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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just a couple of more pika shots, taken while I waited in vain for a good shot of the long-tailed weasel.
I have no idea how this little guy can chomp down on this piece of what I am guessing is some sort of nettle.
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.
The shot above is of a pika letting out some kind of greeting ( ? ) or warning ( ? ) call.
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.
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.
What a Day!
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.
The clouds were just spectacular!
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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