While visiting the Rocky Mountains, my family fell in love with this adorable critter, the yellow-bellied marmot. Marmots are one of the largest members of the squirrel family, weighing up to 11 lbs and measure up to two feet in length.
Living in the tundra, in colonies of 10-20 , these omnivores dig burrows underneath meadows and in rocky fields. Due to the extreme conditions of the tundra, these critters spend half of their lives in hibernation.
Grab your camera and join me in celebrating Mother Nature’s Critters!
For me, the most magical area, in the Rocky Mountains National Park, was the Alpine Tundra. Although it was a bit of a hike, it was well worth the climb!
“The alpine tundra is a land of contrast and incredible intensity, where the sky is the size of forever and the flowers the size of a millisecond.” ~Ann Zwinger, Land Above the Trees
The tundra is a very special place. Strained by bitter winds and cold, only the strong survive. Even in the summer, the temperatures are very cool. The trees that border the tundra grow only an inch in diameter every one hundred years. Here, snow can fall any day of the year, with nighttime temps dipping below freezing. Unfortunately, with these conditions, the growing season lasts only 6-8 weeks each year.
During the winter, hurricane level winds, over 100 miles an hour move snow across the tundra. Drifts up to 30 feet high form, providing a protective blanket of snow for plants and animals. Learning about the winter in the tundra, made me rethink moving to the tundra!
Climbing just a little higher in elevation, we came across an area with mushroom rocks.
These fabulous rocks were created with a little fire and water. Originally sand, silt and clay from the bottom of the ocean, these materials were met with hot magma from deep in the earth, thus leaving us with lighter colored granite. The mushroom shapes were formed when the granite stems eroded more quickly than the caps.
There was nothing more magical than playing above the clouds…
While exploring these rock formations, we discovered this beautiful compass. We felt a bit like treasure hunters!
I could have sat for hours, watching the clouds and the mountains play. The high elevation forced us to move slowly, which was a beautiful gift.
There was a peacefulness in the tundra unlike any other I have ever experienced when traveling. I felt connected somehow to this “land above the trees”. This photo describes my feelings exactly…
I had many encounters with elk, one of the largest members of the deer family, while hiking in the Rocky Mountains. The elk spend their summers in the alpine tundra, which was my favorite location in the Rocky Mountains.
I so enjoyed observing and photographing these majestic creatures. My family finally put limits on my elk photography! I was told if it was not “special” we were not stopping! Granted, to their defense, I took a ton of photos. It is all about balance, once again.
This beauty was radio collared and seemed to enjoy posing for the camera. Elk are the only tri-colored member in the deer family, with tan bodies, dark brown manes and a beige rump patch.
We both enjoyed the wildflowers, for different reasons!
I enjoyed observing this female elk (called a cow or doe). Considering I was sitting only 15 feet away from her, I think she enjoyed my company.