On our way to the Park, we passed about 4 young bighorn sheep right along the road - was a special treat! They are the largest wild sheep in North America.
|At 1st I thought they were deer.....|
|...but then I realized they were young bighorn sheep who|
were only starting to get horns!
|Almost looks like an active volcano!|
We arrived at the parking lot of Bear Lake by 7:45 and it was a positively gorgeous morning. It was 38 degrees but warmed up to 60 fairly quickly - nice weather for hiking. We decided to do the 3.8 mile round trip to Emerald Lake. The trail started at an elevation of 9,475 feet and we climbed an additional 605 feet. Well, elevation does challenge you when you aren't accustomed to it. Ken asked me if he was puffing and I said yes, but so was I. The 1st part of the hike was fairly steep, but it got better as we climbed.
|It definitely was an uphill climb and we were huffing!|
|Can't get enough of the beautiful aspens!|
|It was a nicely maintained path!|
|King of the Mountain!|
|The happy hikers!|
Our 1st stop was Nymph Lake -
|Lots of water lilies but they weren't open!|
followed by Dream Lake -
|Dream lake was the largest.....|
|and had some native, colorful trout!|
|She certainly wasn't camera shy!|
|He was busy eating!|
|She was posing and begging us to take her picture! We really|
were very close because they crossed the path in front of us!
Emerald Lake was beautiful too -
The walk back was mostly downhill.
On the way a chipmunk was extremely friendly and actually climbed up my pant leg to my knee. He was too quick for Ken to get that photo.
|He did try to eat my shoestring!|
|I think he is pleading his case for a treat!|
|This is different chipmunk but I believe he is well nourished!|
When we got back to the parking lot we got rid of some of our "gear" and then walked the short path back to Bear Lake.
|This is Bear Lake. Aren't the Aspens gorgeous!|
From there we took the 1.6 mile walk to Alberta Falls, another beautiful area with an "archway" of aspen trees that were changing colors. Those trees can be breathtaking when there is a breeze. Their leaves almost look like they have glitter on them.
|Loved the archway of colorful Aspens!|
From there Ken wanted to drive the long curvy loop around the park with the mid point being Alpine Visitors Center at an elevation of 12,183 feet. The Center is only open four months because of weather. They can get drifts of snow to 35 feet, which I can't imagine! My question is why did they decide they needed a Visitors Center in that area when it can only be open for 4 months and all the pipes have to be blown out, etc??? Not for me to decide or know!
|Notice all the remaining snow and the lake!|
|What a different landscape!|
|The Alpine Visitor's Center. The snow can go up to the roof and|
|From the window of the visitors center!|
From there we headed back down on the other side of the mountains to the bottom of the park - Grand Lake and Lodge. Now Ken tells me the only way and shortest way back to our campground is to reverse our path - really????? I thought we would get on a major highway when we reached Grand Lake. Once I was over the initial shock, I was prepared to retrace our route. It is a beautiful drive but so curvy, long, and slow.
|We stopped at the Continental Divide marker!|
|This is at the Continental Divide!|
|Just a picture from our GPS of the windy road!|
|Just crazy. It is a GPS made for RVer's so it|
shows a motorhome instead of a car!
|What can I say????|
|We spotted another small harem!|
|This is a young buck with velvet on his newly forming antlers!|
|The entrance to the Grand Lodge!|
|A photo of Grand Lake!|
|The path for the trip back!|
I must say it was worth it because we saw more elk and when we stopped at Moraine Meadow tonight there was a herd of one buck with his harem of 30 plus women. He certainly knows how to take charge. He makes sure they stay in a very tight group - no other male is going to invade his territory. At times he would make his bugle type sound and other times all he had to do was get close to his ladies and stick out his neck. They quickly huddled together. It was fascinating to watch.
|He is going to "round them up"!|
|Just about ready to take charge!|
|Now he is starting to run towards them!|
|.....and now the bugle sound!|
|He really is the King of his harem!|
We enjoyed some brick oven pizza in Estes Park, returning to the CG by 7:30. It was a long day of driving about 180 miles, but we got to experience what John Denver called a "Rocky Mountain High". This really is an amazing area.
Sorry for the long blog but we just saw so many phenomenal things today!