Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OVER THE ROCKIES AND THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE


The narrow canyon above is just past the Devils Spine and is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain Crossing on Highway 34.
From Evans, Colorado to Steamboat Springs on Highway 34 and 36 West is a reasonable day's drive. I drove about 13 miles and I could see Jim was getting nervous so I pulled over short of Estes Park, another 22 miles up the road.  Jim reasoned that the highest road in America, at 12,183 foot elevation,  was not the place for a beginner. And, he was right. I drove the last hour to give him some rest. We stopped short of our goal, both of us tired, at the small town of Kremmling, Colorado.
Estes Park is a tourist destination, a skiing mecca in winter, it attracts backpackers,  mountain stream anglers and bikers. Many rustic and fancy cabins entice people to get-away to the fresh air and fragrant woods. It sits on the edge of the Eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
We have a destination with 'miles to go before we sleep' so most of my pictures were taken from the motor home window. This rock formation was beautiful whether the pictures give it credit or not.

The pines have suffered from bark beetle infestation. In fact the park campground on the western slope is completely treeless because all of the trees died and had to be removed. Here you see the many dying, still standing trees. The grey ones are completely dead, the brown ones are on the way.
As you climb higher, the trees become smaller, stunted. In the visitor center it showed trees 100 years old bent and twisted by winds; small from barely sufficient nutrition. They were only two feet tall.
Suddenly you realize you are above tree level, looking down into moonscape canyons. The narrow roads and twists and turns made for some tense driving with a motor home pulling a 4,000 pound "toad".
This vertical cut right through the rock gave our motors passage and has a beauty of its own.
The park is one of two places in the U.S. that has tuffa.
The road just traveled high on the right. The road we will travel in the center, without the twists as we seem to sit on top of the world.
Now we encounter pockets of snow that do not melt during the summer. We learned from the visitors center those pockets are filled with pure ice and are therefore  mini-glaciers. 
Valleys like this, full of color and beauty provide forage and water for wildlife. Antelope, a smaller growing moose than the Canadian and Alaskan herds, deer, weasels, fox, big horned sheep, marmots, chickerees, and other small animals and birds make their home here. Plenty of signs show where to view antelope, but we didn't see any wildlife as we drove by.
This spot marks the Continental Divide where river water now flows toward the west. It is significant, but, not that you could tell from this spot.
On the way down the Western slope, we had several miles of gravel road and roadwork. Signs promised no wait would exceed 60 minutes.
And, none did. But we sat in this parking lot and another for a lengthy time; enough time to turn off the engine and get out and walk around. Thus, I got pictures of some flora and fauna from the roadside woods. No one seemed upset. The air was fresh, the place restful and beautiful. But, at one point we were so close to a huge paving machine we slid by it within a few inches. I had my head out the window as we crawled by with my window beads clinging to my face, laughing all the way.
Don't know what these plants are called.
The aspens are just turning color.
Its a beautiful drive. As usual, I took many pictures. If you would like to see them, click the link:
http://picasaweb.google.com/1579penn/91310OverTheRockiesOn3436#

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