For the past few years, I’ve been in the habit of spending a few evenings each week during the long days of June and July at my “local” national park – Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, which is anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half from the front door of my home in Fort Collins, depending on the traffic in Big Thompson Canyon and through Estes Park. It began the first year as an exercise designed to give me regular fieldwork practice with my camera, but since then it’s become a treasured rite of passage to mark my summers, the way some people might look forward to baseball, hot dogs, and swimming pools.
We had an unusually wet and cold spring this year, meaning the Park got an unusual amount of late season snow. But I certainly didn’t need any weather reports to tell me that. My first trip up Trail Ridge Road this year was all about discovering familiar places with unfamiliar appearances. About seeing snow in places where I’ve never seen it before. About knowing where to park the car after going around Rainbow Curve, and about knowing where to hike in order to pick out this fine view.
I’m sure many visitors to the Park think it’s covered with snow like this year-round at the higher elevations. A few spots are, but most aren’t. Knowing a place like this is all about the privilege of being able to appreciate the difference.