With Memorial Day past us and the unofficial start of Summer underway, the excitement and anticipation of great adventures and explorations builds. Typically I have a ‘to-do’ list of locations in Rocky Mountain National Park that I would like to explore and photograph.
The list is not rigid. I don’t set dates or deadlines with it. I just use it as a general guide. It’s helps to jog my memory and keep me focused. Experience has taught me that without my list I tend to drift, lose focus and end up too many times caught up in the no mans land of creativity and photography.
Even with Summer just around the corner, I have yet to complete my list. Not that the list is ever completed, but it still needs some additions. There are just so many places in Rocky to photograph and explore that it times is seems a monumental task.
With that said, you have to start somewhere and new possibilities are opening up in the park which each passing day. Trail Ridge Road opened on Friday and each day the lakes unthaw a little more, and snow recedes to higher elevations along the trails
Our cold spring which was very much just and extension of winter has most areas of the park two to three weeks behind a typical year. It’s causing some fits and starts for me and my to-do list as some of the usual locations are not quite ready for primetime yet.
So I’ve been wandering around exploring both known and unknown locations the last few weeks. It’s resulted in a few flops and some surprise gems. Regardless of the outcome, the experience and adventure of being out in Rocky trumps all.
There are few more iconic and beautiful locations in Colorado that Chautauqua Meadows at the base of the Flatirons in Boulder. It’s a beautiful location anytime of year and a place that has a magical quality about it.
Spring in Chautauqua Meadows is particularly special. Flowers bloom in the meadow and the sweet smell of the Ponderosa pines that line the hillsides fills the warming air.
It’s almost as if Chautauqua Meadows puts on slow motion show of changing displays of wildflowers and colors. The Golden Banner will cede to Silver Lupine, which will regress for Wild Iris, then finally the pink, reds and purples of the Sweet Pea as the days warm and summer settles in.
After a spring that has been masquerading as winter, it’s nice to finally have some warm weather and to watch things finally begin to green up. Were at least a good two weeks behind the norm in Boulder as far as the foliage goes so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the first flower blooms in Chautauqua Park.
In a typical year, Golden Banner is the first significant bloom to propagate Chautauqua Park in the spring. That’s true of this year as well.
With nice healthy clusters of Golden Banner sprinkled throughout Chautauqua, I was treated to a spectacular sunrise over the Flatirons last week. Spring has been slow to the party but the wait was well worth it.
I’ve been getting a few emails regarding the current condition of Rocky, what lakes have opened up and how much snow there is yet to melt off. I expect conditions to change fairly quickly in the next few weeks as it looks like a longer stretch of warm more temperate weather is about to settle in for at least a week.
I expect this warm up to have a pretty significant impact on melting and opening up of some lakes in the park. That being said we have a long way to go. There is a lot of snow in the higher elevations in Rocky right now.
In the fifteen years I’ve been photographing Rocky, I personally cant remember a year where there was this much snow present so late into the spring. I’d suggest that everybody get used to the fun of post holing when hiking for at least the next few weeks.
The two images included in this post are from the last two weeks. Conditions will change quickly and everybody needs to be prudent and safe when walking near frozen and thawing bodies of water. It’s often difficult to tell whether your standing on snow along the shoreline, or snow on top of soft, unstable ice.
Moraine and Horseshoe Park are free of snow. The meadows are just starting to green up and both Fall River and the Big Thompson are starting flow at a good pace. I’m eagerly awaiting the wildflowers in Moraine Park this year as the combination of heavy moisture and the revived soil from the Fern Creek fire could make for an interesting display.
Sprague Lake is completely free of ice now. The last little bit of ice on Sprague melted off at the end of last week. Bierstadt Lake was still covered by ice as of this weekend. The edges had just begun to thaw out and I expect Bierstadt to open up quickly from here on out as it was apparent the ice sheet is very soft.
Bear and Nymph lake still remained buried under the heavy snowpack. Dream Lake’s outlet has begun to thaw out and there is open water to be found.
At this point, lakes at about 10,000 ft or higher in Rocky Mountain National Park are going to be frozen well into June. The higher lakes are buried under considerable snow so it’s going to take a lot of energy to thaw them. Until then, the lakes, streams and waterfalls at lower elevations should keep photographers busy.
Say that three times fast!. In what seems like a winter season that just wont end, finally are signs of spring throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of signs of winter in the park to go along with all the snow, but progress is being made.
The exceptionally snowy and wet spring we’ve had is a blessing for sure. Rocky needs every little drop of moisture it can get before the hot and dry summer season settles in.
Monday morning at Sprague Lake had all the elements of spring melding together. Sprague Lake is nearly free from ice. The resident Mallards of Sprague were busy quacking in protest at my presence and the ever so subtle smell of pines could be detected over the frosty air.
It’s the subtle things like the return of the ducks and the organic and earthy smells of tree’s and plants the foretell the coming of summer. It’s being able to stand lakeside and watch a sunrise unfold in the chilly morning air and not feel cold. All in all it’s a pretty good place to be on a Monday morning