Atwood

Filling Up

We stopped at this gas station in Atwood, CO early on our return trip so my older son could use the restroom. I waited outside while my wife took him in, and as I watched the road I thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if a truck came by?” Mere moments later, this Wal-Mart rig obliged.

As a child, I went through several inflatable Sinclair dinosaurs. Most summers we’d take a trip somewhere that had a Sinclair station, and I’d insist on getting a shiny new dinosaur because I’d loved the previous one to death. In the hope of perpetuating the tradition, I asked my wife to see if this station had any, and behold! she emerged with two of them. They’re not as big as the ones I played with, but my boys were thrilled, which is good enough for me.

Colorado River

While planning our Colorado vacation, I had conceived a tremendous desire to visit the source of the Colorado River. That would have involved either a long hike, for which I was not prepared, or a drive twice as long as the one we took, which my family was not willing to make. Shortly after we crossed the Continental Divide, we came upon the parking lot at the Colorado River trailhead, and I knew I had to try to get a picture.

To the Sea

After entering the park I had thought to buy the NGS trail map, which showed me that I only had to walk about half a mile to get to a little bridge over the upper reaches of the river. The map didn’t show that the first few hundred feet of the trail went steeply upward, before it leveled off for the remainder, but I managed.

The hike was beautiful, filled with quiet solitude of a kind I rarely get. At this point, the Colorado is a pebbly mountain stream, not the mighty water it becomes in the Southwest, and I flatter myself that my picture is equally unpretentious.

It was past dinnertime by my kids’ body clocks when I got back to the car, and we were close enough to the western end of Trail Ridge Road that we decided it was time to call it a day. I heartily enjoyed my first visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I will go back someday when I don’t have to move quite so fast.

Lava Cliffs

It turns out that there was volcanism in or near Rocky Mountain National Park, some 25-30 million years ago.

Fire and Ice

The Lava Cliffs are not quite correctly named. They’re not the remains of an ancient lava flow, but instead are welded tuff, a type of igneous rock formed from pyroclastic fragments that were hot enough to weld together after being deposited. The rock that formed the Lava Cliffs was ejected during an explosive eruption in the Never Summer Mountains, which are about 12 miles to the west. The range of colors in the cliff face suggests that it was formed from rhyolite, a silica-rich rock that produces very viscous lava.

My older son was not particularly perturbed by the ancient eruption, and since we were not immediately threatened by local volcanism, he thought the Lava Cliffs were cool.

We had now passed the highest point in the park and were approaching the Kawuneeche Valley, the upper reaches of the Colorado River. I had a personal project to fulfill in that regard….

Tundra High

The thinner the air, the better the view.

Rock and Tundra

We had stopped to let the kids use a park-built walkway across the alpine tundra to get to a region of snowpack. My wife took them across while I tried different combinations of road and mountains. In the end, I couldn’t improve on the first one I took.

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My kids appreciated the novelty of being able to run around on snow in July. They even waited for me to finish taking pictures of mountains before they demanded one of themselves.

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This little pool caught my eye because of its shape; I see a pig or wild boar, or possibly a tapir.

My older son is interested in volcanoes, and he was worried that one of the mountains in the park might erupt. I told him that there are no volcanoes in the park now and that there never had been. As we learned a few hundred feet down the road, that last is not quite true….

Rainbow Curve

After a nice lunch at Sprague Lake, we returned to Trail Ridge Road and continued through the park. The choice of our next stop was given to my wife, and she asked to pull over at Rainbow Curve, one of the most popular overlooks. The clouds were already gathering for an early afternoon thunderstorm.

Rainbow Connection

The standard view from Rainbow Curve looks down the valley of the Fall River, but it didn’t excite me as much as the interplay between mountain and cloud. I dodged the three bright spots into greater prominence and increased contrast in the clouds.

The Y

The Mummy Range is visible to the north, across the Fall River. Ypsilon Mountain is named for glaciers on the east face which form the shape of a Y; they are visible in part here to the right. What color there was, mostly in the sky, was beautiful, but it seemed to me to distract from the shapes and textures of snow, clouds, and rock.

I was thinking about trying a few more frames when a peal of thunder suggested it was time to move along. Trail Ridge Road goes above 12,000′ at its highest, and we hadn’t even broken the tree line yet….

Sprague Lake

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I have wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park since I was a child. When I was 13 my parents took me to Denver, and we had time for everything except the park. It seemed incredibly unfair; we made it to Mount Rainier on a trip to Seattle, so why couldn’t we do the shorter drive from Denver to RMNP? Twenty years later, I was determined to finally get there, and I succeeded.

We started out with one of the family-friendly trails, which circles Sprague Lake on the eastern side of the park. It was a nice day, not too hot, with a pleasing mix of clouds and sun.

Mountain Cheese

I found myself alternating cameras throughout the day. For this walk, the Fuji X100 was perfect, for two reasons: 1) it didn’t encumber me if I had to pick my kids up, and 2) the leaf shutter and fill flash made people shots a snap, as you see above.

But there was much, much more to see down the road….

ο κήπος των θεών

My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Colorado Springs, and we have long intended to go back there with our children, to show them the Garden of the Gods and take the train up Pikes Peak. The train had to wait for another trip, but we had a nice walk through the Garden on a sunny day.

Me and Mini-Me

The nice thing about the Garden of the Gods is that it’s not a tourist trap. Sure, there are gift shops and kitsch if you want them, but if you don’t, you can just park your car and walk around, along with the locals who enjoy doing the same thing.

Spire

The sky begged for a polarizer to bring out the color. (I also discovered just how dirty my sensor is. 🙂 )

Skyline

Did the kids like it? They complained a lot, but I think they were glad in the end. Besides, we had another, longer nature trek already planned.