Rocky Mountain Wildlife
Our drive continued up Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. Hubby and I could not contain our smiles after watching the cute little Pikas darting amongst the boulders and through the alpine tundra wildflowers.
If it weren’t for the high altitude making me feel a tad woozy, I would’ve stayed on that trail all day.
Yep, pull up a chair and watch the Pikas and Marmots scurrying about the tundra! Yes sirreee, I’m easily entertained. Al and I could sit for hours and watch wildlife. So hubby was equally enthralled.
We tore ourselves away from the Pikas and continued our journey, but we didn’t get far. We saw folks with pointed cameras and a couple of park volunteers donned in orange vests standing along the side of the road. I quickly found a place to park and joined the group.
The three male bighorn sheep were magnificent. The orange clad volunteers directed traffic as well as ensured tourists maintained a nice distance from the animals. It was clear the bighorn sheep were used to visitors. They were more interested in munching the meadow grasses than they were in the shutters snapping.
Supposedly, the area near Iceberg Pass is a popular location to spot bighorn sheep.
Moving on …. Near the highest point on Trail Ridge Road (12,183 feet – 3713 m), we spotted a herd of Elk in the distance. We were getting accustomed to seeing Elk in the park, but those antlers were never the less impressive and check out those wildflowers – they sure were pretty!
We took a pass on stopping at the Alpine Visitor Center and continued our trek toward the town of Grand Lake crossing Milner Pass and the Continental Divide. This marks the location of the direction of water flow. All creeks and rivers on the east side of the divide flow easterly toward the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. Creeks and rivers on the west side of the divide including the Colorado River flow toward the Pacific Ocean.
Shortly after Milner Pass are a series of five switchbacks that helped us navigate the 2,000 foot drop in elevation to the town of Grand Lake. We found a nice place to stop along the shore of Grand Lake to enjoy our picnic lunch.
It didn’t take long before we were joined by company looking to mooch a morsel.
One of these chipmunks was running across Al’s foot and even started begging. When we threw him some lettuce leaves he actually had the audacity to spit out my fresh, organic butter lettuce. Then another chipmunk came over and tried the lettuce. He too spit it out.
“Well guys…. if you were looking for junk food, you picked the wrong couple”. Al and I have been trying to eat a little healthier lately and feeling much better for it. Perhaps sometime I’ll post about our Paleo diet, but for now I’ll just say it’s made a huge difference in our overall health.
After a very enjoyable lunch, we headed into town to stroll some of the shops.
Grand Lake is a small town that Al and I would visit each winter when our family of four would spend the Christmas holiday near this part of Colorado. Ah yes, wonderful times. This little mountain town will always hold fond memories for us….. new and old.
While I made a quick dash to the Ladies room, Al stepped into one of the shops and upon my return, he surprised me with a gift. You see, my birthday was just a few days away and hubby decided to surprise me with a necklace.
Five years ago I might have questioned his taste … I much prefer a combination of gold and precious gems, but our new lifestyle is so different from that of our suburbia world that most of my fine jewelry was either given to our daughter or sits in storage. I was almost brought to tears by the lovely sterling silver moose hanging from a silver chain. A moose necklace; how perfect.
Al and I have been together well over thirty years, and we stopped doing the surprise/gift thing a long time ago and I’m totally fine with that. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it was initially my idea.
Anyway, I found the gift very touching and adding to an already amazing day. But the cherry on the sundae was yet to come as the guy in the fudge shop (yes, you read that right ‘fudge’. Chocolate IS healthy and we’ll leave it at that)….. the guy in the fudge shop recommended we drive down Columbine Road if we wanted to see moose, thus off we went.
We drove around the residential neighborhood for about 15 minutes before deciding to call it quits. We had a long drive ahead of us back to camp and figured we would just have to return next summer to focus on that moose hunting. I no sooner turned the corner to head to the main road when Al urgently said, “Wait….. look”.
I glanced between two houses out into the water, and there he was …. the largest moose I had ever seen. He was standing in the water munching away. I couldn’t get the little truck pulled off the road and parked quick enough.
Isn’t he gorgeous? Oh my gosh, this was definitely the icing on the cake, cherry on top, pièce de résistance turning this day into one heck of a perfect day. Boy, did we hit the Mother load of wildlife that day; pika, marmot, elk, bighorn sheep, and now a moose!
It was tough pulling ourselves away, but we still had to cross the Continental divide back over Trail Ridge Road to get home to the Glacier Basin Campground.
What a fabulous day it was …. sheer perfection. A day I won’t forget.
Nature Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park
Wildlife Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots