I’m starting this in a new thread, as the old one is getting long, and a thread for aftermath and recovery that’s focused on Estes Park seems appropriate. This post is rather long; I’ll try to keep updates shorter.
We returned yesterday from Santa Fe, where we’d been since leaving here on Tuesday morning. At that point, it had rained a bit on Monday and overnight, and it was drizzling here. Most of the drive south (down I-25) was gloomy; it started raining just north of Santa Fe again. While we were there it rained off and on – point being that this was a large-area regional weather event. Of course, while we were there, we began hearing all of the horror stories, both here and on the TV news. Our house is on a gentle hillside that’s well vegetated, so we weren’t worried about it (and that attitude was justified); naturally we were wondering about others.
Yesterday (Friday) we started back north in moderate rain on US285, which stays west of the mountains up to central Colorado. It rained, sometimes hard, into southern Colorado and then stayed mostly cloudy the rest of the way.
At Rocky’s west gate, we got a cheerful “Hi, folks, where you from?” from the Ranger; our response (“Estes Park”) changed his demeanor a bit. After we proved our residency, a conversation ensued and he let us through. TRR was mostly dry at that point and there’s zero damage all the way to Deer Ridge Junction. There, US34 (down through Horseshoe Park) was blocked off, so we headed down to Beaver Point, seeing no damage to there. We turned right onto Marys Lake Road, half expecting to see the bridge gone, but it was fine – dry, no mud on the road or anything. However, the Spruce Lake RV Park on the south side of the Big Thompson was closed and half under water.
Marys Lake Road is not quite fine, the west ditch being washed as deep as 5’ in some places, but its easily passable. The Marys Lake Campground is closed and empty; Peak View is also passable with some shoulder wash-outs. That’s all we’ve seen so far, as we didn’t go back out last night, having procured some groceries in Grand Lake. We’ll go downtown today (we get our mail by the Safeway) and I’ll update this later.
HPM posted this morning in the “Flooding” thread that the Peak-to-Peak Highway (which is a combination of State Roads 119, 72 & 7, from US6 in Clear Creek Canyon through Blackhawk and Nederland to Estes Park) was opened – we heard from neighbors last night that it had been washed out near Lily Lake and was the Colorado DOT highest priority. If that’s the case, kudos to them; now there’s east-side access to town. This is important because the Visitor Center folks on the west side told us yesterday that there were “caravans of tourists” being escorted over TRR to get them out of town before they eat all the food the residents need (we all know that tourists are like plagues of locusts in that regard). Having the Peak-to-Peak open means that re-supply trucks can get here relatively easily, and soon. (Our neighbors told us that, yesterday, about the only thing left in Safeway’s produce section was Brussel sprouts.)
Meanwhile, it appears that my comment in the Flooding thread about that Big Elk dam break was right: Meadow Lake up there is on the Little Thompson, and that would put its water down the piece of canyon just below the Big Elk Meadows Road and under the bridge just north of Pinewood Springs. Neighbors report that DOT people told them that the canyon in that section now has no evidence that a road ever existed there. That, combined with the damage in the Big Thompson Canyon, means that we’ll be using either TRR or the Peak-to-Peak to get in and out of here for quite a while. “Elk Fest”, I fear, is going to be something of a bust this year for the merchants. As beautiful as it is, the Peak-to-Peak is not very efficient, and getting to Boulder and Loveland is going to be a royal pain, as it’ll involve driving back north from Golden. Of course, it’ll also mean that we’ll be forced, forced I say, to look at all of the aspen over and over again when we do leave town, and I expect that part of the Town’s recovery plan will be to emphasize this as soon as it’s possible to accommodate visitors.
Meanwhile, if you had plans for a Fall visit, well, alternatives are worth considering. Rocky’s closed and the two roads are closed to all but residents and essential traffic. HPH