August 9, 2013
Friday, August 9
Wednesday night I gave the second of two public programs at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. It was well attended. Betsy, one of the volunteers who helps the artists, said 92 people came, a record number for an artist’s talk this summer. This number was bolstered by 8 of our neighbors from the Scottage, our 2 friends Anne and Richard from nearby Ft. Collins, and Ann. All went well; I added a few more pictures that I had shot since last Wednesday’s talk and they were well received.
Little did we know we would have a completely adventure-filled day on Thursday, one that will be hard to forget. Ann and I decided to drive the Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the park, a part we had not seen. We stop at Rainbow Curve, one of the really spectacular viewpoints on the road, still on the east side. We end up meeting the two park volunteers assigned to the viewpoint, Marcus and Joan Sessel, from no real address. They spend 42 weeks a year living in a motor coach, working the summers at Rocky Mountain, visiting their three children, and wintering in Tucson. They don’t have a house and love the lifestyle. Marcus was a stockbroker in St. Louis and Joan was a teacher. They are incredibly knowledgeable about the park and the mountains. Both came to the artist talk on Wednesday and enjoyed it. They had been to all the places I showed night sky photos except Chaco Canyon. Ann talked to Marcus quite a bit about Jewish culture; he said his name, Sessel, was German for upholstered couch or chair, though the family originally was from Krakow. He said he met a German tourist who said, “I’ll have to tell people I
met a Sessel.” Marcus replied to the tourist, “Tell them you sat on me!”
This was the highlight of our day — until the afternoon, when we ended up fulfilling our lifelong dream of seeing moose in the wild. We had driven into the Kawuneeche Valley and met another very knowledgeable volunteer who suggested some prime moose-viewing spots. We turned north on the Trail Ridge Road and saw several cars pulled over on the side of the road. A very good sign that some animal has been sighted. Ann pulled over and shouted, “Look!” Coming out of the woods on the right were a cow and calf, and in an instant they were crossing the road. I jumped out of the car and managed to get some shots of the two crossing. You can see how spindly their legs are, apparently good for wading in streams and rivers where they feed. The pair headed into a meadow, pausing occasionally to munch on grass. Both ended up at the base of a forest eating and providing delight for the “moosejam” of cars and people that had pulled over to stop and watch. At one point the baby sat down in the meadow, maybe too exhausted to keep eating. The mother continued to feed and eventually the two wandered away, into the trees.
Happy with our sighting, we continued up the road to head home. After a few minutes we see another group of cars, some barely pulled off to the side of the road, and people running to a small clearing. We stop and join them, and through the trees we see a young bull moose, antlers not fully developed, eating his way through the meadow. He approaches a river, dips in and comes up with a big mouthful of greens; we see water draining from his mouth. The crowd is enthralled. Upon looking at the photos later, we decide that this moose and the other moose are very handsome moose indeed. The bull walks in to the water, crosses the river and wanders off into the trees. After much of the crowd leaves, some people spot another cow and calf in the distance. We wonder if they are the same as the two we saw previously. But the mother is light brown in color, different than the first one we saw. That brings our total to five moose for the day.
What more could we possibly see, we said as we headed back on the Trail Ridge Road to the cabin. Rain had been falling off and on as we were moose-watching, but now it was steady as we climbed in altitude. The road tops off at 12,183 feet and just about there we notice that the rain is now snow. In August! So we pull over at the Lava Cliffs viewpoint; I brave the cold and snow to try and mostly unsuccessfully take pictures of it. Well, as soon as we began to descend, we were back to rain and our adventures were (almost) done for the day. The last amazing thing were the three handsome elk who grazed along the road just 50 feet from our cabin as the sun went down.