|When we saw this view of Twin Sisters out our front door we knew we had to go out!|
With almost no discussion, we decided to forego our usual morning coffee and just grab our gear and head into Rocky Mountain National Park. We were undeterred by the 0F reading on the thermometer and rolled out of the garage at just past 7:00am.
|Driving in towards Deer Ridge Junction|
We drove up to Deer Ridge Junction to take in the panoramic views of Longs Peak and the Continental Divide, then over to the viewpoints above Horseshoe Park to see the spindrift on Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon peaks.
|Longs Peak and the Continental Divide|
|On the way down to Horseshoe Park viewpoint|
|Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon peaks|
From there we drove on to Many Parks Curve, where Trail Ridge Road is seasonally closed. On our way up, we noticed skier tracks on the mountain above Little Valley and we stopped to take a picture of them. Susan wondered aloud, "I wonder if my friend Nancy and her husband skied there?" She learned later that day that they indeed had hiked up 1.5 hours for a single ski run!
|Ski tracks left by friends|
|Longs Peak, viewed from Many Parks Curve|
Susan captured this stunning telephoto shot of Ypsilon Mountain with a raptor in flight.
|Raptor in flight with Ypsilon Peak|
We then headed back to Bear Lake Road, stopping along the way to see a Red Crossbill near the road.
|Look closely at the beak on the Red Crossbill|
At Bear Lake we found a 75" base of snow and walked in to the first viewpoint of Hallett Peak.
|Bear Lake Ranger Station|
|Obligatory shot of Hallett and Flattop from Bear Lake|
|Telephoto of trees on the mountain with the walls of Hallett in the background|
Then we drove back and stopped at Sprague Lake, where a wild turkey greeted as us we pulled into the parking lot. As we headed in to the lake, we saw what looked like a small wedding party at the fishing pier on the lake, and from a distance we could see the couple posing for photos.
|Wild Turkey near Sprague Lake|
|Small wedding party at Sprague Lake|
As we walked in clockwise around the lake, we met the wedding's officiant on the way out, under-dressed and obviously cold. As we got to the pier, we offered to take a few pictures of the family and then walked around the lake.
|Nice background for for a wedding!|
|Snow-covered trail along Sprague Lake|
We watched a pair of geese make their way across the frozen ice. Amazing they can stay warm!
|Canada Geese on mostly frozen Sprague Lake|
After we got back to the car we decided to drive out via Horseshoe Park and Sheep Lakes to see if there were any Bighorn Sheep out and about. There weren't any, but we did stop at a Great Horned Owl's nest we knew of and found an adult hunkered down in the nest.
After we moved on and got back into cell coverage, Susan got a call from a local birder telling us about some migrant birds at Lake Estes, so we decided to extend our little trip.
But before we got back to town, we came around a curve on Fall River Road to find a herd of an even dozen of mostly female Bighorn Sheep, with a couple of not-quite-a-year-old lambs.
|Bighorn Sheep on the road|
We pulled off and spent quite a bit of time watching and photographing them as they dug into the snow on the hillside, looking for food.
After this treat, we headed on over to Lake Estes, where we saw some of the usual birds there, plus a Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Flicker, American Avocet, Killdeer, Opsrey, and both Mountain and Western Bluebirds.
When we looked at the time, we found is was after 1pm and realized how hungry we were! So we headed home for a very late breakfast and some coffee. Amazing how much we could see in just a few hours in our "backyard." And after having traveled so much in the past year, it was really nice to return to our familiar places.
|Mt Olympus, overlooking Lake Estes|