Saturday, October 25, 2014

Epaulet Mountain - A Remote Sanctuary

Epaulet Mountain

I've been here before, up at the top of Mount Evans Road. But on this day, I'm not sure which way to go. Wasting no more time, I've made up my mind. It's Epaulet Mountain that I'm going to climb. Here I go again on my own.

In the shadow of Evans and Bierstadt, Epaulet is a humble hill that's always been outshone. During this lonely trek of dreams, I'm miles above treeline and totally alone. Across the way there's lovely Rosalie. Pointed peaks pierce the sky like remote islands in a vast, blue sea.

After a solitary scramble to the summit, the extraordinary view is impossible to measure. Hiking the natural pathway out to a farther point is an absolute pleasure. Overlooking a deep abyss of solitude, it's a remote sanctuary where I've gone. I'll keep searching for an answer. Oh Lord, I pray you give me the strength to carry on.

I've been here before

Not sure which way to go

Mount Bierstadt and Evans

Above treeline all alone

Lovely Rosalie is across the way

Islands in a vast, blue sea

The summit of Epaulet

Extraordinary views

An absolute pleasure

A deep abyss

A remote sanctuary

Give me the strength to carry on

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bull Elk - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Bull Elk" Colored Pencil Drawing

The Rocky Mountain Elk is the undisputed symbol of Evergreen, Colorado. I see them almost every day so I've become very familiar with their ways. The elk's predictable, seasonal behavior provides me with some comfort during these uncertain times. There is a rhythm to their life that influences our own.

The elk seem to tolerate our intrusion into their habitat as they go about their routine seemingly oblivious to the human activity happening all around them. From a close distance, this drawing depicts an agitated elk during the annual, fall rut.

Mud-soaked and lathered into a frenzy, this bull is in his prime. He bellows loudly to other rivals and cows as a signal that he is defining his territory and claiming his harem. Evergreeners have learned how to live with the elk by developing creative techniques to protect their trees, gardens and bird feeders, and by driving cautiously, especially after dark.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Antelope Island - A Paragon of Uniqueness

Antelope Island's Frary Peak

In a state known for its unusual landscape, Utah's Antelope Island is an underrated paragon of uniqueness. Surrounded by a shallow sea of salt, the parched ground is a desert isle hydrated by a few freshwater springs. From the highlands, a panorama of natural scenic beauty is described by prominent peaks, points and bays.

Historically, explorers John Fremont and Kit Carson are credited with discovering the extraordinary environment in 1845. For the next 100 years, domesticated animals were restrained by a seaside ranch. Today, all creatures are allowed to move freely in safe seclusion from the busy mainland.

A curious causeway connects the wildlife watcher with a prairie paradise where buffalo roam and antelope play. Bighorn sheep scramble across the island's mountainous spine of ancient rock while down at the shore, wandering waterfowl feast on a buffet of brine shrimp.

After a full day of sand, surf and turf, the light doesn't last. As we head back towards the Wasatch Mountains under a setting sun, the surreal scene fades away like a murky mirage. Doubts begin to cloud a weary mind, was that place for real or just a dream?

Surrounded by a shallow sea of salt

A desert isle

Buffalo Point trail

Natural scenic beauty

Bison move freely on the island

A prairie paradise

A place where buffalo roam

and antelope play

The island is composed from ancient rock

Evening light on the island

Back towards the Wasatch Mountains

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Great Salt Lake - A Miserly Warden of Water

The Great Salt Lake

Lake Bonneville was a prehistoric, landlocked basin that covered most of western Utah. During the last Ice Age, its banks were breached and a catastrophic flood ensued. Still lingering in the high desert, Great Salt Lake is a last remnant of that ancient ocean.

The covetous Great Salt Lake is a miserly warden of water. It's an endorheic basin, a terminal drainage where streams go to die. Channeled by three major rivers, aqua pura flows in freely but immediately becomes trapped in a saltine prison.

The Pacific will not be reached because outflow is not allowed although some fortunate fluid is permitted release through evaporation or seepage. After thousands of years, this egotistical effect has transformed the lethargic lake into a mineral stew.

In a region influenced by the Mormon religion, the rebellious reservoir remains defiant as it is virtually uninhabitable. Even though this destination is distinguished by turquoise water and white sand beaches, the place is not a tropical paradise. Wading into the warm water through a swarm of brine flies is sticky, stinky and strange.

