September 2, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Elk Cow and Alpenglow
Elk Cow and Alpenglow

Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmots here in the higher elevations of the park are numerous and fairly unconcerned with humans approaching, so not a terribly challenging wildlife subject, but cute nonetheless.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot

I get a kick out of how they seem to love sunbathing in the first of the sun’s rays each morning.

The Sentry
The Sentry

They live in small colonies and usually one will assume guard duties while others forage.

Yellow-bellied Marmot
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

High Country Elk

Two Young Bull Elk
Two Young Bull Elk

I have gotten a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of elk shots over the past few days. They seem to be moving down from the mountaintops this week and I have run into several groups heading down to their winter feeding grounds in the valleys below.

Two Young Bull Elk
Two Young Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise
Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise

Four Elk CowsFour Elk Cows

Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem

I have seen several large, very large bulls, escorting their harems down the slopes. A few of them are probably the largest I have ever seen.

Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle

A full 14 points on this guy! And that bugle was very, very loud. This shot was taken at very close range … from the safety of my car.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk
Young Bull Elk

Needless to say, one must be very alert to when driving around up here these days as the elk are needing to cross the roads on their way down to the valleys below.

Scratching Post
Scratching Post

That post he is scratching his head on is one of many that were just put out this week to guide the snow plows … guess that’s a sure sign summer is over.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk Charge
Bull Elk Charge
Uh-oh!
Uh-oh!

These shots just above may look quite alarming, but they were taken with my 600mm lens, and although it may look like I was in imminent danger, I wasn’t, his charge was actually directed at one of his harem, not me.

Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk Bugle
Bull Elk Bugle

Early morning, before all the cars and people get up here, the bugling elk are something to hear. I arrive at the top just at daybreak when the elk are most active and am very glad that few people are ambitious enough to get on the road by 5:30 to catch all the action. As I am leaving the park at 10  or 11 in the morning, I pass long, long lines of cars at the entrance booths, usually a hundred or more, plus a steady bumper to bumper crowd all the way back to town.

Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Harem
Bull Elk and Cow
Bull Elk and Cow
That Time of Year
That Time of Year
Bull Elk
Bull Elk

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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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April 16, 2014 Bishop, California

High country above Bishop, California
High country above Bishop, California

After a decent nights sleep under a bright full moon, while I was out walking the dogs early this morning, I couldn’t help but notice that the same full moon had not yet set.

Moonset
Moonset

The sun was just about to appear over the mountains to the east and here was the moon just thinking about setting over the mountains to the west.

High country above Bishop, California
High country above Bishop, California

While waiting until 10 to call in and find out when I could get the motorhome in for service, I decided to drive west on Route 168 up into the mountains and check out Lake Sabrina. It is a long steady climb upwards toward 9000’ elevation and there are several campgrounds along the way, almost all of them closed at present.

Lake Sabrina
Lake Sabrina

The lake itself looks like it is hurting from the drought, but maybe it is kept intentionally low at this time of the year, although it doesn’t appear there is all that much snow left up in the mountain peaks to fill the lake, who knows?

Yellow bellied marmot
Yellow bellied marmot

I took the dogs for a walk along the dam and they scared up this yellow bellied marmot along the way.

High country above Bishop, California
High country above Bishop, California
Mountain waterfall
Mountain waterfall

On the way back down, I took the road out to South Lake but was turned back very close to the end by a little too much ice on the road. The scenery along the road was well worth making the trip, even without making it to the lake.

I called in to the garage and was told to show up tomorrow at 10 AM, so I figured today was the day to drive up and see the bristlecone pines off Route 168 east. This is a very serious climb to over 10,000’ elevation along a pretty good paved road winding all the way. Unfortunately, the road was gated shut two miles short of the first Bristlecone grove with a sign inviting hikers to proceed on foot. At 10,000’, on a bright sunny day with no shade anywhere to leave the dogs in the car, I was forced to turn back. I’m not sure how well I would have fared anyhow on an uphill 2 mile climb at 10,000 feet, I remember suffering oxygen deprivation at the top of Pike’s Peak several years ago and wouldn’t want a repeat of that experience. Sure would have been nice of the government officials who gated the road to have put up a sign 18 miles back at the bottom of the route!