Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mills Lake - Inspiring Dreams

Mills Lake, Colorado

"In years to come when I am asleep beneath the pines, thousands of families will find rest and hope in this park." ~ Enos Mills

Enos Mills was a distinguished author, photographer, nature guide, lecturer and adventurer, but he was probably best known as the "Father of Rocky Mountain National Park." He promoted Colorado's pristine wilderness through his articles, books, lectures and photographs.

Enos hoped to educate the public about the importance of preserving large tracts of land in the scenic mountain west. After a six-year struggle urging Congress to create such a refuge in the Northern Front Range, the national park was officially established in 1915.

Dwarfed in an environment displaying breathtaking views at every turn, Mills Lake may be the prettiest place in the park. Black like an inkwell, the reservoir is exhibited at the bottom of a deep gorge that has been gouged by an artistic creek.

The beautiful landscape is strewn with a chaos of giant, polished boulders. Stare across the water and you'll observe the distorted crags that provoked imaginative name giving. There's Chiefs Head Peak, Pagoda Mountain and my personal favorite, The Keyboard of the Winds.

The peaceful setting encourages the viewer to contemplate nature's vast mysteries. Spending a restful afternoon on the shores of Mills Lake is truly inspiring. After all, Enos Mills has proven that through hard work and determination dreams really can come true.

Mills Lake is dwarfed by the mountain environment

An artistic creek sculpted the gorge

A chaos of polished boulders

A peaceful setting

Longs Peak and the Keyboard of the Winds

The lake was named after Enos Mills

The lake may be the prettiest place in the park

It's an inspiring place

Dreams really can come true

Saturday, September 21, 2013

American Dipper - The Hummingbird of Blooming Waters

American Dipper also known as Water Ouzel

"He is the mountain streams' own darling, the hummingbird of blooming waters, loving rocky ripple slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows." ~ John Muir

Inhabiting the rivers, streams and waterfalls that cascade down out of the Rocky Mountains is a unique resident with an exuberant passion for life. The American Dipper spends its entire existence in or near fast-flowing water happily focused on the bare necessities; family, food and shelter.

Also known as the Water Ouzel, it's a master architect designing spherical nests that cling precipitously to riverbanks, bridges and cliff ledges. Constantly singing and bobbing, the always optimistic dipper goes about its merry way, seemingly unaffected by poor luck, bad weather or human presence.

A million years of evolution has equipped the dipper with adaptations that enable it to hunt where others cannot. The stout bird braves the freezing rapids and flies underwater, leaving no stone unturned in its search for aquatic insects and larvae.

When out in nature, there are always lessons to be learned. Observing the dipper placidly navigating an icy torrent is a perfect example of staying calm in the midst of a storm. So when life gets crazy, take a cue from this laid-back, little bird and just go with the flow.

The dipper is a unique mountain resident

It spends its entire life in or near rushing water

Constantly singing and bobbing

The dipper is adapted to hunt underwater

It eats aquatic insects and larvae

The dipper is a laid-back, little bird

Staying calm in the midst of a storm

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Christ of the Mines Shrine - Redemption in Silverton

Christ of the Mines Shrine in Silverton

High above the clouds in the lofty San Juan Mountains, the Great Redeemer has forgiven the town of Silverton for its wicked ways. Silverton was a major player during the gold and silver rush that steamrolled through Colorado during the late 1880s. The frontier outpost was a "Sin City" where gambling, boozing and prostitution, ran rampant.

Later, when the price of silver collapsed, Silverton seemed destined to suffer the same fate as the other played-out mining camps in the area. Out west, frontier justice prevails so the community would probably vanish, becoming just another ghostly reminder of the glory days.

By the 1950s, the town was struggling to survive. Father Joseph Halloran spearheaded a proposal to erect a shrine honoring Christ that would be dedicated to the miners. A last, desperate attempt to revitalize the dispirited community, it would be located on the barren Anvil Mountain just north of the equally lifeless town.

They decided the shrine should be of such size and magnitude that anyone approaching Silverton could readily see it overlooking the town. The alcove was built from native stone but the sculpture was carved from Italian marble quarried in Carrara, Italy, famous as the source for Michelangelo's David.

