cabin.  Although the guide wasn’t sure which of the two rockers was mama’s favorite it was known that she definitely had one.  My guess is the most worn one by the sewing machine with the foot stool.






John Sr. was apparently a sure shot and took up taxidermy.  You can see the mounted heads in the bedroom photos.   I thought his use of deer feet was pretty funny.




We actually had the set of dishes on the top two shelves here as well as pieces of the cranberry and green ware so popular at that time.   Apparently the message on the plate was one of Mama’s favorites.   Mine too!





Turn of the century kitchens are always my favorites. 










OK can you guess what these last two things are?   I’ll reveal the answers in my next post IF blogger will put it up.





At the age of 71, wishing to preserve the aesthetic value of his property for future generations, John Holzwarth Jr. sold the ranch to the Nature Conservancy in 1974. In the following year the Nature Conservancy transferred the property to Rocky Mountain National Park.   I have to applaud TNC for so very often being there with holding money to stop terrible things from happening and enable great things to happen while bureaucracy slowly churns its wheels.  This is a great example.  There are many many others.



Ever tried on a bear skin coat?



We head out the back door where I find I could play dress up again if I wanted to.  Bonnets and aprons are available as well as cowboy hats.  I’m actually wearing my bonnet since it works better than anything I have tried at keeping the sun out of my eyes.  The sun here in the west or maybe here at over 5,000 feet makes my eyes miserable.  Forgot to have David take a picture of me in my hiking clothes and bonnet.  

This time David plays dress up in a buffalo robe owned by John Jr and left with the house.  He says it is “really warm and really heavy”.








Other buildings open for inspection include the taxidermy shop, the newly renovated ice house complete with authentic sod roof and the tent house where John Jr. used to stay a great deal when he came to visit the property.  It is still “furnished”.









The Never Summer Ranch buildings near Trail Ridge Road were subsequently removed in order to return the site to its natural state. The buildings at the Holzwarth Trout Lodge complex, however, were retained as a representation of early dude ranching in the Rockies.



Can anyone help me out identifying this grass?

Walking back down the road we are taken again by the pink grass growing in the meadow which once held the Never Summer Ranch.   Does anyone know what it is?  I’m really hoping it is native since it is all over this meadow.









Stop #10 is where the waters divide.


We move on up the drive to Milner Pass  where Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide.  At this point the waters enter either the Atlantic or Pacific drainages.  We get out and take a look.  I can easily see the La Poulre Lake and Creek on our right but when I go all the way to the left, I see no sign of Beaver Creek.  I guess it’s down there somewhere.








We have heard a lot about them and finally here they are.


The skies are looking pretty threatening as we come to the pull out for the famous Never Summer Mountains,  these are the only volcanic range in the Rocky Mountains.  They created parts of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lava Cliffs at Stop # 7.



Many places in Rocky Mountain National Park bear Arapaho derived names: Never Summer Mountains, Kawuneeche Valley, Onahu Creek.  These stem from a naming expedition sponsored by the Colorado Mountain Club in 1914.  Convinced that assigning Indian names to area landmarks would help persuade Congress to establish this land as a National Park, the club invited Arapaho Elders Gun Griswold and Sherman Sage to revisit the land of their youth.  Their recollections are commemorated by 36 Arapaho based place names.    Seems the least we could do for stealing their land and trying to totally eliminate their people less than 40 years before.   Seems strange that congress would be persuaded by anything related to the people for whom the government during the entire 19th century had instituted a policy of genocide.   But I’m glad it worked.   Guilt already maybe?    Sherman Sage and Gun Grisworld are the two men in the middle left to right.









We have to pass by stop #9, Medicine Bow Curve. 

Those dark clouds have decided to send the rain down.   But we’re plenty tired and it’s time to head for home.   Tomorrow is our last day here in Rocky Mountain National Park so we hope it doesn’t rain on our parade.






  1. I always like it when I'm stopped by wildlife in the road as it gives me a chance to look at them more closely. At least when they are taking their time.

    I always see your blog on my blog roll, although I understand that not everyone does. Blogger is about the most inconsistent program I've ever worked with. It's too bad there isn't a good alternative - Wordpress is way more complicated to set up I think as well as to use.

  2. You do know how to pack a lot into a day. I think those elk were serious. I could do without those tourist trap towns and stay with the trails. Well except maybe for ice cream. I am excited about seeing those headwaters of the Colorado. So different from the river seen in the canyon. A shame about all the water diversion in the name of so many people living in a desert. Oops, that's where I live. Love the name and the old Never Summer Ranch, although I like summer so much I wouldn't want to live there, just visit. I'm glad there are volunteers around, but what about Rangers?

  3. Sorry about your blogger problem...but we actually get both your original and the short post on our list???

    Glad we got to see the original post and follow along on this very fine day. Those Elk looked real serious!!! Love the last photo of the Elk looking right at you...

    The Colorado River sure looks small and delicate at the headwaters. Just a beautiful day and wonderful scenery.

  4. Wish you'd had time to do the loop from Albert Falls rather than just to the meadow and back. Not spectacular, but still a lovely and easy walk through a different part of RMNP. And yes, we would agree that Grand Lake is just touristy as Estes Park in its own way. We ate a picnic lunch at a park along the lake (possibly near where you saw the teens) and never saw another soul!

