Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 4

Our last day in Estes Park.  I really didn’t want to leave.  There was so much to explore!

Dia said she wanted to sleep in.  So Scarlett and I headed out very early to go birding in Moraine Park where I had seen so many birds before.  It was a gorgeous morning.  And when I arrived at the trail head, there was birdsong everywhere.  Yay!

The trail I chose crossed a creek flowing through the meadow and headed for a rock outcropping with large pines and oaks.  I figured this would give me a bigger variety of species to look for with the range of habitat available.

My first bird sighting was a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I could hear him singing among some dead trees along the creek.  But it took me forever to spot him.  He was very camouflaged among the dead branches.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

Up ahead on the little bridge crossing the creek I saw several American Crows enjoying the morning sun.

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Soon I was at the treeline edge.  Lots of birds here.  There were many House Wrens busy flitting here and there so it was a challenge to get a decent pic.

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House Wren

While photographing the wrens, a pair of juvenile Williamson’s Sapsuckers came over to check me out.

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Juvenile Williamson’s Sapsucker

A White-Breasted Nuthatch was busy feeding above me.

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

I saw several Northern Flickers. For the most part they stayed a ways away.  I did manage to get a decent pic of one before it saw me and took off.

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Northern Flicker

Then I saw a quick peek of yellow.  At first I thought it might be a warbler, but when I finally got a good look at it, I realized it was a young male Western Tanager.  Always a pleasure to see!

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Western Tanager

A cute little bunny was feeding next to the trail.  I always think they are so adorable.

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All of a sudden Scarlett let out a low growl.  I saw where she was looking and realized there was a coyote in the meadow.  It decided it didn’t want anything to do with Scarlett, so it quickly headed off deeper into the meadow.  He was between me and the morning sun, so I didn’t get a great pic.  But I always love seeing coyotes.  For some reason, Scarlett always growls when she sees one.   That’s a good thing I guess!

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Coyote

There were several hummingbirds about.  I believe they were all Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds. In that same area where we saw the coyote, there was a patch of Bee Balm.  I love these flowers.  Such unusual blooms and hummingbirds love them.  I managed to catch one feeding but that low morning sun didn’t make for very good photos.  Sigh….

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird feeding on Bee Balm flowers

Further up the trail I saw a LBB (little brown bird).  That’s usually how I end up identifying sparrows when you can’t get a good enough look at them.   This one caught my attention because it had two wing feathers sticking out funny.  🙂

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I believe this is a Brewer’s Sparrow

I only got one butterfly photo the whole trip.  There were wildflowers everywhere but very few butterflies.

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Small Wood Nymph

There were squirrels everywhere.  This park has a healthy population of a large variety of squirrels and chipmunks.  I almost didn’t see this chipmunk as it blended very well with the rock it was sitting on.

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To my delight a Steller’s Jay landed nearby and the sun was behind me!  🙂  This one looks to be a young one starting to get more adult plumage.

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Steller’s Jay

Out in the meadow I saw a flock of Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding on the grass seeds.

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Brewer’s Blackbird

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Red-Winged Blackbird – female

 

I saw many American Robins while in the park, but I only managed to get one good photo of one.

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American Robin

As I was getting into my car to leave, I got one last photo of a Black-Billed Magpie.  I love these birds.  I’m so glad I was able to see so many of them and get some nice photos.

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Black-Billed Magpie

 

I was sad to leave the park.  I am definitely coming back again in the future!

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Mule Deer

Dia called me as I was heading back to town.   I asked her where she was.  Where else?!? Starbucks!   So I met her there and we enjoyed sitting by the river that runs through Estes Park.   Such a beautiful town.

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Dia at her happy place!

Before I end this trip, I thought I would share some of the fun and silly photos we took over the weekend.  🙂

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I made Scarlett get in the water.  She was not happy with me.  I think the loud waterfall nearby was scaring her.

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Scarlett didn’t know what to think of all the raging rivers and waterfalls.  Even though she loves water, this kind of water was scary!

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These marmots knew how to beg for treats

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This is definitely NOT my husband’s Jeep LOL!

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Dia photo bombing me

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Dia enjoying all her pleasures

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Kelly and her precious Scarlett

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What I do to get that “perfect” photo LOL!

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I just couldn’t get my new tube scarf thing to work 😐

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Enjoying gourmet ice cream on main street

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And of course, Scarlett wanted ice cream too! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 3

On Day 3 Dia and I were up early again – ready to hit the trails for more beautiful sights.  This time Dia got a GIANT coffee from Starbucks so it would last her all morning long.  🙂

On our drive back from hiking to Emerald Lake the day before, we saw a beautiful waterfall in the distance.  I told Dia I wanted to hike to that waterfall.  So here we were heading to Alberta Falls.

The trail head is in the same area as Bear Lake.  So before heading to the falls, we took some very early morning shots at the lake.  Such a tranquil morning.  There was no breeze so the water was like a mirror.

The trail was in deep shade so early in the morning.  It was a challenge to get a photo of us together (lots of work editing those shadows).

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Dia and Kelly at Bear Lake

As we walked around the lake, the view started to open up and the shadowy areas began to lighten.

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Bear Lake

We came to one area that had giant boulders near the lake.  Dia climbed out on one to get a beautiful view.  A wonderful place for her to enjoy that coffee.

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I climbed an even higher rock and got a very wide angle view.  Gorgeous!

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Perfect reflection.

Soon we were on the trail to the falls.  The trail started off beautifully walking through an Aspen grove.

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Soon the trail started climbing and we could hear rushing water in the distance.  I couldn’t wait to see this waterfall.  I had seen photos online and knew it was going to be beautiful.  We came to Glacier Creek below the falls.  So much water! Not sure why it’s called a creek when it’s a raging river!

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Glacier Creek

After a little while of hiking, we could hear the falls in the distance.  The views were opening up and giving us more light on the trail.  Then finally we made it to the falls.  Stunning! The roar of the water was almost deafening.  A wondrous sound to my ears.

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Stunning waterfall.  I love how the sun’s rays were illuminated by the mist from the falls.

We stayed here awhile and took some photos of each other and enjoyed watching the waterfall.

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Doesn’t Dia look so adorable here 🙂 You can see why I love my friend.  She makes me smile all day long.

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Hmmmm….I see rabbit ears! LOL!

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Scarlett wanted her picture taken at the falls too!  😉

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My beautiful Scarlett enjoying the hike.

Then we decided to walk along the river above the falls instead of staying on the trail.  For some reason the trail leaves the water and we weren’t ready to do that.  I’m so glad we decided to walk upriver because the scenery was so beautiful.

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Glacier Creek

We spent quite a bit of time in one area.  The sound of rushing water and the privacy of the trees and being off trail.  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  We were truly enjoying God’s creations.

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The water was moving so fast!

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I tried to capture the feel of the water’s power.

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A raging river.

We were still feeling good so decided to continue up the trail and see if we could make it to Mill Lake.  We climbed higher and higher and the views opened way up.  Then we came to a bend in the trail and started walking into another canyon.  The views were so expansive.  Such a wonderful hike.

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I love this picture Dia took of me and Scarlett hiking.   🙂

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We came to a sign that said Mill Lake was 1.5 miles ahead.  By this time we had hiked 6 miles.  We were debating on if we thought we would make it to the lake and still have enough energy to get all the way back to the car.  We were somewhat undecided for a while.  Then Dia said “Let’s go!  We can do it! And someone said there’s a baby elk to see!”.  Hmmmmmm…… I was just about to agree when a big BOOM! sounded and I looked up to see this giant thundercloud above us.  WOW!

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Giant thunderhead.  Beautiful but scary when you’re out hiking.

That did it!  I did not want to be caught at 12,000 feet in a lightening storm.  No way! So we turned around and headed back to the car.

On one hand I’m sorry we didn’t go to the lake.  It never did rain.  I’m sure the views were fabulous.  But on the other hand, I know if we had gone we would have been so sore and tired by the time we got off the trail.  That would have extended our hike another 3 miles.  As it was, we ended up hiking another 10 miles this day.  We did 30 miles in 3 days!

I treated Dia to a wonderful dinner with wine for her birthday.  We even had enough energy left to do a little shopping in Estes Park.   It was a great way to end the day.

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When we got back to our hotel, we had one more treat for the day.  A mother Mallard was trying to take her babies to the little pond at our hotel.  When they saw me and Scarlett not too far away, they flattened themselves trying to hide from us.

