Sunday, June 8, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park

This is what you see not long after you enter Rocky Mountain National Park. This area is called Horseshoe park. My first destination is to see how far up I can get on Trail Ridge Rd. It is the highest through road in the lower 48 states, reaching a peak of 12,183 feet. The road is closed in the winter months and won't open until May 23rd. My visit was on May 20th. Just missed the opening by a few days, rats. But lets see how far up I can get.
The termperature in Aurora was in the 80s, in the park it was in the 60s, but as I progress up Trail Ridge Road and gain in elevation, I get into snow....
I pause to take photos of the snow in the pine trees.
I have gotten up above tree line here and the snow is pretty deep. Thought I'd take a photo with the car for scale...
I got as far up as Forest Canyon Overlook which is 11,716 high. This is the view down to the trees.
For me, this is just beautiful territory. There's just something about mountains.......

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The trip to Estes Park

After the meeting was concluded I headed to the mountains, as I could hear them calling. My Journey took me north to Loveland and then west, my destination, Estes Park. I unfortunately took the first exit for Loveland (needed to take the second exit and take 34 into Estes Park)and so instead of a straight shot from Loveland to Estes Park, I met a series of Ts in which I had to make a decision, left or right. When the direction was either east or west the decision was fairly obvious, head towards the mountains. When the direction was north or south I was less certain, but figuring I was too far south, I chose North, and it somehow worked out. I would be hopelessly lost if I tried to find my way back that way. I was so happy when I finally saw the Estes Park mileage sign. Only 20 miles!
The twenty miles up to Estes Park winds through a canyon with a stream to one side.
This is one of the many photos I took on my way up to Estes Park. It seemed that around every turn, and there are lots of turns, there was some view that begged to be photographed. It made for a long, slow 20 miles. But as I was alone I didn't have to hear a lot of sighing from the other side of the car.Don and I have stayed at the Discovery Lodge (formerly The Hobby Horse) when we have visited Estes Park in the past and I was hoping they would have a vacancy in one of the rooms that has a balcony - there are not many of these (only about 8). And yes! there's one available -only $50.00!
The view from my balcony. Out there, beyond that sign and the town of Estes Park is Rocky Mountain National Park. And I'm going there tomorrow morning! See ya in the next post....

Monday, June 2, 2008

My trip to Colorado

For my latest proposal, I flew out of Indianapolis Airport (more of a drive but much cheaper than Louisville,Ky) to Denver, Co. My final destination was Aurora Co. a suburb east of Denver.
Here is a shot I took during the flight. This is the Aurora Municipal Building where I am to give my proposal. There are three other finalists besides myself. They were Arlene Slavin, Evelyn Rosenberg and Dowe Blumberg who is a fellow Kentuckian, located in Northern Kentucky. Just outside the Municipal Building is a sculptor installing his work. No idea who he is, need to find out so I can post his name
The competition was for a sculpture to go on the grounds of the Star K Ranch which,while in former days was a ranch, is now basically parkland with walking trails. We were supplied a list of native animals and in researching the various species for a likely candidate for creating into a sculpture, I discovered the ecological importance of the black-tailed Prairie Dog.
Prairie Dogs are considered keystone species because they alter the shortgrass plains by keeping grass and weeds clipped in their towns. This serves to increase the nitrogen uptake and makes the vegetation higher in protein. Numerous animals utilize the prairie dog towns those who graze on the vegetation, those to eat prairie dogs and smaller animals who use abandoned borrows for shelter.

This is my proposal, entitled the Prairie Portal. It is an archway of Indiana Limestone with various species carved upon the faces of the stone. The Black-tailed Prairie Dog is on the keystone, of course. On top of the arch stands a coyote, looking down. It is not apparent why a coyote would be standing on top of an arch until you step inside....
This is a cutaway showing the inside view of the arch. A recreation of a Prairie Dog burrow. Theburrow leads further down which symbolizes another important aspect of the Prairie Dog - their towns are known as macropores and promote the rapid transit of water through the soil. The process is known as short circuit bypass flow and allows water to move quickly past the root zone into the water table. My sources for research are Munn,L.C.,1993 The effects of Prairie Dogs on the physical and chemical properties of soils ; Outwater,A Water, a Natural History ( a really interesting book) and Daniel W. Uresks 2007 Prairie Dogs, An ecological review and current biopolitics. The black-tailed prairie dog has been removed from 98% of it's original range. The western states have been having a drought for years. Makes me wonder how much of a role removing prairie dogs has had on the environment.

The view from inside the portal. While I really enjoyed doing the research for this job (kind of fed the closet biologist in me) ultimately I did not get the job. Darn! It went to Douwe Blumberg who will be doing 12 horses in steel (the ranch also has riding trails). I hoped I could educate people about the importance of the black-tailed prairie dog - I didn't know any of this stuff until I started reading. At least I educated the committee , a little. Ah well can't win them all,but I did get to fly to Colorado, and while I'm here.... well, you'll see in the next post.