Mt. Evans, High in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Let’s drive on the highest paved highway in North America.   Colorado Traveling Ducks are going to the top of Mt. Evans.  And we will not be more than 2 hours away from home near Denver, Colorado.   First we stop to admire Echo Lake.

Echo Lake

At 10,600 feet above sea level, a short hike by the lake, then a great meal at the lodge,

Echo Lake Lodge

and we are ready to begin our journey to the top of Mt. Evans.

Let’s go to the top of Mt. Evans

This is a combination of Denver Mountain Parks and some Federal land, but our National Park Pass covers our admission.   Our first stop is Mount Goliath.

Mount Goliath Natural Area

Here we see the really old Bristlecone Pine trees, the oldest living things on earth.

Bristlecone Pines

Our bristlecones are only about 1,700 years old.   Some bristlecones in California and Nevada are over 4,000 years old.   Those trees were old when Jesus was born.   We like sitting on this fallen Bristlecone.

Fallen Bristlecone Pine

Our Bristlecone Pines do not get as old as those in California and Nevada because our growing conditions are too good.   They like more wind, more cold, and less moisture.   And we think our winters at this altitude are pretty brutal for growing things.  We are driving our car here, but some people enjoy the challenge of riding a bicycle.  You may notice there are few trees here.   We are approaching timber line.   Above here, the conditions prevent trees and most vegetation from growing.

Hard work to go by bicycle

The road is wide enough for two cars to pass, but not much wider.   There are no shoulders on this road and not a single guard rail to be seen.

Narrow road. No shoulders. No Guard rails.

The drivers need to be careful, and they are.   Each year more cars drive to the top of Mt. Evans, so be aware and be observant.   Look what you may see.

Mountain Goats

As we approach the summit of Mt. Evans, these Mountain Goats are wandering.   Humans do stop to admire and photograph the animals.

Mom and child. Mountain goats

We love seeing these animals.   At the summit of Mt. Evans, there is a parking lot with limited parking, paths to hike, and the remains of Crest House.

On hand rail of remains of Crest House

There are no concessions here, so bring your own water.  Crest House was a gift shop and restaurant, but was destroyed in a fire in 1979.   It was never rebuilt.   At the parking lot, you have reached the end of the highest paved road in North America.   You are at 14,206 feet above sea level.   Be careful.   The air is very thin, meaning there is not as much oxygen in the air as most people usually experience.   Move slowly and stop if you get light headed or dizzy.   If you brought oxygen with you, use it!  And if you are wondering, this road is 154 feet higher than the road to the top of Pikes Peak, a little further south near Colorado Springs.   Let’s head down now.   We love the views along the way.

Enjoy the views

There are some pullouts for hiking and admiring these mountain views.   We are higher than most of the surrounding mountains.

Beautiful views

Small mountain lakes dot the landscape.   Enjoy your time here.  Descending to 12,830 feet above sea level, we stop at Summit Lake.

Summit Lake

The day after Labor Day, the road is closed from here to the top of Mt. Evans.   Usually closed on the first Tuesday of September.   The rest of this road, from Echo Lake to Summit Lake, stays open until closed by snow.   We park here and follow the trails.

Yellow Bellied Marmot wants to go inside

This yellow bellied marmot wants to go inside this building?  We saw a park ranger and he said he opened the door earlier and the marmot went inside.   When he came out, the ranger closed the door.   As he was coming out, he seemed to look right at me.

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Mom, should I be worried?   The sign says he is eating lots to get ready for 8 months of hibernation.   Continuing driving back, we stop to see wildflowers.

This one is producing seeds

This unusual plant is growing and has a seed ball.   Interesting.   But this is my favorite.

Beautiful red wildflowers

I, Zeb the Duck, love red wildflowers.   If you did not drive to the summit of Mt. Evans this summer, we hope you plan to go next summer.   It is beautiful and you pass through so many climate levels.   You will be above tree line.   You will see arctic tundra.   We hope to see you there next summer.

The High and Low of Death Valley with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

The largest national park south of Alaska reveals more secrets to the Colorado Traveling Ducks.  Driving to Dantes View, we gain elevation.   This, the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park, is 5,475 feet above the floor of Death Valley.   Looking to the floor of Death Valley from Dantes View, the green vegetation is a contrast to the dry earth.

