Rocky Mountain National Park

Monday, May 3

On the road again, no worse for wear, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. A long day of driving brought us to Grand Lake where we overnighted. Most of the 250 miles we drove today included intermittent thunder showers – fortunately not severe. They actually added a lot of interest to the passing landscape with changing light around every bend. We arrived in Grand Lake around 4 PM to a light but steady rain. The RV park we stopped at had been packed all weekend, but now had many vacancies. The manager told us a moose and her calfs had been browsing the grounds all weekend, so we were hopeful to get a look. She told us the calfs had even been drinking out of a number of the hummingbird feeders put out by other campers. Also, she cautioned us to keep an eye out for a bear who had been visiting the garbage container almost every day. Unfortunately we did not see any of them.

Next morning we were up and out pretty early and made it into Rocky Mountain by mid-day. Pulling into the Timber Creek campground was a little bit of a disappointment. While it is a beautiful location with wonderful wide views, all of the trees had been removed, leaving it looking kind of like a clear-cut with picnic tables. Apparently they had died, probably due to bark beetles. Volunteers were busy hand watering many tiny new trees, but it will be 10 years or more before this place will look substantially better. The good side of course is that our solar panels will get ample exposure and no use of the generator will be necessary.

We relaxed most of the rest of the afternoon, but later took a short drive up the mountain to take in the views. It is the wide open mountain ranges we had looked forward to. The birch and aspen are just beginning to change colors here, but peak is still a good two to three weeks away.

Wednesday, May 5

Gore Range Overlook

The evening drive was so nice, we decided to head up again at dawn for sunrise photos up around the Fall River Pass, before starting our hike along the Colorado River Trail. The evening before had a good number of clouds which always helps add interest. The morning dawned cloudless though, but we headed up anyway. On the way out, a heard of elk were grazing at the entrance to the campground. We continued on however, because the sun had already popped up and we wanted to get to the pass before it got much higher. Other elk showed themselves as we drove the road up, and it was just too much not to stop and take a few. Getting to the Gore Range overlook where we planned to shoot from, the view was wide, but not particularly what I had hoped for. We took a few anyway, then just sat with our coffee and enjoyed it awhile before heading down to start our hike for the day. On the way down, we stopped briefly at Irene Lake to photograph reflections. The photos below are flipped 180˚.

Upside down reflections. Lake Irene.

We returned to camp for breakfast, got our hiking gear in order and headed out again for the Colorado River trail. The hike was a 7 mile walk along the very diminutive Colorado River. It is but a trickle at this point – being virtually the headwaters here. This was a good starter hike, being at 8000′ elevation. The trail is largely level with only about a 300′ change up or down. It meanders through the Shipler Park area before reaching the site of Lulu City. This was a short lived silver mining town that at it’s hight had 40 cabins and a few business establishments. The ore discovered was of poor grade and the place was abandoned after only 4 years. There is really nothing left of the town. Just a few cabin ruins.

Photographically this was not an interesting hike. I did not even take my camera out. There were a few birch and aspen groves turning color and one rocky area where two other hikers said the say picas, but really nothing I wanted to shoot. Still, it was a very pleasant walk through forest and meadow, with an occasional rustic bridge water crossing. Most of the hike was shaded and the air cool. We reached Lulu city after only a couple of hours of walking, had our lunch by the river and headed back.

As we approached the campground, we noticed the telltale sign of wildlife in the area. Many cars stopped along the roadway. The elk had returned to the campground for the evening. We pulled into our campsite, pulled out the cameras and began to watch the show. It was a herd of at least 15 females and 1 buck. He had quite a time keeping the girls in order, but seemed up to the task. They eventually made their way over to our campsite and we had dinner to the sound of the bugle and some rather risqué behavior.

Tomorrow (Thursday May 6) we head in to Ft. Collins to get the Rav mirror repaired and attend the opening at Center for Fine Art Photography.

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