Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dinosaur Ridge - An Earthen Hogback

Mount Morrison from Dinosaur Ridge

Down around Morrison, ancient crags are uplifted and thrust into the sky creating a dynamic landscape. Since the 1800s, this area has been a hotbed for fossil hunters as bones and footprints from all sorts of dinosaurs have been discovered here.

A thin slice of mountainside spans across this Jurassic Park offering magnificent views of Red Rocks and the sheer foothills. Called Dinosaur Ridge, this earthen hogback requires a steep ascent to reach the narrow crest.

Traversing the knife’s edge is a dizzying endeavor as the cliffs fall away precipitously on both sides. At the summit, a few pine trees have been sculpted into interesting shapes by a relentless west wind.

The lofty heights of this rugged escarpment is a prime place to watch for migrating raptors riding the powerful thermals. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single bird of prey but I did see a mule deer, magpie and a few spotted towhees.

Up on the rim, the sun sears through thin air causing the climber to sweat with profusion. After the snowy spring, it seems like the heat has been turned on with a switch so I don’t have any reservation in saying I believe the warmer weather is here to stay.

A slice of mountainside

Magnificent views of Red Rocks Park

A knife-edged ridge

Sculpted pine trees

A rugged escarpment

Mule deer

And magpies

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Evergreen Overlook - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Evergreen Overlook" Colored Pencil

Out of all of the drawings I’ve ever done, this is one of my favorites. An ambitious project, the composition is larger than usual for me so it took a tremendous amount of time and patience to complete.

It was deeply influenced by master artists such as Benton, Kent and O’Keeffe. The arrangement was thoughtfully simplified in order to capture the essence of our mountain corridor called Evergreen, Colorado.

From the southern slopes of Genesee Mountain, the Front Range foothills are carefully unfurled. Filled with smooth gradations, the billowing landscape is shaded like a piece of wrinkled clothing.

The verdant mountains get gradually lighter and bluer as they recede into the distance. Crowning the rugged skyline, the snowy Mount Evans Massive is partially obscured by low-lying clouds.

The dead ponderosa pine is the focal point as a halo of reflected light glows against the darkest passage. The skeletal structure of the red snag is shown in striking contrast to the lively, green tree that stands behind.

In front, the golden shrubs are overlapping elements that are arranged across the page in an orderly fashion. The row of brush encloses a swath of swirling grasses that lay in all different directions.

Above, a scattering of soft, white clouds stretches thinly across the vibrant blue sky. The upper atmosphere is darker at the top and gradually lightens as it approaches the rugged horizon line.

From such an incredible vantage point the lonesome wilderness yearns for the visitor’s undivided attention. Landmarks like Bergen Peak, Black Mountain and Elephant Butte can be discerned upon close inspection.

The vast expanse of meadows, trees and mountains unfolds before your eyes. This part of Colorado is beautiful countryside brimming with water, wildlife and wildflowers. I’m lucky to call this countryside home.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Bergen Park - A Shaded Retreat

Bergen Park, Colorado

A sweet little preserve located just north of Evergreen, Bergen Park is an often overlooked stretch of ponderosa pine. The mature forest towers above its immediate surroundings, creating an eternally shaded retreat.

Thomas Bergen was the first to settle on the land when he built a log cabin here in 1859, calling it Elk Park. Soon after, a mining camp sprang up and the bustling community earned a stagecoach stop.

By 1915 the area was accessible by automobile, providing views of the Rockies, and situated on gentle hills well-suited for recreational use. That same year the site was donated to the City of Denver and Bergen Park was officially established.

Today, during the spring, wet snow blankets the woodland but the great trees are a study in resilience. Heavy pressure from all of the moisture bends the limber branches into impossible angles.

Morning after a big storm and the blue sky sparkles behind the crystallized conifers. During the melting process, the place becomes a robin’s playground where the birds pluck fat worms out of the black soil.

Paved trails cross-cross through the pleasant maze of red wood. It’s not a rugged wilderness whose beauty beckons but this park offers you a chance to escape from the urban environment and reconnect with the wonders of nature.

A towering forest

Snow blankets the woodland

A study in resilience

Impossible angles

Morning after the storm

Reconnect with nature

Saturday, April 28, 2018

April Snow Showers - A Drenched Landscape

April snow showers

The wind finally finished whipping through the foothills but now the local climate has become a monsoon. A disruptive rain/snow mix is settled over the Front Range but the much needed moisture has been a godsend.

