Saturday, July 07, 2012

Rocky Times

Almost exactly two years and one month ago Denny and I drove into the Rocky Mountain National Park expecting to spend a long day there.  We arrived on Memorial Day weekend, expecting big crowds and traffic tie ups.  That didn't happen, basically because Trail Ridge Road, the main loop of the park, was closed due to snow.  Our exploration was limited to Bear Lake Road which was the only road open to us at the time.  I chronicled that trip in photos here. Two years ago we walked along a lake that was still frozen, this time around there was barely any snow at all on any of the mountain peaks in the park.

This year there still weren't a lot of people at the park when we arrived mid-morning but I attribute that to the wildfires that were still out of control at Fort Collins and Colorado Springs; the area in Rocky Mountain N.P. was extremely hazy in many areas.  Denny and I were able to take our time driving up to the Alpine Visitor Center where we chose to turn around to head back to our campground so we could meet up with my friend Shelley in the evening.  It was hard to imagine that we were literally two miles up in the air at Alpine; I guess we had finally acclimated to the higher elevations from our recent weeks of travel in northern New Mexico and Colorado.  While at the overlook at the visitor center I offered to take some photographs of a group of Harley riders from Iowa; three couples and one gal on a trike who had spent the past two weeks traveling around Colorado before having to head back to their farms in Iowa.  Denny and I told them of our stint as rides operators at Adventureland Amusement park in Altoona, Iowa and how much we enjoyed the state and one of the men started talking about his farm equipment and how now farmers simply program the length and breadth of their fields and how much seed/fertilizer/weed control needs to be laid and the computers and GPS system take care of all the rest; the farmers don't even need to drive the equipment anymore--the machines do that for them.  Denny told him about having to stand in the hot sun tossing hay bales by brute strength into the back of a truck to take it to the barn for storage getting covered with itchy chaff in the meantime and how miserable that was when you're covered with sweat.  Times have changed, for sure.  Of course I just had to remind Denny that he was talking about an experience that occurred almost sixty years ago--the young man we were talking with wasn't even a glint in his father's eye at that point.  

Sometimes what we learn in our travels isn't quite what we expect, but it's always fun.

The Many Parks Overlook, looking towards the Alluvial Fan.
The waterfall in the Alluvial Fan area of the park.  This section was created in 1982 when an earthen dam broke releasing the waters of Lawn Lake.  29 million gallons of water were released which swept trees and giant boulders down hills and into the valley.  Fortunately a worker heard the water coming and notified park rangers who were able to clear out the campground that stood in the path of the raging waters.  Today you can climb up those boulders left behind and wander along the path of the falls.

The damage caused by pine beetles is evident in this photo; the thousand of dead and dying trees are what fuel the wildfires that are rampaging though the western states currently.  Notice the lack of snow on the higher peaks of the mountains within the park.
So many of my photos were hazy with smoke that I didn't bother to show them here.  Although Denny and I kept our eyes open for the bears, elk, antelope and big horn sheep  the only critters we saw were ground squirrels.  We enjoyed our day none the less and marveled at the difference in the park conditions between our two separate visits.  Perhaps the next time we swing by we'll try the autumn season--pre-snow, of course.


Tracy said...

One of my favorite places to go. The picture of the falls reminds me of a similar photo I took when my daughter was young. Thanks for the fond memories.

Linda Wildenstein said...

I love that area. I took 37 teenagers on a work camp/choir trip to Rocky Mountain and by the time we left I felt like I had run a marathon. Sweet Man and I went back the next year and it was glorious. The lack of snow is not good.
You two have had quite a trial with all of the fires. I hope better roads and conditions await you.
Oma Linda

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