Playing in Rocky Mountain National Park
By Rachelle Siegrist
The lovely view from our picnic spot!
I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks ago yesterday, since Wes and I spent our last day in Rocky Mountain National Park! After enjoying an early morning walk with friends Diane and Allen, followed by a delicious breakfast, Wes and I headed into Rocky Mountain National Park, to enjoy our last day there before flying back home to the Smokies the next day. The clouds that shrouded the sky earlier that morning had somewhat parted, allowing the brilliant blue sky to show through above as we enjoyed picnicking in a flower filled meadow. We then took a scenic drive to the Alpine Visitor Center, which seems to rest on top of the world! From the parking lot of the visitor center, we followed a path consisting of about 250 steps, which literally did lead to the top of the world, in that section of the Park anyway! Having previously seen two Blue Grouse during our drive up earlier, and just a couple of feet away at that, the day was already going great! For me personally, it was getting even better, as I love climbing to the top of mountains, and that’s exactly what we did, as we ascended the large stone steps, the air getting thinner and colder, as we went along, climbing ever higher!
Shiver me legs . . . Feeling on top of the world!
A few of the 250 plus steps leading to the top
Once at the top, the 46-degree temperature felt even colder, accompanied by a strong, cold wind! Thanks to the cutbacks of the airlines and the limited space of our one small carry on, my long pants were left at home, so my bare legs were quite chilly! Nonetheless, the stunning 360-degree view was simply breathtaking! As I quietly stood at the top for several minutes, I noticed that there were small patches of snow remaining here and there, with the blossoms of alpine wildflowers, scattered about. “Such hearty little flowers” I thought!
Me with two snow skiers . . . the little specks on the right in the snow
Another gorgeous view from the top
One of the hearty little Alpine wildflowers
Then we noticed a large herd of Elk bedded down in the far off distance. With legs now numb, the cold no longer bothered me as I walked back down the steps. After a visit to the visitor center, we began our journey back down, stopping several times along the way to take photos of vistas and critters. While driving along, we were simply amazed at the number of cyclists slowly and methodically pedaling their way to the top of this upper part of the world! During our stops we saw Yellow-bellied Marmots, Pika and different bird species.
The herd of Elk up high
A precious Pika posses sweetly
A camouflaged young Marmot . . . can you spot him?
We left this frigid part of the Park behind as we slowly drove down through the sub-alpine region, entering the Montane region once again. We came to a halt when a couple of cars were stopped in the road ahead of us. Immediately we saw the two large bull Elk in the edge of the woods, to the right. Barking dogs in the vehicle in front of us scared the one back into the woods, and just as Wes was starting to go, the other large male jumped out in front of our car and walked right up to the front of it, were he stood for a minute or so, before walking directly beside our car, so close in fact, that his side rubbed my side mirror. Suddenly he stopped and looked into my open window for a couple of seconds before slowly walking away, then disappearing back into the woods. “How amazing was that?” . . . we both said in unison, before continuing on our journey!
Mmmmm . . . did someone say chocolate?
Well . . . Hello there!
After another enjoyable hike around Sprague Lake, I was thrilled to discover that we still had enough time to hike to Alberta Falls! Loving waterfalls, I never tire of seeing a new one, so off we went enjoying yet another delightful walk in the woods. Hearing the roar of the rushing water, we knew we were getting close and after rounding one last bend in the path, there it was in full splendor! It was as beautiful as I had imagined, and after enjoying it for a bit, we started the hike back.
Me by beautiful Alberta Falls
The trail junctions with another one half way down, and upon noticing a couple of people photographing something from a nearby footbridge, we walked over to see what it was. Amazingly it was a beautiful female Elk standing at the edge of the stream, nibbling and eating leaves from a tree above. So I quickly and quietly knelt on the bridge and took a few photos. Just then she stepped out into the glistening water, with rays of sun streaming down on her from above, and slowly lowered her head to get a drink. I felt like I was in the middle of a fairytale, as I watched her slowly wade through the water, stopping to eat and occasionally get more drinks. As I watched her, time stood still, and it seemed as if only she and I existed in this beautiful, serene setting. I quietly thanked her for the fantastic photo-op, knowing that I would someday immortalize her in a miniature painting!
Me with a new friend
Wes on one of the large foot bridges
I felt so truly blessed to have yet another amazing encounter that day, and finished the hike with a big smile spread across my face! Before long we had returned to the trailhead, and started the journey back to our friends’ home in Berthoud. We saw a couple more Elk, and lots of gorgeous scenery, as we drove along the Park road. Before long we found ourselves driving through Big Thompson Canyon, where the river below is encompassed by tall rocky cliffs on either side, creating a setting that looks like it should include John Wayne mounted on his horse and Indians scattered above! That evening we enjoyed dinner, conversation and laughs, with Bob, Diane, and Julie Bender at their local Thai restaurant. The next morning it was time to say good-bye, before driving back to Denver and flying home.
Two stunning views of Big Thompson Canyon
~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~
I finished my miniature painting of one of my new best buddies, Herschel this past week, while Wes finished his two paintings of a gorgeous male and female Goldfinch. I also finished a drawing of a Black Bear which I’m donating to the Appalachian Bear Rescue, for their upcoming fundraising event.
“Herschel” dog portrait painting by Rachelle
“Female Goldfinch on Salvia” by Wes“Male Goldfinch on Salvia” by Wes
“Smoky” Black Bear drawing by Rachelle
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Until next time . . .