On the west side

On the west side

I decided to go explore the west side of the park this evening, just to see what there was to see, check out possible locations for future hikes or photos, and to see how the light fell in the end of the day.  I drove to the Kawueeche Visitor Center and spoke to the park staff there about their favorite locations in that side of the park.  Always ask the locals where the good spots are. 

The first spot I checked out was a trail to an area they referred to as Ranger Meadows, down past the Green Ridge campground in the adjacent Arapaho National Recreation Area, managed by the Forest Service.  I crossed a bridge over a stream that I later found out was the Colorado River.  I explored a little along the East Shore Trail, photographing wildflowers.  After a bit, I headed out back across the bridge and noticed a raptor I have never seen before.  I will have to do a little research to find out what it is. 

I headed back up the road back into the park, I found my way into a “moose jam,” a massive gathering of cars along both sides of the road where people had stopped to watch a cow and calf moose, grazing about fifty yards off the road along the edge of the woods.  I found it interesting that moose would generate so much more attention than any other wildlife I have seen.  But, you cannot see moose on the east side of the park – it is just not their habitat.  I was getting back to my vehicle to leave when a ranger arrived to break up the party.

One thing to know about the west side of the park is that the light goes down early.  The main road runs through a low part of a valley, along the headwaters for the Colorado River.  Most of the higher points in the west side are accessible only via hiking trails, many of which take you a long way before you get into the Alpine areas – as much as 9.25 miles one way, for example, along the East Inlet Trail.  As I was driving along the road, the sun was no longer hitting the river corridor by around 7:45.

I headed back toward the Trail Ridge Road, stopping along Poudre Lake to photograph several large bull elk that were gazing in the area.  Unlike the cow moose and calf, only a few cars stopped to notice – most kept going through.  As I climbed up the road, the sun had completely gone down.  But the last colors still lingered along the mountain ridges that border the west end of the park.  I stopped at Medicine Bow Curve to capture the last colors. 

It was a nice foray into the other side of the park, but made me realize how limited I will be to explore that area while I am here.  I certainly am not up to a 18.5 mile day hike, half of which would have to be done in the dark, which is what it would take to get up to Fifth Lake, a beautiful alpine lake at the end of the East Inlet Trail.  But, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the beautiful, winding Colorado River and some of the wooded, Montane areas of the lower trails. 


One Response to “On the west side”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Beautiful work, Carl. I wish I were there. I can live vicariously through your blog, though.

    I think you’ve captured an osprey there, man. Nice.

Leave a Reply