The Rockies

No trip to Denver is complete without a side trip to the Rocky Mountains - and we went to the Rockies! 
We drove the length of Trail Ridge Road and found this beautiful vista along the way.

I probably drove Arlene (our driver) nuts (though she didn't let me know it) with the frequent stops for pictures.  The first stop was even before we got to the park:

We stopped at the visitors' center and picked up booklets and brochures, and once in the park, we headed for Bear Lake to hike towards Emerald Lake.  On the way, I had to take a picture of this rocky river:

Of those little pebbles in the stream, the closest (bottom right) was about 3 meters across!  All the water came from freshly melted snow, and there was plenty of it!  Read on...

The Creator spared nothing in making the park beautiful.  Here's a view looking over Nymph Lake to the south-southwest.

When we packed, I don't recall planning on hiking the Rockies.  I certainly don't recall considering the possibility of encountering snow!  Here's where we had to turn back because my shoes just didn't have any traction:

I was taking a break from the exhausting work of not falling down that slope to the left, Jim didn't seem to have much trouble, but he grew up on the slick stuff and was wearing proper hiking boots.  Elizabeth had the camera.  It wasn't long before we took this picture that I had insisted on a picture with me and snow in May... and I got what I asked for!

Jim took the next shot of Elizabeth and me on a rock approaching Nymph Lake again from the west.  The picture looks west-northwest:

Along the way, we saw this cute thing posing.  Arlene saw the picture and immediately identified it as a golden mantel ground squirrel.  She couldn't make it on the short hike, though.  She stayed near the parking lot and the road since Muffin (their dog) wasn't allowed on the trail.

Here's a family portriate with Elizabeth, Arlene, Muffin, and Jim.  We had stopped to look at some aspen bark that looked like it had been chewed by the local wildlife.  Deer and antelope eat the bark in the winter to keep from starving.  It's not tasty, but it's edible.

You'll recall I wanted a picture of me and snow in May.  Well, I got one better:

Look closely in the picture and you can see that it is snowing!  (I tried to model quite a bit of the white stuff, but it didn't show up as well as I'd have liked.  Of course, snow got on the camera lens, too - hence the spot over my face :-))

Arlene went into orbit when she saw this creature:

She knew immediately that it was a white-tailed ptarmigan, and that she'd only seen one other before.  We saw two!

What's that?  You want to see more animals?  We found some - elk out the wazoo - and this is just a sampling of the few that posed together for the camera:

No, this isn't Mother Goose, it's mother moose.  The little one is on the left, and rain is all around.

Now a couple of details:  First, the tree line - I'd never seen it up close.  Here's a picture from a distance, and it looks similar when you're there:

The tree line can be compared to the border of a lake.  From sufficient distance, it looks precise.  If you get closer, though, you see little pockets of water around the edges, and you notice the ground is wet.  The tree line is very similar, just on a larger scale.  Up close, as you ascend you see trees that grow with branches only on one side (the downhill side, as the near trees above), then you'll see little shrub-size trees, then no trees whatsoever.  They call these mountains the Never Summer Mountain Range, and with good reason.  Winds sometimes get to 175 miles per hour (280 km/h), and at elevations on the order of 12,000 feet (3700m), it's chilly year-round.

We spent about an hour on the Pacific side of the continental divide.  We crossed it twice.  From this point ( N39° 47.902', W105° 46.671'), we looked north to see the sign, and west to get the above picture of the tree line.  The elevation there was 11,307 feet (3446m), and Clear Creek County is to the east.

From there, it was just 19 hours to home, including the evening's nap - by minivan, plane, bus, and car!