Hiking through the snow

Over Thanksgiving, I, with my fiancé Meghan, went and visited a former lab-mate (Brett Seymoure) in Fort Collins, CO. While we were there, we went and hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park. Now this park is mostly high elevation and mountains, so you can imagine that this late in the year the park was full of snow:

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A snow covered mountain side at Rocky Mountain National Park

I grew up in Houston, TX, went to college in San Antonio, TX, and now live in Phoenix, AZ. While I have skied in the past, snow is not something I have much experience with, and I have certainly never hiked in it before. It definitely took some getting used to – learning how to not slip, trying to find footing that would not put my foot in deep snow, and other things like that. Plus the cold – it was very cold, but when you hike you get hot quickly, and so there was definitely a balance I had to maintain between not being too hot or cold. Luckily, the snow was not frozen or too rough, so we did not need any special footgear, but we did have to use hiking poles to keep us from accidentally slipping.

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Friend and previous graduate student Scott Davies demonstrating the use of our hiking poles.

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A view of the trail covered in snow.

The hike ended up being very beautiful, though going uphill at high elevation in the snow was quite a workout. However, it was the day after Thanksgiving, so I will blame part of my slowness and struggle from eating too much the day before! The elevation definitely got to me, but it was totally worth it to see the amazing views.

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One of the breathtaking views from the top of our hike.

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Another breathtaking view in the park.

We ended up hiking up to about 11,000 feet and got some pretty breathtaking views of the park and Rockies. Also, like with many National Parks, once you get 1-2 miles on a trail, you run into much fewer people, and so we had a peaceful, quite hike in the snow.

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Looking over the dense pine forest we hiked through, which, even though it does not look it, was full of snow!

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Another view of the trail through the forest.

 

This was not my first time in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had been there several years ago, but in the summer. The park looked very different then as it did now, which was pretty awesome to compare.

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Summer (2012) in the park.

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Unfrozen water and lots of elk from summer 2012

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Late fall (2016) causing this lake to freeze over.

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Another view of the snowy mountains from this trip.

In the end, we had a great hike and got to see some amazing views. Not much wildlife was out unfortunately, but that is what you get in high elevation places in the winter. I cannot wait until the next time I can get to Rocky Mountain National Park. It is such a beautiful place, and I have much more to explore!

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Our group at the top of our hike with a beautiful Rocky Mountain landscape behind us. From left to right: Scott Davies, me, Meghan Duell, and Brett Seymoure.

Wow does time fly!

Wow, I cannot believe it is already halfway through December! Time really does fly when you are super busy. Sorry to everyone for the lack of posts of late; November and December got away from me work wise. Between research and teaching, I ended up having a pretty full schedule, but I was able to accomplish quite a bit! I managed to go to New York City to meet up with my former lab mate, Rusty Ligon, and photograph a bunch of different hummingbirds for a comparative study. I also took a for fun trip to Fort Collins, CO, to visit another former lab mate, Brett Seymoure. And I graded a lot, and I mean a lot a lot. But the good news is, I am done teaching for the next few weeks. Now its time to catch up on some research stuff and more importantly, blog more! I have quite a bit of backlog for blog post ideas, so here are a few things I will write about over the next few months (in no particular order):
– Hummingbirds at the American Museum of Natural History
– Field work stories (and fails!)
– Advice on how to write grants
– Hiking in the snow of Rocky Mountain National Park
– Birding around Phoenix
– Advice on how to balance work and play as a graduate student.

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An American avocet and black-necked stilt at the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch.

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A blue-tufted starthroat specimen from the American Museum of Natural History.

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Snow covered mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park.

I plan to have the first one out by the end of the weekend and then one a week from there. I look forward to getting back into this, and I hope you all enjoy!