Rocky Mountain National Park preserves lands that have been home to human cultures for over 10,000 years, from the nomads who traveled through the mountains, to the Native Americans who called it home, and to the miners, explorers, and ranchers who saw classical American opportunity.
It was amazing to see how quickly the landscape and foliage changed as we moved away from the alpine mountains and closer to the desert plains. Estes features evergreens of all ages growing among the large rocks, and I was especially attracted to the young trees sprouting from the little dirt that lay between rock crevasses. I found it very poetic that they could survive in such challenging conditions.
Trees decay differently here in this dry environment. Many old tree trunks and roots lay cracked and sunbleached in beds of rock and fallen pine needles.
Still what humans and plants perceive as “ideal conditions” for living is very different, for biodiversity has allowed plants to thrive in the most extreme places. These pink flowers seemed to fair just fine in the parched, sandy dirt, and the pines sported bright needles and seed-packed pinecones.
As we reached the mountaintop, we had a beautiful view of town below. I looked closely at the mountains across the valley and realized…yes, they still had snow! The Rockies loves their snow and keep it even into August.
Photographer Tip: Remember that landscapes look different going up and down the same trail. To help me keep a steadier pace (and to not lose my fast-walking family!) I would stop and look a scene from all angles while hiking up the trail, so I could put my camera away for the hike back down.
I’m always the last one in a line of hikers! My camera and I like to take our time :)