July 31, 2013
Ranger Jean Muenchrath dramatising a coyote running after a lamb. The lamb escaped. (click to enlarge.)
Wednesday, July 31
Playing the part of a bear was the last thing on my mind as I went to the Tuesday evening program at the nearby Moraine Park campground. Jean Muenchrath, the artist coordinator and ranger was giving the talk, “Speaking from the Heart- Inspirational Ranger Stories”. It sounded interesting and it was a good chance to see her. I wandered in as she was looking for a volunteer to help out. I was to put on a bear suit and play the part of a Rocky Mountain black bear. The suit would just be draped over my shoulders and a bear head hat would complete the outfit. At the right cue I was to walk slowly down the center aisle and follow her script. The story was about another artist-in-residence, a wildlife photographer who got a very close encounter with the one animal he hadn’t photographed- a black bear. Apparently the bear got to about 30 feet of the photographer, who then began shooting pictures. Bored, the bear wandered off as the photographer said he was worried more about whether the photos would come out well than his own safety.
Earlier Tuesday I drove up the Old Fall River Road, which is a one-way uphill-only unpaved single-lane road that ends at the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796 feet in altitude. It is the companion road to the Trail Ridge Road, which the park says is the highest paved road in the world, topping out at 12,183 feet. On the Old Fall River Road, it’s slow going up the 11 miles. Big ruts, a narrow passage and no guard rail off the side makes drivers cautious. Some people had pulled off into turnouts, but I was with 3 other cars that were determined to make it up without stopping. It took over an hour to make it to the visitor center, which was jammed with people. For my decent I took the Trail Ridge Road, stopping at some viewpoints. There is lots of tundra at this altitude and small wildflowers are blooming during the short growing season. Since this is the high point along a ridge, the wind was strong and views spectacular.
When the clouds clear out, the sky here is amazing. Even with a few clouds it’s still pretty dramatic. Monday night/Tuesday morning I was rained on briefly, then kept shooting as wild cloud formations passed overhead.
The Milky Way peeks through clouds at Sprague Lake. (click to enlarge.)