Monday, September 15, 2014

Wildlife Spotting in Rocky Mountain National Park

After ten days, we bid farewell today to quirky, delightful Denver.  Quirky?  Yes.  Like why, for instance, did we pass at least four cars each day in different locations on our 25 minute drive back to the hotel, that were just sitting on the side of the freeway, each with no one inside.  You would never see this in Los Angeles.  We were puzzled by this.  Where did these people go??  Perhaps this has something to do with the legalization of marijuana?  Did the owners just wander off?  Just saying.  But delightful?  Also yes.  On that same drive each evening at dusk, the clouds were a color I could only describe as Periwinkle Blue from the Crayola crayon box.  Breathtaking.  But alas it is time to say bye until next year, and we are headed back West.  Our first leg started with a quick zip through Boulder, which looked totally charming, honest, but what we were REALLY craving was to get away from people.  So we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park.
The first thing that Eduardo and I realized upon entering the park was that we should have bought an annual pass to the National Parks back in Utah when we drove through Zion!  At $80.00 a year, it's a bargain because it gets you into all of the National Parks all year long.  Make a "note to self" on that one if you are going to be traveling.  The second thing I noticed was that at this particular park I was in "sign heaven"!  I LOVE signs.  And this park has a lot of them, starting with this one, which I have to admit was a bit before we entered the park.
This was our first clue that they are not kidding about seeing wildlife in this area.  We also noted that we getting up there again in elevation,
and that the roads were not necessarily biker friendly, at least for the non motorized kind.
The drive through Rocky Mountain Park is about one hour and forty-five minutes, unless you stop every fifteen minutes like we seemed to do, in which case it will take much longer!  Fall is mating season for the elk, and the brochure that we received at the park entrance let us know that we would be encountering elk at various locations throughout the park, as the males emerge each late afternoon to bugle (call) their harem of cows in preparation for mating.  And sure enough, in one of the first clearings upon entering the park (this was around 4:00 pm), we spotted a bunch of cars parked by the side of the road, the owners with cameras pointed.  Nothing gets past us!  This was our signal that there is a wildlife spotting.   Notice the teeny, tiny dots, which are our first elk.  Although they were hard to see, you could hear their bugle calls loud and clear, and it was awesome.
Feeling happy, we hopped back in the car and continued down the road, which lead us through a densely populated pine forest.  It literally smelled like Christmas, and we rolled down the windows and inhaled deeply.
Next, we encountered another sign,
and hoped that on this particular day, this would not be the case.  But except for the occasional sprinkle, the weather was really quite nice, and we stopped at another lookout point, where we had a new wildlife encounter.
In the words of my children, these chipmunks were "totes adorbs".  And they were EVERYWHERE.  And so tame they scurried over the wall and ran right up to us to have a look at us, and pose for a picture.  So charming!  Continuing on, the next thing we encountered was, you guessed it, another sign.
So intriguing!  I thought of my daughter Natalie, a geography major, who would just love the varying terrain out here.  The tundra was beautiful in its subtlety,
and a closer look afforded a gorgeous, earthy color palette.
 Soon yet another sign emerged to warn us about snow fields,
but fortunately we were a little early in the season for this.  I couldn't really see myself climbing on dangerous snowfields at any time, anyway, so this sign made me giggle.  Moving right along, as we made our way out of this area towards the west end of the park, we entered another meadow, and that is where we got our greatest reward.  First, there was once again that subtle clue, namely the line of cars parked by the side of the road, the owners with cameras pointed.  Bingo!  A wildlife spotting.  What we saw next were at least ten female elk just a few feet from the side of the road.
They were positively enchanting!  And so calm I could practically reach out and touch them.  But I flashed back to that wildlife sign about the Buffalo in Custer Park (you'll have to look up my July post about that one), and reminded myself not to get swept away!  So I admired from a distance.  A very close distance.  At this point Eduardo and I agreed that the National Park system had earned our twenty dollars for the day.  We were beaming.  We lingered for a while just admiring them, and then slowly drove away, where we spotted yet another elk, this time a male, that we were lucky enough to hear bugle.  His call was unforgettable!
Then we spotted yet another,
and another, and another, and another, and another.  Honestly, it is a wonderful time of year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, so make another "note to self" for next year!  Or if you are super spontaneous, how about this year?  And besides the elk, you can also enjoy the changing of the aspens, which are now starting to glow a beautiful gold and orange.  I'll try to include some pictures of them in my next post.

So as usual, it's after midnight here, but I couldn't sleep without sharing our special day with you, first.  Eduardo and I feel honored and blessed to be able to witness firsthand so many of the wonders of the world.  It is my hope that it will inspire you to explore, too!  Buenas Noches...

xoxo Linda

1 comment:

  1. You are SOOO lucky Linda...what a day of wildlife sightings!!! And you are beating all the heat in CA!!!! :)