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  • Michael Russel

A Much-Needed Meeting with Nature!

Over Labor Day, my wife, Kate, and I traveled to Estes Park, Colorado, to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). It was an amazing experience, and I want to tell you about it!

Early morning rising. Kate and I had park reservations for each day of our trip, but they were later in the day. So we took advantage of the reservation loop-hole. You only needed a reservation for the hours of operation, beginning at 6am. Thus, we did what any sane hikers would do – arrive before 6am! I remember initially balking at Kate’s crazy idea, waking up groggy the first day, but after seeing the line of cars doing the same thing at 5:30am, I considered Kate a certified genius!

Lakes and ponds. On the first day, we headed for the most popular spot in the park, the trail leading to four distinct and beautiful lakes with names like Bear, Nymph, Dream, and Emerald! Bear was of particular interest to me, as my good friend had recently commissioned me to paint Bear Lake at sunset. I had seen photos on the internet of Bear Lake, but I couldn’t believe the mirror-like reflection of the mountain in the high-altitude waters. It’s true, I was mistaken – it was more stunning than I imagined. A glass-like sheen on the water, reflecting the mountains perfectly, framed by dark and majestic pines. After our day of hiking and touring, we returned to Bear Lake to view the sunset scene my clients wanted to capture in their painting. Oranges and reds painted the mountaintops of the Keyboard of the Winds. Phenomenal!

Elk bugling! On Day 2 of our adventure, we began our hike at 5:30am on a six-mile loop around a portion of the park. About 45-minutes into our hike, where we were alone on the silent and foggy trail, we rounded the bend and came upon a field of forty elk cows, lounging in the cool pasture. Only one of the forty raised her head to acknowledge us. We paused for a minute to take pictures and admire the herd, then we proceeded on the trail. Soon we came upon the elk bull about two hundred yards to the north of the herd. He was lazily grazing in the tall grass. We paused to watch him begin moving towards the herd, shooting cell photo video of his multi-pointed, massive figure moving past the dawn-lit scene. Merely one minute after pausing the video, the bull reared his head and let loose a spine-tingling bugle that filled the valley. Kate and I had never heard anything like it, and it froze us. We began videoing again, as the cows answered the bull’s call, motivating him to begin running towards the herd. He paused to bellow one more echoing bugle, one of the most memorable sounds I’ve ever heard.

Fire in the Distance! The remaining time in RMNP was a blur of phenomenal sites. We drove the Trail Ridge Road, where I found it difficult to keep my tires in the lane, seeing one stunning scene after another. We paused at a pull-off to take photos of the far-off Cameron wildfire to the north, shooting white smoke far off in the distance. That night, the Cameron fire brought notice to Estes Park that it was near and wanted to be noticed.

We very much appreciated our time in RMNP, a much-needed vacation for us both! We drove away knowing this jaw-dropping scenery was only 2-1/2 hours away. Now we are longing for our reunion with this majestic park!

Russel Mountain Gallery will open its commission window on November 15th! Be ready to send that email to order your own special painting for your family. The last commission window only lasted one day before closing!

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