NWC REU 2013
May 22 - July 30

Boulder Pictures + niiciibiicei'i


The title is the Arapaho name for the "Never Summer Range" located in what is now referred to as Rocky Mountain National Park


by Kevin Kloesel

Our first stop was heetko'einoo' (which in Arapaho translates to "The Circle"). Otherwise known as Estes Park, CO

The drive to the continental divide was scenic, but our students seemed fixated on the developing cumulus clouds.

At the Continental Divide, this water will ultimately journey its way to the Gulf of Mexico. (Some of it will be snatched up by plants and the atmosphere along the way.)

The continental divide became the first opportunity for some to see snow in June!

Happy campers even after an uphill climb!

It seemed like the atmosphere was trying to compete with the scenic views for attention.

And not everyone gets to plot themselves at 662.1 hPa

The tundra fields provided a perfect setting for what quickly became an eye witness account of a centuries' old struggle.

In this corner. with low clouds, piercing winds, biting cold, and snow.. from the Never Summer Range... WHITE OWL!

And in this corner... with its dark, vertically developed clouds, winds from above, and liquid preciptitation, the vaunted THUNDERBIRD!

From Arapaho oratory.. "When they were in camp White-Owl and Thunderbird challenged each other for an exhibition of their powers. So Thunderbird started up thick clouds, black as coal, making a tremendous noise and great wind. White-Owl started its white looking clouds, which moved fast and thick, the clouds flying very low and blowing with a piercing wind."

"Now the black clouds and the white clouds met..."

And the struggle began. Note the incredible rotor that developed, spinning along a horizontal axis.

It continued to move to the right of the image (to the west) with an eye-like feature in the rotor.

".but the white clouds of the white bird scattered snow. So the white owl gained the day and was considered the most powerful."

Getting a front row seat to watch frozen precipitation falling against cloud to ground lighting (too close to get out and take pix) on June 29th - experiencing the Arapaho WhiteOwl - Thunderbird first hand - was profoundly exhilarating!

Looks like the vegetation is happy that White Owl won as well. These plants will have a slow drip irrigation system in place for a while as the ice slowly melts.

(no caption)

(no caption)

Unfortunately, the early invaders had to go in and give these peaks "European" names...

But at least James Grafton Rogers in 1914 used a "place-based" approach in naming them. Note Mt. Stratus, Nimbus, Cumulus, and Cirrus. James Rogers named them this way because they "touched the sky."

The last views of the "protracted struggle between White Owl and Thunderbird."

We also visited the glaciers of the lava cliffs.

And tundra fields.

If you look carefully at the tundra, these tiny little flowers have amazing color.

(Make your own caption here. "Cool" just didn't seem like enough.)

White Owl and Thunderbird spent most of the day going at each other!

(no caption)

(no caption)

Of course, finding snow fields for a June 29th snowball fight was "COOL"

...unless of course you are the target!

As we came back down from the tundra, geologic formations became the focus.

Including the alluvial fan from an earthen dam break in 1982 that blasted boulders from the mountain. (seen from Many Parks)

The alluvial fan was our next stop.

Have rocks? Will climb!

...and climb some more.

(no caption)

(no caption)

A fun full interdisciplinary day of weather, geology, hydrology, and cultural anthropology

And a tired bunch at the end!