From Dantes View

From Dantes View

The white ground below is a reminder that all minerals that are thrown in the valley, from volcanic activity, earthquakes or rain, will forever remain in Death Valley.   This land, below sea level, has no outlet to the sea, so everything stays here and is further altered by the forces of nature.

From Dantes View

From Dantes View

Not only is the floor of Death Valley covered with minerals, but the mountain walls of the valley exhibit colors and patterns from thousands of years of change.

From Dantes View

From Dantes View

Mom is experimenting with the panorama function on her camera.

Floor of Death Valley from Dantes View

Floor of Death Valley from Dantes View

We like the effect.   From the high point, let’s go to the floor of Death Valley.   We drive to Badwater Basin.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin

This is not only the lowest point in North America, but it is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.   There are not many places in the world where you can stand on dry land, below sea level.    Let’s go on the salt flats.

On the salt flats

On the salt flats

We are careful to only walk where it is allowed.   This environment is fragile and we do not want to destroy any of it.   We are happy to discover our national parks.   Did you know that the National Park Service is 100 years old in 2016?   Now we turn our backs to the salt flats and look at the rock wall.

Standing 282 feet below sea level

Standing 282 feet below sea level

If you look closely you will see a white rectangular sign marking sea level.   The sign is about half way up the wall and 2/3 to the right of this photo.   The information signs say that Death Valley Basin is still dropping.   Today we are 282 feet below sea level.   Hundreds of years from now, these salt flats probably will be further below sea level.     We only spent a couple days in Death Valley National Park, but you could spend a day, a week, or months here and never see everything.   The park is huge and the land is constantly changing.   The rain and flooding from September gave us the wildflowers this spring.   In the park, you can receive wildflower updates.   You may want to view the best flower display.   We loved all the flowers, but our photos are not the best.   You may want to use google to see more pictures.   But we were happy with these flowers.

A few wildflowers by the road

A few wildflowers by the road

We hope you enjoy some national parks this year.

Wildflowers in Death Valley 2016

We are entering California.

Hello California

Hello California

Where are the beaches?   Mom says we are not going to the beach.   The desert is in bloom.   That means there are wildflowers blooming where usually no flowers bloom.   Entering Death Valley National Park, we will look for wildflowers.

Going into Death Valley National Park

Going into Death Valley National Park

This desert usually receives 2 inches of rain annually and summer temperatures over 120 degrees are normal.   Here are a few flowers.

Purple flowers

Purple flowers

We like purple, and of course yellow is one of our favorite colors.   These white flowers are pretty, also.

White flowers

White flowers

And the flowers are growing in gravel like soil.   Mom buys potting soil for our flowers and needs to water every few days.   The flowers are beautiful this year, but mom did not get very good photos.

Thousands of flowers blooming

Thousands of flowers blooming.   Find yellow ducks in yellow flowers

Looking online you will see better views of flowers.   A fellow traveler we met at dinner one evening, suggested we take Artists Drive to see flowers.

We are in the flowers

We are in the flowers

We did, and also went to Artists Palette.   Artists Palette shows colors of the mountains.

Volcanic rocks of many colors

Volcanic rocks of many colors

Over 5 million years ago repeated volcanic eruptions blanketed the landscape, depositing ash and minerals.    The volcanic minerals were chemically altered by heat and water, with variable amounts of oxygen and other introduced elements.   Chemical analysis have identified iron, aluminum,magnesium and titanium,but no copper.   Some of the colored minerals here include red hematite and green chlorite.   We love the information signs in national parks.   Further along Artists Drive, we admired this  splash of turquoise mountain.

Color of Caribbean in rocks here.

Color of Caribbean in rocks here.

Just like  huge turquoise wave in the Caribbean Sea.   Here are a few more of this years wildflowers.

Different purple flowers

Different purple flowers

This bush is even producing small yellow flowers.

Bush has tiny yellow flowers

Bush has tiny yellow flowers

We especially liked these flowers.

Wildflowers really are growing wild this year.

Wildflowers really are growing wild this year.

This was our first time in Death Valley.    We were fascinated by the entire landscape and we will show you more next time.   You should see Death Valley soon.   You will like it also.