Chillin’ Like a Moose

“Why, hello there,” I said to the moose who chose to make my acquaintance. He nonchalantly came by as if we were old friends. I sat at a picnic table off to the side of Coyote Valley. I heard a rustle in the brush behind me, and a moose emerged, ever so unphased.

I had read some notices about moose, how they can be dangerous, how they can charge. This moose didn’t seem the least bit aggressive. He was just out for an mid-day stroll, enjoying the park just like all the other visitors. I reached for my camera to take his picture, but the lighting just wasn’t enough. The pictures weren’t very satisfying. I put the camera away and took in this moment of an up close encounter with a moose.

I had been sitting there, relaxing, enjoying the beautiful view of the valley and writing in

Coyote Valley

my notebook reflections on my experience in Canyonlands. I was writing about my emotional experience sitting on the canyon rim and the voice of God speaking to me ever so clearly. Tears of thankfulness and spiritual renewal fell down upon the journal. Then the moose arrived, and that particular emotional moment ended as I was faced with another of excitement I had seen photographers with huge lens trying to take photos of wildlife elsewhere in this park and others, but here I was feet away from a giant moose walking so slowly and carefree. I was putting forth no effort in being able to see the moose. It just paroosed right past me. Sometimes the greatest things just come so expectantly and nonchalantly.

After the moose passed by, I felt my visit to Coyote Valley had been fulfilled. I had finished writing the entry in my journal and was ready to move on and see what Grand Lake was all about.

Cabin at Holzwarth Ranch

This morning was when I attempted but failed to reach the top of Mount Ida. That was followed by a stop at the Alpine Visitor center, where I had lunch in the cafeteria. I then had proceeded to Holzwarth Historic District. There a short trail leads through the meadow of the valley to the guest cabins from an old ranch of the early 1900s which is now preserved by the National Park Service. The cabins are furnished like they would have been back in the day. I couldn’t go inside but I peeked in all the windows and imagined what it would have been like to stay here years ago. This all led up to me finding my way to Coyote Valley where I had stopped to write and met the moose.


Grand Lake while brushing my teeth

Now I was on my way to Grand Lake. Grand Lake is the name of the lake and town on the southwest side of the park. I had camped next to the lake on my second night of visiting the Rockies. Although the lake was beautiful to see at night, my campsite was right next to a road, and my neighbors seemingly enjoyed top forty hits instead of the sound and solitude of nature. That night I had left my campsite to sit in my car by the lake. There I brushed my teeth and enjoyed the beauty of the scene. I had collected enough water gallons that by now I had figured out the trick of brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed without visiting a restroom. I would spit water into its own gallon jug, and pour clean water from another jug into a used McDonalds cup to rinse my mouth. This sticks in my memory, because it was the most beautiful place I ever brushed my teeth. The lake, the mountains, the stars, the cool night sky. It was all so nice, and this is where I also first implemented my non bathroom brushing teeth procedures which would come in handy later in campgrounds without running water.

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Elk in Campsite

The next morning, at this campground, I packed the tent first thing. Although I had reserved and paid to stay here another night, I just couldn’t bear to wake up to Katy Perry roaring again. From here I had traveled into the park. I arrived by 7am, and was able to secure a site inside the park at Timber Creek. When I was setting up camp an elk walked right through the campsite next to mine and paused, just chillin like the moose. I was able to capture a few good pictures.

Setting up my tent, I couldn’t find the tent fly. I had concluded I must have left it at the campground by Grand Lake. I drove all the way back to check. I didn’t see it, nor had my pop-infused neighbors seen it. Come to find out, I set my tent up in Timber Creek right on top the fly. This all happened this morning, and by evening, here I was returning to Grand Lake once again. I wanted to check out the Grand Lake Lodge and have dinner downtown.

As I approached the driveway to Grand Lake lodge I wasn’t sure if it was acceptable for one such as I, lowly and penny pinching to visit such a wealthy establishment. And I didn’t know just how fancy the place was. I didn’t know if there would be some sort of snazzy valet parking. I didn’t know if I could freely walk into the lobby, but I thought, hey, why not find out? Plus it’s a Lodge, just the term evokes a sort of friendliness.

