After all the wedding festivities of the past week (and all the preparation!), I treated myself to two days in Rocky Mountain National Park before heading back to Arizona. I stayed in a lovely little rustic cabin in Estes Park. It was nice to be so close to all the beauties the park had to offer and not have to drive the 45 miles up and down the mountain each day.
One of my goals was to spend some time doing some watercolor sketches, but as usual, I took many more photographs than I did watercolor sketches! Rather than post them all here, you may view the set of photographs on Flickr, including some from previous visits. The most current photos are at the end of the set.
The first day was lovely, sunny and warm. The Labor Day crowds were out in force, so I opted for a lesser traveled route, Old Fall River Road. The view of Horseshoe Park was lovely! Horseshoe Park is named for the horseshoe bends that St. Vrain Creek makes as it winds through the valley.
As always, it is as much the details of a place that enthrall me as well as the grand views. These lovely jewel bright berries hung so perfectly from the stalks. Little treasures!
Since it was September and the summer was very hot here, I didn't expect to see many wildflowers, but was surprised by hillsides of them again and again!
A late bumblebee was dining on the Fireweed!
Across the canyon, little rivulets of water cascade down the rocks. While the scale of this appears quite small, I'm certain that the distance fools the eye and the waterfall is much larger than it appears! There were many of them to enjoy!
Up on the tundra, things were moister than at lower elevations and despite the cool temperatures, these hairbells were blooming beautifully!
At this altitude, the wind blows continuously. How anything can survive is one of God's miracles. In protected spots, a tree will grow, but you can see that it doesn't venture far from the protection of the rock, staying within it's wind shadow!
During the summer, the elk frequent the tundra. Within the next few weeks however, they will make their way down to the large meadows like Horseshoe Park and Moraine Park where the main rutting season will take place. In the meantime, up here on the tundra, this bull has gathered a small harem and is doing his best to keep them in line. Here he bugles quietly, communicating with his cows.
Standing guard and looking out over the edge of his domain, full bugling commenced, the sound echoing back and forth over the landscape! A sure warning to any other bulls in the area that he was king in his domain!
While enjoying the background echoes of bugling, I did a watercolor sketch of the large glacial cirque near the top of Trail Ridge.
The next morning, I woke to mist and rain. A disappointment as it made the hike I intended to go on pretty miserable. So instead, I opted to visit the lower regions of the park by car to see what wildlife I could see and maybe do some more watercolor sketching from the car. The elk were mostly tucked away in the woods, but as the clouds lifted a little, this stunning scene came into view in Moraine Park, one of my favorite areas of the Park.
In the light mist, I thought I might be able to walk around the easy trail of Bear Lake, but by the time I reached it, it was pouring! Instead, I sat in the car and sketched this scene of Hallet's Peak from the parking lot. The light gray sky belies the heavy rain falling from it!
Big drops hung from every branch. These large shrubby willows are abundant in the wetland areas of the park and a favorite habitat for the elk.
Big Thompson River starts high up in the mountains until it reaches Moraine Park, where it winds gently through the willows before reaching the more open grassland of the park. The rain continued on, so I sketched this one through the window of the car as well. It is my favorite sketch of the trip! How nice to return to my snug little cabin at the end of the day and enjoy the dry warmth of a nice log fire in the fireplace!
I awoke early in order to get started on the journey home. Rather than head back down the mountain through Boulder and Denver, I opted to go up over Trail Ridge and through the mountains back towards I-70. The rain was still falling and near the top of Trail Ridge Road the clouds hugged the ground making for a misty landscape.
There are so many things I love about Rocky Mountain National Park from the large amazing landscapes to the smallest details in the flora and fauna. But I also have love the way the park is managed and cared for. That care shows up in details like the rock walls used along the road ways, often with trees growing right over the top of them. As they have repaved most of the roads in the past couple years, they have also rebuilt many of these rock walls. I love how on this steep bank they "paved" the hillside by dry stacking the rock to provide stability to the steep slope. At first glance, these banks go almost un-noticed. I love that they used the indigenous rock and didn't transport in rock from elsewhere.
On the western slope of the park, Autumn is advancing more noticeably as evidenced by the changing grass in the Keewaneechee Valley. I was sad to leave, but as always, I look forward to returning another day!