On Monday we made the drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time in months. Our last trip up was in July when we hiked from the Chapin Trailhead. Since then wildfires and flooding kept us out of the park. We had plenty of other areas to explore so we didn’t think much of it…until Monday.
We headed north to Boulder and I whined as we sat in traffic – don’t drive toward Boulder at 8am, you’ll regret it. I’ve been to Boulder multiple times since the floodwaters came through two months ago but haven’t seen much of the true damage – it was no different this time through. We stuck to the main roads and had no reminder of the floods until we saw the sign that said “Highway 7 closed to Estes Park”. We were taking Highway 36 so the flood damage wasn’t exactly on my mind.
Until we arrived in Lyons.
At first it just felt like a lot of road construction…but when you look beyond the orange cones and massive equipment you saw uprooted trees, heaps of unidentifiable damage wrapped around smashed cars and broken homes strewn along a dry river bed. This wasn’t just any old road construction – this was a demolished city rebuilding itself.
The damage in Lyons was only the beginning of what we saw on our drive to Estes Park. We were driving behind a loaded semi and for the first time ever I wasn’t upset to be driving slowly. I completely awestruck by the damage strewn along the side of the highway. As we drove along the ravine we saw homes gutted with all the families belongings piled at the end of the driveway. Smashed cars were pushed up against rocks with names spray painted onto them. We drove by homes that were falling into the newly rerouted river after this very river had eroded the foundation.
We said very little as we drove up the highway. We were far too busy staring out the windows trying to digest exactly what we were looking at. Seeing the damage in photos online or footage on TV is not the same as seeing it all in real life. People lost their homes. Their family photos. Their heirlooms. Everything. And it wasn’t necessarily gone forever – prized possessions were found sitting in the living room destroyed or a half mile up the ravine wrapped around a tree. In my mind that is almost worse than it just being gone – you have to look at the damage…and then clean it up!
Seeing all of the damage was truly heartbreaking. But we saw more than just damage – we saw the perseverance and determination of people as they rebuilt. As we drove along the road alternated between old, gray pavement and dark, fresh asphalt. In some areas the new road had literally been moved 50+ feet because the river had rerouted itself. It wasn’t just a new road that gave us all hope – people were out actively cleaning up and rebuilding. Construction crews were out in full force. Communities had clearly pulled together to survive…and rebuild.
When we arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park we headed to the Bear Lake Trailhead for a hike that took us along four lakes. The hike was gorgeous and the weather was perfect. We slipped on ice, took far too many photos and really did enjoy ourselves while frolicking on the snow mountain side.
And all these photos? They were taken at RMNP and while I’m not exactly writing about them they feel appropriate – the tourists coming to RMNP are major contributors to the local economy and this area needs as much economic assistance as it can get! Besides, how do you take photos of the destruction that will forever change lives? Photos hastily snapped as we drive by the destruction will never capture the true emotion of the drive!
At the end of the day I am so glad we made the drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park…and not just because the mountains put on a beautiful show once again. The drive along Highway 36 was a reality check. Life gets rough, but never forget that it could be worse. And if you’re as low as you think you can get…pick yourself up and fix it. Whatever it is! You can do it, I promise!
Looking for a way to help with Colorado Flood Relief? You can always donate time or money – check out these city specific sites for more details on how you can help: Lyons Flood Relief, Estes Park Flood Relief, Boulder Flood Relief.