Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 20 Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park

Before we left Steamboat Springs, we stopped at one of the town parks to look at one of the bubbling hot springs.
Wanda didn't like the smell of sulfur but I told her we'd smell that alot when we get to Yellowstone.
Wanda kept looking for wildlife whenever we'd see the Elk Crossing signs on the roads. So we had to take the picture of the giant elk at the park with the springs.

On the way to Rocky Mt. NP we drove through this canyon with the rock strata tilted vertically.
I didn't tell Wanda anything about driving the Trail Ridge Road beforehand other than it's the highest paved road in the US .
After the previous mountain driving with narrow switchbacks, no guard rails and 1,000 ft.+ drop offs, I knew we had to climb it to see the sights. I also didn't tell her that the 3,000 ft. drop offs were on her side of the road.
The 1st pulloff & viewpoint was of the Never Summer Mountains (July 8 & snow-hence the name) and
the valley about 3,000 ft. below.
The 2nd time we cross the Great Divide. The Temp was dropping as a storm front was moving in, gone are the days of shorts and sandals in the desert.

I guess that's why the snow plow was there, just in case.

We saw this group of Elk bucks about 100 yards across the road.

Wanda was really excited finally seeing wildlife. Maybe excited is a bit mild of an adjective.

We still had a long way to climb after we passed the treeline.

That's a real " Rocky Mountain High"

The poles mark the edges of the sidewalks & roads when clearing 15' + snow
One of the rangers told us that the night before there was 5 " of snow, and we could see another storm moving towards us.

Last years' snow.
The view down of the valley- still about 8,000 ft. elevation
I zoomed in as far as the camera would allow to try to photograph the elk in the valley about 1,000 ft. down in the glacial cirque.

We were above the clouds on most of Trail Ridge Road.

The highest point was 12,183 ft. Breathing and walking was certainly noticeably harder.

The road follows the ridge line above the treeline for about 10 miles.
The road is scary enough, but with a storm moving in with wind, rain, snow & fog
and then add in single lane road work, I was definitely tired from the tense, white knuckle driving and of course... guard rails.

How did they get the paving equipment up there in the 1st place & how did they keep the asphalt hot driving 30 miles up a mountain?

A small berm to keep us from plunging 4,000 ft., how thoughtful !

Frank Lloyd Wright, 1 of our favorite architects, designed the visitor center on the east side of the Park.

These rocking chairs were on the porch of one of the other visitor centers in Estes Park.

The sun came out for just a bit at the visitor center for a view of the mountains from which we came. Why couldn't it have been sunny at the top of the mountain?
We got down to the town of Estes Park on the east side of the park and
saw this herd of elk cows & calves in a meadow along the river, right in town.

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