When Everyone Else Turns Left, Turn Right Instead!

Having lived out west for years now, we’ve gotten to know Rocky Mountain (RMNP) and Yellowstone. They are two very different parks with different landscapes and wildlife, but both are so very special. Everyone has seen recent articles of how busy the parks are, especially this past summer when so many families said they were traveling hell or high water! In 2019, approximately 4.67 MILLION people passed through the gates of RMNP to appreciate its beauty, majesty and wildlife. Currently parts of the park, especially the back country, remain closed due to the damage and instability caused by the summer’s destructive wildfires. The purpose of this blog is to share a little insight if you care to visit RMNP anytime soon.

  1. Go early! The earlier you’re in the park the better. There are fewer people, the animals are more active and the light is amazing. When we travel we often get into the parks before 6 am, go back to our hotel about 10 am and relax while the people file in! Then, we head back in about 4 or 5 pm when everyone else (or most people) are heading out of the park to catch dinner!
  2. Go off the beaten path! It doesn’t mean you have to take the worst roads but truly explore the parks in all their glory. Sure, there are the typical stops and lookouts that you’ll want to hit, especially on your first trip. But here are a couple of suggestions:

Bear Lake.

Bear Lake is a must see, but after you’ve taken in its panoramic view and walked around the lake, head to a trail called Bear Lake to Howell Park. You’ll join the rest of the summer crowd climbing a rather steep trail to the Bear Lake Trail, but instead of tuning left with the throngs, TURN RIGHT INSTEAD and head to Howell Park. It is about a 7 mile hike but the beauty is, in part, it is down hill. In the height of the summer season, we ran into one other couple and a bull elk the entire time on the trail. You’re surrounded by woods, babbling streams and exit into a beautiful meadow surrounded by peaks. It was such a pleasure! Be sure to check its availability and whether it is open to the public before heading out as there may be fire damage that restricts access.

Bear Lake In The colder Weather
Bear Lake In The colder Weather
Craig Getchius at Bear Lake
Craig Getchius at Bear Lake
Elk on Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail
Elk on Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail
End of Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail, Entering Howell Park
End of Bear Lake to Howell Park Trail, Entering Howell Park

The West Side of the Park

Many people travel through the park to the Alpine Visitors’ Center at the highest point, enjoy the view and turnaround and go back down to the heart of the park. As you’re leaving the center, you turn left to head back but TURN RIGHT INSTEAD! The west side of the park is wonderful and full of wildlife. Moose are notoriously recluse and are generally found in the marshy landscapes. The west side of the park has abundant wetlands and offers an opportunity to view moose that are elusive on the eastern park side.

Moose On The West Side of RMNP
Moose On The West Side of RMNP

However you choose to enjoy the park, whatever time of year, be sure your cameras are charged up and ready to go and enjoy the experience of photographing one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Craig Getchius Photographing in RMNP
Craig Getchius Photographing in RMNP

Thanks for reading! – ADG

New Mexico – Desert and History!

Well…she’s baaack! I have been remiss in preparing a blog – I think the whole quarantine has created a malaise that makes it hard to stay motivated, but I’m back! I’m going to retrace my steps, so to speak. As for all of us, the whole lockdown due to COVID-19 has been wearing and our options for things to do somewhat limited. As the restrictions begin to lift, we are hoping we can begin to get out and about and explore the beautiful country safely. This may turn into more of a travel blog than a photography blog, but should be fun nonetheless, especially as Craig expands my photography lessons. I’m sure there will be plenty to laugh about! So in the spirit of retracing my steps, I’ll revisit a trip we took before all the isolation and lockdowns.

Before the COVID-19 hit, we wanted to get away from the cold weather here in Colorado. We got in the car and headed south to New Mexico as I noted in the last blog. Well, that was interesting. We ended up in Alamogordo, New Mexico and a very desololate area. As I mentioned, our target was White Sands National Park (White Sands National Park). It is very fascinating and full of history. The dunes are stunning and ever changing. The light rolling over the dunes creates a beautiful scene.

White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park

The region is very barren and sparse. There are miles and miles of nothing except sand, cacti and sage brush. It, however, has its own beauty in many ways. The dunes are vast and very different than those found in Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. These dunes are whiter (looks like the area is covered in snow) and a different formation than Great Sand Dunes.

A scene of the vegetation and dunes at White Sands National Prk
A scene of the vegetation and dunes at White Sands National Prk

I was amazed at all the rocket science that has take place there. The area is the home of first atomic bomb testing, just 65 miles from White Sands, part of the Manhattan Project. Even today, the highway nearby closes for a couple of hours at a time for missile launch testing. The International Space Hall of Fame is located in Alamogordo, the town adjacent to the park.

Hall Of Fame, Fun

It was established in 1976 to honor those who have contributed to advancements in space. If you are there, it is well worth the trip to see the history, the story behind the inductees. The inductees range from Copernicus to Sally Ride to Carl Sagan to every astronaut and scientist in between. It is also the last resting place of Ham, the first primate launched into space in 1961.

Ham’s gravesite
Ham’s gravesite
Ham’s space suit!
Ham’s space suit!

The museum is very well done and lots of fun. The visitors ranged from older folks to young families and had many hands-on exhibits. There areas designed as the Star Trek’s transporter room!

Beam me up!
Beam me up!

But the history the Hall of Fame captures is amazing and stirring. You’re reminded of the risk of the brave souls that took off in space flight – some giving the ultimate sacrifice. Others working against all odds to advance science, technology and our world!

Robert Goddard display
Robert Goddard display

In short, if you ever get the chance, the trip to the International Space Hall of Fame is well worth it!