Saturday and Sunday morning in Rocky Mountain National Park both dawned with little in the way of cloud cover. Memorial Day Monday’s looked like it would see some clouds around at sunrise as a new system moved into Colorado.
That system just dumped a few inches of snow on Rocky Mountain National Park above 9500 ft and there is more predicted for this afternoon and tonight. We just cant seem to break this pattern of cool, wet late season snow’s in the park which have happened with enough regular occurrence the Trail Ridge Road has yet to open from the east side of Rocky to the west side because of the wild weather we’ve been having.
Before our latest system moved in, I headed up to RMNP on Monday morning hoping to capitalize on a nice sunrise. All the weather models that I study before heading out into Rocky looked promising for Monday morning.
When I arrived in Estes and could get a good view of Rocky’s majestic peaks, I could see some nice cloud cover hanging over the continental divide. On my drive up there was no cloud cover over the eastern plains which mean an unobstructed sunrise. This is a perfect setup for a colorful sunrise.
I departed the Cub Lake trailhead about an hour before sunrise. I was not sure exactly where I wanted to end up but spring in Moraine Park and the Cub Creek drainage is always great as there is water everywhere. Seasonal flows from rain and snowmelt form veins of water and small ponds everywhere. All this water can make for great reflections or foreground elements for photographers.
With clouds over the continental divide when I first started my hike in, my plan was to photograph Stones Peak reflecting in a yet to be determined body of water from the runoff. It had been about 10 days since i was last through this area but I knew there would be lots of puddles and tarns to pick from.
I found a nice small pond that would allow for a nice image of Stones Peak reflecting in its water. I setup and waited for sunrise as clouds continued to drift over the top of the mountains of RMNP. Chasing clouds in Rocky Mountain National Park can be a fools errand however.
While setting up and waiting for sunrise, the clouds drifting to the west of me started moving to the east. Within 10 minutes there was no longer clouds over Stones Peak as they had moved to the north and east now. With sunrise about 15 minutes aways I had to scramble to find another location to photograph what would be a colorful sunrise not to my west, but now to my north and east.
After sloshing around through the meadow that more resembled a swamp, I settled on this small pond in the Cub Creek drainage. With Cub Creek moving through the meadow in my foreground while standing in about a foot of runoff that originated mostly from mountain snowmelt I watched and photographed some beautiful clouds on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
This was not the image I had in mind when I first headed out from the trailhead, nor the one I had in mind when I setup my tripod and camera prior to sunrise. But the circumstances and cloud cover changed so I had to adapt. As the color popped and I fired the shutter on my camera I thought to myself, ‘this is something different’. Wet feet and boots notwithstanding, something different worked out ok.