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Mallards

We all stayed still and soon the mother felt it was safe enough to go to the pond.  🙂

 

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Safely at the pond 🙂

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 2

It’s been a little while since I posted Day 1.  Sorry about that!  Life has been busy!

Day 2 was my favorite of the 3 days at the park.  Dia and I hiked most of the morning.  We took a hike that passed by 3 lakes.  Just stunning!  I think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on.  Seriously!  You’ll see why when you see my photos.  And trust me….they don’t do it justice!

We started out very early in the morning to miss the crowds and to hopefully get some pretty photos of the lakes.    And our planning paid off.

The hike started off in deep forest with a slight incline.  About a 1/2 mile into the hike we came upon Nymph Lake.  A beautiful little lake full of lily pads.

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Nymph Lake

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Lots of lily pads

Fortunately there was a couple there willing to take our photo.  Even though I had my tripod, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone take your pic.  🙂

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Scarlett, Kelly and Dia

Scarlett was wearing her new backpack.  We had her carry all of our water and snacks!  🙂  Being a working dog, she loved it.  Plus, it slowed her down some LOL!

After Nymph Lake we started climbing higher.   Soon we were climbing above the forest and the view started opening up.  So beautiful!

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Panorama of the trail.  You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.

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Stunning views

We came across the stream that fed into Nymph Lake.  It was flowing nicely.  I love hiking next to water.  Just that sound of the babbling brook can be so peaceful and rejuvenating.  Seeing as New Mexico really doesn’t have a lot of water, being in RMNP was so wonderful because it’s full of water.

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Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!

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Sweet little waterfall in the stream

As we climbed higher on the trail, it just kept getting even more beautiful.  I was never bored.  Every step was a joy.

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We started leveling out and the waters became calmer.  I figured we were getting closer to another of the 3 lakes.

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At this point Dia joked that we were hiking to that snow in the background.  Little did we know she was pretty close to the truth.

Soon we rounded a bend and there was Dream Lake.  I absolutely loved this lake.  It was my favorite lake of the entire trip.

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Dia and Kelly at Dream Lake

OMG! This lake was just breathtaking!  I could have sat here for hours.  The water was so clear we could see trout swimming along the shore.  Just beautiful!  The picture below is my most favorite scenic photo from the trip.

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Dream Lake – Just stunning!!!

Too soon we had to leave Dream Lake and keep hiking up the trail.  Dream Lake was long and skinny so there was lots of time to enjoy it as we headed up the trail.  Other parts of the lake were unique and I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of photos.

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Such a beautiful hike

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Dia loved this cool tree

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Clear water and perfect reflections

Soon we were climbing yet again.  Thankfully the trail was never too steep.  So it was an enjoyable hike the entire time.  And now that I think about it, Dia never once cried for a Starbucks.  That’s how great this hike was!!!

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I loved that from this point forward we stayed next to the stream.  At times we crisscrossed over it.  And at several points there were small waterfalls.  Gorgeous!

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What a great trail.

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Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.

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I had to scramble down between big boulders for this shot.  What photographers do for a photo!

Finally we were getting close to our final lake and the turnaround point for the hike.  We had made it to the snow that Dia had earlier joked about.  Granted, it was just here and there but we were at around 10,000 feet so it was cool enough for some of it to stay even in the middle of summer.  And what was on that snow????  A lifer bird for me!!!!  A Pine Grosbeak.  A beautiful male so pretty in his pink plumage.  This is the southernmost area you can see these birds in the US.  I was so excited!  I didn’t have my birding lens on, but thankfully he was close enough I got a decent pic with my regular lens.

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Pine Grosbeak

Right after seeing the grosbeak, we came upon Emerald Lake.  A stunning high alpine glacial lake.

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Emerald Lake

My favorite photo of the trip of Dia and I together.   Such a stunning backdrop.  Thankfully I had lugged my tripod along on this trip so I could get such great shots and pictures of us together.

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Kelly and Dia at Emerald Lake

We stayed here awhile just soaking up the views.  You could hear the distant waterfall.  So peaceful.  A lovely hike on a lovely day.

