Old Fall River Road, a motor nature trail, is an auto route in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Forest that travels through the park’s wilderness to Fall River Pass, 11,796 feet above sea level. This road follows a course traveled long ago by Indian hunters in search of game and passes the site of a labor camp which housed state convicts who built a three-mile section of the 11 mile-long road with nothing more than hand tools.
The graveled one-way road which rarely exceeds 14 feet in width was largely built out from the hillside. In the steepest places, multiple switchbacks are stacked one above the other. What periodically blinded me to the absolute beauty of montane and subalpine forests, wild flowers, water falls, and alpine landscape along this narrow and curved road was the absence of any guard rails between me and the road-snuggling, never-ending, deep valleys.
At one point I found myself pulled back into memories of those Sunday drives through Rabbit Ears Pass where my parents, both deaf, would chat away with each other–eyes off the road–about the beauty around them…in sign language. Fear began to subside as we moved above the timber line to the Alpine Visitors Center. This Center, the highest facility of its kind in the National Park Services, offers a deep satisfaction and gratitude to the national park community for offering a road trip to the birthplace of glaciers that once worked they way up and down the mountain valleys and the Never Summer Wilderness where the temperature was 60 degrees…30 degrees less than the summer we escaped from earlier that day.