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Rocky Mountain National Park

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Rocky Mountain National Park
« on: July 01, 2009, 12:34:20 AM »
Just got back from Rocky Mountain National Park, where I was able to escape from 100-degree weather for a few days. In fact, the little thermometer at my campsite read 36 when I woke up on Sunday morning. I hiked more than 25 miles, visiting alpine lakes, crossing snowfields, and viewing wildlife.

More to come, but here are a couple of pics to whet Homero's appetite.

The Loch:


Snowfield beneath Timberline Falls:


Elk and Hayden Spire:


Velvety elk on Trail Ridge:


Like most trips west, this one wasn't long enough, but it was great to be at altitude again.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2009, 04:22:02 AM by jeffblaylock »
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2009, 01:28:44 AM »
Thanks for sharing a few pics...  That's a park I'd like to visit, but have always been scared off by the crush of visitors in the summer.

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Offline Al

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2009, 10:19:29 AM »
RMNP is where I discovered Zone Camping in national parks. A high school friend was living in Estes Park and during a visit we decided to go hiking in the park.  When we tried to get a permit we were told all the campsites were taken.  Depressed, I started reading posters on the wall and BOOM discovered Zone Camping.  We got out our topo maps, got our permit, hiked up to a small beautiful mountain lake, which we had all to ourselves, and had a great time.  Off trail in RMNP can be rough though because of all of the fallen trees that have yet to rot.  There can be lot of up and over.

Al

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Offline Undertaker

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2009, 11:16:39 AM »
Love Rocky Mountain Park, thanks for the photos. :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:
Visiting BB since 1966, nothing like being lost and finding heaven.

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Offline bjbriggs

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2009, 11:42:58 AM »
Neat Photo's, Did you get that close to the Elk or use a Telephoto lens?

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2009, 11:44:08 AM »
Thanks for sharing a few pics...  That's a park I'd like to visit, but have always been scared off by the crush of visitors in the summer.

Don't let the crowds scare you off; they are easily escaped. I'd guess that 90% or more of the people there never get more than 1/2 mile from their car. As with any of the "industrial" national parks, the key is to get moving early and get on the trails (or off of 'em, as Al suggests). Getting around can be challenging, especially during the middle of the day, when most of the tourons are on the narrow park roads. There is a shuttle system for popular destinations on the east side of the park to help with problems parking at trailheads (The Glacier Gorge trailhead, one of the most popular in the park, has 20 parking spaces!). Another key is flexibility -- have several ideas on what you're going to do and work around the herds. Time any trips through the entrance stations for early in the morning, else you may have to wait up to half an hour to get back into the park.

If you go, I'd focus on the park's eastern half, unless you're planning on a multi-day backpack. The west side's trails are longer, and, unfortunately, the pine forest on that side of the park has been largely decimated by pine beetles. There's an entire campground that has been completely destroyed. It looks like a big-box retail construction site. To escape the beetle damage, you'll need to trek deep into the Never Summer or Mummy Mountains (or into the National Forest wilderness areas outside the park).

Here's a photo of snow-clad Timberline Falls, a great dayhike destination from the Glacier Gorge or Bear Lake trailheads:

« Last Edit: July 19, 2009, 04:20:26 AM by jeffblaylock »
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

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splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2009, 11:46:07 AM »
Neat Photo's, Did you get that close to the Elk or use a Telephoto lens?

For the pair of bucks, I was about 25 feet away but behind someone else's car. I was about 75 feet from the elk in front of the mountains.

For the shot below, of a doe elk at my campsite, she approached to within about 15 feet of me, casually browsing the meadow.

« Last Edit: July 19, 2009, 04:19:38 AM by jeffblaylock »
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2009, 05:51:26 PM »
Late last month, I escaped the Texas heat for a long weekend in Coloradoís Rocky Mountain National Park and the gateway town of Estes Park. I flew into Denver and drove my rental car first to Boulder for supplies. My new Garmin Nuvi 255W guided me to the local REI in its Australian accent. I picked up a pair of gaiters in case I encountered snowdrifts on the trails and some other items I couldnít take on the plane. Luckily, it was next door to a Bed Bath & Beyond, where I picked up a cheap pillow and an umbrella.

From Boulder, I drove west through a winding canyon before turning north on the Peak-to-Peak Highway. This was my second time on this highway, and once again there were dark storm clouds on the mountains. The St. Catherine of Siena Chapel ó more commonly known as the Chapel on the Rock ó welcomes thousands of visitors each year, and even welcomed the Pope during his visit to Denver in the early 1990s. When I passed through here last, in 1998, the chapel was undergoing renovation and the peak, Mount Meeker, was shrouded in storm clouds. This time, while still stormy, the conditions were good enough to photograph the famous Catholic church and its dramatic backdrop.



