Friday, May 31, 2013

RMNP Day 2

Thursday 5/30/13

I wish you all could see the vista I’m looking at as I type this - all cozy and stretched out in the GDB, sipping my Manhattan.  But I dare not get up to grab the camera and break the spell.  I’m camped on a ridge overlooking the moraine-filled meadow with 10,000 – 14,000 ft. peaks as a backdrop.  The jewel in this encircling crown is Long’s Peak. 

 

I can see it from my living room.  (At least when it’s not obscured by fog - which it is at the moment).  We had some snow flurries a little while ago. 

Here’s a photo I took earlier of the massive 14,259 ft. mountain. 

 

All day long the winds have been unceasing at a steady 30 mph and gusting in the 40s.  I was surprised when a Ranger told me that these gale-force winds are highly unusual.   

 

It’s a challenge to walk upright.  But just driving around the park is reward enough thanks to the abundant pull-overs.   I can see now that this is a marginal time to be here weather-wise but I wouldn’t trade it for later in the season.  There are enough people here as it is!
I’m glad the Bighorn Sheep Ranger talk wasn’t cancelled due to the wind.  Did you know that you can count the horn’s rings to determine the sheep’s age?  The Ranger demonstrates how to do this. 
 
He also imparted some amazing stories about wildlife that he has witnessed in this almost unimaginably wild place.  
I got back to the campground late this afternoon to find that my site had been taken!  That’s never happened to me before.  I had a conversation with the interloper.   He insisted that, not only was my receipt not in the post when he arrived, but that “they told me to camp here”.  An obvious lie since these are not assigned or reserved spots. 

I spoke with the Ranger who was going to evict him but I said, no, I’d find another spot.  There is no shortage of good sites.  Or jerks. 
Here are my elk photos for the day.


 
And this big guy.  I’m thinking Black-Billed Magpie.  Can anyone confirm?
 
 
Here are a few miscellaneous pics around the neighborhood.

The meadow below


From the trail behind my campsite

The trail directly behind my campsite

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rocky Mountain NP


Wednesday 5/29/13 

I realized today that though this is my 4th trip to Colorado, it’s my first that hasn’t been during the winter.  In fact, in 2005, I spent 3 winter months in Salida – more about that later. 

And I’ve never visited RMNP until now. 




Low’s predicted in the mid-20s tonight.  Bears predicted about 2 – 3 AM.  Most people in B- loop are tent campers but they don’t look too worried.  We have some other small rigs in the loop as well.  It’s very quiet and about as scenic as it gets.




In light of the cold temps over the next few nights, I topped off the propane and drained the exterior water tank before leaving Loveland late this morning.  Stupidly, I left my winter coat at home.  I stopped at the Loveland Goodwill but the coats were no longer available so I settled for a fleece shirt.


Within my first two hours here, I saw 3 herds of elk!

Here’s my best elk shot of the day. 


And my best aspen shot of the day.


I’m staying for at least 2 nights in Moraine Park Campground.  $20 per night and no hook-ups but the views are priceless. 


This is the entrance to the camping area; you can see how it got its name - Moraine Park - with all the large rocks left behind by glaciers. 


Before dark, I had time to drive around and see a small slice of the eastern side of this vast National Park.  This is the road en route to Fall River Visitors Center. 

Another big day tomorrow, I’m sure.  Fingers crossed for good weather. 



 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Loveland, CO

23 miles from the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.  I can see the snow-capped peaks directly to the west. 

It's been another magnificent day that started with a hike up Scotts Bluff.  The only difficulty was looking out for rattlers while admiring the scenery. 











No snakes of any kind .... but I did see this.  Can you identify?  About the size of a large cat. 



How about these beautiful little flowers?  They are everywhere.



The morning even smelled heavenly.  No doubt due to the magnificent pines.



It was a leisurely 180 miles from Scottsbluff to Loveland through the high plains with an elevation change of about 1550 ft. 

I'll be using my time tonight parked here at Sam's to formulate a loose plan for RMNP.  Getting here always seemed like it was so far down the road ... and now I'm here!

I've discovered that there are free shuttles available.  I had planned to take the GDB up Trail Ridge Road (photo op!) but .... having someone else drive - and pay for the gas - sounds like a better idea.   

There are several first-come-first-served campgrounds for people like me who have allergies to reservations.  I can be in the park early enough to snag a spot, surely.  No hook-ups but, hey, you  are in the park which means, in the evening,  you may hear Elk bugling. 

Any campground suggestions?





Monday, May 27, 2013

Scottsbluff, Nebraska


Happy Memorial Day!


 


from the heartland of this great country. 
 
Yet another fulfilling day on the road.  All of it on isolated Nebraska state highways like this.
 

You travel 10 – 20 minutes without seeing another vehicle.  The land here is open, clean, and peaceful.  Stop your engine and all you'll hear is birdsong.  
 First stop




Western Nebraska's Ft. Robinson State Park covers an extensive piece of real estate.  Activities abound from horseback riding to living history exhibits.  I passed an enjoyable morning here.
 

 

More blue highways on the way to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
 
 

A small but unique museum awaited.  Cook, a rancher who owned this land in the 1880s, noticed some odd rock-like objects in these hills that turned out to be fossilized bones dating back 19 million years.  The find was significant because it contained so many entire skeletons of extinct mammals.  
But first you need a paleontologist to put them together.
 




You can walk up to the excavation site but sadly, due to vandalism, the in-situ specimens have been moved. 




I walked half-way up and did some rattlesnake reconnaissance.  And admired the few wildflowers.
 
 
Moving on to Scotts Bluff National Monument.  





 
These jaw-dropping formations rise straight up from the North Platte River Valley.  Not surprisingly, the bluffs were a can’t-miss-it landmark on the Oregon Trail.  Estimates are that 250,000 people passed by here chasing the dreams of a better life in the late-1800s.  Some of them even made it. 
 
These geological formations are drool-inducing and you just want to get closer.  I arrived rather late and the park was about to close.  Too bad ...  I wanted to hike this trail seen in the foreground.
 
And may return tomorrow to do just that.   I can see the bluffs from Camp Wal-Mart.

I cannot wrap my brain around the undeniable fact that I am 130 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park.  I have so enjoyed the Plains but am eager to be back in Colorado and be in the mountains again. 

Who wouldn’t be?   I get chills thinking about it. 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Return to the Black Hills


What a great day! 
 

The dire forecasts couldn’t have been more wrong – the weather was ideal.  After a foggy, drizzly start, we ended up with blue skies and temperatures in the 60s. 
Quite simply …. it was a good day to be alive. 
Herd of Antelope
 
 
I spent part of the day in Custer State Park and the other part at Wind Cave National Park.  If you enjoy wildlife at every turn surrounded by magnificent scenery, come here at once!







 

I had always planned to camp at Custer State Park but fate placed me here on Memorial Day weekend.  However, as so often happens, it worked out fine.  It was so early when I got there and the road was so inviting .... I moved on. 
Being so close to these magnificent creatures left me breathless!
 


This massive bull got right up to the GDB.  I took the hint and gave him my spot.

Prong-Horn Antelope
 
I stopped at both Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument.  I didn’t tour either because, well, caves kind of freak me out.  But I learned a lot touring the exhibits.    Sorry no photos – my camera battery ran out of juice during the wildlife drive, as you can imagine. 


Female Prong-Horn



2 young bulls play fighting.
 
I landed for the night back in Chadron, Nebraska.  It’s good to be back in the Sandhills again.  I really love it here.   

Tomorrow holds great promise as well – the Agate Fossil Beds and Scotts Bluff.