Monday, July 9, 2018

Alpine Wildflowers at Summit Lake


In my last blog post --click here to read- I showed how my husband and I got caught in a snowstorm driving up to the summit of Mt Evans on the first full day of summer! Because of the inclement weather we immediately turned around from the summit and drove back down the mountain from the altitude of 14,170 feet to 12,840 feet, and turned off into Summit Lake Park.  

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From the Summit Lake parking lot, we could actually see the storm dramatically drift away from the mountain. It was soon followed by a blue sunny sky and warmer temperatures. We felt safe again!



An interesting graphic placard at Summit Lake that shows its location and elevation in relation to Denver, which is a little over 60 miles to the east.


Summit Lake Park is the highest city park in North America and is the highest park in the Denver Mountain Parks system. This area is popular for its impressive scenery, alpine botanical features, and wildlife viewing opportunities. In 1965, it was designated the first National Natural Landmark in Colorado, as the area is one of the best examples of Arctic tundra in the contiguous United States. The Summit Lake area provides habitat for a variety of rare alpine-arctic plants, some of which occur only here and above the Arctic Circle.

Areas around the lake are permafrost. At this high altitude, there are no trees because of the excessive cold, wind and adverse soils. This year the snowpack seemed much less than last June, as we had a very dry winter and spring this year in Colorado.


Because of the fragile tundra and rarity of its plants, visitors are asked to stay on the trails when visiting the area and not to walk on the tundra. The short growing season makes life a challenge for the many slow-growing tundra wildflowers; their entire life cycles must be completed in a few short weeks.
There are different sights to see along the trails, including views down towards the Chicago Lakes area, and the hiking trails that lead up the mountain from Echo Lake, which then continues up towards the summit.


Summit Lake is also a wonderful area to see the Mountain Sheep that graze on the tundra.


The sights that most excite me every visit, however, are the wildflowers!  This one is Old-Man-of-the-Moutain which almost always faces east.




Chiming Bells and more Alpine Buttercups


Alpine Spring Beauty Wildflower. I learned last year that this plants taproot can reach as long a twenty feet below ground!




Pretty Draba Wildflower


Alpine phlox


Alpine Forget-Me-Nots, Alpine Kittentail, Alpine Primrose, Alpine Dwarf Clover.


The wildflowers at Summit Lake are so varied and interesting, and ever-changing in their short cycle of life at an Alpine altitude.  I could spend hours looking at them and taking photographs of them...


 ...but it was getting time to begin our descent down Mt Evans...


 ...past breathtaking scenery...


..and back to lower. forested elevations.


We passed the bristlecone forest on Mt Goliath--click here--to read a blog post about these fascinating ancient trees that are thousands of years old!


Our last stop was at Echo Lake Lodge visitors center at the base of the mountain, where we stopped for a late lunch. Their bison chili and hamburgers are really delicious, and I like their gift shop.  It was a wonderful day with many exciting moments.  Mt. Evans has truly become my "Happy Place." I never tire of visiting it!

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Amaze Me MondayMosaic MondayAll SeasonsBlue Monday,  Through My Lens MondayInspiration Monday, Blogging GrandmothersYou Are the Star Blog HopGood Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialPhoto Tunes, Happiness Is HomemadeTuesday TreasuresPictorial TuesdayOur World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesdays With A TwistParty in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful WednesdayOutdoor Wednesday, Whimsical WednesdayWednesday Around the WorldWonderful Wednesday,  Share Your CupLittle Things Thursday Travel Photo Thursday, Thankful ThursdayThursday Favorite ThingsFriendship FridaysFriday Photo JournalSkywatch FridaySweet InspirationWeekend Travel InspirationSaturday's Critters ,Pink SaturdayOver the MoonHappiness Is Homemade


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Monday, July 2, 2018

Extremes of Weather on Mt. Evans



Every Spring my husband and I like to take a drive up to the summit of the 14,271 (4350 m) high Mt. Evans. Mt. Evans is located 60 miles west of Denver, Colorado, and the total elevation gain from the high plains on which Denver sits, to the summit of Mt. Evans, will take you up 9,000 feet! From Idaho Springs one travels south on CO Hwy. 103 to the junction of CO Hwy. 5, the entrance to Mount Evans Road, where I took the photo above. We were late this year, on our first journey up the mountain, as it was June 22, the first full day of summer.  The temperature was in the low 80's and the sky was blue with fluffy clouds.


The Mt Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America. Because of snow, the road is only open from Memorial Day in May to Labor Day in September. You can see blogs I wrote about our journey up the mountain here and hereIf you look at those blog posts you will see that we usually have an enjoyable and scenic drive, full of wildflowers, and wildlife, but this trip was going to be very different!


As we drove the sky began to fill with heavy dark clouds and the temperature began to drop quickly.


As you can see from our car dashboard, the temperature dropped to 32 degrees (0 C) as we approached the Summit Lake elevation of 12,936 feet (3,912 m)


As we continued on the winding road the heavy dark clouds seemed so low that we could almost touch them.


Since we were now on the narrowest part of the Mt. Evans road there was nothing we could do but continue to drive. There was traffic on the road going up and down and nowhere to turn around, on this narrow road with no guardrails.


It was scary! The wind was fierce and the snow was blowing in whiteout conditions.




If you watch the video above, that I posted on my facebook page here, you can see and hear the conditions we were driving in! As much as we heard over the years that mountain weather can change drastically in just a few minutes, this was the first time that we experienced it!


We finally reached the summit parking lot area, where we were able to turn around and go back down in elevation, below the storm.


Before we left we took a photo of the iconic sign in the parking lot--you can see it has snow on it.


We wouldn't be stopping to climb the rest of the elevation to the top of the mountain this time!

As we drove down the mountain we breathed a sigh of relief that we weren't being hit by hail. We could actually see the storm beginning to pass by off to the east. This was definitely an experience we would never forget and made us respect the power of elevation and weather extremes that can happen at any time.  

Our journey down the mountain continued and thankfully improved, but that will be saved for my next post.


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

Amaze Me MondayMosaic MondayAll SeasonsBlue Monday,  Through My Lens MondayInspiration Monday, Blogging GrandmothersYou Are the Star Blog HopGood Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialPhoto Tunes, Happiness Is HomemadeTuesday TreasuresPictorial TuesdayOur World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesdays With A TwistParty in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful WednesdayOutdoor Wednesday, Whimsical WednesdayWednesday Around the WorldWonderful Wednesday,  Share Your CupLittle Things Thursday Travel Photo Thursday, Thankful ThursdayThursday Favorite ThingsFriendship FridaysFriday Photo JournalSkywatch FridaySweet InspirationWeekend Travel Inspiration,Pink SaturdayOver the MoonHappiness Is Homemade


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