An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

September 5, 2009

Some Scenes From Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road is the main route through Rocky Mountain National Park and links the western entrance at Grand Lake with the eastern entrance at Estes Park. It is touted as the highest, continuous, paved road in the country. I was not nearly as thrilled with this superlative fact as I was with the superlative views. This first shot looks south down the Kawuneeche Valley over the site of the Never Summer Ranch and a very juvenile Colorado River (feel free to click and enlarge). The brown cast on the mountain side is not early autumn color. Rather, it is from dead and dying trees, victims of the pine bark beetle mentioned in my previous post.

At times you feel as if you are riding along the spine of a giant beast. Other times you are clinging to the side of a cliff with no room for driver error. It was on these cliff sides where I could only steal glimpses of the scenery from the moving car and mainly kept my eyes focused straight ahead. I was thankful someone else did the driving and stopped often for us to drink the view.

Trail Ridge Road eventually took us out of the park, but not before we made a stop a Sprague Lake, and this will be our next and last Colorado post, at least until the next trip.


  1. The first picture is especially beautiful, but wow those pine bark beetles are doing a lot of damage. There are going to be some mean forest fires.

    I'm glad you were on that road and not me! Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures.

  2. Les - you posting series is very timely with PBS doing the National Park series starting at the end of the month. You have shared a gorgeous area of the country with us with amazing photos. I hope one of these days to get to see the Rocky Mountains.

  3. I think of all the vacations I've seen on blogs yours must be the top! Literally!

  4. What an amazing view - it feels like you are standing on the top of the world. It must have a spiritual experience.

  5. Don't you just love the smell of air in places like this. Talk about a natural high!

  6. I looked at the pictures before I read the post and was sure that this was some great scenery from overseas. I could actually drive there? I so want to go!

  7. Les, what is it about the vast expanse of land that makes us stand silently and gaze in awe? As always, beautiful capture!

  8. Your photos brought back memories of my college roommate and I driving through the park (from the east end) in my Chevelle and pulling a trailer (a homemade pop-up box / tent). It was gorgeous and very scary!

  9. Sweet Bay,
    There was an interesting story on 60 minutes last night about the western fire situation. What I found telling was that part of the problem is that the Forest Service has been suppressing fire for the past 80 years. Now the forests are full of very old fuel.

    I am so looking forward to watching the series (like I need another impulse for wanderlust).

    Thank you so much for the great compliment.

    It certainly was a spiritual experience.

    Everywhere we went in Colorado smelled good, but especially in the mountains. Quite different from the thick humid smells here at sea level (which I like too).

    You are halfway there already. Just go!

    I am not sure "why", but I do stare and gaze in awe and seek every opportunity to do so.

    A Chevelle, that is scary enough, let alone pulling a home made trailer behind it through the Rockies. It sounds like a great trip.


  10. Les, This is one of my favorite parks and I have memories of being a passenger in a small car on the roads! It really was incredibly terrifying and gorgeous! ...I don't think I could be the driver! Your photos are wonderful...thank you for taking us along on your vacation.

    I wonder what changes ecologist see and predict for the ecosystem with the loss of pines? I wonder, too, what the Smokies will be like with the death of Hemlocks from Hemlock Woolly Adelgid!


  11. Hi, I just visited your breath taking blog.

    I'm marveled at your work in sharing your world as you see it. Something that I would never able to see or experience from my part of the world.

    Its like time stopped here. Thanks for sharing.

  12. It's a crazy drive for sure and lots to distract you--which makes it more scarier. Your photos are perfectly taken and you captured the vastness of the wide open spaces. That's not easy to do.

    Very sad about the trees but you are correct in your answer that the saving of the forest has come to its demise.

  13. Just breathtaking, Les! I am very afraid when driving or riding on roads like you describe, usually having to close my eyes. Thank goodness there were stopping points to take in those views. :-)

  14. The Colorado series is over. Long live the Colorado series! It's been wonderful to look at your photographs and walk through my own memories and hopes to get back there soon. Thanks for sharing in such wonderful detail.

  15. Gail,
    I think the Smokies will likely survive better than the Rockies. Only because the number of tree species in the Smokies is vastly greater than the Rockies, where the diversity is much lower.

    Thanks for stopping by. I imagine there are things in your part of the world that are equally as stunning.

    And now destruction of the forest may end up being its salvation.

    I am glad that you enjoyed the posts and appreciate your kind comments.


  16. I just now ran across your Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park pictures - they're wonderful. My husband and I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for over twenty years, but were born and raised in Estes Park - one of the entrances to Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park. All these pictures are of my childhood home. We returned with our children in 2009 as well ..... I have some shots from Trail Ridge that are similar weather wise - I wonder if we were there at the same time.....

    It's a small world.

  17. Malinda,
    I am glad you found by blog and enjoyed the posts. We were there in late July/early August of 2009. Interestingly, through these Rocky Mountain posts I reconnected with a lost friend who was looking for pictures when she came across my blog and put two and two together.