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Let it Snow! in Rocky Mountain National Park

by Cory Dudley



Photo Credit: NPS/Ann Schonlau

The west side of the park received a little snow!
1-2 inches throughout the valley. The snow will arrive, so it's time to plan some fun RMNP adventures! 

What to do in the park this winter?

* Before heading out, check snow, avalanche and trail conditions.

Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is a great activity for winter exploring. Snowshoes, warm boots and some poles and you're off! Most park trails are open to snowshoeing. An entirely different experience is had when winter adventuring in the mountains.

Cross-country Skiing
Ready to step it up and cover more ground? Cross-country skiing is also an option throughout the park. Some trails are steeper, so chat with a park ranger prior to heading out to ensure an enjoyable and safe excursion.

Sledding!
The former Hidden Valley Ski Area is your spot! It's the one place in the park where sledding is allowed. Sledding takes place on the old bunny slope area, so it's a gentle grade. Bring your own sled and walk on up. There's a warming hut and bathrooms at the base. 

Ranger-Led Snowshoe or Ski Programs
Did you know RMNP has free Ranger-Led Programs? Reservations are required. Learn more here: Ranger-Led Programs

Wildlife Watching
Winter is such a beautiful time to look for wildlife, everything shows up better against a snowy backdrop. Many park roads are open and allow for a warm, easy tour by car. Look for moose on the west side, elk and mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes and a number of winter bird species. 

Needing equipment?
Both Estes Park and Grand Lake have shops where you can rent winter equipment. The following sites give options for rental locations: Visit Estes Park | Visit Grand County

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the 10 most-visited national parks in the United States, coming in at number 4 behind (1) Great Smoky Mountains NP, (2) Grand Canyon NP & (3) Yosemite NP.


Photo Credits: Michael Hodges, Jim Osterberg © 2012 RockyMountainNationalPark.com

The number of visitors each year (over 4.5 million this year!), specifically concentrated during the peak season (June to September), is taking a toll on the park. From roads and bridges to campgrounds and restrooms, the infrastructure is aging and the National Parks Service is proposing raising rates to fund improvements in RMNP, as well as, 17 other popular national parks.


Photo Credits: Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce

Current Rocky Mountain National Park entrance fees are $30/week and $10 dollars for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles. If the proposed rate increase goes into effect, it could cost $70 to enter RMNP in June of 2018.


Photo Credits: CBS Denver - CBS Local

The National Parks Service says if implemented, this increase could boost park revenue by $70 million/year. But, there's no guarantee that this will happen. A public comment period is open through November 23rd. Learn more and share your thoughts in the Comments section here: http://bit.ly/2yMe5IB​



Visitors to the extensive trail system near or above treeline
within Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) have surely heard this sound 

 

Sounds a bit like a bird, but it's actually the largest member of the squirrel family (Sciuridae), the Marmot!

Specifically, in RMNP, they're Yellow-bellied marmots (AKA Rockchucks, Whistle-Pigs). They're very brave and are quite accustomed to humans; mostly because they want our trail snacks!

Here's one of my marmot friends on the trail up to Flattop Mountain this summer.
I'd like to say she's posing for this shot, but really she just wants a yummy handout.

As tempting as it is, please don't feed those critters. One reason is habituation, which happens when humans offer snacks and the creature suffers no correction for coming close to feed. Over time, they lose fear of humans resulting in nuisance behavior.
Reason two is that wild animals, when they get hooked our Cliff bars and GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts), lose their natural foraging behavior and also don't consume needed nutrition.

 

A Few Quick Facts about Marmots:

They live in colonies of 10-20 individuals and have elaborate burrows
under the high elevation meadows and rocky talus fields.
~
A marmots day consists of morning and evening feedings;
the rest of the day is spent down in their burrows.
Marmots are omnivores. They eat, grasses, insects and even bird eggs.
~
In the growing season, they spend a majority of time fattening up for winter hibernation.
Marmots have a lifespan ranging from 2 to 7 years
~
What is all their chirping about?
When the colony is busy feeding, one marmot stands as a sentinel and warns the colony of any approaching danger.
~
They also love resting in the sunshine.
 

