Sunday, November 2, 2014

Touching the Sky on the Rocky Mountain Tundra!



Pure elation!  That is how I felt when I climbed up to the top of one of the tundra trails in Rocky Mountain National Park in early October. I really did feel as if I was touching the sky!


We left the green and verdant valleys of the park (you can read about them on this link and this one, and see the vibrant autumn colors in the park at the time) and drove up Trail Ridge Road past the two mile mark into the elevation above the tree line at 11,500 feet. Snowplows were at the ready on the side of the road, as there had already been snowfall in the park at the high elevations the week before and the upper portion of Trail Ridge Road were closed for a few days due to three feet snow drifts.


The photo above, and the photo below....


...that I took at Forest Canyon Overlook, elevation 11,716 feet, shows the dense forest below the bald, tundra covered mountain tops.


We drive further in elevation and park our car in a pullover parking area, and begin the climb up the Tundra Nature or Communities Trail.  This alpine world at 12,180 feet is windswept and colder by 30 degrees from the lower elevations. The conditions resemble those found in the Canadian or Alaskan Arctic. It has a short growing season of around forty days in summer, and 200 species of tiny alpine plants and flowers will bloom then.  


We continue upwards on the trail, towards the top.  The trail is steep at the beginning, and since the oxygen level at this elevation is 35% less than at sea level, it can make one short of breath if you are not acclimated to the altitude, and in good shape.


Many metal placards line the way to read, which helps you stop and catch your breath. This is one of my favorites. You can see all the placards on a prior post I wrote about this trail at this link.  We saw many long horned rams and marmots and wildflowers on that climb we took in early September of last year, but this time the colder weather made the tundra look bare.


Soon after passing unusual mushroom rocks, or "tors" formations, we finally arrive at the top of the trail.  My husband climbed up to the top of the rock overhang to read a plaque attached to one of the rocks in memory of Roger Wolcott Toll, a civil engineer and naturalist who was superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park from 1921 to 1929.  The plaque says: Civil engineer, naturalist, mountaineer,whose love of the high country was manifested by helping to make it more accessible for you and your friends."  I think you can see by my photo how excited I am to visit this area again. Although the trail is only one mile round trip I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete it.!


The vistas from the highest elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park, referred to as the "Roof of the Rockies" are exhilarating! On a clear day you can see north to Wyoming, east across the Front Range cites and the Great Plains, and south and west into the heart of the Rocky Mountains!  It really is a photographers paradise.


I could not help but think about the first people who marveled over the same sights I was seeing --the Native American tribes who made the first trails through these mountains and who felt a reverence for them.


Another Tundra Trail plaque that spoke to me--click on to enlarge for easier viewing


We continued to drive west on on the Trail Ridge Road....


...until we reached the park's Alpine Visitor Center. The elevation here is 11,798  feet.  This building's roof is reinforced to withstand the heavy snowfall in the winter.


This is a picture inside the Alpine Visitor Center which shows how snow will cover the entire building!  Trail Ridge Road is closed at high elevations in winter, usually beginning at the end of October until late May for this reason.


The view from  inside the Alpine Visitor Center's windows.


A view of the Old Fall River Road from the back veranda of the Alpine Center.  Old Fall River Road, as well as a few other areas, had to be closed after being heavily damaged by the severe flooding that took place in Rocky Mountain National Park during the 21 days of continuous rain that occurred in September 2013.  There is hope that it will re-open in 2015.  I hope to show our drive that we took last year on this rustic dirt road on a future post.


There is another tundra summit trail that I have yet to climb.  It is located almost directly opposite the Alpine Visitor Center, and is called the Alpine Ridge Trail.  It begins with many steps--225 steps in fact!  Because of its steepness--it ascends 697 feet-- it is nicknamed "Huffers Hill"!  I hope to be able to climb this trail the next time I visit the park. It is something to look forward to doing it at least once!