I spent a few moments inside, thanking God for the opportunity to visit His creation, the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.



I stopped at the Longs Peak trailhead, where the volunteer ranger told me there werenít any good views of the peak for several miles up the trail. Many of the trails in the park wander through pine forests, so views are frequently limited. I didnít want to get caught in the rain, so I continued on to Estes Park. I had lunch at the Redstone Restaurant, a place known for its burgers. While I ate, it started to rain, and the temperature outside dropped into the 50s. It rained for most of the afternoon. In town, I bought a waterproof hiking hat. After buying a few sundries and a couple of cheap styrofoam coolers, I headed into the park.

I had a campsite reservation in the Moraine Park campground, which was fortunate, as every site was taken. Reservations at NPS campgrounds are always a bit of a crap-shoot, but I managed to snag a spot on the outermost loop with a great view of the adjacent meadow. Unfortunately, the view to the other side was of three other camping sites, all of which were too close for my liking. As much as possible, I kept my eyes turned to the meadow.



I got everything set up before the next round of light rain, then decided to take a quick warm-up hike around Sprague Lake. I had visited this lake the last time I was in the park in 1998. The trail around it is flat and offers fantastic views of the mountains of the Continental Divide. The threesome of Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, and Flattop Mountain looked especially imposing under the stormy sky.



The lake sits at 8,700 feet of elevation, so I found myself a little short of breath a couple of times. Fortunately, a little family of baby ducks gave me a reason to stop for rest. Their mother swam nearby but did not seem concerned that her babies were right beneath me.



Once they moved on, I returned to the trailhead and drove back to camp, stopping for wood.

I hadnít brought any cooking gear, so dinner was a cold one, paired with two cold ones brewed across the mountains in Breckenridge. After yet another rain, I got a small fire going and then noticed a beautiful rainbow across the meadow. It was around 55 degrees, so I was wearing my goose down jacket, fleece pants, and wool hat. Thatís escaping the Texas summer!



After the fire went out, I got into my tent and under the blankets Iíd brought from home. It was going to drop into the 40s, and I wanted to sleep well since the next day would involve more than 13 miles of hiking. I fell asleep after the yelling and screaming kids on another loop finally shut up for the night.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2009, 04:17:04 AM by jeffblaylock »
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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BigBendHiker

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2009, 06:07:24 PM »
Thanks, Jeff for posting!  I somehow missed this thread when you first posted a couple of weeks back.


BBH

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2009, 08:16:54 PM »
Some of the wildflowers were blooming (Clicking an image will take you to my blog post with full-size images.):


Alpine tundra on Trail Ridge


Wild Rose


Salsify


Globe Flowers


Showy Penstemon


Golden Banner in Hidden Valley


Arrowleaf Balsamroot (I think)
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline Lorax

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2009, 09:38:41 PM »
Thanks, I find that Rocky Mountain is the most relaxing park that I have visited.  The "parks" in the early morning are filled with clouds and  provide a surreal hiking experience.  It's like hiking through smoke.

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2009, 01:22:20 AM »
More to come, but here are a couple of pics to whet Homero's appetite.

 I have been very patience not to create a lot of senseless traffic here but i was waiting on you to finish this trip report.

 So you were actually wearing Fleece there?.... :eusa_think:, you brought tears to my eyes but they did not run down my cheeks because they were evaporating as soon as they started trickling down........why do we have to live here?. I want to go to fleece country in July too. :icon_cry:
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2009, 04:12:22 AM »
My first full day in Rocky Mountain National Park was a semi-loop deep into Odessa Gorge. I parked at the Cub Lake trailhead and hiked down the road for 1.1 miles to the Fern Lake trailhead before beginning the forested 1.7 miles to the Pool, a churning pocket in a bend of the Big Thompson River. Water levels were still too high for the Pool to look anything like a pool, as the river was roaring downhill. From this point, the trail would be an out and back as far up Odessa Gorge as I wanted to go. I expected to see some snow drifts covering the trail at some point, so the plan was to make it to Odessa Lake.

The first destination was Fern Falls, a loud, crashing cascade in a narrow canyon surrounded by tall pines and dense pteridium ferns. I reached the falls around 10:15, having already hiked 4 miles. Because I would pass by it again on the return trip, I opted to make my visit a short one. I lingered long enough to eat a snack, feel the cool of the spray, and snap a few photos.