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Dia enjoying the view of the lake and distant waterfall.  Scarlett enjoying all the squirrels running around.  She let us know where every one was…

Too soon we had to head back down the trail.  Thankfully it was downhill the whole way back.  It was interesting to note how different the lakes looked when the sun was directly overhead.  I was so happy we got up at 5:30 to hit the trail early.  It paid off with gorgeous photos and no people.

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Nymph Lake later in the day

We were tired at the end of the hike.  We had a snack in parking lot and talked about what we wanted to do next.  Since we had just hiked 6+ miles we decided we wanted to drive around and see more of the park.

We ended up stopping at another lake – Sprague Lake.

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Sprague Lake

It wasn’t nearly as scenic as the other lakes, but was still nice to walk around.  Plus, there were lots of birds in the area.  Always a plus!

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Lovely wildflowers

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Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mountain Chickadee

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mallard

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Cutie pie 🙂

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Mountain Bluebird

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Bank Swallow

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Steller’s Jay

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Dia couldn’t believe I got this dragonfly in flight 🙂

My favorite bird on this walk was a Song Sparrow.  He was kicked back, relaxing, and singing his little heart out.  So Sweet!

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Song Sparrow

As if we hadn’t hiked enough that day, I talked Dia into hiking from Sprague Lake down to Glacier Basin.  It was a pretty little downhill hike.  But I tell you, we were wiped out at the end.  Thankfully they have shuttle buses running that were able to take us back to our car.  While waiting for the bus, I saw a wasp carrying a large caterpillar.  He was moving fast so it was tough getting a pic.  But I was fascinated by this.  That caterpillar is going to be food for its young.

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Common Thread Waisted Wasp

After getting back to our car, we decided to drive around a little more.  We drove through the giant meadow of Moraine Park.  A beautiful area full of wildflowers and big vistas. And lots of birds!  I made plans with Dia to let me get up early the day we were to drive home so I could go birding in this area before we left.  I knew it was going to be great!

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Moraine Park

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Lovely wildflowers

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There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!

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Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂

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Bee Balm

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Brewer’s Blackbird male and female

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – I love this pic!

There was one river that we crossed every day.  It had beautiful rushing water.  I really wanted a picture of it.  We tried walking up next to it, but it didn’t do it justice.  Though we did see this sign…

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So I decided to walk back out onto the bridge for a pic.  Much better! So beautiful!

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Gorgeous!

When we got back to the hotel, we were pooped!  While I was walking Scarlett for her potty break, Dia sent me this text.  LOL! We had hiked 10 miles this day.  Plus 10 miles the day before.

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As we were getting ready for bed (at 7:30 pm HAHAHAHAHAHA!), I decided to take Scarlett out one more time to go potty.  When I looked out, I saw Bull Elk right outside our room!  WOW!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and take a dozen pics following them as they grazed.  What a great way to end a day!

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Bull Elk

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

Recently my friend Dia and I took a long weekend to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes, Colorado.  We have talked about going there for about 5 years.  Finally our schedules came together and we were able to go.  I have long wanted to visit this national park.  The photos I’ve seen from there are just stunning.  Water everywhere!  (Unlike New Mexico LOL!)

It took us about 10 hours to drive there, due to the many stops made at Starbucks 🙂

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Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

We arrived at the entrance sign to Estes Park late in the day.  Of course, we had to take a pic there of us in our matches dresses.  🙂

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We made it!  Don’t you love our matching dresses!?  🙂

There were several Black-Billed Magpies around and one was happy to pose for me on the sign.  I guess they are no longer a nemesis of mine LOL!

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Black-Billed Magpie

We knew it was going to be crowded every day there as we were visiting during peak season.  So we made plans to go to bed early and get up very early to beat the crowds.  It proved to be a great plan as we found when we were leaving the trails that’s when most people were heading out.  Doing this allowed us to visit the spectacular park with minimal intrusion of other people.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a photographer than to have a beautiful setting for a photo crowded out with masses of tourists.

Dia has been to RMNP a few times in the past.  I had never been before.  So I followed her lead on what to see first.  Her favorite drive is up Old Fall River Road.  A one-way dirt road that climbs to the highest point in the park.  When I looked at the map, I realized a couple of the waterfalls I wanted to photograph were on this route.  Yay!

Our first stop was at the Allivial Fan Falls.  This waterfall was created by a major flood due to a failure in a dam upstream.

