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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nature On The Rocks

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~ Mark Twain
'Tis true. We visited the Rocky Mountain National Park and experienced clear skies, grey clouds, warm temperatures, chilling winds, rain, snow all within a few hours. This varied weather is due to the high elevations within which the park is set. The valley (i.e. the lowest, grassiest, warmest part of the range) clocks in at a height of 8,000 ft. In comparison, the highest road we drove in the Yosemite region was 6,000 ft. Nearly one third of the park is above treeline (above 11,400 ft) - which translates into pretty harsh conditions, too harsh for trees to grow. Rocky Mountain National Park holds 72 peaks above 12,000 ft - that's alot of high peaks in a relatively small park - many of them "fourteeners", or rising above 14,000 ft.

The Continental or Great Divide passes through the park. This means that any raindrop that falls on the western side of the mountain range will eventually end up in the Pacific Ocean and a raindrop that falls on the eastern side will flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Actually, there's a third path - rain that falls on the eastern side, but in Canada or Alaska, drains into the Arctic Ocean. I thought this was pretty cool to know.

We caught a glimpse of the majestic Rockies while flying eastwards over the range from Salt Lake City to Denver. From the air, it looks like one big giant crumpled carpet.

Too cloudy to see much - but it was a great view still.

The park is home to the Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the USA, the highest point on the road measuring 12,183 ft. Due to the high elevation of the park, the snow in the park doesn't start to melt till late May or early June, so the road was still closed to vehicles. We didn't get a chance to try out this famous scenic drive - with steep drop-offs on both sides. Darn!

We made our way to Sprague Lake. The mood at the lake was absolutely gloomy - dark murky waters, cloud covered skies - sends a chill up your spine. Plus, the moment I got out of the car, it started snowing. Still, the lake made a pretty picture, reflecting the snow-capped mountains around it and the intricate patterns from some very forlorn broken trees.

Someone's feeling gloomy today!

Only the trees dare dip their tootsies in the dark water


After I photograph the scene from one side of the lake and trudge to the snow-covered banks on the other side to photograph it from a different angle, the sun cheefully decides to finally make an appearance and voila! The whole mood changes! Grrrrr.... I was tempted to quickly scramble back to my original location and capture the now sunny mountain reflections in a now sunny lake. But knowing how volatile the weather in the Rockies is and knowing my donkey luck, I would probably be sullenly greeted by a once-again gloomy lake when I got there.

The sky releases streamers of sunshine onto the snow

Still, silent, serious... and sunny!

We continued down the road to Bear Lake. Dan stayed in the parking lot (his knee wasn't fit for sliding around on the slippery paths) and I went ahead, fervently praying that I wouldn't meet any bears along the way. I could hardly even see the trail and broadwalk under all that snow...

Dropping breadcrumbs to leave a trail isn't going to work

...much less the lake.

The Mystery of the Missing Lake

Yeah. The lake was under all that snow. Somwhere. Out there. The problem was, I didn't know exactly where the path ended and where the lake started under all that snow.

Technically, it should be safe to stand where there are plants.

Since this was the wild wild west, and one could never be sure, I didn't dare take any chances and stayed faaaarrr away from the little puddle of icy water that was representative of Bear Lake. The puddle was the size of three bathtubs.

Bear Lake

Thin ice along the edges. Very thin ice.

Then, I turned around to make my way back to the car and WHOA... which way did I come from again?!?


Thankfully, there was another couple turning their back on the giant snowfield pretending to be a lake and heading for the parking lot. I hastily scrambled after them and followed them out. Phew.

As most of the park was closed, there wasn't anywhere else we could go. So we made a loop and exited the park, and made our way back to Denver. Too bad we won't be here in June and July when the wildflowers are in full bloom. But that's okay, cos there will be new adventures in new places to fill our summer months.

At one of the lowest points in the park


Debra said...

Enjoying your posts very much - I seriously think you should publish a book based on your travels at the end of your one year!

Yi Lin said...

Thanks for reading! Yups, publishing a book is a consideration. So that I can live off the royalties instead of going back to the daily grind... That's why must make the effort to document all the travels well online...it's an investment :P

day said...

your pics are awesome! love them all!!! keep them coming! i am sure you both are enjoying the beauty of USA! :)

Dannie said...

Hi Day,

Yilin takes millions of shots then chooses a handful to put in the blog, so yeah, the pics are nice. And it's great when they are being appreciated too!


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