Estes Park, CO. Oct 3
Our first day of seeing the park began with a ranger walk at the Moraine Park Discovery Center. Moraine Park is a meadow surrounded by glacial moraines backdropped by the mountains. Big Thompson River runs through the meadow. While this area normally receives 13 inches of rain per year, in 2013 13 inches of rain fell in four days and the river flooded out part of downtown Estes Park. It sure looked a lot quieter today.
The park ranger gave us an hour discussion of Moraine Park, its geology, its wildlife, its weather, and its people. He did an excellent job; but we knew he would, he was from Minnesota. The walking portion of the ranger discussion was shorter than usual due to repair work affecting the trail. During the talk, we could see elk grazing in the meadows below us. After the talk, we drove closer to the elk area.
Hopefully you recognize that elk are large and unpredictable. This is also rutting season, when the male elk compete to develop their own harem of cows and so the animals are more active than usual. Unfortunately, not all people are intelligent. We saw numerous people getting way too close to the animals. A theme to be repeated in this blog post.
The day had become quite windy, steady winds of 25 mph and gusts of 35 mph were the forecast. We took our lunch at a trailhead that was meant to be a little bit sheltered and enjoyed our sandwiches until the very end when it began to rain. The mountains create changing weather and we hoped our next hike at Lily Lake would be in a more favorable locale.
When we pulled in to the parking lot, the wind had even picked up more. Frankly it was fierce. We walked a short way but headed back without doing the hike. This evening at our lodge, Chris ran into a young couple who had gone to Lily Lake and the woman had been pushed into the rock walls by the wind. We were just as happy to head back but we made one more stop.
Elk are native to this area. The elk herds live in the park and other elk live in the city. The golf course around Lake Estes is one of those places that elk enjoy city living. We drove by the golf course on our way to pick up part of dinner at the Safeway grocery store and, after seeing a large herd of elk, we stopped. There must have been 20 or more females being guarded by one bull elk. As we watched more closely, we observed the bull was laying down. Turns out he must have been hurt in a fight with another male since he was visibly limping. Our guess is that it was recent, that he was still “King of the Hill” but if another challenger came by, he might be dethroned. And of course, hordes of people were trying to get close to get pictures of themselves close to the elk. Even with young children!
I admit it. Some of us might not have been displeased to see the elk charge the people but it did not happen. BUT, back at the lodge, We were talking to three women from Louisiana. Turns out one of them had been charged by a bull elk and had the scars on her back to prove it. It did not sound like that action was going to change her actions in the future.
We had crock pot chicken for dinner in our room. We expect to take most meals here; the staff had some utensils to loan out and a crock pot was one of them. S’mores by the fireplace topped off the evening.
Ed and Chris