For the second day in Rocky Mountain National Park there were two ranger programs of interest and a few animals that had eluded us of which we wanted to find if possible – moose and big horn sheep. The first ranger program was at Lily Lake and highlighted wildflowers that were in bloom around the park. It was great to find out what some of these beautiful flowers where that we had been seeing while exploring different areas. Towards the end of the program our ranger mentioned where a few orchids could be found in bloom sending us off on a minor expedition to see if we could find one. After a short time walking there they were! These orchids were only visible to those that were looking and had an idea of where they were otherwise they are well adapted to the environment and somewhat difficult to spot. This stop at Lily Lake provided a great view of Longs Peak, the tallest peak in RMNP. Our next program of interest was again a 30 mile drive to another area in the park so off we went with enough time to stop for lunch.
This program highlighted elk and the habit necessary for them to survive. More great information about elk and their seasonal migrations along with what is being done at RMNP to keep the herd sizes at manageable sizes. Some of the controls included adding fencing to certain areas to allow plants re-grow and establish while keeping elk out reducing some of the food available. A short hike going through areas that elk like to feed and drink where a part of this program. This hike meandered into the fenced off area allowing us to see plants re-growing and how much grazing by the elk has diminished available food. After the program we inquired about the best places to see moose and big horn sheep allowing us to focus on certain places to provide the best chances at achieving this goal. With that information in hand we were off. Along the way there were a few waterfalls that we wanted to see which were somewhat larger than those we had already viewed.
One of these waterfalls was located on Old Fall River Road which is a one way gravel road that winds narrowly up the mountainside. There were times I was uncertain if this was a good idea as the road winds back and forth with the edge not far away. Drive carefully or you could be going over the side and taking a ride you were not prepared for. Just before this road there is a picnic area with a small trail that heads towards a very tall waterfall hidden deep in the trees. It is difficult to see the entire fall but still very beautiful for the parts that you can see. Continuing on to Old Fall River Road towards Chasm Falls, you begin to feel like you are in a secluded area as the road is gravel and narrow with trees sheltering much of the passageway. The only reminders of civilization are the number of other adventures traveling this road and paved trails at certain overlooks. This waterfall reminds of the power that water has as it moves and carves large boulders to shape the river. It can almost be imagined the millions of years it takes to really change this landscape just by the size and placement of certain boulders as you explore along this waterfall. As you continue this drive you wind up one side of the mountain and then cutback heading towards the other side of the mountain meandering slowly higher while catching a quick view of a snowfield higher up or a larger stream created from melting snow. Eventually this drive brings you above the tree line allowing you to see how far you have climbed on this winding old road and how close you have moved towards the top. Shortly after reaching the tree line, Alpine Visitor Center is back in view. This drive takes awhile but is well worth it if you can overcome the fear of driving so close to the edge of the road where the drop off could be 100’s of feet below and take in all that is around you.