Denver, Boulder, Estes, Rockies

(each link is to an Instagram photo from @travel_junkie or @alenkadesign)

We started late and our first destination was Boulder, only a short 40 minute or so drive from Denver. The prettiness started from the first moment, as we were driving straight towards the mountains that we’d soon be climbing. But first, a stop in Boulder was in order for a little lunch and to check out the street performers on Pearl Street (yes, there’s a person in there!).

One of the sites to see in Boulder is the Flatiron formation, which we drove up to the National Center for Environmental Research to get a better view of (which wasn’t really the best view, apparently, but still a nice drive and we saw the first of many large furry critters while up there).

Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado, from the NCARFlatirons in Boulder, Colorado, from the NCAR @ June 2011 | Panasonic Lumix GF-1 & Lumix G 20mm ƒ/1.7 @ ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/1000

Eventually we started the journey towards the Rocky Mountain National Park, and with only one quick stop to tweet a reality check that we weren’t in the flatlands anymore, our first proper stop was when we encountered some serious wildlife. Alenka spotted them and I swerved off the road to react, and after a few quick shots from the car, I pulled out the big guns and fired off a handful of frames of a small elk herd moving their way across people’s front lawns.

Wild Elk in the Rocky MountainsWild Elk in the Rocky Mountains @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS @ ISO 160, ƒ/4, 1/640

Not the kind of thing you see in Los Angeles, for sure.

We recovered from this amazing sighting at the local Colorado Cherry Company, where a slice of cherry pie à la mode and two coffees were sorely needed. That made us smile.

The drive west and up continued, with more pretty prettiness that had to be shared, and another stop at the entrance to the Estes Park area. We were quickly accosted by a mob of hungry chipmunks who, in pretty clear English, demanded food for passage. Alenka was happy to oblige.

Alenka feeds the chipmunks. They demanded it.Alenka feeds the chipmunks. They demanded it. @ June 2011 | Panasonic Lumix GF-1 & Lumix G 20mm ƒ/1.7 @ ISO 100, ƒ/2, 1/500

She named him Cheery-oki. You’ll have to ask her.

Rocky Mountain National Park

We decided not to stop in Estes Park, the town itself. Adorable, for sure, but crammed with tourists and we had far more interesting natural beauty ahead in the Rocky Mountains National Park. Alenka had to prove to the world why were stopping so much, but when you have shocking beauty like this, you just have to stop again and again and again! And even though it’s June, and a refreshing high 60’s through most of the park, the snow was piled high. The drive itself was certainly different than what we had the day before in Kansas and eastern Colorado.

There’s no describing the stunning vistas up there; you simply have to go see it for yourself. Just don’t forget that you’re at some pretty serious elevation — over 12,000 feet in fact — so don’t do too much running around with a heavy camera if you’re not used to it (*pant*… *pant*).

The route down was equally gorgeous, but also in the shadow side of things, so we stopped a lot less on the way out of the park. Shadow Mountain Lake was worth stopping for however, where we saw an empty lot and dreamed ever-so-briefly about a life on the lake in a log cabin, before picking up a Realtor’s advertisement for a lovely cottage on the water priced a paltry $1.8M. Adorable.

Needless to say, I have a lot of photos to share over the coming months from this drive.

Rocky Mountain National ParkRocky Mountain National Park @ June 2011 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 160, ƒ/7.1, 1/500

Today we head towards Salt Lake City, Utah. Never been, and we’ll be connecting with fellow photography Nicole Young. Can’t wait!

One more thing… Trey Ratcliff’s New Photography, HDR, and Post-processing Course

Many of you are already familiar with Trey’s fantastic HDR work over at Stuck In Customs, but in case you missed it he’s just released a new HDR tutorial series that includes 11½ hours of content in nine different classes, and at just $97 for the “best value” package, if you’re into learning HDR, it’s unquestionably a great value. Check it out here!

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