Friday, October 25, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park--Part Three--Trail Ridge Road


We're back on the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park again in this post. My husband and I drove this road from the Eastern entrance all the way to the western exit/entrance of the park in early September, exactly one week before the horrible flooding that occurred in northern Colorado. Trail Ridge Road (US 34) is the highest continuously paved road in the United States, beginning in Estes Park, passing through Rocky Mountain National Park, and ending in Grand Lake, Colorado. To see part one of my posts about Trail Ridge Road click here, and to see part two click here.

In my last post about the Trail Ridge Road we left the "Roof of the Rockies," after our hike on the tundra trail, and we are now headed west toward the Alpine Center.  (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge if clicked on once, and then enlarge to full size if clicked on again)


We are still in the tundra area, at an elevation over 12,000 feet!


Our next stop was tour number seven -"Lava Cliffs," at 12,080 feet elevation. If you remember from my first post about Trail Ridge Road, I am using a companion booklet I bought in the Rocky Mountain National Park visitors center called "Guide to Trail Ridge Road," which gives us a brief description of what we are looking at for each scenic stop.

The lava cliffs were formed  between 29 million and 24 million years ago. That is an age I find hard to wrap my mind around! Volcanoes had erupted repeatedly in mountains eight miles to the west and deposits of volcanic ash and debris formed the rock we see here.


The highest point on Trail Ridge Road is located at 12,183 feet between Lava Cliffs and the Gorge Range Overlook. The Gorge Range Overlook is a tundra protected area, and offers views of the Gore Range which are 60 miles away. Click on the photo to read more about the range.


Stop number 8 on the Trail Ridge Road tour was at 11,796 feet--the Alpine Visitor Center. The Alpine Center is located at Fall River Pass, the dividing point between the Fall River and Cache la Poudre River drainages. The rivers later meet in Greeley, Colorado, and join for the journey to the Gulf of Mexico through Platte, Missouri and Mississippi river drainages.


I took this photo, of a photo of the Alpine Visitor Center in winter that was inside the center. (Click to enlarge and then click again to read it full size) The Alpine Visitor center is buffeted by extreme winds, especially in winter. The heavy logs on the roof support the structure's roof and catch snow, which helps prevent the roof shingles from being blown away. You can see how high the snow fall accumulation can be from this photo! Most of the high elevations of the Trail Ridge Road are closed during late fall into late Spring until the snow melts enough to be plowed and the danger of blizzards is past.


We stopped at the Alpine Center to have lunch, and shop at the Trail Ridge store to look at souvenirs.  We also enjoyed a nature exhibit and ranger talk, and all the magnificent views we saw, both from our window seats in the self serve cafe and the outside veranda. At one point the skies opened up with a heavy rainstorm.


From the Alpine Center's veranda you can see the Glacial Cirque which was formed by glaciers that were once hundreds of feet deep. As the glaciers slid downward over two million years they scooped out this bowl shaped cirque and formed a "U" shaped valley below.


This placard explains why the Rocky Mountains are cloud factories. Almost every summer afternoon there are thunderclouds and thunderstorms here.


One view we enjoyed seeing from the Alpine Center was this of the Old Fall River Road--the original, one way, dirt paved road that leads from the Rocky Mountain National Park's eastern entrance up to the Alpine Center, taking a different route from the Trail Ridge Road. My husband and I went back another day to take this drive, also, which I will show in a future blog post.


Stop number 9 was at elevation 11,640 feet, Medicine Bow Curve. In the distance, the Medicine Bow Mountains extend into the state of Wyoming. The Cache la Poudre River is below in the glacial valley. There are examples of both tundra and wind swept subalpine Engelmann spruce trees in this area.


Next stop is number 10, Milner Pass, elevation 10,758 feet. Here lies Poudre Lake.  Milner pass was named for T..J Milner, an ambitious railroad promoter who surveyed a rail route from Fort Collins across the Continental Divide to points west. Like many surveyed routes of the 1880's, the railroad line was never built.


 Milner's Pass crosses the Continental Divide at this point.


Stop number 11 is Fairview Curve at 10,120 feet.


The same Colorado River that flows through the Kawuneeche Valley far below Fairview Curve later carves the Grand Canyon in Arizona!The great Glaciers that shaped this valley once extended more than 20 miles south of this point.


