The bark beetles marcheth east. I took an early morning drive to Rocky Mountain National Park today (exactly one hour from my Fort Collins front doorstep) to catch what turned out to be a cloudy and unremarkable sunrise. It's been a few months since I've been to Rocky, and while I've been aware for some time that the bark beetles began their descent down the east slope of the Continental Divide a couple of years ago, the swathes of dead trees above Moraine Park really surprised me today.
The west side of the park along the Colorado River has been beetle-ravaged for many years — an area thought by many to be ground zero for northern Colorado's bark beetle outbreak. It's a bit depressing to drive over there with entire hillsides glowing deathly copper at sundown. Yes, the forest is growing anew even as I write this, but it's still not a happy experience to hike through woods with more trees dead than alive.
Here's what Trail Ridge Road looked like this morning just up the road from Hidden Valley:
I've been to Rocky Mountain National Park probably 30 or 40 times, but these are the first wild turkeys I've ever seen there: