Via lens and foot, park ranger Chandler Eaton spent a season trekking around the Rocky Mountains.

In 1916, the Department of Interior created a government agency to preserve and protect the nation’s National Parks, monuments and landmarks. This past summer, junior political science major Chandler Eaton worked as park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park for the centennial year of the National Park Service.

1
Elevation: 12,889 ft; Round trip: 22 mi.

After a 3:00 a.m. start, I caught a beautiful sunrise and then took a two hour nap on the summit. I encountered two hikers who were going 14 miles further than I had planned, but with their invitation I joined them for a full day traverse, totalling 8 summits.

2
Elevation: 12,162 ft; Round trip: 18 mi.

Few views in Rocky Mountain National Park avoid falling victim to the Longs Peak photobomb.

3
Elevation: 13,570 ft; Round trip: 19 mi.

Greeted by a band of ewes and yearlings as I descended my second 13’er of the morning.

4
Elevation: 11,200 ft; Round trip: 14 mi.

With proper bivy permits, my climbing partner and I spent the night in a cave and watched as the storm that drenched our approach left with mountains a gorgeous sunset.

5
Elevation: 13,200 ft; Round trip: 15 mi.

This summit patrol was my favorite day of work. It was unbelievable to be getting paid for something I have so much passion for. At the same time other hikers on the mountain actually thanked me for being up there and providing an available aid.

6
Elevation: 12,939 ft; Round trip: 20 mi.

This half-frozen lake was the climax of my first ever solo backpacking trip. I camped a few miles below the lake after climbing along the edges of two huge and unnamed waterfalls at approximately ¼ mile per hour.

7
Elevation: 9,900 ft; Round trip: 14 mi.

This especially cloudy day made for one of the spookiest patrols, because aside from the ominous weather, this trail had frequent mountain lion sightings. However, the lions on this trail aren’t sitting one at a time – rather, 2 or 3 at a time.

8
Elevation: 12,100 ft. Location: Trail Ridge Road

Stormy days just meant the view was on top of the clouds.

9
Elevation: 10,980 ft; Round trip: 19 mi.

My 2:00 start earned me a full hour to sit beside the lake and enjoy July’s full moon before experiencing a serine sunrise. After all, the mountain rule is “the earlier you start, the more fun you have.”

10
Elevation: 8,800 ft; Round trip: 8 mi.

In the exact same valley where childhood vacations were spent with my dad looking for moose, I came across a cow and calf waking up. When I turned around as not to disturb them, I found myself sandwiched by another cow and calf getting a morning drink from the Colorado River.

 

 

11
Elevation: 10, 700 ft; Round trip: 15 mi.

After 4 miles of off-trail trekking, my hiking party and I climbed a ledge system for over an hour until reaching the summit on the right (12,642 feet). We traversed the ridgeline and climbed to the summit on the left (13,327 feet). As we hiked out, we were given a spectacular view of the adventure we’d just experienced.

12
Elevation: 7,700 feet Round trip: 20 feet (only to refill coffee)

The morning view from the deck of my house even made rest and recovery days full of worthy mountain moments.

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Rocky Mountain National Park is now the 3rd busiest park in the country and for a good reason. However, the threat of being loved to death is a realistic fear and as such I have promised my fellow ranger and beloved mountains to keep the locations unnamed.

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