We left the Lily Lake Visitors Center and continued north on Colorado 7. To avoid town, we took a left on Mary's Lake Road. This put us west of Estes Park on US 36
just below the Beaver Meadows entrance. It costs $10 for a 7-day pass into the park. A couple miles west of the entrance is a fork in the road. This is where US 36 joins US 34.
Going left takes you along
Trail Ridge Road, heading west to Granby through the Park. The right fork loops back to Estes Park, but also takes you to the Old Fall River Road. We took the right fork and quickly found a
scenic overlook (funny how they put these at the most picturesque locations). The image at left is the view from this spot looking northwest across Horseshoe Park. The
mountains in the distance are the Mummy Range. In the center is
Ypsilon Mountain (13,514ft). To the right of that is Fairchild Mountain. On the right in the foreground is Bighorn Mountain. To the left of Ypsilon are Mount Chiquita, then
Mount Chapin. |
In the very center of the picture is a white area. This is called the
Alluvial Fan. It was created when the Roaring River flooded in 1982 after the failure of the Lawn Lake Dam, bringing down a large volume of rock. We didn't have time to stop and
take pictures of this, but it is very interesting. The boulders are very large, so there must have been a great deal of water. Geologists like this stuff because it gives them
a chance to study the erosion process of mountains. Before the present Rocky Mountain orogeny (an orogeny is a mountain building era) there was an ancestral range of mountains
that was eroded away to create many of the lower sedimentary strata on the Great Plains. This is particularly evident in the area around Morrison, CO where geologists have
determined that the ancestral Platte River deposited sand in an alluvial fan as it drained into the inland sea.
We got some interesting rocks at this place; mostly pink granite and some nice gniess. There was also some mica and other sparkly stuff.
The creek below is Fall River. This empties into Lake Estes, then into the Big Thompson River which flows down Big Thompson Canyon. You can see US 34 looping around
the west end of the park. Just to left of center is where the Fall River Road turns off to the west. The Alluvial Fan is to the left of this picture, up the road. Off the right side of the image
a herd of about twenty elk grazing down in the park. They wandered back into the trees before I could get a picture. The Park is foul with wildlife, especially elk. We saw
quite a few in the Fall River valley, and other areas (more on this later). There were also some very fat deer. The animals have figured out that they aren't going to get shot,
so you can get pretty close without spooking them. The problem with this is that people are constantly stopping to gawk and this creates traffic jams. I am more interested
in the rocks, so this was an inconvenience.
||This image shows a closeup of Ypsilon Mountain. You can see that there is a glacial cirque on the east face like that on Long's Peak. Most of the mountains
in the Park have this feature on one side or the other. The major glacial activity ended about 10,000 years ago. There are still some small glaciers in the Park, and at other
locations in the Colorado Rockies. There are also a number of moraines to the south of where these photos were taken. There are also three between here and Estes Park.
Go on to Fall River Road