We drove as far west as the Continental Divide area at Milner's Pass and then we turned around and went back outside the park to the town of Estes Park....


...where we stayed for our last night in the historic Stanley Hotel. If you did not read about our "haunted" experience there, you can click on this link..


Before leaving Estes Park the next morning to return home to Littleton, Colorado, we took a quick drive around town for one last look.


Could there be any place more beautiful than this?


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51 comments:

diane b said...

It surely is the most beautiful scenery. The tundra has a rough, tough beauty of its own. You do well to be climbing steep trails at such altitude.

eileeninmd said...

Pat, beautiful photos and scenic mountain views from your park visit. I love the shots from the trail and the visitor center..The hotel is beautiful too. What an awesome trip, thanks for sharing.. Have a happy Sunday and new week ahead!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

You look like you are on top of the world Pat. What a gorgeous setting. Wow.
Sam

The Furry Gnome said...

What a spectacular place! A great opportunity to visit the alpine environment without having to be a mountain climber! I think I'll put that one on my list!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It is truly one of the most beautiful areas in our country. I'm so glad you are sharing your wonderful photos...and look at what great shape you're getting into! WOW! Hiking is such fun. Definitely a challenge at the high elevations! Enjoy your day my friend! Hugs!

Vee said...

This old duffa will never climb Huffers Hill so I am very glad that you do such things and share them with me. Absolutely gorgeous scenery, rugged and wild!

Hazel Ceej said...

The Trail Ridge Road fascinates me! Love your shots.

Cindy said...

I've been in awe for days in the mountains, the scenery is amazing, lucky to travel this beautiful land of ours. Happy trails

happywonderer said...

Beautiful indeed. What a great adventure and how great to make it to the top of one of the tundra trails. Love that photo of you!

Rajesh said...

This sure is a exciting trip. Amazing landscapes.

podso said...

Good for you to be able to climb at that altitude. I'd probably be in a panic about the possibility of being short of breath! You got some beautiful photos. What a beautiful outing you had.

Betsy Adams said...

Hi Pat, Oh how I love love love your blog posts. You give us so much great info... I SO want to go back to RMNP and take some of those hikes. I remember being 'winded' at those elevations just walking a tiny bit... ha..

Great set of photos... This crazy storm which hit TN this weekend left 22 inches of snow on the higher elevations of the mountains --and there were waist deep drifts in spots. Unbelievable for this area so early in the season.

Hugs,
Betsy

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Pat - You look like an elated little kid in that first picture. Bravi to you to for making the climb.

The Gathering Place said...

Pat, what a thrilling thing to be on the top of the mountain! Beautiful!

Beth said...

You are right when you ask, how could there be a place more beautiful than this? I can tell you are in love with your new state, and I can understand that. I love CO too. What a blessing to live there. I enjoyed hearing about your trip to the tundra. Have a great week, Pat!

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

I enjoyed it ALL but you HAD me at ELATION, lol...Kiss the Photographer for that one. It was great. I think that you are married to him and it's ok? :)

Michelle said...

We have been there and also felt like we could touch the sky. Such a feeling!

Felicia said...

in answer to your last question, nope, that's why I want to live in colorado.

Thanks for your great images Pat.

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

Now there's a photo of sheer joy as you reach for the sky. It must have been a tough life for the natives living here during the harsh winters.
Thank you for linking to Mosaic Monday Pat.

Barb said...

Rocky Mountain National Park is an awe-inspiring landscape. You've captured it well, Pat. You look like you're on top of the world in the first photo!

Ola said...

Pat, I love when you are posting about the beauty of nature in the United States! The surroundings look wild and impressive!

SmilingSally said...

Hi Pat,

You're showing plenty of blue skies today! Isn’t it fun finding blues to share? Thanks for playing today.

Happy Blue Monday!

Snap said...

