August 30, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

A Beautiful Morning at the Top of the World

Up and out at 5:15 every morning lately, climbing the mountain road in the dark and arriving at the top just as the first rays of the morning sun start to light up the mountains. The cloudy, overcast skies of the past week broke today, producing some of the nicest weather since my arrival here … oh, and along with the nice break in the weather, i am finally finding the elk up high in the mountains.

Elk in the Valley
Elk in the Valley

The image above, and the one just below were taken at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park. Behind the Center is a deep valley where the elk seem to gather in the very early morning. I have also seen four bull moose bed down there in the evening. It is a long way down.

Elk at the Bottom of the Valley
Elk at the Bottom of the Valley
Elk Herding Harem
Elk Herding Harem

There is a footpath and steps to the mountaintop from the parking lot at the Center. Seeing a bull elk pushing his harem up the mountain there, I decided I would climb to the top and perhaps be in position to get some nice shots. It is probably no more than 250  feet of elevation change from the parking lot to the top of the mountain, at a slope you can see in the images of the elk climbing.

Elk
Elk
Bull Elk and Part of His Harem
Bull Elk and Part of His Harem

I wanted to get to the top before the elk so I could get some shots of them with the sun to my back instead of shooting into the sun as these climbing images were shot.

The Harem
The Harem

But since this short climb was at 12,000 feet, I never did get ahead of the elk, since I had to stop and attempt to get my breath every 30 steps or so.

The Harem
The Harem

At the top, I did get this one image of the stragglers just making the summit, and staring at the photographer who was making all these gasping for air sounds.

Pika
Pika

Just a couple of more pika shots, taken while I waited in vain for a good shot of the long-tailed weasel.

Pika
Ouch!

I have no idea how this little guy can chomp down on this piece of what I am guessing is some sort of nettle.

Pika
That Has Got To Hurt

He made several trips down to the plant, ripped off a leaf and struggled with it back up to his den. Must be some kind of delicacy, since I can’t imagine that it would be used for bedding.

Pika Warning Call
Pika Warning Call

The shot above is of a pika letting out some kind of greeting ( ? ) or warning ( ? ) call.

Long-tailed Weasel
Long-tailed Weasel

Maybe letting others know the long-tailed weasel was in the vicinity. Not a very good shot of him, but the only one I got. I was unprepared for his appearance way down the hill and had my 70-200mm lens on for the close by pikas. By the time I changed to a longer lens, he was long gone.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

While I sit on the roadside wall taking pika shots, the yellow-bellied marmots quite often get very close, sometimes within just a few feet.

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

What a Day!

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

By 9 AM, I had to quit trying for animal shots and just concentrate on the magnificent clouds and mountains. I had been waiting for a week to finally get a morning like this.

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

The clouds were just spectacular!

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World
Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

As always, the camera just can’t quite capture the felling of space and distance, but today was truly something special up here at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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