So, I woke up this morning at the eye watering time of 4am, overwhelmed with excitement, nervousness, and a desire to never wake up this early again. After completing my packing (talk about last minute) and filling up with plenty of caffeine, my tiredness disappeared (or at least, was pushed stubbornly away) and by 4.30am I was ready and eager to get going.
My first journey was to get from Zennor in Cornwall (where I have been staying on holiday this week) to Newquay Airport for my first flight of the day to London Gatwick.
With a further top up of caffeine at a service station, my excitement continuing to build into a bit of a restless stupor, I watched the sunrise as I drove down the deserted A30. Just outside of Newquay, I stopped to take in the view.
By the time I was on-board the plane, the sun was fully up leaving a slightly soggy Cornwall to say bye to. I was treated to some spectacular birds-eye views of the south west coast during the 1 hour flight, eventually arriving at a similarly soggy London Gatwick.
Next, I had to jump on a National Express coach to transfer me to London Heathrow, my mind buzzing with thoughts of what was to come, daydreaming through the seat window.
I found myself, through glazed eyes, becoming lost in the green verges by the side of the road. Jackdaws playing a real life game of Frogger, scavenging littered scraps from the road and then retreating into their green refuge. Panic fuelled rabbits scurrying along well trodden paths. A butterfly bobbing along as the coach slowed, flying from flower to flower, on its quest for nectar…
On arrival at Heathrow, I had more pressing matters to deal with. My excitement abated and my nervousness took hold. Time for the first long-haul flight of my life.
I’m not keen on flying to begin with. A 1 hour flight passes quickly, but 9 hours in an enclosed space with long legs was a long time. Again, I found myself staring into oblivion out of my seat window, keeping track of my journey on the monitor in front of me.
The first half of the flight was spent over the rather large (slight understatement) Atlantic sea, passing Greenland to the north. The first glimpse of foreign land came when passing over Canada, with views over Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario. We then passed over Lake Superior (this lake is also a tad on the large side!!) and then into the United States of America, passing over Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and then finally my destination Colorado.
Shuffling off the plane at Denver airport, my eyes complained that I was still awake and my belly told me I should eat something. I did neither. Instead, I followed my way out to my pick-up stop for the final journey of the day, a shuttle from Denver airport to Estes Park.
Once there, I met some other rangers who will be attending the World Ranger Congress. A brother and sister who work as rangers in the Amazon basin in Brazil (!!!), a Uruguayan ranger who is their translator, an American ranger from Washington DC who is actually Welsh and a ranger from Scotland. Pretty amazing!!
We jumped on the shuttle, driven by a friendly American called Bill, who gave us plenty of advice and information on the way, the Rocky Mountains coming into view as we slowly made our way to the destination.
It was dark by the time we arrived at Estes Park, with stars pricking the night sky and a full moon showering the surrounding mountains in a dim light. My excitement once again rose in my stomach, fighting with the hunger pangs. Once checked-in at our accommodation (YMCA of the Rockies), we chatted for a while beside a roaring fire, sampling some American snacks including a peanut butter jelly sandwich, before eventually (and with some relief) I stumbled up to my new room for the next 8 nights.
Already, I can tell, this experience is going to be incredible. I have a day off tomorrow to recharge my batteries and get to know Estes Park a little, and hopefully I can catch up with some more of the rangers arriving for the start of the Congress at the weekend.
Now, it’s definitely time for some sleep!