Such a selfish nature is due to its extreme shallowness combined with a dangerous drought. Sadly, the Great Salt Lake's water level is in a dramatic decline. So, please don't judge our American Dead Sea. I, for one, hope this Wonder of the West lives for all eternity.

Landlocked in western Utah

Still lingering in the high desert

A last remnant of Lake Bonneville

An endorheic basin

The terminal lake is a saltine prison

It's a rebellious reservoir

The place is virtually uninhabitable

White sand beaches and bright blue water

The lake is extremely shallow

The American Dead Sea

A Wonder of the West

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lower Bells Canyon - A Wonderful Day in the Wasatch

Lower Bells Canyon

Traveling across eastern Utah, the landscape looked like a lifeless planet. Lacking trees, fences and livestock, the giant red rocks resembled a graveyard of ghostly shipwrecks. Once over the pass and down into Price, we entered an oasis of wet mountains known as the Wasatch.

Rising sharply out of the desert plateau, the jagged, turquoise peaks form an impressive eastern boundary. At the city of Sandy, we traced the winding Wasatch Boulevard to a granite trailhead. Hung snuggly at the top of a narrow, natural staircase, we discovered the Lower Bells Canyon Reservoir.

The lovely, green lake was inhabited by a gaggle of friendly waterfowl. Delightful ducks, with little ones in tow, dipped, dabbled and dove while we hopped, skipped and jumped riskily along the rocky shoreline. Encircled by dark pine on a cloudy day, the shadowy, cold water appeared jet black.

Vertical crags formed an impressive backdrop while out west the Great Salt Lake was a hazy mirage. After some time for quiet reflection, basketball beckoned so we descended back to the beginning. Despite being whisked away from my beloved wilderness, it was still a wonderful day in the Wasatch.

A narrow, natural staircase

Lower Bells Canyon Reservoir

The lovely, green lake

Delightful ducks

With little ones in tow

A risky venture along the rocky shoreline

The vertical crags were impressive

Great Salt Lake was a hazy mirage

A wonderful day in the Wasatch

Saturday, September 20, 2014

United States Air Force Academy - Let's Go Zoomies

The Cadet Chapel

"We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. ~ Cadet Honor Code

Below a spectacular summit named Eagle, we spent a stormy, summer weekend playing in a soccer tournament at the United States Air Force Academy. The athletic fields were immaculate and the opening day atmosphere was electric. We were focused on our ordinary lives and our children competing at that time.

Some may have failed to look across the way where soldiers were practicing sports like soccer, baseball and football. Make no mistake though, it wasn't all fun and games for those young men and women stationed in Colorado Springs studying the art of military warfare. We complained about parking, the heat and losing but did that really matter?

The politics associated with youth soccer are just insignificant nonsense compared to the lessons being taught over the wall. Up on The Terrazzo, cadets are struggling to survive one of the most rigorous academic and military training programs in the world. They are required to discard all personal effects and learn to live off of bare necessities.

It's a place where hard work, service and loyalty are truly rewarded. The students learn how to follow orders, survive in the wilderness and become respected leaders of men and women. Bound by discipline and tradition, doolies (freshmen) have significant restrictions placed on their movements and actions. The Fourth-class cadets hustle across campus constrained by a white marble grid decorating the square pavilion.

The spiritual centerpiece of the complex is considered to be a prominent example of modern, American architecture. The artistic, 17-spired Cadet Chapel is a solemn sanctuary where warriors go to pray before being shipped out to hostile conflicts across the globe. The building was designed in a distinct, modernist style, and makes extensive use of aluminum on the exterior, suggesting the outer skin of an aircraft or spacecraft.

I can only agonize over how awful it must be to fight in a war but these brave souls have willfully volunteered to defend our country and our freedom. There has been recent controversy about illicit behavior on the base but cordial interactions with polite cadets made our stay a positive experience. As for the athletic programs, I'm their new biggest fan. Let's go Zoomies.

Soccer below Eagle Peak

The Terrazzo

A rigorous military training program

A spiritual centerpiece

The artistic, 17-spired Cadet Chapel

The place warriors go to pray

Interior design of the chapel

Let's go Zoomies