Beautiful Clouds – Impossible Plein Air

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I have to admit I used it as an excuse, but it is true. By Saturday, I was tired. Still my pass to Rocky Mountain National Park was good for a week. Sunday evening was the first meeting for the workshop so Saturday was the only time to take advantage of the pass I’d purchased on Friday. My plan was to go right to Bear Lake or the place I was suppose to go on Friday and paint. I would then turn around and leave the way I’d come, no crazy drive down Route 40. The traffic was significant on the way, it being Saturday with great weather and beautiful foliage. The upside of the traffic was having it crawling as we approached Estes Park Recreation Area. I noticed the mountains were reflected in the water. That was really all I needed to see, so I pulled in, parked and grabbed my camera. In the few minutes I was there, the reflection of the clouds and the mountains in the water became more clear. I was astonished at the beauty. I looked around at the people just enjoying their local park, fishing, picnicking, dog walking, do they know how lucky they are to have such beauty in their midst? But then, I think they did, the park was well used and I was glad to see that.

I thought about just staying there to paint but I it was just another 20 minutes to the National park, and I did have my pass, so I continued on, very happy with my photographs. I should have said, it should have been 20 minutes, that is if it weren’t for the Elk Fest happening in downtown Estes Park, which backed up traffic for quite some distance. All the while more and more clouds were forming. There wasn’t a threat of rain, but building clouds means the light changes constantly. It’s not great conditions for plein air painting. So, being tired, I decided it would be a day just for photographs.

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I made it to Bear Lake and Glacier Lake, I even went to a stable and thought about a trail ride, but the shortest one was two hours and I knew I’d be sore if I went for that long of a ride so I passed on that as well. I was getting nice pictures so that day was somewhat productive. I didn’t want to be exhausted before the workshop even started. So it was time to head out so I’d get back to my hotel at a reasonable hour. As I started down the road to exit the park, cars were parked all along the area where elk graze. I pulled in a parking spot and asked a couple if there were actually elk there, “Yup”. Ok then, a new photo-op. I’m all for that. As I walked toward the crowd I looked at where they were looking, and indeed there they were. A little one was standing in the water, Mom was munching on some leaves and Pops was off to the side. Once I got a good picture of him I decided to move on. Getting out of there was a little tricky with everyone wanting to see them, but a kind driver let me out and I was on my way.

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Well apparently the elk were aware it was the Elk Fest in Estes Park. Not only was traffic bad going, it was also bad leaving once you neared the center of town where the festival was being held. After crawling through town, I rounded the corner where the park was that I’d taken the earlier pictures.. It was filled with cars, that’s when I saw more elk. I pulled into to the parking lot and once again, out came the camera. Interestingly enough there were more elk here than the national park. I guess when your an elk you can pretty much go wherever you want. There were two males, and many females, maybe 20. It became pretty clear who was in charge in short order.

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The police came and kept people from getting too close. As things settled down, that is when Mr. Bull Elk in charge had herded together his little harem and they started to lay down on the grass the crowd started to leave. That included me. I didn’t get back to my hotel quite as early as planned, but it turned out to be a very fun day. Do you think the elk knew it was Elk Fest Day in Estes Park?