Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Rocky Mountain National Park, June 20-23
The Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest park on the mainland USA. Taking the Trail Ridge Road was amazing, going east to west and back, and climbing over 12,000 feet. I could really feel the altitude as I bundled up against the wind and explored the alpine tundra above the tree line. I saw a yellow-bellied marmot and enjoyed the little yellow wild flowers coming up from where the snow had already melted.
From a distance you can see how the frost pushes the rocks up to the tundra's surface creating some cool patterns (circles, hexagons).
Moose, elk, deer and bear call this park home. I saw all but the bear ... but, heard stories of them climbing into cars for food when the windows were rolled down.
I stayed at Moraine Park Campground next to a little meadow and rock outcropping. The only large mammals I saw there were my fellow humans. But, I kept the windows rolled all of the way up, just in case.
In this park you could go from the almost-barren tundra down to lush green valleys, and to the forests in between. The river in the picture is the Colorado, toward the beginning of its life southward.
Unfortunately, many of the park's trees have been killed by the native pine beetle. Whole mountain sides are filled with dead trees.
Although the NPS is working to save trees of historic or aesthetic value by using pesticides and pheromones, these tactics won't work on a large scale. And the pine beetle's native territory is huge, from Canada to Mexico. The park rangers frame this destruction in terms so that visitors can see how the forest will eventually renew itself ... similar to after a major fire. In the meantime, the aspens and sapling lodge pole pines are finding new places to grow.