Colorado Mountain Trip: Day Two (Looking for Moose — Arapaho National Forest Region, Colorado)

One of three bull moose we found near the Arapaho National Forest area between Kremmling and Granby.

The plan for Day Two of my Colorado mountain trip was to leave around 3:30 A.M. and head up to the Walden area which is situated near Arapaho National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park. The area is known for moose sightings and I wanted to get an early start to ensure soft light in case we were lucky enough to run across one of Colorado’s finest beasts, at least size-wise.

It didn’t take us long to get to Kremmling and as we cruised through the mountains toward Granby I noticed something big, right in the middle of the road. I hit the brakes hard when we realized it was a huge chunk of granite that had fell from a bluff and crashed onto Highway 40. We found a place to pull over and walked a ways back to the rock so we could move it off the road. Alan and I each grabbed one side of the boulder, counted to three, and went heave! The rock didn’t move one millimeter! We didn’t even try again due to hernia-related concerns but Alan had seen a cone near a ditch farther down the road so we retrieved it and placed it by the boulder. We weren’t even back to the 4Runner before we heard a huge truck screaming down the highway toward the rock in the early-dawn light. Fortunately, it was the Colorado Highway Department and they were there to remove the rock. Problem solved! We didn’t even stay to watch because we had moose on our minds.

Somewhere between Kremmling and Granby, we both spotted a bull moose in an aspen field near the road. In a lucky turn of events, there was an pull-off for a local farmer to get to his fields right across from the lumbering beast! As I pulled off the road, we noticed that the bull had a friend. As I gathered my gear, Alan noticed a second friend. We stood in awe at three bull moose, so close I couldn’t even get them completely in the frame with the only lens I had brought, a 500/4.

I really liked the featured image as one of the trio looked out from behind a tree at us. You can’t see it in the image, but the moose has a pretty big chunk out of its right ear. If you look closely, you can see where it is beginning to shed velvet from its antlers.

The image below shows a battle-scarred moose with a mangled right ear. Boy, I bet he could tell some stories. I suspect that no bull moose gets a free pass out there during the rut.

A battle-scarred bull with a mangled ear.

The next image is of the largest of the trio. Almost completely black, it was the hardest to photograph as it stayed in the background in thick vegetation most of the time. Alan warned me more than once not to get too close as I jockeyed around for a clear shot.

The largest of the trio, almost completely black in color.

The next image is of the middle moose, the one in the feature image, feeding on aspen leaves. They seemed to really be enjoying them.

All three moose were feeding on aspen leaves.

A closer look at Big Daddy with his long beard and black coat.

During the entire hour of photographing the surprise trio of bulls, we never saw another car! That’s when I remembered that we were really out in the middle of nowhere early on a weekday morning. When it was all over, Alan and I passed out some high-fives at our incredible luck and headed on up to Walden, also known as “Moose Central” in Colorado, where we had a hearty breakfast of rib-eye steak and eggs, while sharing a few moose pics whenever we got the chance. Our waitress had to share a moose pic of her own. She was all dressed up for her senior picture and there was a moose in the background.

After breakfast, we headed up to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge and enjoyed the scenic overlook where American white pelicans were circling a meandering stream. Right before we left, a Swainson’s hawk landed on a fence post right next to us. Was our luck ever going to end? I wasn’t sure of the species until I noticed a Swainson’s hawk on the cover of the brochures in the kiosk. The photograph looked just like mine! Later at home, I verified the ID with an expert.

A Swainson’s hawk lands on a fence right next to us at Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.

I’m looking forward to exploring Arapaho NWR on my next trip. It sure was a beautiful place. Our country is full of beautiful places, all meant to be explored before it is too late, if you know what I mean.

Thanks for looking,

DB

Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images and Print Information:  https://dannybrown.smugmug.com

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