Thursday, June 23, 2016

DESTINATION: Trail Ridge Road Summit, RMNP, Colorado

After a brief stop at the Alpine Visitor Center we continued on Trail Ridge Road to the Gore Range Overlook.  At this point we stopped to get more information, from the interpretive signs, for one of the geocaches needed to complete the Across the Divide Geocache Tour.

Must get geocache, must get geocache!


From the Gore Range Overlook one can see Long's Peak, Stone's Peak, Terra Homah, Mount Julian, Mount Ida, Forest Canyon, the Gore Range, the Never Summer Mountains, the Crater, and Specimen Mountains - all evolving from volcanic explosions or carved out by Ice Age glaciers.



Gore Range Overlook

Traveling on from the Gore Range Overlook we hit the summit of Trail Ridge Road, went through Iceberg Pass and stopped again at the Lava Cliff's Outlook for more geocaching information.  Once we had the information we needed, it was back on the road to the Tundra Communities Trailhead, not to hike, but to get a few photographs of the furry marmots popping up out of the rocks and the elk grazing in the meadows.


Yellow Bellied Marmot

Mama elk and her calf

Elk, elk and more elk!

Bull elk rests among yellow snow buttercups

Rock Cut

Continuing on Trail Ridge Road we drove through Rock Cut then stopped again at Forest Canyon Overlook for a short, windy but scenic hike to an overlook.  Forest Canyon has to be the prettiest part of Rocky Mountain National Park!  At this overlook we were really able to view the alpine tundra.  The Alpine Tundra Ecosystem starts between elevations of 11,000 to 11,500 feet, depending on exposure.  Strong, frequent winds and cold temperatures limit what plants can grow there.  Staying on the trail is showing respect for this fragile ecosystem. 


Panoramic view of Forest Canyon

Forest Canyon from overlook

Beautiful, but fragile Alpine Tundra

Another shot of the Forest Canyon

Alpine lake in distance from Forest Canyon Overlook

Our next stop on Trail Ridge Road was Rainbow Curve where we photographed some seriously cute chipmunks begging for food. Obviously, the chipmunks, nor TK, read the sign that said, "Don't feed the wildlife!" Who knew chipmunks love Chex Mix!


"May I have some food, please?"

This Clark's Nutcracker wanted his picture taken too!

Thinking park rangers might be on our trail we hit the trail - Trail Ridge Road, once again, and made our way to the Beaver Ponds for more geocaching information.

At Deer Ridge Junction we turned north on to Fall River Road and made our way to Sheep Lakes Information Station for, you'll never guess, more geocaching information! We seriously wanted the prize at the end of the tour!

 
"Kettle" ponds at Sheep Lakes Information Station


From Sheep Lakes we continued on Fall River Road passing the Fall River Visitor Center and on into the town of Estes Park, Colorado.

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