Rocky Mountain Wildflowers – The climb through the subalpine forests of Mt. Evans
As promised, this post is going to be photos of early August (with a few of July’s) abundant alpine and sub-alpine flowers from our jaunt to Mt. Evans! I will try to remember where we were at the time each was taken and thereby separate them into subalpine and alpine groups. As is a known fact, the gentler the environment anywhere in the world, the greater the diversity of both plants and animals. Hence, there are a lot more subalpine wildflower varieties than alpine wildflowers. Therefore, I am splitting the subalpines into two posts. On the whole, alpine flowers are much shorter, more compact plants, helping to reduce moisture loss from poorer rocky soils and constant winds. Now, I am going to admit here and now, I am absolutely no wildflower expert, in any way, shape, or form. I have tried to identify these flowers through a Rocky Mountain wildflower guide book, but there are some I could not find, and I could easily have some of these wrong. If any of you dear readers/peruse-ers know different, please let me know! I guarantee I will not be offended!
Mt. Evans, Colorado
So here is a little background about where Mt. Evans is situated…
From Denver, you climb 9,000’ in elevation, passing through 5 different climate, or life, zones to reach the summit of Mt. Evans. Upon entering the Mt. Evans Recreation Area, you pass through two National Forests – Arapaho and Pike. To get there, head west on I-70 from Denver. The turnoff for Mt. Evans begins by exiting at Idaho Springs and heading south on Hwy. 103. After climbing for 13 miles, you will reach Echo Lake (elevation 10,600’).
Just past the lake, take the right turn onto the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, Colorado Hwy. 5. (The small Echo Lake campground is at the junction of 103 and 5. If you want to stay there, you will need to make online reservations, and always aim for weekdays- more sites available, and less people at the summit! Nice campground, usually very quiet, pit toilets, no showers/water, no electricity.)
Beginning the Mt. Evans climb
Turning onto Hwy. 5, you enter the Mt. Evans Recreation Area, where you begin the true climb. Paying your entry fee at the kiosk, the road begins to snake its way up through the forest. Opening in 1931, the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, Colorado Hwy. 5, is the 2-lane paved road to the top of Mt. Evans – the highest paved road in all of North America (which includes Canada, Alaska, and Mexico). You will quickly wonder how this drive could be done in a Model-A. Those people were definitely intrepid. Known to make many people’s hair stand on end (definitely use low gear coming down), there are no guardrails, no shoulders, steep switchbacks, many abrupt drop-offs to valley floors far, far below, and the condition of outside edges of the roadway do give one a little cause for concern. HOWEVER, if one can steel themselves against these issues (and the occasional narrow hair-raising gravel pull-offs, if you are the passenger on the downhill side), the wildlife, wildflowers, and scenery rewards are superb and can be amazing.
Arapaho National Forest and Pike National Forest
Bristlecone Pines – One of the oldest living organisms on earth
At 11,540’, you will reach Mt. Goliath Natural Area and the Dos Chappell Nature Center, with its 160 acres of 1,700 year old bristlecone pines, as well as a garden of beautiful subalpine wildflowers. For those who are curious, treeline stops where the average temperature is approximately 50°. In our area of the Rockies, “subalpine” is between 10,000 and 11,500 feet in elevation. The alpine zone is the treeless area above 11,500’.
Ok, just a few more subalpine wildflower shots taken near this Mt. Goliath area, and I will quit for the day. Hopefully I was able to capture some of the beauty of this unique wilderness area!
Have a great day!