Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Top of the World

Today we took a drive over the Rockies - through Rocky Mountain National Park.  They call the Rockies the spine of North America because they extend from Alaska to Mexico - 2,700 miles!

We headed out at about 8 this morning.  It took about an hour and a half to reach the entrance to the park, but all of it was beautiful mountain driving.

At first we were traveling through the clouds and the day got grayer and grayer.

But as we neared the park, the skies turned blue!

We were delighted!  (George looks like he doesn't think he will fit into my picture, but really he's just frustrated with how long it takes me to do a "self" picture.  I keep accidentally pressing the wrong buttons.)

We climbed higher and higher through the beautiful forested mountains.

Boy was I happy that George was driving those hairpin curves!

Actually, I think he was happy that HE was driving those curves, too!

Finally we reached the Continental Divide - what a thrill!  Now all of the rivers are going the "wrong" way!

Higher still!  We reached the tree line - the place where it is too high for trees to grow - 11,400 feet above sea level.  This is now Alpine Tundra.

The Ridge Trail Road continued higher yet, until we were over 12,000 feet above sea level.  The road is the highest major highway in North America. It is aptly named - at one point I could look down on both sides of the car and see the land falling away.  No guard rails either!  And there were bikers riding the road - can you imagine what fabulous condition they were in to pedal up to 12,000 feet? - with cars driving by and no guard rails to protect you from a very long fall?

At the exit from the park I convinced George to stop at the Visitor's Center to check out the shopping.  Those of you who know George, know that shopping is not one of his favorite activities..

But the we would have missed out on this.....

and this!!!

There was also a little nature area where they had samples of some of the region's animals.

I loved the beaver.  In fact on the drive out of the park I thought I saw a small beaver dam and lodge.

This is a marmot - apparently quite common in the park - but we didn't see any.

and I had no idea there were badgers in the Rockies!

One thing that made me sad were the large stands of dead trees in many of the park forests.  The bark beetles are busy at work in our nation's forests killing conifers.  They are a natural pest that has been around for a long time.  Warmer winters and dryer conditions in the forests are making them more prevalent. I remember seeing their grim work in Glacier National Park a couple of years ago.

On our way down the mountains we had a long wait while the fire department came to put out a fire in a truck with a horse trailer that was just around a curve in the road.  Fortunately, the horses were fine, but the truck was really damaged.

This is the best picture I could get as we zoomed by.

We drove down out of the mountains and came to the rolling little hills of eastern Colorado - such a different landscape! We have entered the Midwest!

We found ourselves driving beside great fields of sunflowers...

and lots of corn!

We had a shorter day on the road - only about 300 miles, but what a great day!

Tonight we are in Sterling, Colorado at the Comfort Inn - just down the road from the state correctional facility - but I'm pretty sure we'll sleep well tonight!  As I sit here finishing up this post, we are experiencing a good old-fashioned Midwest thunder storm!  Lots of lightning, wind, rain, and rolling thunder! I was hoping for something like this!

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