Friday, October 4, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park--Part Two--The Roof of the Rockies


In my last post, part one of the Rocky Mountain National Park Trail Ridge Road at this link, we traveled Trail Ridge Road--the highest continuously paved road in the United States--until we reached the alpine tundra region. We were at elevation 11,716 feet in the tundra protection area, far above the tree line, where winter conditions are harsh.  Trail Ridge Road closes to the public before winter, for the safety of the public, and most times it can only be traveled in late spring through early autumn.


Traveling the Trail Ridge Road at such a high elevation, one sees spectacular sights!


We approach scenic stop number six, called "Rock Cut," at elevation 12,110 feet.


Here, on the "Roof of the Rockies," the climate is very  rigorous. Severe weather can come at any time. In fact, as we stopped and stayed for awhile, threatening thunderclouds began to gather in the distance. Temperatures remain below freezing here all winter and sometimes even in summer, and there are frequent blizzards in winter. Luckily, the day we visited, the temperature was in the high 50's.  Wind speeds here can exceed 150 miles an hours and ultraviolet radiation is extreme. We did see plenty of wildlife here--look closely at the  photo above -- bighorn sheep!


Just look at this handsome ram!


In fact, there were quite a few Bighorn sheep rams looking for food on the tundra!


The views of the mighty Rocky Mountain ranges never seemed to end from this vantage point! You can see the continuation of the Trail Ridge Road if you enlarge the photo above


Click on the photo above, and then click on it again to enlarge it to full size to read this placard about the construction of Trail Ridge Road at Rock Cut.  (All photos on my blog can be enlarged this way for easier viewing)


As you can see, the sky looked threatening, but my husband and I decided we would hike up the Tundra Communities Trail to see the panoramic scenery and views of the tundra. The Trail Ridge Road pamphlet we were using (see my part one post) suggested that this one mile trail would take 45 minutes to complete, and they were right!


The trail was long and winding and very steep! It is only a little over a half mile long each way, but at 12,300 +  feet elevation the oxygen level was 35% less than sea level, and I found myself needing to stop to catch my breath quite a few times.


Fortunately, there were many informational  plaques along the way that gave me a chance to rest as I stopped to read and photograph them. Again, click on them once, then again, to enlarge to read them.


Despite the severe weather conditions, more than 100 species of flowering plants live on the stunningly rich tundra. Most plants are small, low growing and compact perennials.  Many alpine plants are covered by hairs or waxy surfaces that reduce their water loss.


Because we were visiting the tundra at the end of the growing season, in early September, there were not too many flowers in bloom, but we did see the tiny yellow ones above called Dasiphora fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoi).


As we climbed we heard a squeaking sound - can you see what was making it way off in the distance, on the top of the hill?


It was marmots! These relatives to the groundhog live in burrows and hibernate much of the year. They hide when they feel in danger, so we felt fortunate to have seen them. Beside marmots, pikas and ptarmigans live year round at these elevations. Other wildlife such as ravens, hawks, coyotes, long tailed weasels, bighorn sheep, and elk will also migrate onto the tundra during the summer months.


We almost turned back on the trail a few times, as the sky above kept getting darker, and the hike became more strenuous, but since I came this far I was determined to reach the top!


I made it! I was on the top of the Roof of the Rockies! It was such a fabulous thrill!


 Looking down, I saw another bighorn sheep running along the rocks of the steep cliff. How fast and agile these wild sheep are!


I could see the four major mountains of the Mummy range in the distance, including Mummy Mountain, Chiquita, Ypsilon and Chapin.


On the other side I could view the 14,000+ high Long's Peak in the distance surrounded by many 12,000+ high mountain tops. This really was being on top of the world and the feeling was indescribable!


Now at a safe distance, the ram stopped running and posed beautifully for my camera.


More ancient rock formations on the Roof of the Rockies, including the Mushroom Rocks that are formed of granite stems and schist tops. I was so thrilled to see all of these unusual sights but I did not want to linger much longer as darker thunder clouds continued to gather and lightning is always a danger at such high elevations. We walked back down the trail to our car, to go on to the next scenic stop along Trail Ridge Road.


To quote naturalist John Muir:

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

Our drive on Trail Ridge Road has more stops and more wondrous sights to see!  Click here to read part three.  Click here to read part one.

