Trip to Colorado…

My friend Erin and I went on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park from June 17th-21st. It was an awesome trip! We saw all sorts of wildlife, like moose, elk, big horn sheep, squirrels, chipmunks, hummingbirds, osprey, swallows, ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and many more! Plus all the views throughout Rocky Mountain National Park are amazing! They had snow capped mountains, beautiful lakes, rivers big and small, and lots of trees and flowers. I'd highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for places to visit. The photo gallery I'm posting for this trip is my biggest yet!

On June 17th, our first day at Rocky Mountain National Park, we entered through the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station and shortly thereafter we saw a male elk walking alongside the road! We drove on and our first stop was at the old Beaver Ponds on the east side of the park. I hear there used to be actual large ponds here a long time ago, but now the place is mostly overgrown and only a stream runs through it. As we drove on along the Trail Ridge Road we kept seeing very tall poles in the ground. They were each about 20ft tall. We eventually figured out that they are there as guides for snow plows so they don't drive off the edge of the road when the snow gets really deep here. There are several places to pull off of Trail Ridge Road and take in the gorgeous scenery. You can get great views of mountain peaks and valleys down below. Our next big stop was the Forest Canyon Overlook. This is an amazing location where you get to see lush green Forest Canyon below, and the snow capped Rocky Mountains that make up the continental divide on the other side. At the end of the overlook trail is an area where you are almost always guaranteed to see yellow bellied marmots! These guys run around and sometimes even wrestle with each other! We also saw a large herd of elk on a nearby mountain-side meadow. We drove on and saw some rain over nearby mountains and some interesting clouds around us. After this we drove on to Milner Pass and stopped to see where the continental divide crosses Trail Ridge Road. Poudre Lake is just on the east of the divide and we walked around here for a little bit. Then we drove on down into the Kawuneeche Valley and saw a moose grazing in a meadow! When we stopped to get pictures, we saw two other younger moose were grazing nearby too! We drove on a bit further and saw a herd of elk resting and grazing out in a meadow. Eventually we drove back and stopped near the mountain-side meadow at Forest Canyon. While we were there we saw a couple of young elk that were grazing our way. I was able to get some good close-up pictures of them and their fuzzy horns. We continued on and made a brief stop at the Many Parks Curve. This is a great spot to visit at the end of the day as it has some very nice lighting on it. After that we made a stop at the Hidden Valley and walked around for a bit. Then, as we were leaving through the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, we saw several elk laying down and resting in a meadow on the side of the road. Overall we saw lots of chipmunks, squirrels, marmots, elk, and moose. This was an excellent first day at RMNP!

On June 18th we drove on up to the Forest Canyon Overlook. While we were there we saw several marmots scurrying about. I even saw one that was standing up on his hind legs. I wonder what he was up to? From there we drove on down into the Kawuneeche Valley. As we drove along we saw some moose out in the meadows by a river. We stopped and took several pictures. Then, off in the distance, we saw a momma moose with her calf. They were really far away, but it was still really neat to see. Then we drove down almost to the Grand Lake Entrance Station. We didn't want to leave so we turned back around. On our way back we saw a couple of elk grazing in a nearby meadow and caught some pictures of them. Then we went over and visited the Holzwarth Historic Site. We stayed there for a while learning how the Holzwarth family had set up a ranch and later the Holzwarth Trout Lodge. While wandering around this great historic site, we saw a big bull moose resting in a nearby meadow. From there we drove back across the continental divide and saw a bull elk grazing in a field. It was funny to see him scratch his back legs with his horns. After this we drove down Hwy 34 towards Horseshoe Park. We stopped at an overlook and could see the back-and-forth winding of Fall River. We also saw some elk grazing near the river. It was at this overlook that I first heard the flying chirping sound. I thought it was strange that crickets could fly and chirp at the same time. But, eventually I saw that the sounds were actually coming from a hummingbird! He eventually landed on a tree branch and I got a couple of good pictures of him. After this overlook we headed on down to the Alluvial Fan parking lot. While looking for a parking spot we saw a large black and white bird with iridescent blue feathers on his back. This was the first time I had ever seen a magpie! After parking, we made the short hike up to the Alluvial Fan Water Falls. This is an amazing sight! This is a large waterfall crashing down a hillside and past many boulders (some larger than cars!) flowing out into the Fall River. There are lots of trees and quite a few flowers near the falls. And I also saw several butterflies here. As we were getting back into our car I spotted a cute little chipmunk scurrying around looking for food. After this we headed on over to the Sheep Lakes. We saw a couple of ground squirrels (similar to prairie dogs), a magpie, and several elk far across the big meadow. I sat down for a while to enjoy the view and soon noticed a hummingbird enjoying a flower only about 12ft away from me! I got some great pictures here. Then, back across the meadow, I saw a mother elk nursing its fawn. Then, after they trotted back off into the trees, I saw a hummingbird on an even closer flower. I took a ton of pictures here. Every once in a while I would see one of the hummingbirds go into the back of someone's pickup truck, which had a camper covered bed with both the tail gate down and the camper window open. I'm really not sure what he found so interesting back there. Also, once or twice, I heard the trilling of their wings high in the air behind us. Eventually I was able to spot one of the hummingbirds hovering about 60ft in the air above the parking lot! I've since read online that the males will hover high, trill their wings loudly, and then dive down quickly as a way to court and impress females. I was lucky enough to get a couple of pictures of him hovering high overhead. I got some good shots of a waxing gibbous moon, and some parting shots of elk across the meadow before we called it a day.

