WORDS: THOMAS EVAN WEST //

We cruised into the park around 9:30 AM on a gorgeous, sunny day in late October. The aspen trees had already lost all their leaves but the evergreens made the perfect layer between sharp yellow grasses and a complementary bright blue sky.

meadow

Our mid-week adventure allowed the perfect opportunity to visit the park without the overwhelming weekend hoards of tourists. The Bear Lake parking lot, a notoriously busy area, was only a quarter full when we arrived, allowing us to snake an easy spot and jump straight on the trail to Dream and Emerald Lake. We shot up the winding path through the pine forest until we reached the shore of the iconic Dream Lake. Stopping to catch our breath, we snapped a couple shots of the lake with the olloclip Wide-Angle Lens and went deeper into the woods up the mountain to our next destination.

dream lake

A little over a half-mile further, we broke through the forest to see the gleaming green waters of Emerald Lake. I’ve always had a hard time capturing photos in this area because of how the mountains so closely surround the lake. With the fisheye lens though, I was able to accurately catch the grandeur of the scene. The cliffs across from and around the lake soar into the sky creating a stunning backdrop for the glistening water.

em fisheye

We soaked in the sight and turned around to dip back into the forest, tired of being blasted by the winds coming down off the slopes. Once safely between the trees where the wind wasn’t able to creep in, we perched on a rock to guzzle down some water. I took out the 4-in-1 Lens for my phone to try the Macro 10x function on some moss and lichen. I moved my phone in closer and closer astounded at the detail and the proximity of the lens to its target specimen.

lichen

Further down the path we spotted a sap droplet suspended on a branch – another perfect target for the Macro 10x Lens.

sap

As we returned to the car a few hours later, we decided it was too early and too beautiful of a day to call it quits. After refueling on some cheese, lunchmeat, and nuts that we brought with us, we regained the motivation to get out and explore some more. We settled on making our way up Trail Ridge Road seeing as winter is approaching and it usually closes in November. Trail Ridge is the highest continuous paved road in the US and leads from Estes to Grand Lake over the continental divide.

We snaked our way up the winding road above tree line and into the high alpine terrain. Around 12,000 feet, we pulled over and jumped out to scamper up the mountain and catch some panoramic views over the whole park. We found a spot with an incredible 360-degree view and I immediately thought it would be a great opportunity to use the fisheye lens. I popped the olloclip on my phone and took some fantastic shots. The fisheye was the perfect choice for encompassing such a tremendous and sprawling view of the road carving through the mountains with the clouds framing us overhead.

road fisheye

After making it all the way to the Alpine Visitor Center, we decided to turn our wheels back around and head down for some celebratory beers and coffee. Even with a few hours time, Rocky Mountain National Park has some incredible opportunities to hike, take photos, and explore the scenic range that resides in the heart of Colorado.