You are having a grand adventure learning about your new home state. Fun! Wonderful images and aren't the skies a lovely blue! Mr. Dragon always said ... yep, the lack of oxygen turns everything blue ... skies and lips! Ha!
Hugs--

ann said...

Once again wonderful photos. I always wonder how the Indians survived such harsh conditions. The national park is a wonderful place to visit and to get close to the sky. Close to God and Heaven and Nature.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Congratulations on that climb right up there to the sky! It really is so beautiful. And so different. Thank you for sharing the joy!

ladyfi said...

Such wonderful scenery! I can feel the fresh air.

carol l mckenna said...

What an experience for you and to get these magnificent scenic photos! Wow!

Happy Week to you!
artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

Lorrie said...

What an amazing top of the world experience! You look great with your arms open to embrace the world. Did you have a hard time breathing up there?

Safari Kenya said...

Gorgeous photos,such majestic vistas

Rachel@safari254

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Good for you on your adventure, and thanks for taking your camera along.

Rena McDaniel said...

I had been considering adding this park to our Cross Country trip I know I definitely will now! Thanks so much for sharing this. I pinned it to refer back to and to just gaze at the pictures, it's absolutely beautiful!

Donna said...

Beautiful...I know how you felt when I climbed to the top of Pike's Peak!!

Bill Nicholls said...

Cool place though I doubt I'll ever get to visit it. Seen the visitor centre before, it gets a lot of snow

Su-sieee! Mac said...

You're definitely on top of the world! I'd love to try this one day. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Linda W. said...

Wonderful pics! I visited Rocky Mtn Nat Park years ago on my honeymoon (wayyy back in 1985!)

Al said...

Amazing scenery - it's been far too long since I've been there.

Willow said...

Pat, you truly live in a beautiful place. Every post shows me how much you love your new home.

Daniela said...

Your first picture express all the joy you've felt during this wonderful tour, I think you've really touched the sky !!
Thank you for the exciting experiences we do by your side, darling !

Have a lovely course of the week
I'm sending hugs with love
Dany

Marie said...

Fantastic post about an awesome trip! Loved all your great photos. I can sense your happiness over this wonderful chance to see the park again. I loved the placards, especially the one about the Indian women. That was such a lovely observation. I cannot hike anymore and that is one of my greatest regrets at this point in my life (bad knees and chronic fatigue) That was the only reason we didn't do the Mesa Verde tour too, not because there weren't opportunities available. It's hard to only get to see a lot of stuff now from the road or just a little ways off the road, when in our younger years we hiked the Grand Canyon several times and used to love to just "hike in the woods." But life goes on! :-) I can enjoy the photos of those who still can get off the beaten path and I am grateful for that.

Jim said...

Great shots.

Paulina said...

Hi there! I really enjoy reading your blog, the scenery in this post is especially stunning. I was hoping to ask you a couple of questions via email, could you let me know where to reach you? Thank you!

Christian Weiß said...

Great capture and a wonderful area.

Arija said...

Very beautiful landscapes and what a great adventure!

Hazel Ceej said...

Guess I can relate with how you feel when you were on the peak. But that was many many years ago for me. Glad to see your photos; brings me back to a great memory.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Really beautiful location and some great pics!! Thanks for the tour.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Thank you, everyone for your comments! I always enjoy reading them

Paulina my e-mail address is in my Blogger profile--click the "About Me" tab on the right side of my blog to go to my profile. Your e-mail was a "no reply" e-mail and your blogger profile was listed as private so I hope you see this answer to your question.

gracieplace said...

It's a very stunning place, and the colors are beautiful

fredamans said...

Wonderful photos! I would be elated to be elevated too! ;-)

peppylady (Dora) said...

I could imagine living any places then in mountain.
But other places are great place to visit and learn about.

My "Sky Watch" is up.

Coffee is on

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

So beautiful! Your Rocky Mountain National Park posts have transported me back in time to our visit there a few years ago. We have such good memories!

lisa hermanson said...

You look very free up on the tundra ! Great post !