Sunday, August 7, 2011

"The Skies Were Angry"

Continuing from yesterday, we had signed up for the five-hour tour along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The tour made a stop at the Alpine Visitor Center, and it was here that we learned the answer to a question that we asked of ourselves a few days earlier.

We had taken the road from the Fall River Visitor Center to its end at Endovalley. Here this sign indicated that Old Fall River Road was closed. Not that we would have taken the one-lane gravel road that wound its way along the mountain side to the Alpine Visitor Center even if it had been open, but we were a bit curious as to the reason for the closure.

Shortly after arriving at the Center, a loud noise caught our attention, and we followed it to this plume of snow (left). At this elevation (11,796 feet), snow was still deep enough to prevent a clear passage on the Old Fall River Road.

And the normal date for the first snowfall of winter was about two months away!

Another sign of the severity of the weather conditions at this elevation was found on the roof of the Center (left).

Winds can reach over 100 mph, so the logs on the roof serve to prevent the roof itself from being torn loose and flying away. The logs also trap the falling snow, and the accumulated blanket of snow prevents the shingles from being blown off.

At Milner Pass, we crossed the Continental Divide, where the waters enter either the Atlantic or Pacific drainage, and took time for this photo.

This weathered fence created an attractive foreground for this picturesque view of Poudre Lake at Milner Pass.

The tour group began re-tracing its route with a stop at the Alpine Visitor Center for lunch. It was from this viewpoint (and a few miles from the Center) that we were presented with some of the most stunning views of the Park's mountain and terrain.

This group of hikers (right) was rewarded with an experience of spectacular views (right and below) and the profound silence of the mountain-top while on a short hike along this trail.

The view of the Never Summer Mountains was breath-taking.

Hidden among the mountains were glacier lakes, such as the one in the lower right quadrant of the photo (right).

As the afternoon wore on, clouds began to form, and to paraphrase George Costenza*,
"The skies were angry, my friend."

And yet, as the clouds grew darker and appeared more ominous, sunlight slipped through breaks in the clouds to highlight sections of the mountains. Focusing on these highlighted areas removes the sense of impending trouble.

This close-up of the same section in the photo above shows the highlighted mountain-top.

It was fascinating to see the difference in the changing appearance of the mountains--in the bright sunlight, the mountains' features are sharp and clearly defined against the blue sky--while in the light filtered through dark clouds, the mountains appear softer, less jagged, and even welcoming.

We wondered if a person could witness the many moods of the Rockies in a lifetime.

*From the Seinfeld episode "The Marine Biologist" in which George, claiming to be a marine biologist to impress a woman, announces
"The sea was angry that day, my friends" as he marches into the ocean to save a beached whale ( Biologist.htm).

Upcoming Itinerary:
Aug 8 -- Salt Lake City
Aug 12 -- Wells, NV
Aug 13 -- Winnemucca, NV
Aug 14 -- Verdi, NV
Aug 22 -- Napa, CA

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