(Photos by Chuck & Nancy Bell)
In mid-July we drove west of Denver to Idaho Springs and then up the highest paved road in the United States to the top of Mount Evans. Our quest was Mountain Goats, and we hoped to find them close enough to photograph. We certainly did, “in spades!” While we were sensitive to the need to keep our distance from the goats (Nancy started out with her 400mm lens), the goats had no such concern for us. As Nancy sat on a hillside, they surrounded her and stared at her curiously. She had to retreat, not out of fear of the goats, but to get another lens for closer photography.
We enjoyed beautiful weather both on our first afternoon and the next day, beginning before dawn so we could capture images of the goats in the low morning light.
As we were preoccupied photographing the goats, we were surprised by a small herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep that came up the slope.
The sheep were not always out on outcrops with a hundred mile panorama behind them. A few of them came up to the outhouse to lick the minerals out of the concrete threshold.
The low carpet of alpine flowers up at 14,000 feet (4300 meters) was also beautiful. It was hard to walk across a hillside and avoid them.
And goats and sheep were not the only critters at the top of this high mountain. A couple of little Pika scurried in and out of the skree. These cute little balls of fur cannot bear warm temperatures, so they hide during the heat of the day. They are also feeling the impact of global warming, and their days may be numbered in most of the Rocky Mountains.
Marmots were also very much in evidence. They seemed to have more black on them than their kinfolk at lower altitudes in the foothills.
Sated with far too many photographs – Nancy shot nearly 100 gigabytes – we headed down the mountain for home. But we did stop to enjoy a walk through the farthest north large stand of Bristlecone Pine, ancient trees that evoke images of hobbits and other mythological creatures.