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Alluvial Fan Falls

Heading up Old Fall River Road, we saw so many beautiful sights.  Everywhere you looked, it was a Kodak moment. Dia drove my Jeep so I could take photos.  She loves driving my Jeep – especially off road.  🙂 At one point, Dia almost ran over a marmot who had no fear of the Jeep.  Evidently he’s used to tourists feeding him as they pass.

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Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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Marmot

I especially loved this little waterfall at the beginning of the drive.  There was no formal trail, just enough of a path to view the water closer.

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Further up the road we came to Chasm Falls – another waterfall on my “must see” list.  What a beautiful waterfall coming through the narrow canyon.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!

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Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

We eventually rose above the tree line.  Beautiful!  We came across patches of wildflowers.  Everything was so green – way different from New Mexico.

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Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.

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Marmot

The views at the visitor center overlooking a glacial cirque were truly breathtaking.   The grasses were so lush and the snow provided a beautiful contrast to the photos.

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Glacial Cirque

There is a hike from the visitor’s center that takes you to a peak.  It was tough going considering there was very little oxygen at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The views from the top were amazing.  I love exploring!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.

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Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

After a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we decided to take the drive to Grand Lake.  We wound our way back down the other side of the mountain.  At the bottom we took a short hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I saw several sparrows in this area but only managed to get one pic of a Savannah Sparrow.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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This was the only butterfly I saw that day. Terrible photo as I didn’t have my birding lens.  I believe this is a Mormon Fritillary

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Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.

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Lake Irene

As we left Irene Lake we saw a bunch of folks looking into the dense brush along the road.  We figured they’d spotted something good.  And indeed they had – a moose!  Actually two moose – a mother and calf.  They were a ways away and in dense brush, but I managed to get a couple photos.  I’d never seen a moose before!

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Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.

 

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Osprey

Grand Lake was very touristy and actually not in RMNP.  So we turned around and decided to drive the Ridge Road back to Estes Park.  Once again we were in store for more stunning views way above the tree line.

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Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!

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Expansive views

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I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.

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Dia and Kelly

At one point we saw a nice herd of elk.  They were grazing in the high meadows well above 11,000 feet.  They have a very picturesque home.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….

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Glacier at 12,000 feet.  I love the blue pool of water in the lower right.

While taking photos, Dia noticed a little brown bird hopping just below us.  I quickly got my birding lens and was happy to see it was a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch.

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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

Further down the road we stopped at another pullout.  There were lots of folks feeding the birds and squirrels here.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take close up photos of the rather tame squirrels.

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What a cutie!

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excuse me…you have something in the corner of your mouth…

But I was thrilled to see a Clark’s Nutcracker here looking for handouts.  I’ve only seen this bird once before several years ago in Santa Fe.  I’ve heard them a few times since then, but never saw them for a photo.  So it was great to see this bird close up!

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The views from this location were beautiful.  You could see the entire valley below.  You can even see the Alluvial Fan Falls area we had visited in the morning.

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It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!

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These flowers were extremely tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 1

For our 20th anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a long road trip and visit some places we’ve never seen.  Our trip would last 8 days, travel through 5 states, drive more than 2,400 miles, visit 5 different national parks, pass by several more and I would take 3,499 photos.  Whew!!!

Day 1 we left Albuquerque, NM, and headed north. The weather was perfect for a road trip.

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You gotta love those southwest skies!

We briefly passed through the southwest corner of Colorado.  We drove through Cortez, CO.  My grandparents used to live here, and we would visit them most Christmases.  The scenery here really looks like backdrops on those old western movies.

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Chimney Rock

We passed our first national park called Mesa Verde just outside Cortez, CO.  But no time to stop! A couple years ago Valerie and I took a photo road trip, and we visited Mesa Verde.  It’s a fabulous place to see.  Here’s a photo I took on that trip.

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Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park

We then turned northwest and headed into Utah. In the southwest, we have the funnest roadside stops.  🙂

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Roadside stop just before Moab.  It wasn’t until I got home and reviewed the photos that I realized there was a 4-wheeler on the top of the rock above the tourist trap.  🙂

We stopped in Moab for a bite to eat.  This was a great small town and very outdoors oriented.  After a great BBQ dinner, we drove to Arches National Park.  I have always wanted to visit here.

We knew we were getting close to the park when we saw this arch off the side of the highway.

