September 2000 – Rocky Mountain National Park
When we moved to Colorado Springs, CO, I think I can say that this is when my love for hiking, mountains, and natural places was born. As a child I was heavily involved with extra curricular sports, I played soccer and swam competitively, so usually on the weekends I was at some game or meet that occupied my time. If my family wasn’t traipsing around the state with my sporting events, we were following my younger brother Brett around with his hockey schedule. But the best weekends were when we went hiking as a family. We explored Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods, and my favorite place became Palmer Park where we would sometimes go just to scrabble over the rocks and play make believe in the natural formations.
While we were living in Colorado I visited my first National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park in September of 2000. Just north of Denver its the location where you can see the tallest peak in the state, Long’s Peak. Now thinking back I don’t remember much of my experience, but what I do remember has stayed with me and with my family. Whenever we discuss wildlife encounters, the story of Rocky Mountain National Park is recounted. We were on a nature walk in the park, there were many other visitors on the path with us and we were able to see a large elk herd. The elk were along the river edge in a meadow, there were many females and one lone male. Suddenly the male began to spray, and as a child with an obsession with nature documentaries, I figured that the male was marking his territory and telling other elk that these lady elk belonged to him. In the distance we saw a bull moose come running in our direction and then past us. We kept walking down the trail and saw the moose was up ahead, and with the bull moose was a female and another larger bull. My family and the other visitors were getting closer to the three animals to get a better look, but 9 year old me had seen a documentary where it discussed moose and their aggression and ever the rule follower, I was not about to get closer to the two bulls who may begin sparring over the female. I left my family behind and kept walking further down the trail away from the massive animals. My mother always recalls the moment when she turned around to check on me and realized that I was nowhere near the rest of the family, that I had walked a solid 100 yards away from their location. She laughs now as she thinks about the fact that I was “scared,” but I maintain that I was being smart and respecting the wildlife, now I was probably much further away than I realistically needed to be to be safe, but as a 9 year old I was much smaller than I am now.
The rest of the trip to Rocky Mountain National Park is a blur to me. According to my parents we spent the weekend exploring the park and the surrounding area going on multiple hikes and enjoying the vistas, but 20 years later and all I can recall is my first encounter with the wildlife in the park. I think maybe that I choose the wrong major in college, not that I didn’t love to study theatre in school, but as I’ve aged I remember how much I love learning about the wild creatures of our world and seeing them in their natural habitat is an unparalleled experience. Perhaps I should have pursued a scientific career (perhaps I’ll make a career change and embark on a journey of zoological studies).
The remainder of our time living in Colorado was made up of exploring state parks, skiing, and camping in a National Forest. I received an ingrained love of hiking that would come back to inspire me.
Anyone have any fun memories of their first National Park experience?