View from Grand Lake Lodge

I had walked into the lodge at Bryce Canyon and had hung out quite a bit in their lobby, but the difference here was that this lodge was not technically in the National Park. It was right outside the park. I arrived and decided I would play it like I was a guest staying there. So I walked right in the lobby and out the backdoor where the patio and pool were. It was a stunning view with the pool right next to a beautiful lake with rocky mountains surrounding it. It wasn’t a very big pool but it was quite busy. I noticed signs for a wedding.

I went inside and paroosed around the gift shop. The lobby was made of all wood and was nice, but there was nothing too extraordinary about it. The view of the lake out the back was what made this place well worth the stop. Inside I decided to take a break and sit for a while on a swinging bench and free some memory on my camera card.

After resting at Grand Lake Lodge I proceeded into Grand Lake. There I at dinner at a place called Sagebrush I had read about on Tripadvisor. The food was delicious and the helping was heaping, even for the ravenous hiker I was. I had a BBQ half chicken, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and cornbread. The waitress was very friendly. She asked me many questions. Are you traveling alone? Where are you from? Where are you camping? She told me that she thought I was extremely “cool” and that she would love to be doing what I was doing. She gave me a recommendation on a free place to camp, but I didn’t know where she was referring to. She was very attentive and came over to talk to me frequently. I am not good at picking up signals but this was very evident. She wanted to make a connection, but for whatever reason she had not drawn my attention like the young lady at the Petrified Forest. So I let her go.

After my meal, I walked along the mainstreet in my flip flops. I let my feet breathe, and I just walked slowly and carefree- at ease, just like the moose, with no hurry. I looked in the shop windows and passed by many restaurants. It was touristy, but with a more tactful and homey feel than its rival, Estes Park, which was overly crowded and blaringly commercial for my liking.

Along my walk I stopped for some cherry chocolate chip  ice cream, and walked over to a park which was more like a city green. I noticed a gazebo in the middle and this reminded me of something. Presently, and for the past few days, I was in a power crisis. My cell phone battery had died, and I couldn’t charge it in the car, because I had blown a fuse. I didn’t know at the time that it was just a easy fix fuze issue.  I thought the charging outlet was broken entirely.  However, I had no way to charge my phone in the car. I had drained the battery from my Chromebook into my phone, yet the phone was still soon to lose power. I had been on a lookout for outlets, unfortunately no bathrooms in the National Park had outlets. Two days prior, when passing through a small town nearby, there was a local visitor center, where there was a private bathroom with an outlet. I took my time in that bathroom, really prolonging my number two, in order to try and pick up some charge for my phone.

Here, now in Grand Lake, I had noticed outlets inside the park gazebo. Perfect! I grabbed my chargers in my car and plugged in my devices in the Gazebo. There was a pair of young teenage lovers there as well, which didn’t even make things awkward. I didn’t care. I had important priorities. I needed power. There was also wifi! It was important for me to keep my phone on, because I was waiting for a call or text from my cousin Jonathan. There was talk of meeting up with him and some other family within the next few days. I was anxiously awaiting communication from him. It would determine my route of travel, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to connect.

After sitting in the park gazebo for a while, uploading some photos to facebook, and finishing my ice cream, I headed back into the National Park, back to my campsite for my final night in the Rocky Mountains. It had been a hodgepodge of a day, from packing up and setting up camp in the early a.m. with an elk by my side, to getting lost on route to Mount Ida and encountering Noah, making my way to the Holzwarth cabins and Coyote Valley where I met a moose, visiting Grand Lake Lodge, and then taking in downtown with delicious food. Tomorrow, the adventure would continue, looping around Colorado, heading down to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and reconnecting with my cousins.

Read the next entry “On the Great Sand Dunes,” here:

Read the previous entry “Lost on Mount Ida,” here:



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