elk in rocky mountain national park, colorado

Day 4 – All that glitters IS gold…

HaHa! Lucky Me!!!

I’ve had the good fortune to see the autumn leaves many times this year. Several times in September I visited Grand Lake, CO which is located on the western side of the Rocky Mountains. To get there, I have to drive over Trail Ridge Rd. It’s the highest paved road in the U.S.SAM_0202

There are times the road is so high and the drop off is so steep I have to cover one side of my face as a blinder. It’s a two lane road with no guard rails and often has cyclists, tourists stopping their cars to take photos of wildlife, large recreational vehicles moving ever so slow and crazy weather conditions.

elk in rocky mountain national park, coloradoBut … on those rare days when I am on the road super early in the morning, I can sail along and enjoy the sights, drive at a comfortable pace, cover my face when it feels too steep and bask in this lovely park. One foggy morning I was driving and caught sight of these elk hard at work with their antlers tangled in each other. What a sight!

aspen gold2 - Big South Hike
The Big South trail, Colorado
View from Colorado Highway 14

A bit later in September, I had the opportunity to take a hike up the Cache La Poudre River. My friend and I were a bit surprised to get to the trail head and see the temperature had dipped to 39 degrees. We dressed in layers, grabbed our hiking poles and set off on an amazing trail that climbed ever so gently as it followed the river. That hike was filled with views of the shimmering gold aspen trees near and far. It was stunning.

My most recent trip took place in the Sierra Nevada’s this weekend. The 8 mile hike was uphill and steep in places. It was the kind of hike that your body could go far but you had to stop and let your heart slow down a bit. Aspens lined the trail and in many places the ground was covered with pine needles. I felt like I was walking in someone’s calendar photo. The return hike took 90 minutes because gravity just took over and we sailed down the mountain!

sierra nevada hike1 oct 3-2015

Sometimes I’m unable to enjoy the fall foliage. Either the weather changes too quickly and the leaves fall off before they can give their ‘goodbye dance’ or my timing is off and I don’t get into the mountains to see them in time.

But not this year. This has been one of the best autumns for me in a long time. I’ve stood in the mist of the colors, smelled the leaves on warm days and felt the cool air on my face. Each time I find myself standing in a grove of glittering gold trees, I count my blessings.

A golden day… in Colorado!

Autumn in Colorado is a splendid time of year.

If you get into the mountains at the right time, you’ll see an array of golds, yellows and reds mixed in with the evergreens. In addition to the gold hues is the brilliant blue sky. These are the types of days when digital cameras come in handy because every angle deserves several clicks. By the time the hike is over – the 100+ photos (many of them the same) bring back the smells, sounds and awesomeness of it all.

Hope you enjoy my photos!

Golden aspens in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sept 2012Golden aspens in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sept 2012Golden aspens in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sept 2012Golden aspens in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sept 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rocky Mountain Sunset

sunset in rocky mountain national parkAn evening ride over Trail Ridge Rd in Rocky Mt National Park allowed me to see the sun set again and again as the road went higher and we drove further west. It was an amazing ride and great adventure this past weekend!

Trail Ridge Road traditionally opens on Memorial Day weekend; last year the road opened on May 28. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, climbing to 12,183 feet and connecting the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake.

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Rocky) Mountain

Full moon setting on Mt Meeker and Longs Peak (Rocky Mountains)
Full moon setting on Mt Meeker and Longs Peak (Rocky Mountains)

Sometimes all it takes is getting out the door before the sun rises and the moon sets … there is so much beauty around us, isn’t there?

Therapy in Motion

Often times, for me, a hike is all about movement, therapy and meditation.

My hike last week was to a 11,400 ft. summit of Twin Sisters in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are 54 mountain peaks that are 14,000 feet or more but I took the lazy day hike and only hiked 9+miles. The first 3 miles up was sort of boring. The trail was in the trees with a limited view (of anything)  but at least the trail was cool and shady. Once the sun came out, the hiking got hot and humid and the mosquitoes came out in full force. It was nasty until I realized I had one of those bug repellant wet wipes in my pack. Oh, my, life was good again!

view of longs peak from twin sisters peak

Near the top, above timberline there’s nothing to interrupt the view – it’s all mountains and sky!

Twin Sisters Summit

When the trees disappeared, a boulder field was waiting for me to cross. When a storm is in the area, it’s best to stay far away from the exposed area but this was a perfect hiking day with blue skies and puffy clouds.

On the boulder field, others left stone markers, called cairns to help me stay on the trail.  This small pile of rocks were like beacons and I was able to find my way to the summit easily.
cairn - pile of stones used as a marker on a trailThe summit was rocky and rigid. The others at the top balanced on the rocks as they took pictures, ate lunch, and just relaxed after the long haul up.

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I probably won’t hike that mountain again – the view was limited and there was no water source.  I like when I can see, feel and get energized by flowing water.

So, where shall we go next?

Internet Goodies #18: A fee-free week at U.S. National Parks

April 16 – April 24 is National Parks Week across the United States. This means you can visit a national park, trail, and monument, site and preserve for free!

The opportunity to visit some historical sites and learn more about Colorado is available when you visit Bent’s Old Fort in La Junta or look into the past at Mesa Verde National Park. At the Great Sand Dunes in Mosca, CO you can stand in awe and wonder how the dunes ended up in this part of the world. Be sure to do some sand surfing while you’re there – it’s an experience like no other!

Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaur Colorado is a ‘must-see’ site for children who are in the dinosaur learning phase of their lives.

Rocky Mountain National Park is always one of my favorites because of the plethora of trails, lakes, views and wide open sky.  If you live in Colorado and want to take advantage of the free entrance fees this week – here’s a list of sites to visit:

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
La Junta, CO
Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

Montrose, CO
Colorado National Monument
Fruita, CO
Curecanti National Recreation Area
Gunnison, CO
Dinosaur National Monument
Vernal, Utah & Dinosaur, Colorado, CO,UT
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Florissant, CO
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Mosca, CO
Mesa Verde National Park
Cortez and Mancos, CO

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

Pony Express National Historic Trail
Various States, CA,CO,KS,MO,NE,NV,UT,WY
Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park and Grand Lake, CO

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
Kiowa County, CO
Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Yucca House National Monument
Cortez, CO

–Here is a list of featured events happening across the United States this week:

Park Prescriptions: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

April 21

Join us in celebrating the launch of the Indiana Dunes “Park Prescription” program. Staff from the National Park Service and Porter Health System will introduce the prescription trails and describe the workings of this get healthy program. Health care professionals, patients, and students from the Discovery Charter School will be on hand to demonstrate the value of Healthy Parks Healthy People. The program kicks off at 11 a.m. at the Calumet Dune Trail at the corner of U.S. Highway 12 and Kemil Road in Beverly Shores, Indiana.

John Muir’s birthda: Muir Woods National Monument, California

April 21

Celebrate John Muir’s birthday with a quiet walk through what he called “the best tree-lover’s monument in all the forests of the world.” Phone the Muir Woods Hotline at 415-388-2595 for program information.

Explore, Learn, Protect: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

April 23

Have you ever put your hand into a bear’s footprint? Have you ever been so close to an owl that you could look it in the eye? Have you ever talked to a wildland firefighter? Here’s your chance! Shenandoah National Park has special activities planned for National Junior Ranger Day. For park information call 540-999-3500.

Get more information from National Parks Service

No Admission Fees at 300+ National Parks next week