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

Mount Evans

May 28th, 2012 · No Comments

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This is the weekend that I have been waiting for all year. For most folks the Memorial Day weekend means the start of summer, when the livin’ is easy. But for me it meant a chance to go back to Mount Evans.

On Friday morning Colorado’s Department of Transportation opened the upper stretch of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, North America’s highest auto road, for the first time since September 6. For more than half the year the road gets too much snow for them to keep it open, not surprising because the road tops out just 130 feet below the 14,265 foot summit.

I didn’t go there on Friday, because they didn’t open the road until 7 a.m., and I wanted to be there at first light. Then, the weather prediction for Saturday was cloudy. But Sunday’s prediction was for full sun.

I knew that it would be cold because of the altitude. But I had no idea just how cold it would be. Even dressed with my best winter garb, I have seldom been so cold in my life. The wind was so heavy that I had to hold on to my glasses so they wouldn’t fly away. The wind-chill factor must have brought the temperature below zero. When taking pictures, I had to retreat to my SUV every five minutes or so to stop my shivering and to prevent my headache from the cold and altitude from becoming unbearable.

This early in the year the mountains haven’t warmed up. But I wanted to see Rocky Mountain Goats, and Mount Evans is the most likely place to see them. I saw them once before, but that was in August 2010, when they looked rather scruffy, because they were shedding their winter coats.

My plan this morning worked. I found the Rocky Mountain Goats on Mount Evans, and their coats were intact. They needed their long, warm double coats this morning. I could have used one too.

Since Mount Evans is a two-hour drive from my home in Boulder, I knew that I had to get an early start. But even while leaving home at 4:30 a.m. I missed getting to the top before sunrise.

At 6 a.m. when I was driving about eight miles from the end of the road, I got a bonus. Looking up I saw several Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. While I had seen them on Mount Evans before, they were always before in the distance.

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep at First Light

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep at First Light

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Actually, I arrived at the end of the road too early. This is the best place to see Rocky Mountain Goats, because they gather at the salt lick there. Only four Rocky Mountain Goats got there before I did. The area around the salt lick was still in shadow when the crowd below arrived at 7 a.m..

A Billie, a Nannie, and Five Kids Arrive

A Billie, a Nannie, and Five Kids Arrive

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The kids are probably less than a month old. They have to be on their feet within minutes of their arrival into their sparse mountain world.

Rocky Mountain Goats aren’t true goats. They are their distant relatives, no closer to true goats that to the chamois of Europe and the musk ox of Alaska. A more accurate name for them would be goat-antelope.

She's Coming Closer!

She's Coming Closer!

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The kids of Rocky Mountain Goats are the cutest, just like the children (kids) of people.

This is MY Platform

This is MY Platform

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But this kid was my favorite. I would have considered adoption, but then I would have had to turn my apartment’s thermostat way down.

My Favorite Kid

My Favorite Kid

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This early in the year Mount Evans was too cold for me. But it was just right for photography and suits these high-altitude animals just fine.

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