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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Colorado River

September 27th, 2008 · No Comments

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Having a plan is good. Knowing when to change it is better.

When I left home at 4:45 this morning, I intended to take a long hike up the Colorado River. Instead, I took four short hikes.

My plan began to change shortly before sunrise as I reached the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. I stopped there because I needed to use the facilities and realized that a few minutes later I could be on a mountain top in first light. That was my first short hike today.

The Alpine Visitor Center is near the top of the park at 11,796 feet. From there is a steep but short trail to a knoll at 12,005 feet. Since it was there and so was I, I went.

Of course, I was cold, as I have been every morning that I was there. But the wind was still, so I was warmer than on my previous trips there.

First Light on the Mountains at 7:01 a.m.

First Light on the Mountains at 7:01 a.m.

Eleven Minutes Later

Eleven Minutes Later

At 7:25

At 7:25

At 7:35

At 7:35

About an hour and 50 pictures later, I went back down to the Alpine Visitor Center. At the height of the summer it’s so crowded that even finding a parking space is a pain. But my SUV was the only vehicle there this morning.

Suzy Visits the Alpine Visitor Center

Suzy Visits the Alpine Visitor Center

I drove on toward the Colorado River on the west side of the park. Along the way I stopped to look around at the Medicine Bow Mountains overlook. A sign says the mountains are 20 miles away and Wyoming is 35 miles. While I had driven by the overlook many times before, I never noticed an unmarked trail that isn’t on any of my maps. But it was there and so was I, so I went. I saw this pond.

Frozen Pond and the Medicine Bow Mountains

Frozen Pond and the Medicine Bow Mountains

The third short hike took me down to Lake Irene, which the sun was just reaching.

Lake Irene

Lake Irene

Finally, my fourth short hike was the one that I had planned along the Colorado River near its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park. Only at 9:50 — almost six hours after I got up this morning — did I reach the river’s trailhead. After half a mile, I came to a bridge over one of the West’s greatest rivers.

The Mighty Colorado River

The Mighty Colorado River

By then thunderclouds were forming. I returned to Suzy at 11:15 just as thunder, lightening, and heavy rain began to come down.

I had checked NOAA’s online weather prediction for the Alpine Visitor Center last night. The chance of precipitation was only 10 percent today, it said. So I was greatly surprised by the morning thunderstorm. However, my timing was so perfect that hardly a drop fell on me — then.

It was time to return home. Back up over the Rockies the rain came down even harder. Near the top of Trail Ridge Road at about 12,000 feet the rain stopped — and turned to snow.

Then, I just had to stop my SUV and get out in the snow. Not because of the novelty of snow in September, but because of snow on sheep. I saw five bighorn sheep not far below the road.

This Ram Looks as Miserable in the Snow as I Was

This Ram Looks as Miserable in the Snow as I Was

Otherwise, I had a wonderful morning. Sometimes spontaneity trumps the most considered plan.

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

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