Click to enlarge to read this interesting placard about the Never Summer Mountains and the Arapaho influence on this area of the park. The Never Summer Mountains erupted with volcanoes between 29 million and 24 million years ago. Before the eruption they stood about 2,000 feet higher.  Erosion by streams and glaciers reduced them to their present height.


We now descended to 8,884 feet to the last stop on our tour of the Trail Ridge Road--the Holzwarth Historic Site. In 1917 John Holzwarth Sr., staked a homestead claim in this valley with the intent of building a cattle ranch. After the Fall River Road opened the park in 1920, the ranch was redesigned into a popular resort known as the Holzwarth Trout Lodge. Now this land is part of Rocky Mountain National Park and is preserved as an historic site. We walked the half mile trail to visit the old log cabin lodgings.


We also saw these humble beginnings of the mighty Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the Holzwarth site!


The river originates at La  Poudre Pass and flows 1,400 miles through five states before it empties into the Gulf of California.


My husband and I stopped at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center before leaving the western entrance/exit of Rocky Mountain National Park. That day there was an interesting Ranger exhibit showing examples of skulls  horns and antlers of the wildlife.  Click to enlarge to read the story about what happened to two unfortunate elk, whose antlers can be seen in the bottom middle and bottom right. Talk about "locking horns"!


After exiting Rocky Mountain National Park, US 34 leads into the heart of the town of Grand Lake.


We drove to the lake to take some photos and then headed home.

I hope you enjoyed all three installments of our drive from end to end of Trail Ridge Road-designated -one of America's designated National Scenic Byways and a national designated All American Road.  It truly is a magnificent road to drive, and one that I'm sure we will be driving on again and again.


"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."

~ John Muir, Our National Parks, 1901

I'm linking this post to the following blog events:



Bookmark and Share Pin It

63 comments:

Lynn@Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

A beautiful set of pics Pat! Looks like it was a great day:@)

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I love exploring the West with you! That is one place I have longed to visit and hope to some day.

Tanks for sharing this. I am so thankful those floods didn't affect you. I was very concerned when I heard about them.

Tis really is beautiful. You are going to love being there. It just looks so clean and fresh and unspoiled. Just how I would imagine the West to be.

xo

Sheila

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Just so you know I'm not Swedish. ;-)

Apparently, my H key is misbehaving. Sorry about that, Pat. It's this IPAD. I'm a stickler for spelling, and this thing has a mind of its own if you make a typo and sometimes when you don't.

xo

Sheila

La Petite Gallery said...

All I can say is beautiful. I have been on some steep roads near rabbit ear pass, forgot where it was , 1060's, but I was scared to death.
The Fall colors have to be breathtaking.

yvonne

Barbara said...

As always, your blog posts are beautiful. This one is particularly fascinating. You could easily use your wonderful photography to create gorgeous calendars for your family's Christmas gifts. You've probably already done that -- smile.

ellen b. said...

So lovely to drive along with you on the scenic byway with the stops you made! Beautiful photos. Love the quote at the end, too...

podso said...

You could write a travel book! I enjoyed this. It reminded me of, among other things, the amazing skies/clouds there. To be able to enjoy that each day would be a blessing!

Pamela Gordon said...

Wonderful photos and details about this area, the mountains, rock formations, rivers etc. It's an amazing countryside to see. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Vee said...

Shoot! I just lost my comment for looking up elk or elks? Anyway, poor elk or elks! So many points of interest. What an amazing thing to stand at a Continental Divide.

Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I am really enjoying your living out west Pat. The Glacial Cirque and realizing it was two million years ago it just amazing. The twelve thousand feet is also amazing. We think 4,000 feet is high in our mountains.
Sam

Bill Nicholls said...

Awesome scenery sort of takes your breath away looking at it. Sad end for the two elks

Nellie said...

You have done some amazing posts of your experience at the Rocky Mountain National Park! Thank you for sharing.

GailO said...

Stunning! Wonderful information for me to save in hopes of a cross country trip in the camper with my husband:)

Sharon said...

I have so enjoyed these Trail Ridge Road posts because I am seeing it from a totally different perspective. Both our trips to RMNP have been in late May/early June so we've only seen the upper parts of TRR covered with FEET of snow. To look out from the Alpine Visitor Center and actually SEE where Fall River Road is was pretty cool. Love your blog!

