Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Snowy Range

As our trip to Wyoming & Colorado was coming to a close, we had seen many animals in the wild :  Deer, Elk, Turkey, Bighorn Sheep, Pronghorn Antelope, Badger, Yellow Bellied Marmots, Pikas, Wild Burros, and a large Brown Bear. However, we had seen no Moose.  Our son-in-law had seen Moose and a Mountain Lion in the Snowy Range area and since Joe (our hiking guide earlier) had mentioned some  hikes in the Snowy Range area, we decided to head out one more time to hike and search for the elusive Moose.

The Snowy Range, or Snowies as the locals call them, are a mountain range within the Medicine Bow National Forest.  During winter they provide a paradise for skiers and snowmobiles.  During non-winter months they provide many outdoor activities including hiking, camping, fishing, backpacking, etc.

We drove to a pullout near Lake Marie based on Joe's suggestion.  Although this lake was beautiful with the mountains in the background, there was even more beauty waiting for us.
Lake Marie.  Just the start of the scenery in the Snowy Range
We hiked along a short trail from Lake Marie to Mirror Lake where there is a day-use and camping area.
Mirror Lake - Snowy Range in background
Then we found the trailhead that Joe mentioned and hiked another short hike to Lookout Lake.  Along the trail we were surrounded by wildflowers again.   This time there were literally fields of Columbine in three different colors.  We have never seen so many Columbine flowers.  Absolutely Beautiful!!
Trail to Lookout Lake - Snowy Range Mountains to the right

Trail just before Lookout Lake

Lookout Lake was also beautiful as the trail approached with large boulders lining the shore on one side and the Snowy Range with a blue sky backdrop behind the lake.  We took some time hiking along the lake to enjoy all the flowers and to take in the view of the Snowy Range and lakes.  Amazing!!   Thanks Joe for the suggestion!!!!

First view of Lookout Lake!!

Looking back at Lookout Lake

As we hiked back to our truck we hiked another short paved area that went part way around Lake Marie to get better views of that lake.  All 3 lakes were beautiful and the mountains were amazing.  Here are a few more pictures of The Snowies for your viewing pleasure.

As mentioned earlier, still no Moose.  So Glenn jokingly gave his moose call -  "here moosey, moosey, moosey" - and hoped for the best.  Of course the call was received with laughs, but as we were driving out of the Snowy Range,  a large antlered animal at a lake caught our glance and yes, it was a Moose.  Of course the fact that other people were stopped along the road also was an indication that a large animal was nearby. We stopped and took in the sight and then proceeded to hike around the lake to get closer (Jaws music please).  We got to within 50 feet and decided that was close enough.  What a large and beautiful  Bull Moose it was.
The elusive Moose -- here moosey, moosey, moosey.
 Of course hiking and seeing wildlife works up an appetite, so pizza was in order.  We stopped in the town of Centennial (population of 270) at the Beartree Tavern and Cafe  where we were treated to some great pizza, enjoyed the outdoor seating, and listened to some live music by "The Lonesome Heroes" from Texas.  What a great way to top off the day and finish an amazing trip that was filled with such beautiful sights and amazing landscapes.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol      


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park

After hiking at the Vedauwoo and Happy Jack trails and seeing various sights in Laramie, we drove down to Estes Park which is located just east of Rocky Mountain National Park.  On the drive down we saw numerous Pronghorn Antelope which are quite common in eastern Wyoming and Colorado. Driving through the Big Thompson Canyon area to Estes Park, we saw two different flocks of Bighorn Sheep up close.

We stayed in a cabin in Estes Park and ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park two different days, each for a half day.  This was due to the weather forecast calling for severe thunderstorms each afternoon.

On our first day we drove to the Moraine Park Visitor Center, parked our car, and then road the park shuttle to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.  What a view just from the trailhead!
View from Glacier Gorge Trailhead

We hiked a somewhat short yet very scenic trail (about an hour) to Alberta Falls. We were not disappointed.  The falls were beautiful and we spent some time enjoying the beauty and trying to get pictures without too many people in the picture.

Alberta Falls.  Notice all the people to the right.  Popular place.

A RMNP Panhandler

We then hiked a half mile connector trail (all uphill) to Bear Lake, one of the most popular places in the park. We took in the view but decided not to hike the short trail around the lake.  Instead we opted for a 3.6 mile  hike that took us to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and ended at Emerald Lake.  What an incredible hike!!  Besides the beauty of each lake, the trail wandered alongside streams and small waterfalls, in and out of meadows with wildflowers, and gave us incredible views of the Rocky Mountains surrounding us!!   Words and pictures just can't describe or show you the beauty of this area.  You will just have to visit it yourself someday.

Bear Lake

Nymph Lake
Dream Lake

End of the trail - Emerald Lake,  What a reflection!  See the waterfall cascade behind the lake?

Once we reached the end of the trail at Emerald Lake, we began our descent back to the Bear Lake area for the park shuttle.  As we did, large thunderclouds began to move into the area and we picked up our pace of hiking.  We heard thunder numerous times and even had a slight sprinkle of rain, but we made it back to the shuttle pick up area in time.  As the shuttle took us back to the Moraine Park Visitor Center, the lightening and rain began.  Later that day we read that the Fern Lake Trail (one I had thought about hiking) experienced a mudslide during the storm, injuring one person and was now closed.  A hiker on the Ute Trail (high elevation, above the tree line) was struck by lightening during the storm.

One of my favorite pictures along the Emerald Lake hike.

