Sunday, April 20, 2014

Visiting the Rocky Mountains -- Early Spring in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

The first of April is very early spring at 7,500 feet in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, but we had a lovely time in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Even though most of the plants were dormant, they were beautiful--

Aspen (Populus tremuloides) leafless for a few more weeks
aspen, Populus tremuloides
aspen, Populus tremuloides

Little willows along a creek. 

willow in winter, Salix sp.
Cattails, frozen in a tiny pond 
cattail, Typha sp.
cattail, Typha sp.
And a clump of dead plants with seed heads that made a surprisingly nice photograph.
unidentified, possibly as small sunflower
unidentified, possibly as small sunflower
certainly a member of that family
Rocky Mountain juniper and ponderosa pine were green. The green leaves on pines and junipers allow them to photosynthesize (produce sugars from carbon dioxide and water) in fall, winter and spring whenever the temperatures warm enough. Deciduous trees like the aspen and willow have to grow leaves before they can do photosynthesis, so they cannot be as flexible.

Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) with the reddish willows in the background

Rocky Mountain juniper
Rocky Mountain juniper
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
ponderosa pine
ponderosa pine

The snow had mostly melted off the ground, but while we were there snow showers fell, lightly dusting everything with a layer of white. The daytime temperatures were in the 40s, so the snow quickly melted off. 

Since it was so early in the year, the city of Estes Park was still in winter mode. Many stores and restaurants were closed for the season or opened only on weekends. We quickly learned to check to see what was open. On the other hand, the crowds of summer were missing, so driving and parking were easy and in the shops and restaurants everyone was relaxed and welcoming. 

I asked, when I could, about recovery from the floods of 2013. There was a period last fall when Estes Park was pretty cut off, with several of the roads in and out destroyed by the flooding and the rest open but very slow going due to road damage. That was months ago, though, and the major routes are open. The people I talked to mostly spoke of things returning to normal. There are still unrepaired roads farther out into the mountains and in many cases home repairs have a long way to go, but recovery is well under way. My observations driving to Estes Park through Big Thompson Canyon matched that:  we saw lots undercut banks, fallen pines and some damaged houses along the river, but Route 34 was fine. 

Rocky Mountain National Park April 2 2014

Cool but not cold, quiet but not closed, Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park were lovely.

 Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler

1 comment:

  1. It will really take time to fix and bring stuff back to their original condition, especially when it comes to dilapidated habitats. We hope that they have drained out the water at the very least, so that there won't be further lingering damage to the structure and the materials of their houses.

    Gail Wallace