Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chief Mountain - Access to a Wonderful World

Ancient bristlecone pines are guardians of the alpine tundra
"The heavens seem to be nearer the earth. The elements are less reserved and distinct. Water turns to ice, rain to snow. The day is but a Scandinavian night. The winter is an arctic summer." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Located above Squaw Pass Road in the foothills of Colorado's Front Range, Chief Mountain rises above the surrounding valleys to offer spectacular scenery from its rocky summit. The panoramic views begin with Mount Evans and the Continental Divide to the west, Longs Peak looms to the north and massive Pikes Peak can be seen to the south. Eastward you'll see Squaw Peak and the Evergreen Mountains.

What makes Chief Mountain special is its unique access to the wonderful world above the trees. After a quick hike through a dense forest of spruce and fir, the trees become stunted and windblown. Rare bristlecone pines are ancient guardians of this incredible ecosystem. The alpine tundra is a stunning expanse of blue sky, tiny wildflowers and harsh climate.

Relentless winds and frigid temperatures limit what plants can grow here. A patchwork mosaic of hardy vegetation clings to the rocky soil. Some plants take two or more years to produce flower buds, which survive below deep winter snows and bloom for just a few weeks each summer. The amazing environment is an adaptable place but we must tread lightly. Crushing footsteps can destroy the fragile plants, leaving the exposed soil to blow away and a centuries long remediation to recover.

The hike begins in a dense forest

Panoramic views are spectacular

Chief Mountain's rocky summit

Mount Evans looms to the west

The tundra is a stunning expanse

Wildflowers bloom for just a few weeks each summer

Windblown, stunted and gnarled trees

Evergreen's mountains to the southeast

Chief Mountain is special

We must tread lightly

No comments:

Post a Comment