Fireworks at Lake Estes

We had a fun time with the family on July 4th watching the fireworks over Lake Estes!

In past years I'd read that Estes Park had the 6th largest fireworks display in the state, but don't know where we ranked this year. It was a beautiful and "oooh-inspiring" show!

You can see the Stanley Hotel lit up in the distance at the lower right, across the lake. I've tried to shoot fireworks before, but these are my best results so far.

Most exposures were about 3-6 seconds, ISO around 640, with aperture ranging from f/9.0 - f/16.0. All shots were on a tripod with the Canon 5D Mark III DSLR with EF 24-105mm, mostly at 24mm. I used a 2 second timer, but should've used a shutter release cable.

Here are some of the best pictures from the evening. Click on an image to see a larger version of it.






















Emerald Lake Hike

During my brother Glenn's recent visit from Portland, Oregon, Susan and I took him on one of the classic easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

You start at Bear Lake, hike to Nymph Lake, then Dream Lake, then Emerald Lake -- 4 alpine lakes in one hike!

This is a very popular hike, which means there are usually a lot of people on the trail with you.

The hike is a total of 3.6 miles round trip. The trail starts at Bear Lake, elevation 9,475'. The elevation at Emerald Lake is just over 10,000', so the gain for the hike is about 600'.

We were lucky enough to spot a climber on the wall of Hallett Peak. You can barely pick the person out. This gives you a much-needed reference point for appreciating how huge this mountain is.

Here are some pictures from the hike. The views at Emerald Lake are big -- bring your ultra-wide lens! :-)


Bear Lake with Hallett Peak in the background

Nymph Lake

My "little" brother, Glenn with a great view of Longs Peak

Tyndall Creek just below Dream Lake with Longs Peak in background

Dream Lake with Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain

Waterfall on Tyndall Creek with melting snow

Emerald Lake with Hallett at left and the crags of Flattop Mountain at right

A Yellow-bellied Marmot poses for the hikers at Emerald Lake

Can you see the climber standing on the rock formation on Hallett Peak (center of photo)?

Above image cropped, showing climber

And here's a map of the area showing the four lakes.



Weekend Water (June 15)

Susan and I had been wanting to get up to Glacier Gorge and Alberta Falls to see Glacier Creek and the high water flow of the spring melt-off, so on Sunday we headed up into the park.

Alberta Falls

We don't usually choose to hike on weekends, especially in the summer, but for some reason this day we did. Knowing the Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake parking lots would be full, we just parked at the shuttle parking area and took the bus to Glacier Gorge to begin our hike.

Glacier Creek

I brought the tripod and other gear so we could shoot the flowing water along the way, and we enjoyed our frequent stops to take in the fast-rushing water along Glacier Creek.


Glacier Creek below Alberta Falls

As expected, there were quite a few people at Alberta Falls, so it was a challenge to get a photo without people in it.


Near the top of Alberta Falls, looking down/east

The top of Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls detail

After climbing to the top of the Falls to take more pictures, we descended and decided to hike down to Sprague Lake to add a couple of miles to our hike for a total of about 4.4 miles.


The "classic" view of Alberta Falls

Looking down on another part of Glacier Creek

Arnica along the trail


Along the trail to Sprague Lake

When we reached Sprague Lake, we caught the shuttle back to our car and headed home. We definitely accomplished our goal of seeing some creeks and waterfalls, plus we got some exercise!


Sprague Lake with the Continental Divide

Happy Anniversary! (June 5th)

For our anniversary this year we spontaneously decided to put the top down on the convertible and head into Rocky Mountain National Park. We left late in the day, loosely planning to take in the sunset somewhere along Trail Ridge Road


Celebrating our anniversary at Far View Curve overlook

I had told Susan that I would leave the camera gear behind so that our anniversary "date" didn't turn into a full-blown photo shoot, but at the very last minute, she suggested we bring our gear since you never know what you'll see. As you can see from the pictures, we're glad we brought along our gear. 

View near the Alpine Visitors Center on Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road had only been open for about a week, but there still wasn't as much snow up there as we've seen in previous years. We drove pretty much straight through, but as we rounded a curve near the Far View Curve overlook we had to get on the brakes because of a White-tailed Ptarmigan on the road. It was fun to see one with some of its winter plumage still visible. There was very little traffic, so we stopped to consider the question of why did the ptarmigan crossed the road. :-)


White-tailed Ptarmigan

After a few minutes we headed on down, deciding to keep going until we got to the areas on the west side where we might see moose


Moose country on the west side (see moose just right of center)

As always, we keep an eye out for other cars pulled over, and after passing by some people looking at deer or elk, we finally saw people observing a distant moose, so we got out and wandered around for a bit, shooting pictures. 


Moose

Mike "shooting" a moose

Then we heard another group of people excitedly talking about a moose baby and our ears and eyes perked up. Soon we got some distant views of a cow moose and her calf. An off-duty park employee told us the calf was only 6 days old!


Moose cow and its 6 day old calf

There was also a yearling hanging around, mostly likely the mama's. At one point the cow aggressively chased away the yearling. Soon the moose show was over and we turned around to head up high on Trail Ridge to take in the sunset. 


Moose cow chasing its yearling away

But the moose show wasn't over. After we got back to the switchbacks on the west side before Milner Pass, Susan spotted a moose in the trees in an "island" formed by the switchback. Again, traffic was almost non-existent, so we stopped to observe and photograph him from the road. 


Moose at the switchback

When he disappeared into the trees, we drove on up the road and as we rounded the curve, the moose had wandered out onto the road and began moving down the road in front of us, rather than heading back into the woods. We had never seen a moose this high above the wetland parks on the west side, and never one on the road like this. 




For several minutes we waited, hoping he would head back into the woods, but he seemed indecisive, especially when a car came from the opposite direction. We decided to leave, hoping he would find his way off the road. 


Moose on the road

After a quick stop at Far View Curve we drove on to stop at Rock Cut for a few minutes, but a lot of clouds had moved in and Longs Peak was fully or partially obscured by clouds. 


View from Far View Curve

View from Rock Cut

At Rock Cut we got to see our first pikas of the year, and Susan enjoyed shooting pictures of them. 


A terminally cute Pika poses for Susan's camera

Getting back in the car, we decided to finish up at the spectacular Forest Canyon Overlook. We hung out here as the sun went down with some very dramatic light and clouds. 


Gorgeous rays of light from the setting sun



Great colors and dramatic clouds

As we drove down in the dark, we both marveled out how much wild and scenic beauty we can see on a half-day excursion into Rocky!


Longs Peak in the distance

This was just about a perfect anniversary date, and we've decided to have a large print made of our favorite sunset picture from the evening. Happy 9th Anniversary to us! :-)


Anniversary sunset at Forest Canyon Overlook