Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hell's Hole - A Cold and Forbidding Place

Light is the symbol of truth

"To love beauty is to see light." ~ Victor Hugo

We ascended straight to hell and back. Hell's Hole that is. If our destination truly was the Devil's Den, then Hell has frozen over. There was still an enormous amount of deep snow obstructing the rugged trail to Lucifer's Lair.

Our journey began well enough. Warm sunshine filtered through a tunnel of arched aspen. Chirping birds and the rumble of West Chicago Creek provided comforting background noise. The majestic pathway of soft dirt beckoned the unwary traveler.

The lovely entry into the wilderness concealed the truth about the difficulties that would lie ahead. Precarious bridges lured the curious seeker deeper into the abyss. Inexplicably, the sky turned gray and it began to rain. How would it end?

Swallowed by the eternal shadow of Gray Wolf Mountain, the underworld was a cold and forbidding place. Stamped into the earth, the depression was enclosed by a dark forest of gnarled pine. At its terminus, the treacherous route became confused by snowdrifts, sharp branches and tangled roots.

Tired, chilled and hungry, the hasty retreat was all downhill. Our speedy descent kept pace with the relentless rush of whitewater runoff. Safely back at camp, the answer was clear. Don't be fooled, resist the temptations of darkness. Light is the symbol of truth.

Our journey began well enough

Warm sunshine filtered through the aspen

West Chicago Creek

Majestic pathway of soft dirt

Lovely entry into the wilderness

A precarious bridge

Gray Wolf Mountain

The route becomes confused

Deep snowdrifts

Hell's Hole was cold and forbidding

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mount Falcon - A Portal to the Rockies

Mount Falcon

If the trail over Mount Falcon is a portal to the Rockies, then attaining the summit on a sweltering summer day is a gateway to heaven. Ascending the 2,000 foot east face of the mountain is just as grueling as climbing any Colorado 14er.

Tormented by sharp yucca plants and prickly cactus, the back-breaking ascent is an insect-infested, rattlesnake-ridden netherworld. The hellacious hike through a scorching desert environment is distinguished by steep switchbacks and meager shade.

Upon reaching the summit, a sudden Utopia can only be described as too good to be true. The broad summit is composed of rolling meadows interspersed with lodgepole pine forests that provide a refreshing cover.

Butterflies float through flower-filled fields while cottontails browse on tender shoots of fresh grass. Beneath a powder-blue sky, the sound of songbirds is a joyful chorus. The tranquility at the top is a revelation. It's an idyllic reward offered to those who can successfully navigate the harsh habitat below.

A portal to the Rockies

A sudden Utopia

Rolling meadows

The forest provides shade

Butterflies float through fields

Flower-filled meadow

The tranquility is a revelation

You must navigate the harsh habitat below

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chimney Gulch - Seeking Silence

Chimney Gulch

"There is in every American, I think, something of the old Daniel Boone - who, when he could see the smoke from another chimney, felt himself too crowded and moved further out into the wilderness." ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

Chimney Gulch is a steep gully that drains into Clear Creek just west of Golden, Colorado. Upstream from the Coors Brewery, kayakers take a beating while training in a whitewater playground. Crossing the bridge and slashing through a jungle is required during a lowland approach to the ravine's upper reaches.

A path of red dirt has been worn into the contours of the shaggy, green mountainside. On an ordinary evening you'll probably see magpies and mule deer. Alert as ever, they will only tolerate a peaceful encounter. Pressing onward will involve some huffing and puffing but the effort will earn isolation for those seeking silence from the bustling city far below.

Sweeping views of a fervent sunset in the foothills will entice the watcher to procrastinate the descent but darkness does not dawdle. Stay as long as you like because if you hustle down the pipe, you'll make it back to civilization lickety-split.

The gully drains into Clear Creek

Kayakers battle whitewater

Welcome to the jungle

Eastern fox squirrel

A tolerant magpie

You'll see deer in the evening

A bridge to silence

Dusk in the foothills

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Trout Lake - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Trout Lake" Colored Pencil

On a dreary Sunday below Lizard Head Pass, Mother Nature delivered an unforgettable sermon from the mount. It was springtime in the San Juans where steady showers epitomize the wet monsoon. A turbulent squall washed the landscape clean, unveiling a patina of saturated colors.

Frugal guardians of precious metal, the sullen peaks were disheveled in appearance. The fluid coloring was a reflection of the vibrant fish submerged in the dark lake below. Rainbow, brown and cutthroat suddenly emerged to celebrate the rainy season in an exuberant, aerial display.

This place was gouged by the railroad ages ago, linking local mines with material wealth. Today, the ground is more spiritual as the tranquil landscape stretches toward more heavenly treasures. Now quiet and still, the storm has passed so why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Diamond Lake - Watercolor

"Diamond Lake" Watercolor

Most of Colorado's gold and silver mines have been played out for years now but there's still a wealth of wonderful scenery that can be found in the high country. Throughout the mountains, above tree line, the Rockies are studded with reservoirs of turquoise blue that shimmer like precious jewels.

Set in the rough and rugged Indian Peaks Wilderness, Diamond Lake is a sparkling gem. Here, a bright light permeates the thin air and transforms the landscape into a rare palette of shiny metallics. Broken by clumps of silvery sedge, the crystal-clear water reflects a unique treasury of earthen elements.

Gullies of crisp, white snow fill the deep cirque with a mother-lode of liquid bronze, copper and emerald. Beyond the golden cliffs, sketchy clouds are beginning to gather. A darkening sky forecasts the predictable thunder showers that occur almost daily at this altitude.

That summer rain, combined with morning sunshine, saturates the valley with a profusion of wildflowers. The beautiful gorge was sculpted by powerful forces struck from the hand of a master craftsman. To attain this destination is expensive, it will cost you some fitness and fortitude but the views from the shoreline are priceless.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lost Lake - Watercolor

"Lost Lake" Watercolor

While wandering around Colorado's Indian Peak Wilderness on a steamy, summer day, we found Lost Lake. Located in a beautiful basin once hailed as El Dorado, the misplaced loch is no myth. Nestled in a slender valley surrounded by magnificent mountains, the isolated tarn is an oasis.

Even during summer, the ochre peaks are still trimmed with a web of white couloirs. Prompted by the clear light, transparent, violet shadows intensify golden hues creating a shimmering effect in the distance. A row of orderly pine is a bastion of spring green concealing the sequestered pond. Brimming with blue water, the soggy shoreline is dotted with yellow flowers.

Discovering the elusive location was a longshot fulfilled. As the region's precious stones were exhausted long ago, the spirited journey was a soul-searching experience. If you ever make it here, you'll discover that Lost Lake is an extraordinary place to find yourself.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Flatirons - Colored Pencil Drawing

"The Flatirons" Colored Pencil

The unique Flatirons rock formation is an indisputable highlight of Colorado's Front Range. Situated just west of Boulder, the peculiar peaks are an uncanny reflection of the quirky town they have come to symbolize.

Laced with a cascade of verdant pine, the Flatirons thrust skyward in a perpetual state of spectacular confusion. Speckled with orange and violet, the apathetic crags are pockmarked with holds and cold to the touch.

The sizzling, summer sun has bleached out the cerulean sky and scorched the ochre meadow. Gnarled ponderosa pine are shedding their dry needles neutralizing the cool, green trees with some warmth.

The eternal Flatirons have resisted the destructive forces of nature for more than 80 million years. In an ever-changing world, there's something comforting about the permanence of these striking, sandstone slabs.