Monday, June 18, 2012

Go West V - Alpine Tundra

Forest Canyon Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

In the Rocky Mountains no tress grow 
above 11,400 feet... eight months out of the year temperatures remain below freezing, fierce dry winds blast ridge tops, and ultraviolet light shines intensely. The climate is so harsh that only small plants and lichens survive. Compact plants only a few inches tall send tap roots 6 feet down into the earth to find nutrients to live. Small animals like yellow-bellied marmots and pikas spend long winters hibernating in their dens among the rocky slopes.  

Yet visitors to the park get first hand looks at the alpine tundra world by driving up Trail Ridge Road, and walking along short trails to overlooks like this one.

In the foreground are pink granite stones spilling over a steep slope into a canyon. In the middle ground are dark subalpine forests of spruce and fir which dominate the valley below. And in the distance rise the snow streaked sides of massive Stones Peak mountain where alpine tundra re-emerges.

Vast distances in the West can be a challenge to portray within the two dimensional confines of a photograph. But a scene like this one makes it easy, with the receding layers of space, and the use of a wide angle vertical format... along with a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar to munch on. Yum.

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