Standing On Top Of The World by Eva Stanley | Recent Posts, Travel, Wildlife and Nature Photography - Part 1

2 Mountain Goat Kids

August shows a little snow still left on Colorado’s highest peaks.

Welcome once again to my Drawn To Nature Studio blog featuring my Wildlife Photography, Sculpture, other Art, and miscellaneous musings!  My goal with this blog is to present you with some of Nature’s intricate perfection and beauty, allow you to begin to understand some of the urge to create that it inspires within me, as well as offer a variety of wildlife fun facts, and provide ideas of where you might travel in search of wildlife and wild places!

Constantly (and literally) playing “King of the Mountain”, life is a constant lesson of building skills to survive in this harsh environment.

During the next several posts, come along on this late summer journey to Mt. Evans, Colorado, and enjoy its amazing wildlife, alpine and sub-alpine wildflowers, and magnificent vistas!  Many people have told me that people do not read anymore.  I’m not sure I believe that, but if you happen to be one of those people, please feel free to just enjoy the photography and skip the narratives!

Well above treeline, Summit Lake (which is not actually at the summit), is a wetland area where the frost heaves of water and ice play roller-coaster havoc with the road surface. Bighorn ewes are often found in this area. This shot is looking across the lake toward the top of Mt. Evans.

Usually, I try to plan this expedition earlier in the summer, just after the road finally opens for the season.  However, other things in life conspired against that this year, so later than usual, my birding buddy and I finally made our yearly pilgrimage up to the top of Mt. Evans, truly one of Colorado’s best kept semi-secrets.  Only an hour from downtown Denver, Mt. Evans stands at 14,264’ in elevation, one of only 53-54 “14-ers”- mountains in Colorado to reach that height.

(Seems that there is some question about this count!  Apparently there has to be “at least 300 feet (91.44 meters) of topographic prominence” to be accepted as a 14-er.)

Rocky Mountain Columbine, the State Flower of Colorado

Mt. Evans has two man-made claims to fame.  The road to the summit is the highest paved road in all of North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico).  At its summit stands the 3rd highest optical/infrared observatory (Meyer-Womble, U. of Den.) in the world!  Sadly, due to lack of funding and interest, it is now been decommissioned and the site is slated to be razed.

A cousin to the Midwest’s groundhog or woodchuck, Yellow-bellied Marmots have their work cut out for them. Though often seen sunning on rocks, life is hard work at 14,000′, where the summer is short, and a good supply of food must be gathered in order to survive the harsh winter where snows can reach 40′!

Happy that my son, now living in Denver, was going to join us for his first glimpse of Mt. Evans, we set out early on August 4th to a beautiful sunny morning.  Mt. Evans is one of the only places I know of where one can reliably see Mountain Goats up close, the ever-present Raven, plus often Bighorn Sheep, Yellow-bellied Marmots, and our increasingly endangered Pika (whose very existence is temperature-dependent, and thus climate change means life or death for them, since there is nowhere UP left for them to go.)  Unlike Rocky Mountain National Park, where one is pretty much guaranteed to see elk, I have seen them only occasionally, distantly viewed while journeying up toward the summit.

Painted Lady Butterfly atop alpine flowers

Even at 14,000′, there is nectar to be had in the prolific alpine wildflowers for this Painted Lady butterfly.

Please join me next time for a look at the wide variety of summer alpine and sub-alpine flowers and plants necessary for wildlife and insects to survive in this very challenging environment!

Male White-crowned Sparrow sings in search of his Lady Love

Male White-crowned Sparrow sings hoping to woo his lady-love.