Saturday, August 6, 2011

North America's Highest Highway

Entering Estes Park (CO) from the east, we were greeted with this view of the Rocky Mountains towering over the city as we descended the hill on Big Thompson Avenue.

We were heading to Rocky Mountain National Park for our second visit to this beautiful park. We planned to travel the Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in North America.

Rather than driving this Road, we opted to join the twice-a-week tour of this route. Not only did this method allow us the luxury of photo-graphing scenes along the way, but we would not have found a parking space in almost all of the overlooks along the route had we been driving our truck.

Along the drive, we found striking small scenes (above) and majestic vistas (photos below). Rocky Mountain National Park has been described as one of the "crown jewels" of the National Park System.

And in 1996, the Trail Ridge Road was named an All-American Road, "one of the most scenic and unique national scenic byways in the country."

Our tour leader presented a lot of information in a conversational manner, but it was difficult to hang on his every word when our attention was darting among the scenes around each turn of the winding road. The view from Rainbow Curve (right) shows some of curves below the 10,829 foot elevation of the Curve.

The Road follows a route once used by the Ute and Arapaho Indians, as well as ealier prehistoric people. The artifacts of this latter group record a human presence in the mountains dating back 11,000 years.

This photo (above) shows the rock formation along the Trail Ridge Road at the Forest Canyon Overlook (elevation of 10,829 feet).

Clearly, this herd of elk had become quite accustomed to the presence of human visitors over the years.

Even at the overlooks, we did little walking. We moved to a space away from the bus and just marvelled at the silence and beauty of the mountains.

We were approaching the halfway point of the tour when the clouds began to form. The changes in the "mood" of the mountains and Park changed with the light and shade.

Tomorrow's entry will attempt to show that change.

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