Michelle said...

I love Colorado. We always enjoy visiting when my husband is there for work! Lovely photos!

Betsy Adams said...

Beautiful, Pat. You could be an excellent Travel Agent!!!!

We loved our two trips on the Trail Ridge Road. In June 2011, there was snow up at the Alpine Visitor Center which covered much of the building--and areas (other than the roads which they had scraped). It was awesome.

I loved the Old Fall River Road SO SO SO much....

Hugs,
Betsy

La Petite Gallery said...

once again, beautiful and interesting post. I bet that river has trout in it. yvonne

retriever said...

Beautifull landscapes, greeting from Belgium

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

breathtaking scenery ...wonderful photos ! :)

Lavender Cottage said...

A fabulous trip. Scary to see snow that deep and sad to read about the two elk locked together to die of starvation.
Judith

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful views and scenic shots, Pat! Looks like a very pretty park to drive thru. The visitor center is pretty too, thanks for sharing your visit.

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful views and scenic shots, Pat! Looks like a very pretty park to drive thru. The visitor center is pretty too, thanks for sharing your visit.

Gardening in a Sandbox said...

Gorgeous scenery with those beautiful mountains. Nice time of the year for a trip. Valerie

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

You're really taking advantage of living out West and enjoying the beauty that surrounds you. What beautiful photos! We're on the Continental Divide here in the mountains of NC. Enjoy your week! I'm going back to look at more of your photos! Sweet hugs!

Karen said...

Marvellous scenery!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful place. I would like to drive on that winding road.

A Garden of Threads said...

Beautiful photos of the area, so open and powerful. Thank you for sharing and letting me journey with you. Take care.

Weekend-Windup said...

Amazing photos and good information

MastHoliday said...

Sounds very interesting tour, narrated beautifully! the landscapes looking spectacular in your photographs.
Thanks!

Ercotravels said...

Wow, Wonderful Tip!! you got beautiful photographs of the landscapes. such sounds you spent great time during trip.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us..

Jim said...

Heaps of good shots.

SmilingSally said...

It's good to see someone enjoying their new home as much as you. Thanks for sharing.

Happy Blue Monday, Pat.

kitty said...

Hi Pat,
First of all, thank you for your visit and your kind words about the loss do my hubby. I truly appreciate it.
My dear hubby and I visited Estes Park and hiked all through the Rocky Mountain Park several years ago. What a beautiful place! We never did the Trail Ridge Road like you did, but it was a trip I'll never forget. xo

bj said...

Colorado is a great and beautiful state. We've lived there twice and it was such fun to see so many interesting things and places.
Thanks for taking us along on your trip.
xo

Wandering Wren said...

Hi Pat
It is great to be joining you on another road trip through the Rocky Mountain National Park and no problems going back 29 million years, although ask me to remember where I left the car keys that's some challenge!

acreativeharbor.com said...

Wow! Lots of blue photos for HBM ~ divine! ~ thanks, carol ^_^

Marcia Mayne said...

Hey Pat,
I just left a comment but Blogger said there was an error so I'm not sure it got posted.

I said something along the lines of "The views here are magnificent. I could sit here all day and just drink it in.
Thanks for stopping by my blog (InsidejOurneys) and leaving a comment.
I'll have to put Colorado on my list of places to see."

Hope it got posted.
Marcia

Loui♥ said...

Hi Pat.. I'm so enjoying your enjoyable discoverings in Colorado.
I miss my second home..and you continually refresh my soul with your beautiful postings..
thanks from the bottom of my heart!
Loui♥

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Looks like some terrific hiking spots Pat. It's hard to get your head around the age of those places and the millenia it took to form those rocks and mountains!

Jeanne said...

Pat, Thank you for my birthday wishes. Being with my sisters is the best birthday present ever. Smile.

The Rocky Mountain National Park is spectacular to say the least. I loved your tour so much because when we were there the snow prevented us from seeing all the wonderful things you just shared. Hopefully, another time we can see more. The history and the info you shared was so interesting. I also enjoyed enlarging the signs so I could read them. Great photos Pat.
xo, Jeanne

edenhills said...

