Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park

We are now parked between Estes Park, Colorado and the national park.  Sunday we attended services at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church where we happened to see friends of ours from St.Louis, Nancy and Earl Matson.  It has been awhile since we last saw Nancy.  After the service we stayed for Bible class, and before it began several people started talking about the park and the recent profusion of wildflowers which can be seen on the alpine tundra.  It made us anxious to get there as soon as possible, like that very afternoon.  Also weather was not looking too good for the rest of the week.  Trail Ridge road in the park is the highest continuous paved highway in North America, and it brought us to the alpine tundra which encompasses nearly one third of Rocky Mountain National Park.  On the way up our first stop was at the lava cliffs.  They can be seen in the upper left side of the picture below.  After a volcano occurred many years ago glacial ice carved into the hillside and exposed the tuff in cross section.
As you can see, we had a very clear day with lots of sunshine.  At the top we had expected the temperature to be in the 40s, but it was a pleasant 57 degrees.  However, a brisk wind made it seemed cooler and jackets were required.  All along the drive we did see wildflowers, and on the walk at the top there were fields of them.  I will go into more detail on them in the next posting. 
The picture was taken at the highest point of the drive, which is about 12,000 feet above sea level.  The park has 72 named peaks above that elevation.  The Alpine Visitor Center is the Trail Ridge road's halfway point.  From the center there is a path leading to the highest point.  Hiking on the path to the top we had wonderful scenic vistas as well beautiful alpine landscapes, I never knew whether to look up or down!  The natural amphitheater below the center collects large amounts of snow often and at various times over the years.  It is blown across the mountains by the high winds common on the tundra.  The picture below shows our path down back to the visitor's center.
The hike was a bit strenuous, but the scenery was worth it!  Many people were on the path with us, including a toddler who was taking the steps on all fours.  His parents told me later that he did make it to the top!
Pictured above is Forest Canyon.  It was taken from a overlook we stopped at on our way down Trail Ridge road.  Glacial ice scoured the valley into a distinctive u-shape.  Forests of pine trees cover the broad valley.
There are several points of interest which I want to point out in the above picture.  In the foreground are trees which have been blasted by wind, ice, and grit.  Some branches that are on the downwind side survive.  Off to the right side of the picture is Trial Ridge road.  And the pale area on the left side of the picture is an alluvial fan, something John thought we had missed but later at home, while reviewing our pictures, we found out that we had seen it.  Alluvial fan is a large deposit of sand, gravel and other smaller materials built up by streams.  In 1982 a dam gave way at Lawn Lake and the raging waters carved out a valley for five miles before disgorging boulders, gravel, and sand onto the floor of Horseshoe Park- an area seen around the fan.  I need to post a disclaimer here, as some of the above information was obtained by the guide to Trail Ridge Road.  In my next posting I will have more on our drive through the park.

No comments:

Post a Comment