Day 7: June 15, 2011
The Bar is Over the Mountain
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I started off the morning by just driving around the park and gawking at the scenery.

A few bighorn have been spotted at Sheep Lakes on each of the last several days. The sheep must cross the road to reach the lakes for important nutrients. None were around when I stopped but I was excited to see elk off in the distance and even more excited to see one just yards off of the road when I drove on. Little did I know.

At Moraine Visitor Center, I joined a group for a ranger led easy nature hike. Before we even got started, Ranger Dar made sure he signed all of the Junior Ranger log books. Ranger Dar's presentation was as entertaining as it was informative. He basicaly led us on a stroll through the Moraine Park "neighborhood" as he compared it to our neighborhoods back home. Both neighborhoods have people/critters that mow the lawn and high rise apartment buildings/trees with different residents on different levels. The bag he carries supplies a variety of props that he uses most effectively. The bulldozer introduces the neighborhood construction company. Dar then gets down to play in the dirt to show how a glacier works to carve out a valley and create ridges at its sides. The scene he makes in miniature at our feet is clearly duplicated full size in the landscape at his back. When we go to the neighborhood "mall", Dar pulls out a small spray bottle to simulate a perfume counter then invites us to stick our noses in cracks in the bark of a Ponderosa Pine. Butterscotch? Great job, Dar, including the elk scat.

I got my roads confused and when I read that Trail Ridge Road was open, I was thinking Old Fall River Road so had thoughts of driving Old Fall River west and returning on Trail Ridge. But Old Fall River Road is normally not opened until the Fourth of July and, because of needed repairs, probably won't make that date this year. So it will be the hardly boring Trail Ridge Road over and back today. It has plenty of gorgeous overlooks and still has lots of snow. Sometimes they're called moon roofs and sometimes they're sun roofs but can also function quite well as snow roofs. At one of the stops I got to take a look at one of the big rotary snow plows used to clear the mountain roads. This year, drifts as deep as twenty-three feet were cleared in opening Trail Ridge. The front bit can be raised and lowered to chew through a tall drift.

This is the continental divide but it's not the highest point on the road. The road goes above 12,000 feet to the east of here. The altitude at the divide is 10,759.

I don't think many companies set out to do bad things but bad things can result. A large group of cars, with a sponsor/organizer's name proudly displayed, are racing and passing or attempting to pass on a National Park road with posted limits no higher than 35 MPH. I did see one of the cars pulled over down the road with a ranger at the window so maybe a little punishment was handed out. Fortunately no elk were broadsided and no vacationing family smashed into head on. A quick glance makes me think the company involved markets no products I'm interested in but I've made a mental note to avoid it just in case. I won't post a link but you can look it up. Here's a clue.

This is Grand Lake Lodge overlooking the town of Grand Lake, Colorado, on the Rocky's west slope. The place was built in 1920 but was closed for seven years after a devastating fire in 1973. In 1993 it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. I decided to have a beer but the bright sun made the taps hard to read. A friendly bartendress helped (and so does a flash;-). The four on the left are from the in town Grand Lake Brewing. I pronounce the amber ale first rate.

Of course, there was plenty of snow and scenery on the way back, too.

Back on the park's east side, I decided to check out Sheep Lakes again and discovered that elk cross the road, too. (Yes, that's remnants of some of the park's smaller wildlife on my windshield. I didn't mean to do it.) After snapping some photos of elk now grazing much closer to the lot, I drove over to gaze on the closed Old Fall River Road.

Back at the camp site a little rain came up but, in the immediate area, I believe it fell only on my tent and one next to it. The inside stayed dry and we got a nice rainbow for our troubles.

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