Saturday, October 26, 2013

Legends of the Fall - Predicting a Long, Cold Winter

Massive bull elk express their dominance

It's October so the haunting calls of wild beasts permeate the crisp air. The elk are in a frenzy and massive bulls bellow to express their dominance. Up here, the yearly cycle includes windy transitions that usher in four incredibly distinct seasons.

Fall is special because of the mild weather and beautiful colors. Autumn always presents some striking juxtapositions. The orange ground is broken by fresh snow, pale aspen are set against dark pine and pure white peaks pierce the shimmering blue sky.

The Mount Evans Road is closed and the birds have already flown south. A few red squirrels are busily gathering nuts while a pair of woodpeckers uncharacteristically share a tree. The forest is quiet but look closely, a little woolly bear is ominously distinguished by its narrow, orange band. It's going to be a long, cold winter.

The elk rut occurs in October

The haunting calls are legendary

Mount Evans Road is closed

Fall colors

Orange ground is broken by fresh snow

Buffalo Park, Evergreen

Fall is special

There are four distinct seasons

Most of the birds have flown south

The woolly bear caterpillar is a predictor of winter weather (via IronChris)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lake Haiyaha - Balance and Harmony

Lake Haiyaha is a jewel

Lively Haiyaha is a beautiful, lush lake radiating an elegance that enriches our sense of well being, balance and harmony. It's a dazzling emerald set in the heart of a chaotic canyon. It's a rocky sanctuary far removed from the stress of a busy life.

Nature lovers who are persistent enough to endure an uplifting trek will be rejuvenated by the calm setting. Water, rocks and trees form a harmonious landscape that nurtures a perfect equilibrium between the head and the heart.

Giant boulders encompass a clear pool of optimism that inspires hope and a generous spirit. Lonely Haiyaha, don't be envious of your popular neighbors - Bear, Nymph and Dream. Stay positive. I know it ain't easy being green.

It's an uplifting trek

It's a calm setting

A dazzling emerald

A beautiful, lush lake

Radiating elegance

It's a rocky sanctuary

A clear pool of optimism

Chaos Canyon

Neighboring lakes are more popular

It aint easy being green

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Garden of the Gods - A Spiritual Connection

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

"Once upon a time there was a great flood which covered all but the top of Manitou's Mountain. When the water subsided, the Great Spirit turned the floating carcasses of the drowned animals into sandstone, and rolled them down into a garden valley below where they remained as mute evidences of the Great Flood." ~ Indian Legend

Down in Colorado Springs, beneath Pikes Peak, the site of that supernatural catastrophe can still be seen. In this special valley you'll discover 300 million-year-old rock formations with names like Balanced Rock, Cathedral Spires and the Kissing Camels. It's known as the Garden of the Gods but to the Southern Ute Indian tribe it's the Garden of Eden. They believe the creation of their people occurred at this sacred place.

Great White Mountain (Pikes Peak) was the center of the Ute's world. They believed that on the summit of the thunderous peak stood the Western Gates of Heaven and there dwelt the supreme Manitou. The holy garden below inspired reverence and the Ute's formed a spiritual connection with the reddish, sandstone formations.

In late fall, family units came down out of the mountains, gathered at the Garden of the Gods and camped there during the winter. It was a joyful occasion. Large herds of elk on the nearby mesa were hunted for food. There were lots of festivities, storytelling and marriage arrangements. Come spring, the separate families dispersed until reuniting again the next winter. It was an annual migration pattern that had been followed for centuries.

Then, in the 1870s European settlers flooded into the Front Range by foot, horseback, covered wagon and railroad. The Ute Indians considered the whole of Colorado their home so they resented the white man for pilfering their hunting grounds. Colorado earned its statehood in 1876 and newspapers of the day demanded the removal of Utes off of land that could be mined, farmed or ranched.

The situation escalated into the Meeker Massacre of 1879 at the White River Indian Reserve. Shortly thereafter, all Ute people were forcibly placed on reservations in Utah and Southern Colorado. That same year railroad magnate, Charles Elliott Perkins, purchased the Garden of the Gods with the intent to build a summer home on the property. After seeing the magical place, he was inspired to leave the land in its natural state and preserve it for future generations.

Upon Perkins death, his children deeded the property to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909 with the provisions that "it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park."

Garden of the Gods is in Colorado Springs

Reddish sandstone formations

The Kissing Camels

The park was dedicated in 1909

300 million-year-old rock formations

The garden is a magical place

Southern Ute Indians wintered here for centuries

The landscape is otherworldly

A spiritual connection with the rocks

The garden inspires reverence

The park shall remain free to the public

Pikes Peak was the center of their world

Manitou's Mountain

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Colorado's Great Flood - Finding Peace and Proof

Flooded Bear Creek in Evergreen, Colorado

"Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray." ~ Lord George Gordon Byron

Colorado has suffered from a horrendous drought for about fourteen years. The summers are hot and arid while the winters have been cold and dry. With less snowfall in the high country, lakes and reservoirs are parched from record-low water levels. Trees are dying and the aged pine forests are like giant matchsticks waiting to be struck.

After an early outbreak of devastating wildfires, it looked as though the summer was going to be another scorcher. Then in mid-July something strange happened. We started getting daily, afternoon thunder showers. August in Evergreen was cool and wet. Dependable rainfall satisfied the thirsty aspen and produced abundant wildflowers. Everything was perfect in the mountains, again.

So when it started raining on Tuesday afternoon, September 10th, that seemed normal. Stunningly, it didn't stop until four days later on Saturday morning. What happened in between will become legendary. A slow-moving storm front moved up from the Gulf and got trapped between a high pressure system to the west and low pressure from the east. The monsoon was pushed upslope against the Northern Front Range, stalled out and released unprecedented amounts of precipitation.

After a thorough soaking on Wednesday, things began getting serious on Thursday. Boulder received 9 inches of rain in one day and water was screaming down the spectacular drainages up north. Mountain towns like Estes Park, Jamestown and Lyons were transformed into islands and became isolated from the mainland. Lives and homes were lost during the initial deluge. The destruction was unbelievable.

Bear Creek flows out of Mount Evans, meanders through Evergreen and then splashes down a scenic canyon into the city. A dam was constructed on the creek in 1927 just above the historic, old downtown creating Evergreen Lake. Thursday night we made our way there to investigate how things were holding up. The situation was precarious.

By Friday morning, the beautiful homes on Upper Bear Creek were being flooded and some of the businesses below the dam were terribly damaged, most notably Cactus Jack's Saloon & Grill. The main highway became impassable so the schools were forced to close as the town was literally cut in half. Friday evening, we walked down to the lake in a light drizzle. The landscape still looked bleak.

Turbulent waters rushed out of the foothills and spilled into the South Platte. A destructive swell swept through Eastern Colorado all the way to Julesburg. Then, just when the disaster was turning biblical, the colorful covenant appeared out of the gray clouds and the rain stopped. After a week of distress, I returned to my lake. It was there I found peace and proof in two white doves. The floodwaters have finally receded.

It started raining on Tuesday afternoon

It rained for four days straight

Evergreen Dam on Thursday evening

The landscape looked bleak

Bear Creek meanders through Evergreen

The situation at the dam was precarious

Thursday evening Bear Creek was rising quickly

Evergreen Lake flooded

I returned to the lake searching for answers

The colorful covenant

This white dove appeared as the floodwaters receded