(NPS)

Photo Credit: NPS

Now is the time (late September to mid October) that these critters head into their burrows for the long winter's nap. They stay warm huddled together in a room insulated with grasses/hay. During hibernation, a marmots body temperature can fall to 41 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes they only take one or two breaths per minute. They'll be out to greet us again in April or May. 

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more tid bits on the animals that call RMNP 'home'!


Burrow of the Alpine Marmot

Reference: Wildlife Observation: The Alpine marmot
Digital image. Burrow of the alpine marmot. Bernard Fischesser. Web 24 OCT 2017
https://www.franceoutdoors.com/news-may-2010-marmot.html

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Stay Curious Video Series

by Cory Dudley

 

 

"I think that's what I like the best is understanding more about how things work, and what's living there, and how it interacts with all the other organisms in that system."

- Erin Borgman 

 

The National Park Service's video series, Stay Curious, most recently selected and interviewed one of Rocky Mountain National Park's very own. Erin Borgman is an NPS Ecologist and Field Coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring Division. In short, her job is to keep a close eye on the vital signs and overall 'health' of important streams and rivers within the park. These bodies of water are the most important resource to the park's habitat and wildlife inhabitants, making her mission a crucial one! 

 

Check out the video below to learn how Erin began down the path of Ecology sciences and the advice she has for anyone else trying to discover their place in the world around them. 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Park Closures for Elk Protection

by Cory Dudley

 

Closures to protect the elk during the annual bugling season are currently in effect throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, Harbison Meadow and Holzwarth Meadow will all be closed through October 31st. In addition, fishing in the Fall River, Thompson River or Colorado River during the closure period is prohibited.

 

"The purpose of the closures is to prevent disturbance and harassment of elk during their fall mating period and to enhance visitor elk viewing opportunities," states Kyle Patterson, park spokeswoman.


 

The park reminds visitors that elk calling, shining headlights for better nighttime visibility and generally harassing the elk is not only prohibited but dangerous. The majority of issues are caused by people directly who get too closely to the elk, or "elk jams" due to so many viewers parked alongside the roads. 

 

In order to enjoy the rutting season and visits to the mountains responsibly, maintain your distance! 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Finding Fall Colors This Weekend

by Cory Dudley

 

Beginning in late August each year, the aspens in the highest parts of Rocky Mountain National Park embark on their annual transition of 'quaking'; a term use to describe the leave's behavior in the breeze and unique color changing process from green to brilliant golden yellows, oranges and reds. 

 

(Video Credit: Colette Bordelon

 

If you have yet to visit the park during the fall, you must add it to your to-do list! The hues painting the mountainside change with each passing day until mid to late September, accompanied by the elk's rutting season and migration down from the high country. Tourists, photographers and nearly everyone else believes the park is in it's prime during this time of year, though there are certain spots that are recommended above others if you're chasing colors....

 

Hidden Valley

Far from hidden, this popular spot is a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts as a place where elk gather in large numbers, backdropped by fiery colors. There are numerous viewing spots along US 34 on the SE facing hillsides. Have your cameras ready! Elk show up with little warning and you may miss the ideal opportunity if you're not prepared...

 

 

Glacier Gorge Trail

All the way up to Alberta Falls on Glacier Gorge Trail, you'll be snapping pictures and looking on in awe; this hike is a beautiful one. Aspens line the path and fallen leaves float along the creek, welcoming you with a flurry of color. 

 

Bear Lake Road

This road runs parallel to the Glacier Creek and is worth the time it may take to travel all the way to the end. You'll begin at Moraine Park and will want to pull off the road any chance you get because every turn will offer a new and interesting view! If you'd prefer to hike or relax at an overlook, there are many opportunities along the way for that as well. 

 

 

Twin Sisters

Because the trail head is located just outside of the park's boundary (approximately 6 miles from Estes Park), this hike is a favorite for those who prefer a more secluded experience. If you've brought your camera along, be sure to get an early start to the day for the best lighting. 

 

Fairview Curve

About 10,000 feet up on Trail Ridge Road you'll find the Fair Curve and spectacular views of the Mummy Range up to the north. You will have driven through the Kawuneeche Valley to reach this spot, so you can now appreciate the valley's color from above! 

