July update - Pikes Peak (July 9 - 10)

After returning back to Gothic for one night (for real food and shower), my friend accompanied me to Pike National Forest to help me measure Mertensia alpina.

Taylor Park Reservoir
Passing by Taylor Park Reservoir (larger image here).  I was here almost two years ago.

We drove through Cottonwood Pass.

Cottonwood Pass
Two years ago, it was raining very hard so I didn't stop and take pictures.  This time, my friend and I hiked to the top of the pass and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Arctic Alpine Forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum)
Arctic Alpine Forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum)

View from Cottonwood Pass
View from the top of the pass (larger image here).

Photographer on Cottonwood Pass
My friend taking photos.

On our way, we spotted many sheep-like creatures next to horses in a fenced-off area.  I realized they were Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) and quickly turned the car around so I can take their pictures!  Pronghorn is an animal that I always wanted to see here in Colorado but never had the chance until now.  They are the fastest land mammal in North America, and the hypothesis for their speed is quite fascinating (read this article).

Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana)
Such a cool-looking animal.

Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana)

Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana)
Look at its horns!

The animals moving away from us.

Then we finally arrived at Pikes Peak later in the day.  Pikes Peak is accessible by car or cog train, so it is a very popular tourist destination because people can get to 14,000+ feet without doing any hiking at all.

The summit.

Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Pikes Peak Cog Railway

View from Pikes Peak
The City of Colorado Springs in the distance (larger image here).

View from Pikes Peak
Another view (larger image here).

M. alpina growing right next to the road.

View from where the plants are.  As you can see, the drive to the summit is very windy and daunting.

M. alpina

Close-up on the flowers

While measuring the plants, we heard and saw American Pipits (Anthus rubescens) and a Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi).

Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)

Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)

This might be my favourite plant-measuring trip of my field seasons.

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