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Being there: Rocky Mountain National Park

Meeker and Longs, from the summit of Twin Sisters

I came across this remarkable panoramic photo this morning while browsing for header art and wanted to both preserve and share it. The file will load slowly because it is massive, but take heart. Your patience will be rewarded. You’ll be able to click on the photo (twice for maximum size) and scroll all over it to take in all the detail of this, my favorite place in the world — Rocky Mountain National Park.

The two prominent peaks are Mt. Meeker (left) and Longs Peak (elev. 14,259 ft.). Longs is the one I climbed some thirty years ago. Immediately in front of and below them is the Tahosa Valley, with its scenic Peak to Peak Highway (Highway 7), a national scenic byway. When you zoom in all the way you can actually see the cars on the highway.

In the valley that falls away on the right is the town of Estes Park, headquarters for and gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and Lake Estes. The little meatloaf-shaped mountain in the middle of the valley is Prospect Mountain.

Notice the clouds and rain on the south (left) side of Meeker and Longs, while on the north side it’s sunny; this is common in the mountains. Rainy in one valley, sunny in the next.

All the peaks you see here are in the park. The photo (or stitched-together photos) was shot looking west from the summit of Twin Sisters, which I’ve also climbed. It’s one of the easier, more accessible peaks in the area and the view from the top is amazing. You’ve got all this to the west, and behind you to the east the plains roll away toward Kansas (visible on a clear day, I’ve been told).

Twin Sisters is also part of the park, although separated from the main body by the Highway 7 corridor. The perspective in this photo is misleading, because as you stand atop Twin Sisters, you are eyeball-to-eyeball with Meeker and Longs. You feel as though you could almost reach out over the valley below and touch them. If only it were that easy. Of course if it were, then actually climbing those peaks wouldn’t mean anything at all, would it?

And if you’ve ever wondered why they call these the Rocky Mountains, check the foreground in the lower corners. That’s what passes for “soil” here.

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