As the name implies it is an old Native American trail used by the Utes and Arapahos to get over the Continental Divide. We started at the Alpine Visitors Center (which we will visit in the next Colorado post) at about 11,700' in elevation. Being this high is quite a feat for someone who has spent the better portion of his life at sea level. The altitude will tax you if you are not acclimated to it, but fortunately I did much better on this trip than I did 5 years ago. Back then I thought I was having a heart attack while we were visiting Mt. Evans, which is over 14,000'. People are not the only ones who struggle in this environment. It amazes me that any plant or animal can survive here. There can be strong winds, harsh light and eight months of winter, with falling snow recorded in every month of the year. In several of the following pictures you can see there is still snow lingering around even on a late July day.
The first picture is the view from the trail head. If you click to enlarge (which can be done on any picture) you can make out the trail itself in the lower left hand corner. The foreground at first appears fairly barren and full of rocks as we are in alpine tundra where no trees will survive. At this point it really did not matter to me what the ground looked like, I just ate up that distant view of the mountains and the high drama skies. I could be satisfied with that for a lifetime. However, on closer inspection you realize that the ground is not just covered in rocks, but also in little treasures living their lives, trying to attract attention and reproduce in the few short weeks of summer. The wildflowers were everywhere and July is their peak month. This left me with a dilemma - should I look up, out and beyond or look down and between the rocks - oh, and also make sure you don't take a misstep off of the path. I managed to compromise and do a little of each.
Sherpa Girl B. helped me with the identification of the wildflowers, and I have also checked out the only two reference books in the Norfolk Public Library system on Rocky Mountain flora. I hope I have gotten the names correct, but if anyone knows different, please let me know. The first one is Lidia obtusiloba - Alpine Sandwort.
my flickr page.
Next Colorado Post: The Alpine Visitors Center