Blue Monday
Travel Photo Monday
Our World Tuesday
Outdoor Wednesday
Oh, the Places I've Been Thursday


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50 comments:

Pamela Gordon said...

Wow! These are such beautiful photos of the amazing scenery there. The mountain sheep photo at the end is perfect. I would have been scared up there with that storm threatening but it sure made for awesome photos! Thanks for sharing. I'm glad you got down safely.

podso said...

I've been thinking of you and your husband's new pass as now the national parks are closed. :-( You are brave to hike at that elevation! I'm glad you met your goal and reached the top. Coming down must have been a tad easier. Your photos are so good. I love seeing all the clouds in their many colors and phases! Have a good weekend.

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

Very pretty pics Pat, the rams are amazing:@)

Michelle said...

I have been there a few years ago. Such a place of stunning beauty and views!

Nellie said...

That is truly a beautiful bighorn sheep!

So good you were able to take this trip before the events of this week.

Bill Nicholls said...

Awesome such spectacular views

pam said...

Since we couldn't drive this pass I'm SO THANKFUL you posted all these pictures. I do love it up there. We found a short drive that took us up into the mountains on 285 to Grant, then we cut over Guanella Pass to Georgetown. I felt ALIVE when we started that drive. I LOVE the unpaved roads of Colorado that follow the rivers. It all makes me come alive. We saw a couple of the Big Horn Sheep right by the road as we approached Georgetown. I told my family that when I win the lottery I DON'T play I will have to have a Colorado mountain home with a private jet on stand by to whisk me out there. lol

RoeH said...

Having lived within and around the Rockies for all of my life (excluding Arizona) I am still amazed at just how rugged they are inside. Until you go there, you never really know. Great pictures!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Such beautiful photos Pat, I love how the clouds look, it brought back memories to us. Love seeing your new adventures!

ellen b. said...

Such wonderful views and big skies! Love seeing the great outdoors near you...

Beth said...

Pat, My heart belongs in Estes Park, so your series on Estes and RMNP has been of great interest to me. I loved these gorgeous photos! Beautiful shots of the sheep! Thanks for sharing, Pat.
Hugs, Beth

eileeninmd said...

Pat, thanks for sharing your wonderful visit to the Roof of the Rockies. I love the Bighorn sheep and the views of the mountains. Gorgeous photos! Have a happy weekend!

Willow said...

What an amazing place! I've been reading many Louis L'Amour books and now I can visualize some of the places he describes in his books.

My name is Riet said...

WOW Pat, you live in such a beautiful country. I enlarged all of your photo's and they are stunning. Imagining you hiking up there and that scary sky coming nearer. But you reached the top and how wonderful is that. I also love that beautiful ram that posed for you.
Have a nice week my friend.

Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

That big horn ram is quite a fellow. Wow, such impressive scenery too. You've outdone yourself with this one Pat.
Sam

Kris said...

Sad about the parks being closed. I must get out to see your lovely state!
xo Kris

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Congrats on making it to the top...a feat of courage especially at that altitude! Beautiful pictures.

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Pat, thank you for the tour!! I just love your pictures. Great job making it to the top under those conditions. Those rock formations are just amazing!! I really can't wait to see this area. This weekend or next we are planning a trip to the Hudson River pedestrian crossing which you posted about (last?) year. If you had not shared your trip there, we would never have known about it! Thank you!! Linda

Barbara said...

Excellent blog post with wonderful photography. The big horn sheep are amazing!

Betsy Adams said...

Oh how I love John Muir and the mountains!!!! He is right: "The Mountains are Calling..."

We love the Rockies --but haven't taken that hike yet.. Bet you were winded?????Pant Pant! BUT--glad you did it. You are getting healthier and healthier. Bet you have lost alot of weight too.

Great photos of the Bighorns too....

Bet those areas are filled with snow today!!!
Hugs,
Betsy

Pondside said...

I love how you have embraced life in your new state, and how you share your new experiences. This hike would have appealed to me! What a wonderful view of mountains, sky and animals. We have marmots here too - you should come on up and see them!

poppilinnstudios said...

Hi Pat-Your photos are gorgeous! What a wonderful trip. Love the wildlife, especially the ram.
-Lynn

Cathy said...

