Saturday, February 04, 2006

Winter Solitude

We left Breckenridge on Wednesday. After staying five weeks at the condo, there was much to pack up and load back into the car. And a doctor's call sent me to his office to get my shoulder checked before we could leave - one more thing to slow us down. But we did get off - and headed toward the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Instead of taking the fast paced, stressful I-70, we headed north out of Frisco and went through Kremling - leaving the populated areas of Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco, and Breckenridge behind. It was snowing on our first pass through Rocky Mountain National Park. The highest peaks were hiding behind snow clouds. As we headed out of the park, we passed an area where the snowmobile trail paralleled the road complete with snowmobilers sharing the road with us. We found a hotel in Grand Lake Village - a small rustic town. I almost think that at this time of year the snowmobiles outnumber the cars - as there were snowmobiles to rent EVERYWHERE. It turns out there is a large trail system in the national forest just north of town. You could probably spend days exploring all of them. Grand Lake is obviously doing well financially based upon the well kept building and upscale souvenir shots, but this is not their big season. Our first search for restaurants found many of them "closed." We settled for the restaurant across the street from our hotel, Bear's Den & Paws Pub. The trout almondine was good and we ate there a couple of times during our stay.

It was snowing when we went to bed, and I was looking forward to getting out at dawn, hoping for a colorful mountain sunrise. We got out early and were the first ones to make tracks on the snow in the park - that is, the first human tracks . . . . . Over the next few days we had a lot of fun studying the animal tracks in the snow. The west side of the park gets much more snow and moisture than the eastern side. As a result, the snows are deeper in the winter, and many of the parks animal residents either hibernate or move down below to winter. Birds were few and far between - I think I saw only three or four during the days we were there. Our most common animal siting were the moose that frequented the road.

However, there were lots of animal tracks. Snowshoe hare was the most common,

followed by the moose that crashed through the snowberms along the road.

But we also saw some smaller tracks that were harder for us to identify.

We saw one series that were most likely coyote, complete with a trail "marker".

We saw tracks that were probably weasels and squirrels. I decided that it would be fun to photograph the tracks perhaps to identify later.

While there were a few people driving through, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing, Henry and I pretty much had the park to ourselves. We could hear the wind whistling through the trees, watch the snow devils across the frozen beaver swamps, and enjoy the falling snow.

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