Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 19, Rocky Mountain High


Today we tried to get a reasonably early start (not 4am!) and left the lodge around 9:00 for Rocky Mountain National Park. The hour or so drive north was very scenic on the Peak to Peak Scenic Drive. In less than 20 minutes we had gained 3,000 feet of elevation.

The first stop was in Nederland where Dan found Mike Mulligan's steam shovel on the side of the road.

From there we went straight to the park and followed the Trail Ridge Road for about 50 miles. There were countless beautiful vistas of mountains, lakes, and pine forests. We stopped at quite a few overlooks and road pull-offs to take pictures. The road gets to an elevation of over 12,000 feet.

About halfway through the park we stopped at Milner Pass where the road crosses the Continental Divide. Here there is a trailhead to hike Mount Ida, a 12,800 peak that lies right on the divide.

We decided to embark on the 4.9 mile hike just before the afternoon thunderstorms were forecast (brilliant!). We watched the clouds carefully and were very lucky to reach the summit with just a few drops of rain.

On the way to the top we saw patches of snow (mini glaciers?),


many yellow-bellied marmots,

a bumblebee,

singing birds (that sounded exactly like the birds in the beginning of Pink Floyd's Goodbye Blue Sky),

a camouflaged bird (White-tailed ptarmigan),

a pika (fast critter, looked like a vole),

a blue spider,

and beautiful alpine wildflowers.

As we got closer and closer to the summit it became painfully obvious why these mountains are called the rockies!

After 3.5 hours to the top, we took a couple of quick pictures and began the descent. The trail was not a loop, so familiar scenery followed us the whole way. Fortunately, a small family of bighorn sheep decided to graze near the trail and we got a peek of them before getting back below the tree line.

Round trip time was 6 hours for a total of ten miles. We gained 2130 feet in elevation to a toal of 12,880.

After the breathtaking views from the trail, the rest of the park seemed rather dull in comparison. The western portion of the park boasts valleys and the headwaters of the Colorado River. (Many of the pine trees in the western part have been killed by some kind of beetle -- whole forests are red, orange, and brown, as if it were autumn and the pine trees were changing colors.)

Though we did get a glimpse of these things, we were too hungry to stop and drove to nearby Granby for dinner. From there, it was a 2.5 hour drive back to Boulder through windy, wet, dark mountain roads. It was good to be back!


Jackie said...

Wow! These are the best photos yet! Truly amazing! I'm so envious, and so happy for you both to be having such a great experience.

Big Wall Nuts said...

Thanks! We're having a good time out here, and it's fun to share our "postcards" with everyone too.