Most Labor Day weekends Hubby and I make a trip out to Colorado. Partly because by this time of year, we're sick of the heat and humidity out here on the Plains. But, mostly we head to the Rocky Mountains to leisurely look for the perfect place to retire.
We often make a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's such an enchanting place to explore. And the cool, dry air is such a welcome relief from our sweatbox at home. Trail Ridge Road that cuts through the park is the highest major highway in North America, topping out at 12,183 feet above sea level. This vast expanse of public land encompasses 72 named mountain peaks above 12,000 feet, multiple ecosystems and a variety of wildlife.
Following the loss of my dad last month, this trip into the park was bittersweet. I made my first trip into RMNP when I was about eight. This was my parents' favorite place to vacation. We spent many a summer hiking as a family, taking nature walks and camping at the park's campground. Those vacations soaking up Mother Nature in all her glory helped shape the woman I am today.
RMNP never fails to surprise and delight. Even after all these years and countless trips. And, this trip was no different. On the road down from the Alpine Visitor Center, we rounded a bend somewhere between Rainbow Curve and Many Parks Curve and came to a screeching halt. Bumper-to-bumper traffic alternated between a complete standstill and a snail's pace for half a mile or so. Then, as suddenly as traffic had stalled, it sped up again. I won't elaborate on Hubby's reaction to the traffic.
Before long, the traffic jam returned. This time, we could clearly see what the fuss was about.
A large bull elk was trying to move his herd from one side of the road to the other. He called out over and over and herded the cows and calves down the hillside toward the highway. Then, he circled around out of sight and repeated the routine. Each time, more cows and calves appeared on the hillside above the road before precariously making their way across the highway.
Lucky for us, the elk were crossing at a point in the road where there was a pull-off. As we approached the pull-off, another car pulled away and we got a prime parking and viewing spot. Perfect positioning for snapping a few photos.
The females didn't seem to be intimdated by the tourists. In fact, this one seems to be saying, "Did you get my good side?"
Many of the the herd had settled in for dinner on the side of the road opposite where the bull was rounding up his clan. It was clearly dinner time and the shrubbery and grass along a small creek was lush and tender. Bon apetit!
This sweet-looking cow walked right up to me as I snapped her photo. I could have reached out and touched her. Don't worry, I know better.
This enchanting herd was so up close and personal that I took all these photos with my 28-105mm lens.
We were greeted by other wildlife on our wonderful day trip. So glad to see the chipmunks remain plentiful and accessible after all these years. My sis and I fed many of these little critters in our youth! Now, the signs tell us not to feed the wildlife.
And the marmots. Always my dad's favorite. They made their appearances at the Alpine Visitor Center as if to pay tribute to a man who loved RMNP as much as anyone.
'Til next year, RMNP. It's been a pleasure, as always.
Make it a great day!