Rocky Mountain Wildflowers – Continuing the climb through the subalpine forests of Mt. Evans

Unknown subalpine Sunflower-type

Pretty way to start the day! (Unknown subalpine Sunflower-type)

Today’s post will not have as much text to wade through.  I will just let the beauty of the flowers speak for themselves!  As “They” say, a picture is worth 1,000 words!  Enjoy.

Spearleaf Stonecrop

Wildflowers come in every shade of yellow, and I loved their star shape petals. Spearleaf Stonecrop – can be found from the Plains to the Alpine.

 

This succulent, called a Ledge Stonecrop (King’s Crown), can be either a subalpine or an alpine flower if it has enough moisture.

Another “stonecrop”, and yet it looks nothing like the last flower! This one is a succulent, called a Ledge Stonecrop (King’s Crown), can be either a subalpine or an alpine flower if it has enough moisture.

Ledge Stonecrop (King’s Crown),

Another view of Ledge Stonecrop (King’s Crown), This Stonecrop is one of the few red flowers that I have seen in this area.

Ledge Stonecrop (King’s Crown),

Ledge Stonecrop (King’s Crown)

 

My first conscious contact with Fireweed was during my 2016 Alaska journey, and I fell in love with this delicate flower!  Now that I know what it is, I see it everywhere, as well as in earlier photographs.  Its common name, Fireweed, was given because it is one of the first plants to come up after fire has swept an area (it doesn’t tolerate being crowded by other plants).  Therefore, it was quite visible in my post-Yellowstone-forest-fire photos!  But now I also see it along many Colorado roadsides, as well as in other states.

Fireweed

The beautiful and ever-changing Fireweed.

Fireweed is a plant that seems to flower in reverse order, starting from the bottom up!  As the summer progresses, the opening blossoms work their way up the stalk.  When, one-by-one, the spent blossoms fall off, the stems from previous blossoms turn a rusty color, which adds a whole new color dimension to the plant in late summer and fall.

Fireweed, close-up

Fireweed, close-up.

Alaskans have a saying that summer has started when the blossoms lowest on the stem bloom.  And that summer’s end is in sight when the blossoms reach the top of the stalk.  We heard a great poem about this while we were in Alaska, but I did not write it down at the time, and now cannot seem to locate it online.  :>(

(Hmmm, :>)  good reason to have to go back up there???)

A stand of Fireweed

A stand of Fireweed.

Here are the last of the subalpine flowers in mixed groups.  Enjoy!

Mixed group of subalpine flowers

Mixed group of subalpine flowers

Mixed group of subalpine flowersMixed group of subalpine flowers

Mixed group of subalpine flowers

Monarchs of the Subalpine Forests and Meadows

Ok, that brings the subalpine wildflowers to a close, But there are a couple more photos I want to share with you, because this creature tends to stay down below the treeline in the subalpine areas most of the year, but in summer, will often venture higher to graze and rest in the upper meadows above treeline.   I’m talking about the Rocky Mountain Elk.  This creature, while a fairly common sight within Rocky Mountain National Park where they are protected, is usually harder to find in places like Mt. Evans.  (Though Mt. Evans has other delights all its own!)  During our 3-day stint on Mt. Evans, I only saw this herd only once, but they were so far away that I had to stop and look hard to verify they were actually there!  These photos should give you an idea of what I mean…

Elk herd of 50-60 animals, at extreme distance

Elk herd, at extreme distance. Yes, there ARE actually elk in this photo- in fact a herd of 50-60 down in the bottom, just above the treeline!

Distant elk herd, enlarged cropped photo

Distant elk herd, enlarged cropped photo. And still the elk are almost impossible to see, looking like rocks or driftwood!

 

Still, there is always the possibility you might see one closer on your visit.  I had an experience on my first visit to Mt. Evans, within a mile of the kiosk at the base.  A truly magnificent mature bull elk- huge antlers, muscles like I had never seen before in all my travels, came crashing down the hillside to our left, ran directly across the road in front of us, and never missing a beat continued right on down through the trees on our right.  There was no time for a photo, no way to document it.  But what I found so amazing was that, as I gazed into the forest as we passed, the trees were so close together, I still have no idea how he was able to fit between them with the size of his rack, let alone at full speed!  This is a memory that will stay with me forever!

So just for fun, enjoy a few close-up elk photos, all from Rocky Mountain National Park!

Elk bull and cow during the rut

Elk bull and cow during the rut.

Elk calf heading into its first fal

Elk calf heading into its first fall, has already learned the lesson of being wary of unusual sights and sounds. That should serve it well throughout its life.

Elk cow on alert

Elk cow on alert.

Elk Calf during first fall season

This elk calf has a lot of growing to do before he will be ready to be master of his own harem like the bull behind him.

Another first fall spotted elk calf

This elk calf, heading into its first fall season, is still decked out with a lot of spots. Age seems to vary about when they will lose the last of their spots. Some calves retain their spots for quite a long time. But looking at this calf’s build, it is somewhat younger than many of its herd mates.

In all his glory, a bull elk bugles across the valley.

In all his glory, a bull elk bugles across the valley. During the fall rut, the mountain valleys ring out with challenges between rivals, and efforts to recruit more cows into the herd.

 

In the next post, we will move above treeline to explore the alpine plants and wildflowers, which provide sustenance for all the insects and mammals that call this place home. 

(Then stay tuned, because after that, we will get into the fun critters that live their lives at the top of the world, starting with the Mountain Goat!)

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