Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mount Evans

We had plans to take a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, but our son Mike was adamant about seeing Mount Evans.  His cousin Katie and her boyfriend had been there last week and it seemed to fit his criteria as a mountain to visit.  John and I had no compunctions either way, and if we joined our son, we would be able to spend more time with him.  So on Monday we drove south to Denver, and then west along the Interstate 70 corridor.  At the entrance gate to the Mount Evans Recreation Area in the Arapaho National Forest a sign greeted us with the information that the current temperature was 64 degrees, at the summit it was 42 with a wind chill of 35 degrees. We were ready with our jackets! The road up the mountain is the highest paved one in North America, taking us from pine forests to snow-covered mountain peaks.  Our first stop on our way up the mountain was at Summit Lake, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1965 because of its extraordinary characteristics.  It is located in the alpine, but the environment mirrors the Arctic Circle.  Rare plants found at Summit Lake are usually found above the Arctic Circle, and permanently frozen ground unique to the dry alpine tundra is present.  The lake, at12,830 feet elevation, is pictured below.
As I walked along the lake I espied some white flowers- I discovered later that they were white mountain avens, a flower which grows above the timberline. They stood out from all the grey surrounding them.
 Mike wanted to see mountain goats-we saw some grazing and the babies frolicking near the summit parking lot. Another animal which we saw zipping under and around the rocks were marmots.
  From the parking lot there is a quarter mile trail to the summit.   It was a bit rocky and muddy from melting snow, but getting to the top was worth it.  Our final elevation was 14,130 feet.  Of course, Mike had to check out his phone reception!  An interpretive sign there informed us that from the top we could see most of the Continental Divide in Colorado, as well as Denver, Long's Peak and Pikes Peak.  It sure helped that we picked a clear day- our visibility was great at the top.
 On our way down we took some time at Mount Goliath Natural Area.  Here there are forests of the bristlecone pine.  According to a park brochure "These remarkable trees are the oldest single living organism on earth, capable of living for thousands years".  Many have severely twisted trunks, their adaptation to extreme winds. 

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