View of the Rockies from the trail

On our second day into Rocky Mountain National Park, we spent most of the time driving but did manage to squeeze in a couple of short hikes.  We entered via Highway 36 again but headed up towards the Trail Ridge Road that crosses the entire park.  We saw a rafter of wild turkeys and then came upon a 4 elk in a meadow area.  What beautiful and large animals!

A beautiful bull Elk

The Trail Ridge Road climbs high in the Rockies and offered us incredible views of the mountains and valleys.  It was really amazing!  We did stop at the Tundra Communities Trailhead (at over 12,000 feet) for a short hike and got to see Yellow Bellied Marmots and Pikas, along with numerous high elevation (alpine) flowers.  There were also some very interesting rock formations along the trail which included the Mushroom Rocks. After hiking we ventured a little further up the Trail Ridge Road to see another herd of Elk along the road.
Mushroom Rock on Tundra Communities Trail

Yellow Bellied Marmot on a rock

On our return drive we took a different route to exit the park and before leaving made stops at the Alluvial Fan Trailhead and hiked another short trail to view the Roaring River.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

The Roaring River along the Alluvial Trail
Although we saw so much in just those two half days,  there is still so much of the park that we did not see.

We never got to the west half of the park with its large lakes, the Colorado River, the Continental Divide and abundant Moose population.  Guess we'll just have to go back sometime.

But speaking of Moose.......well, we'll leave that for our next posting.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pyramids, President Heads and Happy Jack??

After our beautiful hike at Vedauwoo, I wondered what else we would see on our first full day of exploring Wyoming.  The answers came quickly......

Joe, who was our hiking guide, also drove the car we were in, so we he mentioned seeing the Ames Monument and was answered by bewildered looks, it was to the Ames Monument we went.  This 60 foot pyramid was built as a monument to Oakes and Oliver Ames, brothers who helped finance the Union Pacific railroad and is built at the highest point of the original Transcontinental Railroad line.  With a blue sky and big puffy white clouds as a background, it was an amazing sight to see.

The Ames Pyramid Monument
But this was not the only monument to see today.  We found our way back to I-80 and turned off to view the giant head of Abraham Lincoln.  No, not his real head, but a 13.5  foot tall stone carved head that sits atop a 30 foot granite pedestal.  Built to honor Lincoln's 150th birthday, it was originally located at the highest point of Lincoln Highway, then it was moved here when the new I-80 was built.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln highway.
The Lincoln Monument along I-80
Ok, Vedauwoo, Pyramids, and a giant Lincoln head....what next?

The answer - Happy Jack.  Happy Jack is an area comprised of multiple trails similar to the Jacksonville Woodland trail system here in Southern Oregon. The Happy Jack trails are for hiking in the spring/summer/fall and for skiing in the winter. Since I didn't bring my skis, good thing it was summer!

We started at the Tie City trailhead and once again we let Joe do the leading since he trail runs this area quite often.  Although there were not as many flowers as we saw at Vedauwoo, there was still plenty of color and beauty to go around.

We went through meadows, aspen groves and even along or over a creek or two in our hour-and-a-half hike.
Aspen grove along one of the trails

Large meadow area that used to be a ski run area in winter

Sagebrush, trees, fence along one of the trails
We were quite tired after our second hike today but still amazed by all the beauty in this area.  It was time to go home and rest and dream of our next hiking adventure on this road trip......Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vedauwoo Recreation Area - Turtle Rock Trail

It's been about a month since our last posting, but that is because July has been a busy busy month. Our son got married early in July and then we spent 10 days in Wyoming & Colorado with our daughter and son-in-law.  We have much to post, so this is just the first of many about our recent adventures......

While in Laramie, Wyoming, we were treated to a guided hike along the Turtle Rock trail in the Vedauwoo (ve-duh-voo) Recreation Area, which is part of the Medicine Bow National Forest.  Joe, who is a co-worker of our daughter, was our guide and does runs on this trail and many other trails in the area, so we had no fear of getting lost. Joe also spent time telling us about the history and background of the area as we hiked.  THANKS JOE!!!

Our trail guide Joe, daughter Maggie and son-in-law Craig (L to R)

The Vedauwoo area is known for it many strange and yet beautiful rock formations.  They almost seem to pop up from nowhere. Once we started hiking, it didn't take long for us to reach some rock formations including one that is popular with local rock climbers.

The Rock Climbers favorite wall.
It is hard to describe each and every rock formation we saw, so here are a few of the pictures from the trail and I will let their uniqueness and beauty do the talking.

The Turtle Rock trail was so full of diversity- it was awesome!  We went from rock formations to areas dense with aspen trees and even came across a pond area complete with a beaver hut.

One of the Aspen tree areas with wildflowers mixed in.

A beaver pond surprised us part way through the hike

Throughout our hike, wildflowers were in amazing abundance.  Joe told us that this was part of Laramie's monsoon season and with late snowfall and recent rains, there were flowers when normally they would be gone.  Lucky for us!  Once again, words don't do justice so I have included some pictures of those flowers below for your viewing pleasure.

One of my favorite portions of this trail (shown below) was a short uphill stretch entirely of rock.

Evidently our daughter has now mutated from 4 to 8 arms??
(see our Pacifica Gardens & Waters Creek posting in March)

If there was ever a short trail that delivered amazing beauty & diversity, this was it!!. It was also a great way to start our hiking adventures in Wyoming and left me wondering what more could we hike and see?

If you are ever in or near Laramie, make a point to stop and visit Vedauwoo so you can experience and see firsthand the amazing beauty of this area.  If you need a hiking guide, just ask for Joe.

Trekking Together
Glenn & Carol