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 was covered with water lilies in bloom|
|Look closely, this marmot was trying to get into a backpack as the owner sat on the rock!|
|Walking to 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|
|The resilience of the common dandelion|
|Feeling on top of the world and So Blessed!|