Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rocky Mountains reunion

For several months Mary Lou and I made plans for a family reunion on the occasion of our 56th Wedding anniversary. We chose to locate it at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. This was also the site of our 50th anniversary gathering. We had stayed there in past years with our children, where we enjoyed a great variety of activities for visitors of all ages. 

We reserved five cabins for five nights to house us as well as the anticipated 19 guests-- our three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandsons, along with their loved ones and Mary Lou's brother Ray. We held our breath up to the last minute, hoping that all would be willing and able to endure the hardship and stress of flying and driving. It all worked out beautifully. 

The weather was fine, with cool nights and warm days. Four of the cabins were clustered together along a ridge with beautiful views of snow-capped peaks and verdant valleys:

View from Byenbye cabin HDR 02-20160612

As luck would have it, a scheduling glitch caused the facility to relocate our own cabin about a quarter mile away from the others, down-slope in a woodland. Note the bear-proof waste container at the door of our "Aspen" cabin:

Our cabin ASPEN HDR 20160612

This turned out to not be bad at all, as we enjoyed a measure of solitude and we also were spared the duty of hosting the evening gatherings which the younger crowd kept going until well after our bedtime. I was out exploring very early every morning, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the wilderness. Just outside our door, two bird houses were attached to tree trunks. One was quaint and rustic:

Chickadee house 20160614

It was occupied by a pair of Mountain Chickadees with at least one nestling as well as a fledgling:

Mountain Chickadee 20160614 

Mountain Chickadee 02-20160615

In the other bird house, aptly-named Violet-green Swallows were busy bringing in nesting materials:

Violet-green Swallow 01-20160614

Violet-green Swallow 04-20160614

Violet-green Swallow 02-20160614

Another pair of swallows nested in an abandoned woodpecker hole in an old Aspen:

Violet-green Swallow HDR 4-20160612

Mule Deer roamed near the cabin. The bucks were in velvet:

Mule Deer buck in velvet 2-20160612

A small doe eyed me cautiously from a grassy opening, her generous "mule" ears outlined by back-light:

Doe 20160615

Pygmy Nuthatches were abundant in the Ponderosa Pines:

Pygmy Nuthatch HDR 20160612

Pygmy Nuthatch 3-20160615

Slate-colored Juncos (Gray-headed subspecies) sang vigorously from treetops. Like this one, a fair percentage of the small birds were banded, thanks to the active research which is conducted at the YMCA:

Slate-colored - Gray-headed Junco 03-20160614 

Slate-colored - Gray-headed Junco 02-20160614

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet appeared briefly and displayed its namesake headdress:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet HDR 01-20160611

A Hairy Woodpecker foraged on an Aspen which showed distinct scars from a bear's claws:

Hairy Woodpecker near bear claw scars 2-20160615

Colorful Cassin's Finches were busy finding food among the Aspen leaves:

Cassin's Finch male HDR 20160612

An American Crow spied on me from a high perch...

American Crow 20160612

...while another ventured into the shadows, where my murky photo needed tuning which brought out some vivid background colors:

 American Crow HDR 2016014

Our daughter's "Byenbye" cabin became the center for gathering and entertainment. We returned there after a a nature walk with some of the younger crowd:

Grandchildren 20160612

One of the granddaughters sighted a Mountain Bluebird atop one of the cabins along the way:

Mountain Bluebird 2-2160612

This is the "Byenbye" Cabin. Its deck proved to be a great spot for nature photographers:

Approaching Byenbye cabin HDR 02-20160612

Granddaughter Mary (and younger granddaughter Cari) captured some excellent shots of wildlife and scenery. I am encouraging them to start their own photo blogs:

Mary 20160612

These are my photos from the deck. I must admit that several taken by the youngsters are better than mine! A Green-tailed Towhee put on quite a show:

Green-tailed Towhee 02-20160612

Green-tailed Towhee 05-20160612

Green-tailed Towhee 07-20160612

The YMCA prohibits hummingbird feeders because they attract bears. The Broad-tailed Hummingbirds found many inconspicuous tubular flowers to provide them with nectar:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird 06-20160612

Broad-tailed Hummingbird 03-20160612

We drove up above the treeline on Trail Ridge Road. Among the furry residents of the alpine tundra were a chipmunk which appeared to be blowing "bokeh bubbles"...

Chipmunk with bokeh bubbles 20160615

...and a Hoary Marmot:

Hoary Marmot 2-20160615

Hoary Marmot 4-20160615

In the distance, a small herd of North American Elk browsed near an ice field:

Elk and snow field 20160615

Nearer, two elk walked along a ridge:

North American Elk 20160615

A Clark's Nutcracker was almost out of camera range:

Clark's Nutcracker HDR 20160615

Of course I must show off more of our grandkids. Here, our granddaughter Cari leads a pony carrying great-grandson Jayce:

Jayce Cari 20160614

Graci takes aim at the archery range while her sister Cari nocks her arrow:

Archers Graci Cari 20160615

Granddaughter Rachel displays her beautiful smile:

Rachel 2-20160614

Her sister Elizabeth was afraid of heights but conquered her fear by riding a full-sized horse for the first time:

Elizabeth 2-20160614

Grandchildren Mary and Glen return from a trail ride:

Mary Glen 20160614

Now that I have bored you with "grandpa talk" I will let you see all four generations of the Schneider Clan (with Mary Lou's brother Ray also in the photo)...

