Friday, August 15, 2014

Squeezing In As Much as Possible

We took our solar showers and rested a bit.  About 2:40, it started raining hard, and the temperature dropped from around 84 to 56 degrees.  Didn't recover much for the rest of the day, either, which was fine with us.  I wanted to go down and maybe try some more photos of a stream so we went back down to the Bear Lake Road bridge over the Big Thompson.  But I couldn't seem to get it together.  Kept having to go back to the car for equipment I'd forgotten.  They'd blocked a lot of access to the river off as well.  This is where the "People Have Died Here" sign is. And just as I got everything together, I ran out of sunlight -- which will make or break your shot.

I tried the middle of the river under the bridge.  Ran into a ranger painting over graffiti on the bridge.  Seriously -- it is impressive how well the millions of visitors to the park in general treat the park so well, but there are still some real jerks out there.

One thing I had been curious about all week were these plastic barrels of water along Bear Lake Road with canvas hoses attached.  They were labeled WATER - NOT POTABLE - NOT FOR DRINKING.   I wondered what they were for.  So I asked him.

He said that there had been a major renovation of Bear Lake road recently.  They widened it, smoothed out some curves, and actually even re-routed a mile of it away from Glacier Creek.  And the barrels were to water the new native vegetation they were trying to get started in areas disturbed by the project.

So I wanted to head up the road to see where this re-route was.  There were storms building on the ridge, and you could see it was raining up on Hallett.  Bear Lake Road goes right up there.  The meteorologist mountain freak in me couldn't resist driving up there to see what it was like.

So we did.

There was a lot of heavy rain by the time we got up to the Bear Lake parking lot.  Lots of people coming back from hikes.  Lots of people still out there, apparently, too, if you were counting cars.  Lots of very wet, probably cold people, as it was probably about 45 degrees up there.

We drove back down ... when we had come back down from the Mills Lake hike, Vicki had spotted a streak of white in the forest up toward Glacier Gorge as we were rounding one of the switchbacks going down and asked "what's that white thing?"

That white thing, it turns out, is Alberta Falls and then that other cascade a ways below it -- visible from the road. Never knew you could see it from Bear Lake road, but from one spot, you can.  So this time, I looked for it, and we spotted it.  We're all, like, experts, and stuff now. :-)

We managed to find where the old road used to go off down by Glacier Creek.  It's a little stub used for overflow parking, and I think a trailhead for the trail they've turned that section of the road into.  And as we were approaching the turnoff to our campground, there they were.  What I'd been hoping to see all week -- a herd of elk grazing in the Moraine Park meadow.  There was quite the "Elk Jam" of cars.  We parked near the back of it and I grabbed my camera to take some shots and we walked a ways toward them.  They were working their way up toward the road, and rangers came along and had people get out of the way and move cars so they could cross undisturbed.  Very cool to see.

Another thing I'd had a question about that got answered at the Moraine Park visitors' center a few days before is the big fences that I've seen in the park for years ... and now there are new ones in Moraine Park that weren't there 4 years ago.  They're basically to keep the elk out so that vegetation can recover, especially small aspens -- which they'll apparently eat up.  The problem is, the ranger said, there are actually too many elk in the park.  It's overpopulated by about 3x.  One wonders why the herd isn't being ... managed ... but I'm sure there are people who don't understand a thing about animal populations and resources who would just freak over it.  Probably a PR disaster for the NPS.   The fences are FAIRLY unobtrusive visually ... for fences.  And you can go through them (but you must close the gate behind you).

The wind from the storm had actually knocked a couple of our canopy poles down, so we set them back up.  We fixed red beans and rice with beef for dinner.

Since this was to be our last night (yes, I agreed to leave Saturday) -- and we hadn't had a fire all week, tonight was the night.  The fire ring in 96 is close to the tent pad, but it's kind of far away from where we had to put the camper. If you're in a camper, the site is really "strung out". So it really wasn't that cozy a campsite for a camper, and not really conducive for the campfire mood.  But we took the chairs out there and torched one up and sat around it with a few drinks and the guitar until about 11:00pm.  The stars were out in full force in the clear night.  The Milky Way blazed across the sky.  We even saw a shooting star.

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