Posted by: merlyn9 | 31 October, 2008

A day in the life of… Rocky Mountain High

If you have read my Bio, or know anything about me, by now you know I travel for work. Right now I’m working a 2-month-ish project just South of Denver Colorado. Yup, the camera gear is here with me. Where else would it be?

I’ve been to Colorado numerous time in the past. Sun has a large facility in Broomfield where I’ve taken numerous training courses at.  I’ve also presented at a conference in Downtown Denver.  So between all that and hops passing through I know Denver airport and the general area well enough to get around ok.  After flying out here initially for the first week of this project.  I flew home for a quick visit, a quicky Dr. appointment, then packed up the truck, loaded the camera gear, and Drove back out to Colorado!  Yea, it’s a 14-15 hour drive, but I look at it this way:

  • I’m not limited to airline travel schedules;
  • I’m saving that cost of the flight;
  • no need for that rental car;
  • the savings of the plane ticket and rental car out weigh the
    added weekend hotel cost;
  • I get to have more stuff with me;
  • I can see cool stuff!

  And I’ve never been given grief over this thinking by any of my management or project team.

I don’t mind the drive.  Trips like this can allow me to think about all sorts of things, they can actually be relaxing in a way… at least to me.  What the heck, the cost of Gas is continuing to fall!!!

This trip to Colorado I just missed the Prime time Aspen color changes… I was slightly crushed as that is such a wonderful popping golden yellow mixed in across the greens and deep reds of other foliage. Always a pretty sight.

So this past weekend I got up and headed North to a little spot I’ve visited in the past, and have managed to get some good nature photography in.  Rocky Mountain National Park — just a bit Northwest of Denver,right through Estes Park, and less than 80 miles from where I’m staying.  Estes Park is a Great little town full of all sorts of shops. The people there have always been wonderful, warm, and quite friendly when I’ve been through there.  Last time I was there is was in June just after my birthday, I was attending a class in Broomfield.  I could make it out to the park in just under an hour from the Broomfield facility. So with the longer summer days, and getting out from class by 4PM, I could easily still have several hours of daylight to shoot with.  One visit was even more enjoyable while I was up over 11,000 feet… it actually began to SNOW!!!   The 8th of June, and I was getting Snowed on… I was elated!  There were plenty of Elk in the lower elevations.  I even stumbled across an elk skull.  Took shots of that as removing this from the park is a crime.  Even handling it is frowned upon.  I did get some great sunset images from a spot in the higher elevations.  Coming down from there, plenty of elk were close to the roadway.  This was the first and only time I have witnessed elk up on their hind legs, as two bucks were going at one another with their front hooves.  It was dusk, and I had one shot left on the card in the camera.  I took that single shot, not the best given the low-light  but it does show these elk upright and active.  Cool non-the-less.

Was not going to make it up there this weekend for sunrise, or early morning activities, so I planned for an afternoon/evening visit.  Still plenty of Elk in the lower portions of the park.  Saw more young bucks, may 1-2 years old than I’ve seen in a while.  Rut season’s pretty much coming to an end.  One sure sign is the close proximity of large mature bulls, Something you wouldn’t have seen a month ago.  

Crazy Tongue Action

Crazy Tongue Action

I actually overheard one ranger telling a tourist behind me while I was shooting:  “…at this point they’ve dropped about 30-pounds and are saying ‘When is this going to be over'”.  I got a good chuckle over that.  But in looking at these larger males, they did look somewhat smaller in stature, less filled out than I have seen them in late September and early October up in Yellowstone.  Still every once and a while one would buggle out a good one here.  I never get tired of hearing that beautiful sound.

Valley Full of Elk  --Click on this to appreciate the size of this 6-image panoramic shot

Valley Full of Elk --Click on this to appreciate the size of this 6-image panoramic shot

Drove around a bit checking out a few spots, even got out and walked around a bit.  Temp had been  in the 60’s when I left the hotel but by the time I got up to the park area and such the temp was down comfortably in the 40’s.  as I drove up higher, and over the snow line (ok, I call it the Snow line when there is steady snow on the ground and along the roads edge, not in a steady melting state.  Not sure if it really has a proper name?), it did drop into the 30’s .  Arg!  What’s with the road closure?  I was so looking forward to getting up near the Alpine center and that spot I could get great sunset shots from.  I had the right lenses and a tripod with me this time.  Something I didn’t have last time I was up here.  Something else I was dismayed with, but I guess I can understand; parts of the park such as valley’s and areas are also closed off early except for 10′ from the roads edge.  I had just gotten set up behind some good cover and was beginning to take some shots when I was approached by a park ranger who nicely informed me that unfortunately for me starting today this particular valley was closing to activities at 5PM.   Darn, there must have been over 100 Elk in front of me, the largest gathering I had seen all day.  I did get a set of images to create a panoramic view of the scene.  I had also only spotted one large mature bull in the crowd so far, and he had been vocal more than once while I was viewing and shooting in this area.

More Crazy Tongue Action

More Crazy Tongue Action


On well… next trip up here over the next few weeks… I come Early!  Catch the Elk at dawn, maybe with some morning mist, maybe even frost, since I know it’s been dropping into the lower 30’s here over night.  On my drive away from the area and just outside of Estes Park, the temp had reached 35˚ and it was not even 7PM yet!  

Something else I noticed or actually uncovered this week was the two leaders of the Winter Wonderland III, 2009  Workshop we are attending up in Yellowstone in February, they are from right here in Colorado.  I might just drop them a note to say hi, and see if there might be any other interesting places in particular to visit and photograph some wildlife.  Heck, I’ve got a few more weekends here before I head back home.  Why not take advantage of some locally experienced folks who know the are way better than I do?



  1. Hell of a shot of the Elk – tongue and all. Keep the photos coming.

    How is it being back on the road again? Diane no doubt told you but I may be going back to work again – vacation is over.

    It is OK – kinda tired of applying for jobs and filling out “skills” survey and fixing resumes for each application. Later …

  2. oh wow! those pictures are so great!

  3. Yeah, great pictures!
    Nice landscape, nice portrait of the elk and the tongue funny and great expression of the animal! Nice capturing!

  4. Nice shots. I like the mountain scene with the baren
    trees in the foreground the best. To bad there
    wasn’t any snow. I’m jealous…

  5. It is wonderful to see the pictures,thanks for sharing

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