The warmer temps create a heavy slush that pours down out of the gray sky. Day after day, the thirsty landscape is drenched and the dry gullies transformed into a deluge of cold runoff.

A blurry curtain of drizzled atmosphere has softened nature’s edges and the big mountains have all but disappeared. Not as monochrome as during a winter storm, the forest still sparkles with a bit of spring color.

The birds don’t like the dreary weather so many of them have retreated into comfortable seclusion. I still see robins as they seem to tolerate the cold by fluffing up while hunting for worms.

There is one animal up here that thrives under such miserable conditions. Elk are built for the harsh elements so they happily graze, gallop and buck across the soggy meadows.

On a more positive note, all the moisture from the last couple of weeks should green up the countryside and reduce the risk of fire. Also, I’m hoping these April snow showers will ignite a profusion of May wildflowers.

A rain/snow mix

The landscape is drenched

A blurry curtain of drizzled atmosphere

The forest sparkles with color

Elk are built for the harsh elements

They gallop across the meadow

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Evergreen Lake Spring - Watercolor

"Evergreen Lake Spring" Watercolor

After a tiresome winter, it's finally spring at Evergreen Lake where everything appears back in perfect order. The trout are jumping, ducks are quacking and dippers are dipping.

Rushing out of the rugged Front Range, Bear Creek becomes a lazy river as it enters the wide reservoir. The painting’s foreground features sparkling highlights that flicker across the pond’s icy inlet.

On land, the variety of fresh vegetation displays a rich diversity of size, shape and color. Known as Elephant, the big, gray butte concludes the background while wispy, white clouds sweep across a cerulean sky.

An arched footbridge transports the ambler to a winding boardwalk through a marsh of soggy cattails. The yellow reeds are a place where red-wings make a ruckus over food, relationships and intrusion.

Despite the blackbirds' protestations, most creatures consider the warmer weather a Godsend. Pressed beneath an arctic crush, we welcome spring as an uplifting prelude before the way-too-short summer season.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Noble Meadow Loop - The Windy Season

Noble Meadow

I’m enjoying our warmer temperatures but if it gets too hot, I feel uncomfortable. I actually don’t mind the wet and cold so I savor being out in stormy weather observing the wonderful lighting effects.

I can stand the heat and certainly the chill but there’s one annoying element that drives me crazy and indoors. It’s the ferocious west wind that whips down from the white mountains and batters the foothills.

The raging mistral is making its annual appearance as its the driving force ushering in spring. The windy season usually lasts for a couple of weeks but this year it seems to have been blowing for more than a month.

Every morning the early light is blemished by a murky haze that veils the normally blue sky. The relentless gale has disrupted the peaceful atmosphere causing the local wildlife to be constantly on edge.

The unstoppable breeze is born in the big peaks and funneled down through Noble Meadow like a runaway locomotive. You can find some relief by rerouting through a calm sanctuary of protective pine trees.

The tempest does serve a purpose, though, by removing dried grasses and broken branches while preparing the earth for new growth. I get that it’s an integral part of nature as it plays a crucial role in sculpting the landscape but I’m getting pretty tired of the wind.

The windy season

A murky haze

The peaceful atmosphere is disrupted

The local wildlife is on edge

The breeze is funneled through the meadow

Protective pine trees

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Easter Snowstorm - A Bad Dream

Easter snowfall

After a few weeks of beautiful weather in Bridgeport, Nebraska, things turned ugly in a hurry. Mother Nature made a fool out of anyone who thought spring was here for good.

Saturday night was no joke as the Great Plains was buried under six inches of heavy, wet snow. The flakes came down like rain and covered the hills, trees and corn.

The west pasture was completely white except for a swath of blue creek that wound its way through the prairie. The stream flowed freely until reaching a fresh beaver dam that diverted the water, flooding nearby fields.

The migrating birds were stunned by such drastic weather changes but the bucket calves seemed perfectly content. So much moisture will give a big boost to the farmer’s first crops being planted this season.

By Sunday afternoon, the sky cleared and a warm sun melted most of the accumulation. For a few days there will be a bit of ice and lots of mud but by the end of the week, the landscape will reawaken and this event will be remembered as nothing but a bad dream.

Buried under snow

Snow covered the hills, trees and corn

The pasture was white

A winding creek

The stream flows freely

Contented bucket calves

The moisture will boost crops

The landscape will reawaken