The 12-ton, 16-foot tall statue of Jesus was shipped into Galveston, Texas, and trucked up to Silverton. The whole town turned out for the dedication ceremony which took place on August 24, 1959. People from Silverton are convinced that three miracles attributed to the holy shrine have occurred since then.

A Resurrection - Silverton was dying a slow death because of a depressed economy. Shortly after the shrine was completed, mining in the San Juans was revived. A uranium company announced it was purchasing the Sunnyside Mine and planning to dig the American Tunnel which would provide access into the lower portion of the structure. Silverton soon enjoyed a period of unprecedented prosperity.

Successful Seedlings - Newly transferred priest, Father Joseph McGuinnes, wanted to landscape behind the shrine with a grove of trees. Locals informed him that it was impossible for anything to grow in the rocky soil of Anvil Mountain. Nevertheless, he proceeded to acquire 1,000 seedlings and defiantly planted them in the spring. Generous water and prayer nurtured them through the summer but most doubted they would survive the winter. If you visit today, take notice of the Scotch Pine forest that serves as an improbable backdrop.

The Great Flood - On June 4, 1978, Lake Emma broke loose in a flash flood that rushed through the Sunnyside Mine. The powerful deluge destroyed all of the underground workings and poured out the lower portal. Incredibly there were no injuries or loss of life because the disaster happened during a rare time when the shaft was vacant, a Sunday night.

During the summer, families flock to the high altitude oasis where they explore the gorgeous surroundings via Jeep, ATV or the Narrow Gauge Railroad. By offering unforgettable memories of a priceless landscape, Silverton appears to have struck it rich in a completely different industry, tourism. Silverton's redemption is further proof that if you believe in what you are doing, you can overcome any obstacle. A little faith really will move mountains.

Silverton is situated in the lofty San Juans

A shrine honoring Christ dedicated to the miners

It's located on Anvil Mountain

The alcove is native stone, the statue is Italian marble

The Great Redeemer

Three miracles have been attributed to the shrine

The shrine overlooks the town of Silverton

Faith will move mountains

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lake Isabelle - A Legacy from the Little Ice Age

Lake Isabelle

About 600 years ago North America experienced a slight cooling that produced colder temperatures, longer winters and increased glaciation. During this Little Ice Age, Colorado's northern Front Range was blasted with precipitation. Year after year heavy snowfall filled the deep, east-facing cirques. Over time, the compressed snow transformed into ice which eventually began creeping down the valleys.

The glaciers achieved their maximum extent by 1850, then the climate began warming again. The rebellious rivers of ice have been retreating back up into the mountains ever since, leaving rugged crags and turquoise tarns in their wake. There are only fourteen named glaciers left in Colorado today.

Born from the melted ice of Isabelle Glacier, Lake Isabelle is a precious legacy from the Little Ice Age. The bowl of frigid water is contained by a steep-walled basin at the top of a spectacular, flower-infused valley. Jagged peaks are crowded around the shimmering jewel, fostering an intimate space of shade and solitude.

On an overcast day, Lake Isabelle is a remarkable mirror with eerie reflections that become shattered by afternoon thunder showers. As you come back from the lake, cold and wet, your mind begins to thaw and having been in the mountains helps you to understand how these glacial events sculpted the landscape.

Natural historian Louis Agassiz explains why these events occurred, "One naturally asks, what was the use of this great engine set at work ages ago to grind, furrow, and knead over, as it were, the surface of the earth? We have our answer in the fertile soil which spreads over the temperate regions of the globe. The glacier was God's great plough."

Lake Isabelle is at the top of a spectacular valley

Surrounded by jagged peaks

Lake Isabelle is a remarkable mirror

The reflections are eerie

During the Little Ice Age this cirque was filled with snow

Isabelle Glacier (center) feeds the shimmering lake

An intimate space of shade and solitude

Afternoon rain showers

Being in the mountains helps you understand the landscape

You come back from the lake cold and wet

A perilous bridge crossing