vagabonding journey across the 39th parallel. We were now turning towards home, with the intention of crossing the Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Road. It's one of the nation's most spectacular drives, on par with Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, the Beartooth Highway near Yellowstone National Park, or the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. It was another day in the former realm of the glaciers, as we drove from the end of the Pleistocene ice rivers to their source at the Continental Divide.
We made a first stop at Moraine Park to see a non-thunderstorming valley (it had been a wild night in the rain). A turn towards the mountain crest (above) gave us a fine view of a u-shaped valley, and a hanging valley. Hanging valleys develop when a larger glacier cuts a deeper trough than a smaller tributary glacier. The valley floor of the smaller glacier sits at a much higher elevation, often resulting in waterfalls or cascades where the drainage enters the deeper valley. In the picture above, the hanging valley is on the upper right hand corner (click on the photo for a larger view).
The linear ridge in the picture above is one of the vast piles of debris left behind along the margins of the glacier that filled this valley, which is called Moraine Park. These ridges are called lateral moraines. A terminal moraine also once blocked the end of the valley, forming a shallow moraine lake. Over time the lake filled with sediment and evolved into the meadow we were strolling along. The picture below provides a perspective on the size of the lateral; it's big.
From our first stop on the road, Many Parks Curve, we had a nice panorama of the lateral moraines we had just left in Moraine Park. The moraines surround the linear meadow in the center of the photo below. The park service website for Rocky Mountain has a marvelous interactive page on the glaciation of the park that offers this particular panorama with labels of the glacial features, and a view of this landscape as it would have appeared during the height of the ices ages.
earthen reservoir damming Lawn Lake gave way, pouring nearly 30 million gallons of water down the small side canyon. The surging waters filled Horseshoe Park for a time, and killed three people.
interpretation of the sights seen from the Forest Canyon overlook.