Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Winter Day at the west end of Rocky Mountain National Park -

The western side of Rocky Mountain National Park is the "wet" side of the park receiving the moisture from Pacific weather fronts. In the winter, it is blanketed with snow. Each time we've visited in the winter, we have been lucky to come during a snow storm. We stay in Grand Lake which is right near the west entrance. We learned the first time that it is really special to be up before dawn and on the road making the first tracks in the unbroken snow.

Trail Ridge Road is closed during the winter so as we reach the turnaround, we can see our tracks.

Each winter we've seen moose near the road. This year we only saw them the first day. Moose are amazing in the snow because they literally wade right through it with snow up to their knees. This time we found a family, a bull moose who had just recently lost his antlers, a female and a yearling calf. We stopped to enjoy them as well as get a few photos. We were thrilled to see two of them lay down, nestled in the snow and forest.

The second morning we came up on a fox laying on the pile of snow from the snowplow's work. Lighting was not great, but foxes are SO photogenic! We saw from his tracks near the road that he had come from higher up, following the roadway. We only saw him that one day as well, but saw fox tracks again on one of the other days.

We saw gray squirrels that scampered quickly away when they saw and heard us coming. We saw snowshoe hare tracks, but never the hares. With the camouflaged white coats, they blend in so well that you can only see them when they move. I've seen them in their summer coats, but never in the winter.

We spent several days driving up and down the roads on the west side. Each day provided different opportunities for winter photography.

We have grown to like Grand Lake as well. In the winter, it is a snowmobilers heaven. While you can't ride your snowmobile in the national park, there are many trails set up to provide riders unique places to ride. The streets are often snow covered and one of the first signs that you see is that snowmobiles MUST follow all traffic laws. Yes, snowmobiles are loud, but for those of us who have physical issues that make snowshoeing more challenging, a snowmobile allows a unique experience in a winter wonderland. I hope to get to rent a snowmobile in Grand Lake some day and explore some of those trails.

1 comment:

Michael Ziegler said...

my favorite is the fox. Great!

Mike Z