Well, as usual, we have been getting too comfortable here and not doing the hiking and sightseeing we promised ourselves. So this past Saturday (last weekend), we opted to get out and head up the Old Fall River Road. We got a late start, as usual, being delayed by the sighting of a new critter next door at Chuck and Michele's campsite. At first, we were calling it a mole or possibly a vole, but after not finding anything on Google that matched up, I sent a picture and query over to Colorado University at Boulder and one of the professors answered that, although he could find no reference to anything with similar spots, he and colleagues determined it was a Northern Pocket Gopher. The spots make it extremely rare if not totally unique, so, it was quite the trophy.
|Northern Pocket Gopher????|
|Looking down Endo Valley towards Estes Park|
The small rivulet below is the Fall River. We would betraveling up to its headwaters about 2000 feet higher
About five miles up the road, we stopped for a relaxing picnic next to some of the head waters of Fall River. The sound of water is one of the most relaxing sounds of nature and this instance held no exceptions. There was an air of strangeness about it all, though. The last time we took the drive, we had two kids to keep track of. This time, we were able to totally enjoy the moment with just the two of us.
|Chicken-fried-chicken sandwiches, yummee!|
|After lunch...the white noise of rushing waters and a good book!|
As we began the short walk back to our SUV, we took a slightly different path back through a boggy area in search of my wildflowers and bugs. Just a few feet into the bog, I was surprised to find some very fresh animal tracks. On closer examination, I determined them to belong to a black bear that must have exited as we arrived. Black bear are not usually aggressive, just hungry in search of food, and usually choose flight. I am somewhat surprised that he didn't challenge us for our lunch and ice chest during our picnic.
A short way further, we came to a pull-off that had quite a few cars and opted to stop. Rather than join the throngs that belonged to the cars, Judy and I picked a path that led off in another direction. At the end of the path, we found a fairly large cabin. We soon learned from a couple of women who were weekend guests that it was a "rescue hut", used as a station during the winter for the rescue rangers and during bad weather for workers and rangers, just to "hunker down".
From the station, we could see the Alpine Visitors Center up on Trail Ridge Road, looming above us as we proceeded toward it.
About 8 miles into our journey, we broke out above the tree line and were treated to brand-new vistas. Short, stunted brush-like trees, tight, short grasses and a cool, almost chilly breeze was the new "climate" here above on the tundra.
We had started up the Old Fall River Road at about 1:00 p.m. As we turned into the Alpine parrking lot, it turned 5:00 p.m.
Rest stops are never quick and, in after another half hour, we headed back down the hill. It wasn't long before we came across an area strewn with boulder rubble and a couple out in the middle of it taking pictures. We stopped. That choice to stop was indeed a good one. I met the couple, Dick and Paula Orleans, a local photographer and his wife, and soon Paula was pointing out the hordes of elusive Pica running about gathering straw for their winter nest. Only in this case, they weren't so elusive. As I sat still, waiting for one to show himself, another sneaked up on me and began to attempt to "harvest" my boots and jeans. Judy was amazed at how, after 40 years of trying to spot them, they were all around us.
|It was hard to tell where they were, their calls were coming|
|Cute lil' fellas|
|This one sneaked in and tried to chew my shoes. When unsuccessful with shoes, he switched to Levis!|
See Ya! ~dick~