Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mount Evans

Mount Evans Highway is the highest paved road in North America.

We will be heading back home tomorrow and one stop we are planning on making along the way is Mount Evans, Colorado. The drive up Mount Evans is called the road into the sky. From 2,300 m at Idaho Spring you climb to 4,300 m at the summit, driving through three altitudinal life zones: montane, subalpine and alpine.
  Montane means "of the mountain" and the montane zone is characterized by higher rainfall than the adjacent lowlands. It is usually well forested, being far below the tree line. 
  As you approach the tree line, you transition into the subalpine life zone. Here the trees usually become crooked and gnarled due to continual exposure to freezing winds which cause vegetation to become deformed. Here trees need to be sheltered by rocks or snow cover in order to survive. Typically these trees are of the fir, spruce or pine varieties and they are called Krummholz formation, from the German words krumm (crooked, bent, twisted) and holz (wood). Well established krummholz trees can live up to a thousand years. Grasses and shrubs are also found in the subalpine life zone.
  Above the tree line is the alpine life zone which is characterized by tundra. Here vegetation is close to the ground and consists of grasses, sedges and dwarf shrubs covered with lichens and mosses. Plants have to adapt to the harsh winds and cold temperatures of the alpine life zone in order to survive.
  Next week I will continue with more on Mount Evans and talk about the fauna which can be seen in each life zone.

Hoping to see some of the famous Mount Evans mountain goats!

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