On June 19th we saw a hotair balloon from the hotel parking lot! Actually, I think we saw this every morning we were here. This morning we went in via the Fall River Entrance Station and headed straight to the Sheep Lakes. This turned out to be a good choice because we saw three big horn sheep grazing in the meadows! It was a bright sunny day and pretty windy this morning. Looking at some of the nearby pine trees, it looked like a cloud of dust was being shaken off of them. Then I realized that the pine trees were releasing big clouds of pollen into the air! This was really neat to see, especially on distant mountain slopes where you'd see big clouds of pollen start emerging from the trees. After watching the big horn sheep for a while we headed on over to the Alluvial Fan Falls to see it in the morning light. This is a great place to visit at any time of day. Hearing the roaring water as it falls down this rocky hillside is very impressive. I hiked up to get right next to the water falls and get some close-up pictures. This is an awesome place to visit. After this we headed on up to the Forest Canyon Overlook and saw several marmots and a couple of chipmunks roaming around the rocks. From here we headed down into the Kawuneeche Valley and saw some elk and moose grazing along the banks of the Colorado River. Then, I lucky to look up and see a large bird of prey soaring over the meadow! It was an osprey, and this was my first time to see one! He was very graceful and soared away and into the trees on the far side of the meadow. It was interesting to see how some of the elk in the herd had tracking devices on their neck. I guess this is how they keep track of the herds movements. From here I suggested we go over to the Colorado River Trail. While hiking we kept passing people saying there was a mother and calf moose up ahead. We hiked for a while but didn't see them. At some point we decided to turn around and head back to the car. Then, we came upon the mother and calf moose in a clearing on our right! It was really awesome because we were really close to them and got a lot of good pictures. Luckily the mother wasn't too nervous by our presence. We stayed and watched them graze for a while. This was an amazing sight to see and the calf was really cute for a moose. After the moose wandered off, so did we. We went over to Lake Irene and hiked around for a bit. Then we headed back to the Sheep Lakes and saw a large herd of elk leaving Fall River and heading up into the forest. Oddly enough, about 60 seconds later they all came pouring back out of the forest back down to Fall River. I wonder if they got spooked or had a sudden hankering for water? Then, after watching the ground squirrels nibbling on grass, 8 minutes later the whole elk herd headed back up into the forest again! Then I saw a large bumble bee enjoying the same flowers the hummingbird had visited yesterday. I was able to get a few good shots of all of this. About 40 minutes after the bumble bee, I saw a hummingbird back and enjoying the mountain golden pea flowers. This was the perfect way to end this day at the park.

On June 20th... (more details to come)

On June 21st...
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