Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reaching the Summit

A few more pictures from the last leg of our winding ascent through the Rocky Mountains.

Overlooking Hidden Valley and Sheep Lakes

This is the beautiful view from Rainbow Curve, where I spotted the Clark's Nutcracker of my previous post. In fact, at the top of the largest clump of scrubby-looking trees in the lower center of the picture is where the nutcracker was perched. (If you look at this much larger version of the image, you can barely see the little blog of light gray and black that is the nutcracker.) Not quite at "eye-level" as I had remembered, but still an excellent vantage point from which to bird.

Running crazily in and out of the rocks and boulders in the foreground were several small chipmunk-looking critters, which according to this authoritative site were actually Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

These spastic little creatures were constantly on the go and not at all afraid of people, to the delight and enjoyment of a number of kids and other sightseers who seemed more interested in their antics than in the beautiful panorama spread out before us.

Moving farther up the slopes, we quickly move beyond the tree line and into more and more patches of still-lingering snow. And enjoying the thin air and cool summer temperatures were a small family of the most magnificent animals we had yet encountered in the park: North American Elk.

North American Elk

North American Elk

Unfortunately, it was just about the time we spotted the elk that the altitude sickness hit me square in the head (with a corresponding kick to the stomach). We stopped off at the Alpine Visitors Center for the kids to realize their lifelong dreams of touching real snow, and for me to get a little fresh air to clear the cobwebs. But as the headache and nausea increased and a wave of dizziness started to take hold, a resident park ranger / E.M.P. sent us scurrying back off the mountaintop with scare tactics worthy of a middle school principal. The rest of the trip was, quite literally, downhill from there.


Steve Creek said...

I have really enjoyed your photos on your Rocky Mountain National Park trip. I am hoping to make the trip next summer.
Thanks for sharing!

Kelly said...

...absolutely beautiful scenery. I can only imagine seeing this and climging this high. I have Meniere's (an inner ear disorder), and the high altitudes can cause dizziness. Hope you recovered quickly.
Wow!! The Clark's Nutcracker photo is wonderful! (also something I'll probably never see...maybe, though!) :-)
Congrats on your expanding life list!

dAwN said...

GREAT pics! Sorry about the altitude sickness..bummer..Jeff got altitude sickness once..took him days to recover!

Red said...

Fun Elk photos! I'm so sorry you ended up with altitude sickness. It affects some, and not others and it's just not fair.