 

 

Kawuneeche Valley

Argued by some as the most beautiful place in the park to photograph, you'll drive through 10 miles of Kawuneeche Valley along Trail Ridge Road between Grand Lake and the Timber Lake trail head. Give yourself ample time for stops on this route because it tends to be more lovely than one expects. 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Become a Park Podcaster!

by Cory Dudley

 

 

 

 

With more people, families and groups venturing into Rocky Mountain National Park than ever before, you may be wondering how park rangers, staff and volunteers do it...

How do they keep all the pieces in place?

What challenges do they face?

And how can I help?

Thanks to Miles Barger, a visual information specialist for Rocky Mountain National Park, you can now learn so much more about the park and all the people who look after it. Throughout his career in park services, he has been constantly reminded of the deep love and curiosity that visitors have for national parks and wild places - but it isn't just about the wilderness itself. When it comes to national parks, visitors develop the same feelings for the people that look after them! With that in mind, Barger and his coworker Hope Ozolins created a team and a structure for a brand new podcast called Rocky Mountain National Podcast.

Listeners will enjoy 10 episodes per season, each one an hour long. The first season's focus will be on different park personnel, starting with some of the most beloved to park visitors; rangers and other educational and interpretive program leaders. He discusses things like why they became involved in national parks, what they do within Rocky Mountain National Park and some of the unique knowledge they impart on others. Personal stories blend with park information, news & updates, and specific information on planning a trip to the park. 

 

"We are always looking for ways to reach other audiences and new tools to give people the information they want about the park," Kyle Patterson, spokesperson for RMNP, said.

 

 

Barger hopes to continue evolving the podcast to include a mini-series within the main season; shorter segments that focus on something more specific, like a research project or a current concern. The first 4 episodes are out already - take a listen for yourself!

 

 

Season 1, Episode 1: A Love of the Mountains with Kathy Brazelton

Join Kathy Brazelton, an East District Naturalist, in the Upper Beaver Meadows, as she shares her life as a ranger, ranger programs, various signs of spring and more.

Season 1, Episode 2Chillin' in the Alpine with Cynthia Langguth

​Ranger Cynthia Langguth teaches us about the interesting world of the alpine tundra. She'll teach about marmots, pika, ptarmigan and everything else in the land above the tree line... 

Season 1, Episode 3: Gettin' Wild on Rocky's West Side

Explore all that the West Side of Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer with rangers Maci MacPherson and Michele Simmons!

Season 1, Episode 4: With Kyle Patterson

What does the Public Affairs Officer for RMNP actually do? Join Kyle Patterson and explore what he does, day in and day out; sharing news and messages, dealing with current issues at the park, and even how you can help keep the park beautiful for generations to come.  

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Photography in the Park

by Cory Dudley

 

 

Erik Stensland, an Estes Park resident and photographer, visits Rocky Mountain National Park regularly to photograph all the beauty within; spring flowers, sunsets and waterfalls overflowing. Like many creative nature enthusiasts, Stensland prefers to wander outdoors in solitude. 

"I just need silence to rethink things. It keeps me whole and sane. I need that time of personal reflection." - Erik Stensland 

Though you aren't going to become his best hiking buddy, Stensland is willing to share some of his wisdom when it comes to taking photographs while venturing through the park. And it's advice you'll want to take! 

 

 

Tip #1 - Timing is Everything

Aim to photograph your desired subject or area when the light is warm. If you can shoot within 15-20 minutes of sunrise or sunset, you'll be amazed by the results. More people prefer sunrise photos than sunset photos, due to the clarity during that time of day. Winds die down and urban activity slows significantly during the night, leaving a window of time just before and during sunrise that provides a more clean and clear atmosphere. 

 

 

Tip #2 - What Are You Shooting?

It's easy to become distracted by everything around you and before you know it, you've taken 300 photos in the first 15 minutes of your hike and you're late for that sunrise shot you'd planned on getting! Before you head out, be very clear about what the subject of your image is. Why did you come out today? What did you hope to photograph? What was the overall feeling you wanted to convey with this image? Focus on one clear subject and you'll hike home feeling triumphant. 