Lovely post Pat. Colorado is the best. The last time we were above tree line it rained, snowed, thundered and we had our first experience with ball lightening. All in one hour. It wa great! Except for the ball lightening. Haha!

Gardening in a Sandbox said...


Spectacular views. Wow. Valerie

diane b said...

Thanks for this spectacular trip into the mountains. The scenery is breathtaking and the wildlife interesting. Great shot of the ram. You did well to climb so high with impending storm.

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

What a nice trip ! So much beautiful scenery and wildlife and the skies! They just blow me away...gorgeous!

Cindy said...

What a wonderful trip and trek you did have! I love seeing your photos, they remind me of the trip we took over the mountains when we took the North-west entrance into Yellowstone Park.
Seeing the Bighorn sheep is certainly a thrill, isn't it. And the views are almost too much to take in, aren't they.
Hugs, Cindy

Lorrie said...

What a grand feeling to stand on top of the world! I'm impressed with your hike. Such gorgeous, rugged scenery. Such an amazing world we live in.

SmilingSally said...

Wow, what a hike! But it sure paid off with those views. Thanks for sharing your blues.

Happy Blue Monday, Pat!

Jackie Mc Guinness said...

Thank you for my armchair hike!

Beverly said...

Pat, each view is spectacular. You captured amazing shots! I will be sharing your post with my husband when he gets home today.

Jesh St Germain said...

Fantastic views - love to be at those great heights (not climbing though:)
You were lucky to see so many flowers - the higher yo come the smaller and closer to the ground!
Thanks for sharing!

Noel Morata said...

I love all the wildlife and views, gorgeous country

ladyfi said...

Wow - magnificent views and amazing photos!

Indrani said...

Those horns are curled, yet they look scary to me!
Great series.

RamblingRound said...

What an adventure! And your pictures are stunning. Love the one of the ram on the roof.

Wandering Wren said...

I'm so glad that you kept going to reach the top and bring us those gorgeous photos - Lots of animals I've not heard of before. Wonderful part of the world. I want to visit myself now!
Have a great Blue Monday week
Wrenx

Gunsside said...

What a wonderful and exciting park -it seems to be plenty of motives for the camera, Great shots:)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

My goodness - what magnificent scenery.

edenhills said...

These are just stunning! I'm so glad you've shared your visit to the mountains. Of course, the animal pictures are all my favorites.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

What a great trek you had. We went there years ago and hiked the high trails. We also hiked some of the trails in the valleys. Lots warmer!

Vee said...

What a hike! I'm feeling anxious with all those storm clouds gathering! Gorgeous photography as always!

(Sweet photos of the grands in your sidebar! )

Laura said...

BEautiful!

Denise said...

Hi Pat,

Wow, what a beautiful place to visit and hike!! I can't believe how many different colors the mountains are.

My husband and son visited Colorado Springs when our son was a boy scout and they were on their way to Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico. The scout troop took the Cog Railway to the top of Pike's Peak, and my husband said due to the altitude and lack of oxygen, most of the boys fell asleep on the train ride back down the mountain. :)

My hubby also told me about seeing the marmots, but he didn't get any pictures. They are really cute!! :-D Thanks for sharing this amazing place with us. I've never been to Colorado, but maybe someday, I will get there.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Denise at Forest Manor

retriever said...

Preety pics, great landscapes,

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Have a nice day, greeting from Belgium
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Lovella ♥ said...

Beautiful photos Pat. The rocky mountains connect us and are so amazing.

Bonnie said...

What a beautiful post. Your photos are stunning. Scenery is awesome and you captured the hike so well. I felt as if I were walking with you. The animal shots are amazing. What an adventure you had! I like traveling with you.

Bonnie said...

I am your newest follower through bloglovin.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Pat this is gorgeous!

I heard there was flooding in Denver, and I pray you are okay. I have been MIA due to Mom's death, other family in hospital, and an accident I had, but I hope to catch up more soon.

xo,

Sheila

Margaret said...

Wow Pat, what an amazing trip so far!! I loved each and every moment. Thank-you for enabling me to come along with such great detail and spectacular photos!!! You are a marvelous writer Pat and a true adventurer! I am so fortunate that you ( also your husband and family ) bring us along on your travels. You have given me a very long bucket list Pat ;) Happy to be one of your armchair travelers, Margaret from B.C. :)