Thursday, August 24, 2006
After our long day of being up before dawn and hiking to a lake at 11,000 feet, Jill & I were worn out. We grabbed some dinner in Grand Lake and headed back to the tent anxiously awaiting sunset so we could get some much needed sleep.
Things didn't go quite as planned as neither of us seemed to get much sleep for some reason. The funny part was every time that I woke up and looked over I thought Jill was sleeping soundly. And every time that Jill woke up she looked over and thought I was sleeping as well. I think we alternated tossing and turning at different times all night long.
Regardless, we got up just before sunrise. Our plan was to go hit Cascade Falls, which was about a 7 mile hike, but wasn't as severe of a climb. Unzipping the tent, we peered out to see a small group of elk about 30 yards from our tent. So we didn't sleep much, but waking up to the sites of RMNP was worth it after all.
The morning was cool and crisp, with fog in all the lower areas. We started down the hiking path and made it about a mile before Jill stopped and pointed out something in the field. About the same time she pointed the animal out, it noticed us and was on the move. We were about 1/8 mile from it, but it was quite clear that we had just seen a wolf. The animal was very large, much more so than a coyote, and it moved very quickly. I had no chance at getting a picture of this reclusive creature, which makes me appreciate how all these nature photographers can do it.
We had barely quit talking about how great it was to see a wolf before we stumbled upon our next wildlife find. Again, Jill pointed out a big black mass out in the field. As we neared and got a better angle, we realized it was a family of moose getting an early morning snack along a creek bed. They took note of use, but didn't seem to threatened as I got to within about 50 yards of them for some quick photos. Why didn't I bring my big lens again?
After the wolf and the moose encounter, I was sure that we'd finally see a black bear to complete the rarely seen animal trifecta. While we did stumble across a deer who barely moved until we got within 6 feet, but no bear was to be found. Perhaps they were still napping in the cool morning air.
We pushed on towards Cascade Falls cursing every small climb as we went. Our bodies were tired, but we could hear the falls so we knew we were near. Finally, we reached our destination and were very pleased to see Cascade Falls. Much bigger than I expected, especially this late in the season, we both agreed it was well worth the hike.
We spent an hour or so taking pictures, enjoying the views, and eating a snack before packing up and heading out. We passed a lot of hikers on the way back to the car, and we were both glad we had "traveled like old people" and hit the trails early. I've said it many times before, but to truly appreciate Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park, you've got to get out of the car and hike in to the sights, which is exactly what we've been doing.
We're entering the transition between Summer & Fall, which means the leaves will start to turn and the elk will start the bugling. And that means Jill & I will be up before dawn at RMNP again many more times in the coming months. When did I become a morning person?