Friday Flattop Mountain

I like National Parks. I've scoffed them in the past as being too crowded, but the truth of the matter is there is a reason these are the crown jewels of our world. And the animals notice too. There are simply more of them up here, even more than in Wilderness. I've lived here forever and never really explored the park. Funny thing, Elaine, born and raised in Nederland, hasn't either. We're having fun checking out someplace neither of us knows much about.

I've done this hike up Flattop Mountain a few times – twice on skis and once as a freshman at CU in mountain biking shoes. Not ideal for hiking – I bruised my left big toe so badly it fell off and it's still not perfect even today. A good place to be and a super fun climb that leaves the forest and crosses some of the best alpine tundra in the state.

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Working our way up the 2,700 vertical to the top of the Continental Divide and Flattop Mountain.

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Hallet Peak. We mulled scrambling the 600 feet to the top of this, but the weather was moving in. Nice turns by some fellow die-hards down Tyndall Glacier.

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Elaine found a random Czech Republic flag littered on the top of the tundra. Not being ones to leave litter, we decided to take it home.

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Long live the Czech Republic.

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Ptarmigan are the only animals that don't migrate from the tundra, or hibernate (marmots), or burrow (pika). They tough it out – snow, cold, wind – all year long. The camoflauge plumage is spectacular.

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The parks may be oversigned and have too many cars, but they are vital for our world. I believe that having people go for hikes in beautiful places builds the next generation of environmentalists.

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Pretty girl with a Czech Republic flag in her hair.

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Emerald Lake in the foreground, Longs Peak in the background.

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Early signs of autumn.

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Changing folliage.

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Baby Stellar Jay.

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Unspoiled Wilderness. It's the most important thing left on the planet.

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Tall grasses in Bear Lake.

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Mamma bear and her cub.

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