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Arch just before Moab, UT

We arrived at the park very late in the day.  The visitors center was going to close soon and the sun was going to set in just a couple hours.  I collect the National Parks Passport Stickers.  I was torn between stopping for a sticker and getting to the sights before sundown.  Tim asked me, “Do you want a sticker or shutter time?”  Of course I opted for shutter time!

 

We only had a short time before sunset to see the park.  So we quickly drove to the furthest end of the park.  The views from the road were amazing.

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Beautiful view at Arches National Park

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You can see this arch from the road

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Unique rock formations

From there we had to hike about a mile to the arches.  There were four arches on this trail but split down two different trail ends.  The trail itself was very picturesque.

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View from the hiking trail to an arch

We finally made it to the arches.  I couldn’t believe how delicate this arch looked.  The sun was setting behind it, which made for challenging photography.

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Landscape Arch

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In front of Landscape Arch with Partition Arch on the far right

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My handsome husband

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Uniquely shaped juniper tree

We then heard from other visitors that we needed to hurry and get to the Delicate Arch for sunset photos.  So we quickly headed back down the trail.  We  briefly stopped at the arch near the road for  a quick photo.  Then back in the car to see Delicate Arch.

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Skyline Arch

When we got to the trail head for Delicate Arch, we realized it was a 2-mile hike to the arch.  We knew we didn’t have enough time to make it to the arch before sunset.  So we hiked an alternate trail that gives you a distant view of the arch.   We made it just before sunset!  The trail was steep but well worth it for the view.

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Delicate Arch – we laughed because if you look closely you can see people lined up along the ridge behind the arch.  We thought it looked like an old western movie where the indians are along the ridge looking down at the cowboys in the valley below.  Ready to attack the unsuspecting cowboys.  🙂

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I love this photo of Tim and I!

Daylight was quickly disappearing.  We had just enough light to photograph Balanced Rock.  The lighting was glorious for photography.

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Just stunning!

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Tim and Kelly – still in love after 20 years of marriage!

Tim took the camera to get some photos of me.  This is what he took.  I quickly realized we needed to talk about “mergers” in photos.  LOL!!!

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Tim purposely framed the rock above me.  LOL!

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This is me taking a panorama photo with my phone. 

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This is the photo I was taking. 

I only had enough daylight after this stop to get a couple more photos before dark.

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Beautiful sunset on the red rocks

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Low light hiking down the last trail made for a beautiful landscape photo.

After touring the park, we got back in the car to drive to Provo, UT.  We went through a lot of road construction which really slowed us down.  We didn’t get to the hotel until 11 pm.  We were pooped!

Stay tuned for Day 2!

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Denver: Part 3 Garden of the Gods

I can’t believe I’m just now finishing up my trip to Denver (which occurred the first week of October).  Between lots of traveling the month of October and then catching up on work and then more recently a three-day stay in the hospital, I’m really behind on my blog. But thankfully I’m finally on the mend and clear headed enough to write some more.

Our last day on our trip we stayed the night in Colorado Springs. After all that hiking and climbing of stairs at Seven Falls, we were ready to head home. But before leaving we wanted to see the Garden of the Gods. The day dawned cloudy and gloomy so we weren’t optimistic about great photos.

Even though it was dreary, the rock formations were still beautiful.

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As soon as we started exploring the trails, I realized there were birds everywhere. I was in birding withdrawals by now, so I immediately put on my birding lens. Because of the low light conditions, I wasn’t optimistic about great photos. But it was still wonderful to see so many birds.

Mostly seen were robins. They were everywhere. But I was surprised to see a Blue Jay. He was extremely shy though and only managed one poor photo.

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Blue Jay on the left and American Robins with him

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American Robin

The Townsend Solitaires were singing loudly.

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Townsend Solitaire

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Townsend Solitaire

There was a Northern Flicker poking around the cracks in the rocks looking for breakfast.

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Northern Flicker

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Northern Flicker

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Northern Flicker

I saw a few other birds among the bushes.

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Scrub Jay

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Spotted Towhee

But the highlight of the bird sightings was coming up. I kept noticing this flock of pigeons that would fly off then land only to fly again.

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Rock Pidgeons

I figured there must be a raptor of some kind hanging out. Sure enough, I walked around a rock formation and saw him.  I was very excited because it was a Merlin. A new bird for me!

