Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July 4, 2016 Happy 240th Birthday America From Rocky Mountain National Park

"As I was walkin', that ribbon of highway

I saw above me, that endless skyway

I saw below me, that golden valley

I said this land was made for you and me" 

 -This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie 

Here I am about half way through my day somewhere on Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The reason I am laughing is because I took several selfies and in every one my giant head is blocking most of the view. I finally gave up trying to get me and the valley. This was my driving day as I left Fort Collins and drove to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain NP. 

I started my day by driving up to Horsetooth Reservoir but it was extremely crowded being a holiday weekend so I headed to Estes Park.

Horsetooth Reservoir with big sky clouds on a beautiful Fourth of July morning.

I need to get acclimated to the higher elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park so I decided to drive up the Old Fall River Road. This single lane, one way hard packed gravel road starts at 8600 feet and ends at 11,800 feet. I figured I would stop along the way and do short hikes to help acclimate my body. To be honest, this body doesn't do too good at sea level so we'll see how this works for me. 

The Old Fall River Road is 11 miles long. It took me three hours to drive it. Here's why...

...I stopped wherever there was a chance to pull off the road. The Chasm Falls were the most impressive stop.

I relaxed here for quite a while. The sound of rushing water is so soothing to me.

At most stops I walked into the forest to see what I could stumble across. I must have liked the blue sky popping through the clouds here.

The view across the valley.

Whenever I stopped, I could hear the Fall River. Sometimes I found it, sometimes I didn't or couldn't bushwhack my way through the forest to it.

Several times I could follow it a good distance up or down river.

The lodge pole pines grow pretty tall here. 

Looking back down the valley from a switchback on the road.

I thought this little guy was dead. I noticed him when I sat down and he didn't move until I started talking to him. Even then he just lifted his head. But after a few minutes, he jumped up, ran down the mountain and started fighting with another pika. They both rolled down the mountain screeching, then they ran off together. 

A switchback on the Old Fall River Road and a traffic jam of sorts.

This waterfall,created by melting snow, was across the valley. 

Another of my many stops to find the Fall River.

I found this walking through the forest.

Nearing the end of the road, the Alpine Visitor Center is in view above the snow.

This is what the world looks like at just below 12,000 feet. It seems to me that the sky is much closer.

The Gore Range Overlook turnout.

This view point turnout might be the Lava Cliffs along the Trail Ridge Road. It had the most snow I saw close up all day.

There is a group of kids that ran down into this bowl to play on the snow down there. That is one hell of a hike back up to the car for them. It's good to be young, I was jealous of their spontaneity. 

Being a flat-lander my whole life, I absolutely love being in the mountains. The scenery is always incredible to me. When I drove away from this turnout, there was a huge traffic jam...

...this is why. Several male elk were grazing or resting uphill from the road. 

Hell I'm from Chicago, so I did a drive by shooting...

...with my camera. I promise no elk were harmed during the making of this blog.

Not long after this traffic jam, there was another one...

...this time it was mostly female elk.

There was at least fifty elk on both sides of the road.

I saw several that were radio collared.

There were lots of calves with this herd. But this was the best picture I took of one of them.

So that is how I celebrated Independence Day in one of America's National Parks. It seemed right to me since Wallace Stegner said, "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst." 

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