If I got to cook, Maria got to do dishes. Breakfasts turned out to be things like pancakes (with bacon pieces, or pre-soaked craisins and orange peel bits) or scrambled eggs, and always with cocoa or mocha, depending on who liked coffee, so there were dishes. The first morning in RMNP Maria reported a mule deer doe walked right past her while she was scrubbing away. We started to almost expect them to amble through the campgrounds, so often did we see them. Mostly does, though an occasional young buck.
On the north side of us was a rise with a picnic table at the top, along with a tent site. Although the signs always said the campgrounds were full, this one was never occupied during our stay, possibly due to the tiny parking space. We figured it was for motorcycle campers or something. Our first morning there, Steve climbed up to have a quiet smoke on his pipe and enjoy the valley spread out below with mountains rising in the distance. After breakfast, I tried it also, with Paul coming along later, borrowing my camera trying to capture forest critters.
We decided to head to Horseshoe Meadows, to the place where the Bighorn sheep came down to Sheep Lake for a drink and a salt lick. They are not very predictable, so you keep trying to be there when they are. In several visits, I had seen them once, "them" being several mothers with babies. Today we were in luck. One momma and baby were there, wandering around in and out of camera view. We stayed a while, Paul even climbing to the roof of the RV to get some shots over the heads of all the others folks crowding around for their own views.
Later the "kids" had a horseback riding appointment next to our campground. We still had a bit of time before they needed to be there, especially if we were to have lunch right in their parking lot while waiting for their ride to start, so we decided to head over to the Headquarters Visitor Center. Steve and I bought matching hats, the kind with floppy brims all around the bottom, shading from sun and - more importantly - hiding bad hair that wouldn't be washed for three days until we had showers again.
At this point I made a critical mistake, although it wouldn't be explained to me for two more days. I handed my pocketbook to Maria, asking her to hide it in the RV for me. Now to this point, my pocketbook had ridden in the front center console pocket for easy use in paying for gas (very visible there), or when we were out of the RV or sleeping, in one of the cupboards over the dining table. I thought Maria had observed this and knew what I was talking about.
This was slightly outside the entrance booth for the park, and as were were approaching the booth to show proof of payment for re-entry, I noticed that the flags were flying half-staff. I had a sudden dread about what this might mean. I recalled clearly hearing someone talk about vacationing along the Appalachian Train one September, completely out of contact with the world, as we now were, and returning to find a newspaper headline, "Bush Declares War!" It was a relief to find the flags were for a dead Senator and nothing more serious.
Once at the horseback riding area, I took a nap while the "kids" were gone, then read a bit, enjoying the shade from a tree in their parking lot and gentle breeze going through the RV. Steve was tolerant, taking some time to enjoy his pipe again. He also tried to delete a bad picture from his camera, hit the wrong button, and deleted everything he'd taken to that point!
Once they were back, we drove up to Bear Lake. Or rather, reading the warning signs, pulled into the park-and-ride lot and took the shuttle bus up to Bear Lake. Paul took the camera around the lake, while Steve, Maria and I walked a bit one way to the benches, and then a bit the other way to benches, taking a few pictures of our own. (I had also packed the camcorder/camera, so was not bereft of shooting equipment.) We had agreed to meet back at the park-and-ride lot, so each could take the return shuttle of our choice and timing. Maria decided she was sore from riding, and had no ambition to walk the whole lake.
Paul found much friendlier ground squirrels here than at our campsite, and returned with much better pictures than his morning batch. It turned out that we all made the same shuttle, our sitting equaling Paul's walking time. The driver pointed out the road to Sprague Lake on our way back, and recommended it for more photography. I had decided that if the bus could manage the road, our RV could as well, and I'd drive up there the next day. It had picnic facilities, and would be a great place for a family reunion.
One of the ongoing themes of the trip was trying to find places where cell phones had coverage. Steve and Maria were trying to connect with family on four occasions on our trip, and the first of these was with Denver family, meeting in RMNP. Steve's father remarried late in life, after Steve's mother died, and he has very young half-siblings, barely older than his own kids. This was the Denver family. Problem was, the "sweet spot" for coverage was tiny and mobile. A cell would ring sitting on a shelf and the connection broken in picking the phone up. If you connected in one location, the sweet spot would move in a minute. Now that we had decided on a lovely place to meet up, we needed somehow to communicate that to the relatives.
It was decided that a drive to Estes Park the next morning was in order for the call to be made.
Supper that night was a repeat of the night before, everybody assuring me that this choice was just fine. I suspect Maria would have said so anyway since it meant no dishes to wash. We watched a young buck walk right between our fire and the picnic table next site over.