Today was our first time in Rocky Mountain National Park. As usual, we went to the visitors center to watch the movie about the park. And then we did a little driving tour where we saw mostly elk, but got a few other wildlife photos as well.
Well, we were hoping for a sunny day for good pictures. Unfortunately, it was cloudy/foggy this morning, and the sun didn't make too many appearances all day. Still, we had a great time and saw lots of wildlife.
On our way toward Estes Park and the main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, we spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle on a fence post.
It was a long way off, and it flew as I took a couple steps closer.
Just before the park entrance, we stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center to watch the 23-minute park movie (very nice) and to pick up a hiking guide. I also took my first photo of one of the many Magpies.
They are quite common, but they are also eye-catching, beautiful birds. This won't be the last one you'll see.
Just before we got to the entrance station, a large herd of Elk were hanging out in the meadow.
There was one bull in this herd. He was close to the road, so we were able to get good looks at his velvet-stage antlers and scruffy coat.
At the entrance station, we showed our Annual Pass and drove into the park. Driving into Beaver Meadows, I took a couple more shots of a friendly Magpie with its iridescent feathers.
There were a few ground squirrels, but I couldn't quite get close enough to get good shots.
From Beaver Meadows, we drove toward West Horseshoe Park & Sheep Lakes. The views were lovely as we descended into the park.
We've learned that, in the higher elevations, "parks" are large meadows tucked in between the mountains. We stopped at an overlook for this view of West Horseshoe Park with the Fall River snaking through.
This was also where I spotted another juvenile Bald Eagle on a log which, after further review, turned out to be just part of the log. Glad we didn't point out the "eagle" to the other tourists and hand them our binoculars.
I wanted to drive the Old Fall River Road that begins in this area, but it doesn't open until the first of July.
We continued on to Sheep Lakes where Bighorn Sheep are often spotted and rangers conduct two wildlife programs each day.
No sheep today, though - at least while we were there.
We backtracked from Sheep Lakes. We hope to do the other scenic drive, Trail Ridge Road, which goes through the mountains to the western side of the range and the other side of the park. But it's not yet open either. It's supposed to open this weekend, but it will be crowded. We'll probably wait until the first of next week.
Next we drove toward Moraine Park. We stopped for photos of these four young bulls.
It's easy to see why they call this early season antler growth the "velvet stage".
At Moraine Park, we drove through the campground. There were very few sites in there that would work for our rig. Only one loop, Loop B, is first come, first served. There were a couple of sites in there that were level and long. Loop C probably had the most big rig sites - maybe five or six.
But, I have to say that Moraine Park is spectacular and it might be worth making reservations to get into the campground (even though the sites are pretty close together). Here is a picture of another herd of Elk hanging out in Loop A.
Some were feeding in the campsites.
We'll get back to Moraine Park and take some pictures on a prettier day. I didn't even bother today as the photos wouldn't do it justice.
We started back Bear Lake Road, but it's under construction and the park newspaper said to expect two thirty-minute delays .... each way. So we turned around and decided to return early one morning before the construction gets under way.
We headed back into Estes Park for a late lunch.
Pulling into the parking lot, we noticed some people at the back of the parking area with binoculars and cameras. Our curiosity was peaked, so we walked back. It took about two seconds for Linda to spot this Great Horned Owl up on the rocks.
She blended in, so I zoomed and cropped to show her better.
Eventually, Linda saw movement behind her. Sure enough, there were two fuzzy owlets in the nest in the hole behind her in the first photo. They popped up briefly, but I couldn't get a picture. We'll be back to try to get a better look at the beautiful babies.
Well, we sort of winged it today. But Rocky Mountain National Park certainly gave us reason in this brief intro to be excited about the next few days.