I certainly enjoyed the tour. It certainly is breathtaking beauty!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Isn't that drive fabulous! We've done that at least a couple of times and yet I learned new things from your post. We maybe didn't spend enough time at some of the stops. Thank you for both the memories and the new information!

SwedishCorner ~ DownUnder...Pernilla said...

Gorgeous views!! The photos are fantastic :) Thanks for sharing - now it almost feels like I've been there ;) HBM! Spring greetings from Australia♥ ~Pernilla

Lorrie said...

Such a beautiful drive. Did it make you feel like you were on top of the world, literally? Stunning scenery and such clear lakes and water.

ladyfi said...

What a stunning part of the world!

Kalantikan said...

That is an awesome landscape, and you put a lot of information too. It is so good for us who will not be able to see it in this lifetime. Being in an archipelagic country it is incredible for me to view such a landscape that will really substantiate the word 'continent'! Thanks for letting us be on your tour!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

It looks to me like you are traveling the same roads that we have a few times and Trailridge Road is always awesome. The last time we called ahead of time to see if it was snowing...no they said, and we got near the top and her came a rush of snow fall like we had never seen, it was scarey and gorgeous all the while. I got images of large Elk covered in snow. I am so happy for those who have made it into the national Parks...we were not so blessed, but made the best of it. You have shared some really beautiful images and some I know well ;)

Laura said...

gorgeous earth and skycaps!!!

Cindy said...

So many beautiful vistas to appreciate, those views just take my breath away. I love trips like you and your husband took, how nice that you live so close to the mountains.
Hugs, Cindy

annie said...

Lovely photos as always.
They remind me of Utah where I used to live.
Makes me want to travel!

Neesie said...

What a fantastic trip and it's so kind of you to take me along with you Pat ;D
You've shown me so many fascinating details with wonderful photos that I now feel I've actually been to the Rocky Mountain National Park!
Happy Blue Monday to you :D

Annesphamily said...

One of many scenic routes in our beautiful state! There is so much to see here in Colorado. It was good to visit you here Pat and see your blues! Have a wonderful week.

Pallavi said...

Wow, such a breathtaking landscape. The colors are so vivid . Thanks for sharing :)

Following your blog:)

gracie1961 said...

Watching at your photos the dream to be there on a bike is getting stronger every day....

Rettabug said...

Wowzers! Pat, your photos are spectacular!! I truly felt like I was right back in CO. I have several family members who live there...Limon, Colorado Springs & in Grand Junction. I've been to visit several times but mostly it was in winter so we could also ski while there. Your pictures make me realize I'd love to come back in the summer!
Thanks for taking us along.

Lisa @ Grandmas Briefs said...

Breathtaking photos of our incredible state. And I love the peaceful one of Grand Lake.

Susan said...

Hi Pat, I enjoyed my visit here tonight. I found you from Annie. I enjoyed the NY pages too. My hubby and I are planning a trip to DC and NY next fall. I use My Memories too. I have 3 grandkids and another on the way. Nice to meet you!

Nisha Jha said...

The first photo stole my heart & I had to tell you that!

You can very well write a novel on travel. Great pics & excellent narration.

Nisha - Le Monde-A Poetic Travail

jeannettestgermain said...

Wow, the views are gorgeous! The tundra is absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing your trip!

Tracy said...

Oh, the mountain majesty there is incredible, Pat...*BIG SWOON*... And I always learn so much when I come here. We didn't learn this in school. ;o) It is so good to visit here with you. I've been a away a bit, health matters no so good for a while. But things are looking up! I hope to be around more when I can--I'm online a little less still these days. I posted for the first time in weeks--it felt good, sweet! Wishing you & yours well always & HAPPY DAYS! :O) ((HUGS))

Susan said...

Hi Pat, thanks for visiting me. When you visit my blog, Susan's Sayings there is a button to the left that ways tag board, or tag me. Click on that to bring up the comment board in the middle. Have a nice weekend!

The Gathering Place said...

It looked like you were driving right on the tops of the mountains. The views were stunning and beautiful, although some of those roads looked a little precarious. I do love the mountains in the west!

merrilymarylee said...

I LOVE all your new scenery! You're showing me a part of the country I've never seen except from the air. Plan a trip to the Pacific NW. I haven't seen it either. :)