September 6, 2016 Leaving Estes Park, Colorado

Bull Elk Reflection
Bull Elk Reflection

One Last Trip up the Mountain

Today is the day I leave Rocky Mountain National Park and make my way to the Tetons in Wyoming, but since checkout time isn’t until 11 AM, I figured to do one last trip up Trail Ridge Road to see what I could see.

Why One Does Not Speed Up Trail Ridge Road at 5AM
Why One Does Not Speed Up Trail Ridge Road at 5AM

I always wonder what people are thinking when they zip by me in the dark while I am heading up the mountain . The speed limit is posted at 35 mph, but in the dark, I feel it is a little foolhardy to run at that speed when the forest comes right to the edge of the road and I always encounter deer and elk grazing right on the side of the road in the early morning darkness.

This guy probably weighed in at about half the weight of the Prius and would have come crashing down on my windshield had I hit him and taken his legs out from under him. He was pursuing a few cows that I had slowed for that were grazing on the shoulder of the road and didn’t seem concerned that a car was heading his way.

Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds

At the top of the mountain, I was truly above the clouds! Kind of a tough shot, shooting directly back into the sun, but it felt like a shot one would take out the window of a plane.

Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds
Above the Clouds

After a bit, the clouds moved up and out of the valleys as if they were being sucked up by some enormous vacuum in the sky.

Bull Elk and Harem at Dawn
Bull Elk and Harem at Dawn

A shot of the only elk I encountered at the top of Trail ridge.

Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring

These two young bulls, pretty decent sized animals in their own right, were grazing along the side of a trail on the east side of the summit. Graze, then spar, graze then spar, I followed them along the trail for a ways, wondering if they would ever get real serious in their shoving matches … they didn’t.

Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring
Young Bulls Sparring

Pretty neat to see them butting heads from this close, but not really hardcore fighting, probably need another year’s growth before they will be seriously challenging any of the old bulls for command of a harem of cows.

I returned home and broke camp at 11 AM and headed east through the magnificent Thompson Canyon on Route 34, picking up Route 287 in Loveland and heading north. This road quickly got me bogged down in heavy traffic with lots of traffic lights, so as I slowly moved towards Fort Collins, I took the first opportunity to head a little east and get on I-25 north to avoid the congestion and slow going on 287.

Crossing into Wyoming, I stopped at the impressive new Wyoming Welcome Center for some maps and brochures before picking up I-80 west to Rawlins where I pulled off and overnighted at Walmart where I also got my provisions for my next extended stay at the Gros Ventre Campground in Grand Tetons National Park.

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