Family reunion HDR 02 grad filter -20160615

...and, of course, a special vintage rendition with our eight grandchildren:

Grandchildren KC ML vintage3 20160615

My only "reflection" this week is that from a rainbow, which also refracts and disperses light. This was the first earthbound rainbow I have ever seen, at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2016. It is an  iPhone 6 photo enhanced by layering 3 different exposures for HDR effect. This rainbow appeared suddenly during a brief local downpour. We were above it looking down into the valley:

Rainbow HDR 5PM 20160613

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


  1. Hello, what an awesome place to have a reunion. I love the Rocky MTn nat'l Park and Estes Park was where we stayed. Beautiful scenery and gorgeous birds. Great post and photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day and weekend!

  2. really awesome reunion place! looks like everyone found fun things to do - and you got in some great birding and wildlife watching, too. loved seeing the western birds in this post. really nice variety.

  3. oh, wow. What a wonderful place. I'm packing my backpack now.

    Congrats for such a gorgeous family :)

  4. Wow! What a place and all your photography is so beautiful! ~ Happy times for all ^_^

    Happy Day, weekend and Happy 4th of July in the USA to you.

  5. A perfect place and way to honor your special occasion. Loved taking the trip with you.

  6. Hello Ken!:) This is a heart warming post of a wonderful family reunion in a beautiful location. All your wildlife photos are captivating, and all your images of your grandchildren, and family group shots are lovely.

  7. What a wonderful trip! I know you enjoyed spending time with your family at such a beautiful place. And you saw so much wildlife! I love that the kids are learning to love nature photography too! Now to go back and look at the photos again...! Thanks, Diane

  8. This was such a neat post. So many wonderful animals, birds & the kiddos seemed tobe having a grand time. I enjoyed the fences in the shots and well just the entire post. It looked like a very fun time was had by all.

  9. Super location for a family reunion! You have a good-looking clan. LOL at "bokeh bubbles" shot!

  10. You have a gorgeous family, Kenneth, and Rachel's smile is radiant and infectious. I love all the birds in your photos, as well as the animals and, of course, your family!

  11. How wonderful that you all could gather at this beautiful place! Looks like a good time was had by all!

  12. what a fantastic place to have a reunion for your 56 wedding anniversary and with all your family around you. I think your cabin being a little isolated was the best bet and your certainly had many critters and birds to photograph around it.

  13. What a beautiful place to have a family reunion. Enjoyed seeing all the beautiful birds, scenery and family photos.

  14. Beautiful, such a reunion. And your pictures are unbelievably beautiful. I have so enjoyed it. Thank you

  15. What a great family gathering and a great looking family. I love Colorado. I'm sure you had a wonderful anniversary celebration.

    Love all your bird pics.

  16. Great photo tour of your reunion and my! all those gorgeous critters!

  17. beautiful rainbow and all the pictures of family in wonderful nature !

  18. fantastic in every way !!loved it

  19. Hello Ken, awesome trip and post. Your photos are beautiful. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your 4th of July weekend!

  20. Beautiful wildlife and wonderful family gathering!
    A great series of photos!

  21. I like all the outdoor experiences that your grandchildren are experiencing and I don't see one holding an electronic device. Impressive how they are being raised. Awesome scenery! I am amazed how each photograph of each bird the viewer can see the eye of the bird. I liked the deer photos too like they are posing for the photographer. Really interesting blog! Happy 4th of July!
    JM, Illinois

  22. Great post! I enjoyed seeing the photos. Looks like a wonderful time.

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the rainbow is amazing!

  23. Looks like the reunion was a big success for the family. Great shots of everyone. I know you must have special memories from the reunion. As always, stunning pics of the birds.

  24. Oh my goodness....this post was like going home again! I can smell the pine and feel the dry cool breezes at night just outside the cabin. I lived just a few miles from Estes for nearly 50 years.

    Of course the bird images are super Ken.

    Thank you so much for adding your post link! We birders at I'd Rather B Birdin' always appreciate you participating!!

  25. What a great place for a reunion - thats a great collection of grandkids!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  26. I've never even heard of an earthbound rainbow, a landbow as it were. That is a special shot and would look great on any wall. The effort of getting all those people together will be a special memory forever. Beautiful photos and excellent critter close ups. I've found that solitude is a bonus at large family gatherings that go for days.

  27. Just fantastic photos. What a nature you have captured.

    R. Täysin arkista

  28. It never would have occurred to me that hummingbird feeders might attract bears!
    Thanks for sharing at

  29. Fantastic wildlife shots. Congratulations on your anniversary - looks like great fun.

  30. What a fantastic blog post and how amazing to share that fantastic place with all your family. I enjoyed all your photos so much and really hope to see places like that when I get older. Did you see any bears?

  31. My goodness, you have seen a lot of wildlife in that beautiful area. Great shots, beautiful captures! And happy belated anniversary, it looks like you had a wonderful time together.

  32. My goodness, that's a lot of photos! What lovely critters.

  33. Great looking Swallows, and a great place for a family reunion.

  34. Gorgeous photos, as always.

  35. What a great series of fine pictures.Have a nice day.

  36. What a wonderful thing to organize! Glad it went well.

  37. Wonderful family portrait! Isn't it great to get away and see some amazing things with the family? What a treat! I love Rocky Mountain National Park. Such a diverse and beautiful place.

  38. Wonderfull photos of nature.

  39. I wanted to see where you spent your time in Colorado and I was happy to see it was in one of our favorite places--YMCA of the Rockies! I enjoyed seeing all your bird photography

  40. Fabulous photos! Looks like everyone had a great time.


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