 

 

Tip #3 - Learn to Love Cloudy Days 

Sure, it may go against your nature to hope for clouds in the sky as you pack up for a day outside. But in Stensland's opinion, if there aren't clouds in the sky, it isn't worth going out with your camera in tow. "Clouds really create the emotion in the image", he says. Subjects such as waterfalls and shadowy forested areas benefit greatly from the diffused light that grey skies bring. Clouds truly are nature's softbox, so take advantage of overcast days! 

 

 

He sells his images online and in various galleries in New Mexico and Colorado. If you're more of a social media guru, he shares images daily on his Facebook and Twitter with inspiring messages attached for you to enjoy (free of charge!) 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Series - Grand Ditch Leak

by Cory Dudley

 

Rocky Mountain National Park staff was notified last Saturday night that an old culvert in Grand Ditch is leaking at the intersection of Lady Creek and Grand Ditch. The company who operates the Grand Ditch (Water Supply and Storage Company) have made temporary repairs to reduce the leakage and have opened head gates to reduce water flow. The additional water is being rerouted to the Kawuneeche Valley. 

 


 

Needless to say, RMNP staff quickly began assessing any immediate and potential impacts to trails and bridges in the Kawuneeche Valley as a result. 

The Colorado River Trail is flooded approximately 0.6 miles from the trailhead, just beyond the Red Mountain Junction. A sign cautioning conditions was posted at the trailhead, and the staff assures additional assessments are ongoing.

 

 

In addition, that was increased sediment movement near Shadow Mountain Reservoir, though it's unclear exactly how much earth was moved in the event. 

Grand Ditch Road is currently closed to pedestrians, but there are no other closures in place at this time. Long Draw Road, which leads to this area from just outside RMNP, is closed this time of year - it is still set to open for the season in early July. 

 


Rocky Mountain National Park Series - The Rocky Pledge

by Cory Dudley

 

 

 

 

The staff and volunteers of Rocky Mountain National Park, do their best to provide park visitors with experiences of a lifetime. But they can't do it without you! 

 

 

How can you help?

  • Take the Rocky Pledge (see below). You can read it aloud or to yourself, in the park or at home, alone or with friends. All we ask: read it thoughtfully and take it seriously.
  • Encourage your followers to protect Rocky. Share a photo of yourself taking the pledge, encircling something meaningful to you in your hands, or doing something to protect the park to your social media of choice and tag it #rockypledge. If you’re on Instagram, there’s a chance you’ll get hundreds of thousands of eyes on your photo—we’ll regularly repost our favorite #rockypledge shots!
  • Tell your friends and family: Take the Rocky Pledge! Visit go.nps.gov/RockyPledge to learn more.

​​

 

The Rocky Pledge

 

“To preserve unimpaired for this and future generations the beauty, history, and wildness therein, I pledge to protect Rocky Mountain National Park.”

  • To prevent fire scars and human-caused fires, I pledge to never build a fire outside of a campground or picnic area fire ring.
  • To respect other visitors’ experiences, if I need to go but am not near a restroom, I pledge to leave no trace by stepping well away from the trail and water sources, burying my waste at least six inches deep or packing it out in a waste bag, and carrying out my toilet paper.
  • To respect Rocky’s wild creatures and to protect myself, I pledge to watch wildlife from a distance that doesn’t disturb them in any way. I will never feed an animal—doing so causes it harm.
  • To respect history, heritage, and natural processes, I pledge to remove nothing from the park except my own and others’ trash. I will leave no trace of my visit so that the next person can experience the same beauty as I did.
  • To keep my pet, wildlife, and other visitors safe, I pledge to keep my leashed pet only on roads, in campgrounds, and in picnic and parking areas. I will never take my dog on Rocky’s trails, meadows, or tundra areas.
  • To preserve them for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations, I pledge to honor, respect, and protect all our national parks and public lands.

​​

​​

We've taken the pledge - how about you? 

 

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Cory Dudley
The Winning Team Real Estate Group
522 Kimbark St
Longmont CO 80501
Mobile: (303) 641-8597
Office: (303) 776-4004
Fax: (303) 776-4661