Above the clouds

July 30, 2016

Saturday

Thursday night (or rather 1:00 a.m. Friday morning) was completely overcast at the cabin. Driving up to the Tundra Communities trail I wasn’t sure if I’d see any sky. I was hoping at 12,000 feet in altitude at the trail I would maybe be above the clouds, which looked very low from the 8,000 feet level of the cabin. On Trail Ridge Road it seemed like a drive through heavy fog. This must be the cloud layer, I thought. Approaching the Rock Cut turnout where the Tundra trail starts, all of a sudden I saw stars. Most of the sky was clear! I was amazed. I was also cold, the temperature dropping to around 42 degrees from the mild 62 at the cabin. I put on several layers and headed out the short trail along the tundra. This area is above the tree line so plants are low to the ground and the main landscape features are huge rocks and the surrounding mountains.

I had planned to be there for the 2:05 a.m. moonrise and found the spots I had scouted out earlier in the daylight. An orange moon started to peak out between distant thin clouds in the east and lit up clouds that were below the ridge I sat on. It was a sight to be above a cloud layer that surrounded the lower elevations. The combination of the moonrise, wispy clouds above, the bright stars, a cloud layer below and the dramatic mountains made for an unforgettable scene.

Many daytime activities for the Night Sky Festival happen at the nearby Moraine Park Discovery Center. I met up with “Dark Sky” Ranger Cynthia Langguth who was helping children make sun clocks, simple sundials to see how to tell time by the sun. A group of amateur astronomers from the area set up solar telescopes to view the sun.

Moonrise above the clouds.

Moonrise above the clouds. (Click to enlarge photos)

Amazing rock formations on the tundra. If you look closely, above and to the left of the center of the image is the Andromeda Galaxy.

Amazing rock formations on the tundra. If you look closely, above and to the left of the center of the image is the Andromeda Galaxy.

Ranger Cynthia Langguth helps a junior ranger with the sun clock.

Ranger Cynthia Langguth helps a junior ranger with the sun clock.

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