  5. Awesome elk! Seen plenty of elk and bison here in the Tetons, but only one moose and NO bears! I think I'll be the only person to spend four months here and not see a bear.
    We stayed one night on Grand Lake, I loved the old western boardwalks. Not too many people there in mid-June either, and the lake was beautiful.
    I agree you sure do pack a lot into one day!

  6. We stayed just outside of Grand Lake for 2 weeks last year and saw moose several times in our campground and on hikes on the West side...awesome! I'm glad you did finally see some before you drove back East! Our favorite place in the town of Grand Lake was their comfortable little library.

    It was nice to see your photos of the Holzworth site, it was closed the day we visited.

  7. I just keep thinking WOW! every time you post your blog. sooooooo Wow!

  8. Keep Calm And Play Dead... I love it!

    I think that second item up above might be for grilling sandwiches?

    Beautiful pics, particularly the elk and moose. It's been years since I've been in the West and saw elk, but moose we have here. They're magnificent animals.

  9. Elk and moose in one day!! Too cool :) I think lodges are just divine. Makes you want to sit and have a cuppa while looking out at the mountains.

  10. Love reading your blog and please don't stop writing. I may never get to all the parks in person but I enjoy reading your adventures! Remember some of us only get to dream of visiting different parts of the country but you help us enjoy those dreams.

  11. Hmmm - spring must come late to the Rockies with the elk and teenagers with similar behavior! While I'm generally turned off by tourism in areas that were once so much more, it seems from the history of the family that tourism is the history of the place here. I think the first item is a traveling egg holder and the second item is for sweeping crumbs off the table......?? Could you even lift that buffalo coat? The lodge looks like it was a worthy stop :-).
    Three blogs didn't update this time, yours wasn't one of them though. He doesn't use BlogSpot, but Howard's blog updates two-three days later every time. I just pull you all up every morning regardless of what my roll says :-).

  12. You were in ducky heaven! Good thing your duckies don't know you were unfaithful. They don't read your blog, right?

    That would be a great place for a wedding! So nice to see the bride's parents that will spare no expense to give their daughter the wedding of her dreams... :cD

    1. PS: I think David should wear that bearskin coat as he walks Carrie down the aisle. ;c)

    2. PSS: And maybe a carriage pulled by a team of elk...just trying to be helpful! :c)

  13. Before I had my RV, I interviewed for a summer job at Holzwarth Historic Site, but when they described the condition of the housing I would stay in, I decided to pass on the job. Although there are moose around the East entrance to Yellowstone, I was never lucky enough to see any when I was there.

  14. What a great wildlife day!! I just loved seeing all the bull elk. I don't think I ever got tired of them. Glad you did see a moose. We drove over to the west side one day and lucked out with a few moose sightings including a family:)

    Gotta love the couple in the middle of the road! It is amazing how unaware people are.

  15. It's funny how moose habitat is so easily spotted. Sometimes, Rich would pull off to the side because I was certain that we would see a moose. I had more patience, however, and was willing to sit for a while and wait for one to appear. Rich on the other hand, didn't like sitting still so lord only knows how many moose we missed (bear, too). I did see several moose on my 2010 trip. I got a bad picture of one and the Mother and calf was so far away that people just had to believe me when I said they were there--two specks.

    I really enjoyed this post. I still can't fathom how much you remember in a day much less pack in what you do in a day. I look back through posts in my blog (west) and I can remember, now, many other things that happened in a particular day yet I couldn't remember when writing. What's your secret? Can you share. I can see how your blog could become a wonderful guide for RVers.

  16. You guys have had a great adventure in RMNP. . .if we ever return, we will stay on the West Side, and explore it further. . .I agree. . .the town of Grand is most definitely a tourist town. . .but we did have a great lunch at the Grand Lodge. . .now, on to the next thing!

  17. I love the leftover barn :) And, so cool to see the moose! well, and all that vast beautiful acreage!!

  18. Great post, I will have to look at it a coupe of times:) Always like wildlife, especially the large variety.

  19. Ahh, I never get tired tagging along in your tours, not only the pictures are great (especially that one with the dark clouds) but the details makes me feel Im there too.
    And you had been very fortunate with wildlife sightings.

  20. Love the wildlife you are seeing and especially the "handsome" elk. I think that gadget is a cheese cutter?

    You sure packed a lot into one day. I like cute little touristy towns like that and enjoy going into some of the local shops. We just spent a day in one very similar and found the most amazing handcrafted items. Didn't buy, but sure enjoyed looking. You have a duckie shop, we had a bear shop.

    Yeah, you have to have David take a picture of the bonnet. I'm sensitive to sunlight too and I would probably have had an issue with it too.

    Great blog post. I actually read it a few days ago, but we were busy and didn't get a chance to comment. I thought I'd better though!

  21. Wonderful elk photos! I especially like the bearded guy in the last one. And yay, you got your moose! I really enjoyed your tour of the Holzwarth Historic Site -- and I agree, turn of the century kitchens are always my favorites, too. Okay -- here are my guesses for the two mystery items: the one on the right is for scraping crumbs off of the table; the one on the left??? Bedsprings for eggs??? ;-)

  22. I'm with Jodee, looks like a toast crumb scraper to me, but what do I know, I'm way too young right? I'm happy to know which side of the park to visit to avoid the wind, and I'm sure Wayne will be happy to know there are no rattlesnakes!


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