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Merlin hanging out up high

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Merlin

Soon after I spotted him he was off chasing those pigeons.
I also saw a white-throated swift – another new bird for me. I got one terrible photo for my bird book but other than that they were flying too fast and high to get a decent shot.

After birding for awhile, I switched lenses to photograph some of the beautiful scenery.

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After exploring for awhile we decided to drive to another part of the park called Balanced Rock.  Its a neat formation.

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Valerie decided to climb up to it for a closer look. She was being very silly.  Thinking she could play around with this huge Balanced Rock.

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Sadly….I had to finish our trip home alone. She just had to go up there and push on that rock. She couldn’t leave well enough alone. I will miss my crazy friend…..

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Valerie trapped under the Balanced Rock

Just kidding! She’s alive and well!

We had a wonderful long weekend. But it was time to head home. We needed to rest up for our next adventure!

Trip to Denver: Part 2 Seven Falls

A while back I wrote Part 1 of my trip to Denver. I traveled so much in October that it’s taking me while to go through my photos and write my blog.

After visiting Bishop’s Castle we drove on to Denver to attend a Scrapbook Expo. Valerie and I had a lot of fun shopping, attending workshops and scrapbooking each evening.

After 2 days of the event we decided to drive up to Fort Collins to visit Valerie’s niece attending college there. The day was dreary and misting rain. On the way there we stopped briefly at the Fossil Creek Reservoir. I had hoped to do some early morning birding but the conditions were terrible.  It did make for a neat scenic photo.

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I walked a short paved path to reach the lake. In the trees I heard a Swanson’s Thrush. Sadly the conditions were so bad that I couldn’t see it in the thick foliage it was hiding in.  That’s too bad because it was a new bird for me.

Also along the path I saw a couple birds that were willing to be seen.

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When I reached the lake I saw a flock of cormorants feeding. If you look closely several of the birds have fish in their mouths.

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I also saw an Eared Grebe. A new bird for me! It’s a terrible photo but it counts!

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As you can see the light was extremely poor for photos. It started to rain instead of drizzle so I had to quickly get back to the car. It was so disappointing that I only got to bird here for 15 minutes.

After visiting Valerie’s niece over breakfast we hit the road to go to Colorado Springs. While driving there I checked the internet to see what we could do since we were going to arrive around 2:30 pm.

I found Seven Falls. Looking at the photos online it looked like a great place to visit.  There’s a staircase that follows the waterfalls that consists of 224 steps. 224! We said “let’s do it!”

When we got to Colorado Springs we needed gas. Now we have noticed there’s one main gas station brand you see in Colorado. We couldn’t help but take a photo……

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After a quickie fill up at the gas station (hee hee) we arrived at the falls. You walk up a paved path that follows a stream to get to the falls. It’s very scenic.

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When we arrived at the base of the falls we saw a tunnel leading to an elevator. I’m not sure how many floors we rode up but it takes you to the top of the mountain so you can see the entire length of the falls.

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If you look closely at those photos you can see the stairs along the falls. Yup! We are going to try to climb all those steps!

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So we rode the elevator down and headed to the stairs. The sound of the falls was loud but beautiful. We don’t have a lot of water in New Mexico.

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We made it half way. Very beautiful!

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Only 112 steps to go…

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Almost there….

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We made it! Just spectacular!

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We walked up the path a little ways and found a little bridge that crossed the creek. The view upstream was very pretty with the fall colors.

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It was getting late so we decided we better head back. I had hoped we would have had time to hike up to the Midnight Falls upstream but there just wasn’t enough daylight left for the hike. Oh well…maybe I will be back someday to see the rest of the sights.

I took a few more photos on the way back down. Trying out different settings for smoothing the water.

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We had made dinner reservations at the restaurant at the base of the falls. It’s a beautiful building. With the dying light I captured a few photos of the creek and restaurant.

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Dinner was absolutely delicious! I had prime rib that was seasoned and cooked to perfection. With potatoes and sautéed zucchini. I’m not sure how they seasoned the zucchini but it was amazing. I totally stuffed myself!

By now we were tired and full and happy. So we headed to our hotel to kick back.

Tomorrow we are visiting Garden of the Gods before heading home!