My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Visit to Rocky Mountain National Park

My friend Carol Bell invited me to visit her at her cabin in Grand Lake, Colorado, where she lives while volunteering at Rocky Mountain National Park. I checked the mileage - 627 miles from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and figured I could get there and back and have a couple of days to visit in a long weekend.

So I'm now visiting her and having a wonderful time, in spite of a day caught short by rain and lightening.  I got here Friday  in in time to relax on her deck and enjoy her hummingbirds.  She has three species coming to the feeders - broadtails, a rufus, and a calliope.  The day was getting cloudy, then got rainy so I didn't get pictures of most of them but did get a mediocre picture of the calliope.

Calliope Hummingbird

After a delicious supper, all cooked by Carole, we went out to the park for a few hours.  We saw at least 60 elk and three moose.

Part of a large herd of elk cows and calves

Young moose cow

Our plan for Saturday was to drive through the park, stopping to look at beautiful  views and take a series of short walks to look for birds. Our first stop was to look at the Never Summer Mountain Range, just starting to get lit by the rising sun. I enjoyed the flowers blooming along the road and got Carol to stop ane let me walk back to look at Indian paint brush and other wildflowers. While I was doing that, Carol got a quick look at a small group of pine grosbeaks.

First look at Never Summer Mountains

Roadside view

Our next stop was at Lake Irene.  We saw several species of birds, including a and a red crossbill, a lifer for me. All my pictures were blurry but Carol got a beautiful picture and let me use it.  We also saw a Clark's nutcracker. And I enjoyed watching a really cut golden-mantled ground squirrel. And I was excited to find what I thought was a large patch of  liatris was actually elephant head.  This plant  grows like liatris and is the same color but the individual flowers look like elephant heads.

Lake Irene

Red crossbill

Clark's nutcracker

Golden-mantled ground squirrel fattening up 

Close-up of elephant head

Then we went on up to the Alpine meadows to look for the white-tailed ptarmigan; The views were lovely and we saw several species of birds, including mountain bluebirds and a horned lark.  But no ptarmigan.  We met a man who works for Audubon and Carol told him where the bird had been seen. I enjoyed just walking through the wildflowers and looking at wonderful views.

King's Crown

Forest Canyon Overlook

Lava Cliffs

We planned to do more birding in the afternoon, over on the east side, but while eating a late lunch there,  it began to rain in a series of short showers. Each shower got progressively stronger and then we heard thunder and decided to come home. We both enjoyed a short nap before I worked on editing my pictures while Carol  cooked us another fabulous supper of pork loin, tomato and cucumber salad, and sauteed cabbage.

Tall coneflower and bee seen at our lunch stop

Our plans for Sunday are to run a shuttle so we can hike downhill from the Alpine Visitor Center- after all, it starts at 11,700 feet and comes down to the continental divide. We'll only have to hike 4.5 miles by doing it one-way.  And sometimes white-tailed ptarmigan are seen there so I still have hopes of seeing one.  Carol is also taking me to the volunteer get-together where we have a pot-luck of snack foods and a campfire.