Thursday, August 4, 2016

Colorado/Utah Trip- Chapter 10- Rocky Mountain NP- July 23 & 24

So, as our trip nears it's end we arrive at RMNP which boasts some of the highest peaks of all the National Parks in the lower 48.  For the first time on our trip we are staying put for a full 3 nights and have 2 adjoining rooms at the very nice and convenient Alpine Trail Ridge Inn.  The Inn, although older and a little dated,is located at the edge of Estes Park and had all of the amenities we needed plus some very nice restaurants within walking distance and it was only 10 minutes to the park entrance. Another plus were the morning visitors outside our bathroom window on the first morning. Surprise! Rocky Mountain Elk, munching in the flower beds behind our rooms.

On our first full day we headed into the park and because parking within the park is an issue we took the shuttle to the Bear Lake drop off.  Here we decided on a trail that would lead us past Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and eventually on to Emerald Lake.

The shuttle bus to Bear Lake

Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake was covered with water lilies in bloom

Dream Lake
Gray Flycatcher

Emerald Lake
Look closely, this marmot was trying to get into a backpack as the owner sat on the rock!

Bear Lake
Bear Lake
Walking to Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls

A juvenile Northern Harrier with the adult in the background. This was my happy accident photo!  We spotted these hawks while taking pictures of the Rocky Mtn. NP sign at the park entrance.
 Soaking our feet in a mountain steam after a day of hiking
Yesterday we found this great little sandwich shop next to our inn and we had our lunches made.  I also had a breakfast burrito that was the best ever.  The shop was simply called "Scratch".  While we waited for our lunch sandwiches we also learned that they made cinnamon rolls and sticky buns but you had to order them ahead of time. Today Sharon ordered sweet rolls for everyone and we ate them on the office patio with our coffee and hot chocolate to get our day off to a great start.
     Our day today will be less hiking and more driving. We are driving to the Alpine Visitors Center at the highest road point in the park.  We will be heading onto an alpine tundra.  I learned that there are 3 types of tundra:  Arctic, Alpine and Antarctic. The road was a windy one so Sharon drove and Sally sat in the co-pilot's seat. The views were spectacular and then it happened.....we spotted a large herd of elk.  It appeared that they were females with their calves.  Traffic stopped as everyone was aiming cameras out their side windows to snap pictures.  There wasn't really a safe pull out so we continued on up the road and in about another mile we hit the jackpot!  Coming over the rise was one of the largest bull elks that I have ever seen, not that I have seen a lot, but this was a big guy!  And then right behind him came 3-4 more large elk.  One of them must have been a young yearling because it seemed he was trying to bugle but sounded more like a teenage boy whose voice was changing.

Clark's Nutcracker in foreground and a surprise Oregon Junco behind.
The herd of females and calves

And this is a Bull Elk, so majestic!

After spending nearly 20 minutes watching the bull elks we drove on to the Alpine Visitors Center.  At above 11,000 feet altitude, the visitors center has a vista of the Rocky Mountain National Park in all directions. Our walk to the peak took us past a variety of alpine flowers and I even spied a marmot watching us from a nearby rock ridge.  At the visitors center was a nesting Mountain Bluebird, another life list bird checked off in my field guide.  What a great way to end our 2016 adventure.

Mountain Bluebird (female)

The inquisitive marmot
On Lookout!
The resilience of the common dandelion

Feeling on top of the world and So Blessed!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Colorado/Utah Trip- Chapter 9 Park City, Utah

We checked out of the lovely Crystal Inn following an extraordinary feast at the complimentary breakfast buffet and made a (not so) quick stop at Olympic Park in Park City.  It was actually on the way to Estes Park, Colorado.  Park City was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics and still serves as an Olympic training center.  When we arrived skiers were practicing their jumps and landings.

When we finally grew tired of watching the jumpers we entered the visitors center and the Alf Engen Ski Museum.  Not really sure what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised at all of the Olympic memorabilia included in the museum.  From ski fashions to improvements in both skis and snow boards the exhibits were both interesting and informative. I liked the upstairs best of all with many of the actual costumes and puppets that were used in the 2002 Opening Ceremonies. We also found several pictures and references to LeAnn Parsley from Columbus that both Sharon and I had met.. LeAnn won the silver medal in the Skeleton and made a visit to Flyer's in West Jeff and spoke at several of Sharon's school Olympics at Holt Crossing.
Barb and me at the Alf Engen and ? Quinney statue
Barb Orr demonstrating the correct form on the skeleton sled
The 2002 Olympic mascots
Ski fashions

A tribute to Ted Ligety, Home town hero!
This bison head was used in the opening ceremonies as part of the native American portion of the performance

Mountain lion mask used in the opening ceremony

Leann Parsley with Gold medal winner of the Skeleton
A bison covered with newspaper clippings from the Olympic games and signed by some of the athletes.  You can see Leann Parsley's signature below.
A small portion of the museum was dedicated to the Paralympics

Olympic Pins from 2002

These were photographs of some of the Olympic athletes at many of the National Parks that we had just visited!
The rest of our day, over 8 hours, was spent driving through northern Wyoming on our way to our last destination, Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park.