Sunday, August 25, 2013

RMNP: August 2013

"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir

That was my situation last week.  And like the noted environmentalist, I could not ignore the summons.

It had been three months since I'd been to RMNP, so those were the specific mountains I decided to visit.  I wanted to catch a sunrise, too, which meant a very early departure time from home of 3:45 a.m.  Somehow I even managed to convince Taryn to join me.

Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park
I asked Steve Gandy on Thursday what his favorite sunrise spot in the park was, and he said he enjoyed the stretch of 36 just south of Deer Ridge Junction where you could catch the alpenglow on all the peaks from Longs to Flattop.  Seemed like solid advice, so that's where I chose to set up, too.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Solid advice indeed.

Chasm Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park
Next was a drive up Old Fall River Road, where we made my ever first stop at Chasm Falls.  That flowing water workshop on Thursday proved timely. :)

Bull Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park
Just past the Chapin Creek Trailhead we ran into a small herd of grazing elk.  The bulls' antlers were all encased in velvet, and everyone looked nice and healthy.  I imagine the wet August had kept their food supply in abundance.

Marmot, Rocky Mountain National Park
The few marmots we saw seemed fat and happy, too.  But not interested in letting me get too close.

Poudre Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
The USA Pro Challenge was going through Estes Park on Saturday, which also made me decide to revise our destination completely.  But then I realized that we could just visit the west side of the park where we'd never been before and exit through Grand Lake instead.  Poudre Lake was our first stop for a quick photo.

Nuptial Knoll, Grand Lake Lodge
We were getting hungry, so we made the questionable decision to head straight to Grand Lake for breakfast at the Fat Cat Cafe and then go back into the park.  Nuptial Knoll at the Grand Lake Lodge to take in the view of Shadow Mountain Lake came first.

Kawuneeche Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park
A stroll on the Coyote Valley Trail yielded no noteworthy photo opportunities.  So it was up to Farview Curve to enjoy the look down the Kawuneeche Valley.

Never Summer Mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park
And with a turn to the right, a quick father-daughter portrait with the Never Summer Mountains as a backdrop.  The rotten kid wasn't quite able to get the bunny ears behind my head before the timer went off.

Lake Irene, Rocky Mountain National Park
Lake Irene came last, which made up in idyllic beauty what it lacked in size.

Bull Moose, Rocky Mountain National Park
The one "charismatic megafauna" I really hoped to encounter was a moose.  And I got my wish right before we exited.  Taryn was unfortunately fast asleep when I drove up on the "moose jam," so she didn't get to gawk at the bull trotting alongside the road near the Onahu Trailhead.  But she was at least awake to see the cow grazing near Berthoud Pass on our way home.

As I'd read, the west side of RMNP is quite a bit different from the east because it's so much wetter.  It's almost like having another national park within driving distance, which is just fine with me. I look forward to returning for a lengthy hike (with likely another stop at the Fat Cat) in the future!


Phil said...

Fabulous! Love that park. I haven't spent any time to speak of on the west side, either.

Love reading about other people's trips and seeing photos (and what a cute little ornery daughter you have ;-) )

We missed our trip last year. We were going to go about the time all the roads washed out in all that rain. It'll be August for us this year.

SteveHarbula said...

Thanks! She is indeed both cute and ornery. :)

The west side of RMNP is great, and criminally overlooked. Definitely take the time to head out there!