From the falls, the trail climbs about 750 feet in elevation over a mile and a quarter or so, mostly through the forest, sometimes near rushing Fern Creek. The trail passes near Marguerite Falls, which requires an off-trail amble to locate, on its way to 9,540-foot Fern Lake. Probably the most scenic place on Fern Lake is a footbridge crossing the outlet stream on its northern edge. From this point, Notchtop Mountain and the Little Matterhorn form a line in the distance, while the much closer Gable looms to the west. My destination, Odessa Lake, lies under the Little Matterhorn, so I followed the trail around the eastern shore of Fern Lake and began the three-quarter mile climb to this jewel of a lake.



Not far above Fern Lake I encountered the first snow drifts of the trip. These tiny pockets of snow lined the trail in shadier, north-facing areas, but they excited me. It had been 100+ degrees for weeks in Texas, and I was looking at snow. Around noon, I reached the final climb to Odessa Lake, and there I found a real snowfield, probably 200 feet long. I put on my gaiters and trudged my way across it on a well-worn path, taking care to avoid othersí post-holes. The snowfield engulfed a footbridge across the creek, requiring a few hops across what I hoped was a bridge (It was.).



Odessa Lake is beautiful, set high in a strikingly stark cirque, ringed with jagged mountains still dressed in streamers of winter snow. I explored the western shore until an increasingly deep and difficult snowfield turned me back. I ate lunch perched on some rocks which jut out into the water, providing sublime views of Notchtop Mountain, the Little Matterhorn, and the other dark ramparts forming the gorge. Clouds were building, suggesting another afternoon of rain might lie ahead.



Knowing I had a long way to go, I reluctantly began the return trip. Retracing my steps across snow, mud, dirt, and rock, I revisited Fern Lake and, later, Fern Falls, where I ate a protein bar and tried to have a seat on the rocky flat and enjoy the waterfall.

A family of six decided to stand directly in front of me in the two feet of space between me and the edge, so I had to move. I watched a man get angry at his girlfriend (or wife) for not walking out onto a precarious branch for a photograph. She shimmied out onto it, then broke down in tears once he had taken his photo, only making him angrier. Eventually, he went onto the branch to retrieve her. Various children were being loud. Fortunately, the falls are pretty vocal themselves, but it is amazing what kind of behavior you see at a popular destination like Fern Falls.

After retracing my steps to the Pool, I took a different trail back to the trailhead. This trail led up over a ridge and then down an open slope to Cub Lake, which is covered by lily pads. Unfortunately, they do not typically bloom until July, but the lake was nonetheless pretty, especially once I was able to see some of the higher peaks in the distance.



It was about 3:45 in the afternoon when I left Cub Lake to return to the trailhead. The last 2+ miles wound across a generally open meadow and unnecessarily up and down several minor ridges before finally reaching the park-like area of the trailhead. A bridge across the Big Thompson River is the last obstacle before I reached the trailhead, having logged over 12 miles. It was a little after 5 p.m., and the rains had not come.

I needed to get some more ice and decided an ice cream treat was in order, so I drove back into Estes Park to go to the convenience store on the west side of town. I re-entered on the Fall River entrance road and took it to Trail Ridge Road. I visited Hidden Valley, a popular ski area, and looked at the wildflowers, before driving as far as Many Parks Curve. The sun would be setting soon, so it was time to get into camp and get a fire going!

From my campsite, I got some great views of evening alpenglow on Longs Peak and the clouds behind it.



My quiet, solo neighbor had departed her campsite, and it was taken over by a couple with two loud children. One of them ended up falling into their campfire. I ended up being lectured by the father about how dangerous it is to add lighter fluid to a smoldering fire. I ended up reminding him that my child hadnít fallen into my campfire earlier that evening. The loud kids on the other loop had another late evening of screaming and yelling. Several dogs were barking, too. At least I was tired enough to find a way to fall asleep before an even bigger next day.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2009, 08:29:32 AM »
Great trip report and pics so far, Jeff. 

I know what you mean about crowds and some of the strange/stupid things people do.  Seems like every trip I take at the Grand Canyon I dread the first mile or 2 of the corridor trails as they are usually clogged with tourons.  Most seem to enjoy screaming at the top of their lungs to listen for a echo.  The canyon is too open for anything like an echo to ever reverberate back.

You still using the Canon G9?  I still don't think I've mastered all the various settings on mine yet.

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Re: Rocky Mountain National Park
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2009, 08:39:02 AM »
When I went in late September, everything was still open and there were very few tourists. Let's say it compared to a weekend at Big Bend during the winter....the temps were perfect.

Lovely photos Jeff, as always!  :eusa_clap:

 


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