Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bergen Peak Winter - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Bergen Peak, Winter" Colored Pencil

On a misty morning at Elk Meadow, the hazy atmosphere creates an air of mystery. The solemn scene is painted with a limited palette of blues and the slightest hint of orange. Two snow-covered pines are set against a simplified background of soft-edged forms.

Pale Bergen Peak is a monumental icon contrasting with the gloomy sky. A row of evergreens has become a battered barrier between the windswept field and icy mountains. In the foreground, a curious shadow weaves its way across an undulating surface of fresh snow.

It's an austere landscape silenced by frozen tranquility. The sense of isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. For some miserable souls, the long dark winter is a source of despair, but just as golden light touches the mountain crest promising a sunny afternoon so will there be better days to come.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snowy Day Bergen Peak - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Snowy Day, Bergen Peak" Colored Pencil

On a December morning, clear blue skies foretell bitterly cold temperatures. White as a ghost, Bergen Peak is a powerful apparition looming over the snowy landscape. Capturing such a remarkable moment in time is a fleeting opportunity that can't be missed.

Golden light permeates the blank canvas, infusing the scene with passages of surprisingly warm tones. It's morning so the ponderosa pine cast long, transparent shadows that skim across the choppy terrain. Evergreens are sprinkled with fresh snow creating intricate patterns of white lace.

Just like waves in the North Atlantic, the windswept meadow forms whitecaps that flow out of the foreground. The calligraphic line work is described by spirited dots, dashes and squiggles. The drawing is an expression of excitement and enthusiasm.

Look at it from an optimistic point of view, we still have ten more weeks of glorious winter.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Alpine Tundra - Paradise Restored

The alpine tundra

The alpine tundra is a peaceable kingdom set high above the clouds and surrounded by jagged peaks. Located above 11,000 feet in Colorado, the high altitude biome is characterized by an extreme climate. Heavy snow, freezing temperatures, fierce winds and a glaring sun make this domain an inhospitable place to live.

In Colorado's Rocky Mountains, paradise has been restored. Astonishingly, a distinct aggregation of plants and animals has managed to adapt to the arctic-style ecosystem. The unique creatures that inhabit such a lofty realm are a tight-knit bunch. They have learned to rely on each other in order to survive in such a harsh habitat.

The flora in "the land of no trees" is dominated by dwarfed, perennial ground cover that grows and reproduces slowly. Some plants take two or more years to produce buds, which survive winters below the surface and then open brilliant flowers that bloom during the few weeks of summer. In the fall, an inner light ignites the vegetation and transforms the steppe into a blazing carpet of reds and oranges.

Most of the fauna migrate to lower elevations to spend the winter but a few foolish species live above tree line all year long. Mountain goats are white-robed monarchs that climb with ease between the steep, craggy cliffs. Marmots gorge themselves for four months and rely on fat reserves during hibernation while tiny pikas build cozy nests constructed deep beneath a muddled boulder field.

All life in the tundra is closely related. No organism lives here alone, each depends in some way on the other living and non-living things in the highlands. A small change in one part of the environment can cause a ripple-effect of disruption throughout the area. If fragile tundra plants are destroyed, the exposed soil is blown away and the ensuing recovery may take a millennium. We must tread softly.

The tundra is a peaceable kingdom

Surrounded by jagged peaks

It's an inhospitable place to live

Paradise restored

A lofty realm

Brilliant flowers bloom for a few weeks

A blazing carpet of reds and oranges

Mountain Goats are white-robed monarchs

No organism lives alone

A fragile ecosystem

We must tread lightly

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Elk Ridge - A Peaceful Resting Place

Elk Ridge rises out of Elk Meadow

"The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone." ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

Elk Ridge is an earthen pyramid rising out of a meadow of lush grass. The mountainous monument is a breathtaking prelude to the grueling ascent of neighboring Bergen Peak. A series of steep switchbacks lead up to the top where a pedestal of evergreens overlook most of the park.

Great herds of elk are indisputable proof, confirming the landmark's distinct name. The familiar call of a red-tailed hawk is heard from above. Below, nervous ground squirrels search for food while a lazy lizard suns itself on the warm, gray rocks.

Situated in the montane zone, the ridge crest is teeming with life. A red squirrel is the forest's quick-tempered lookout and imperial magpies are always making a ruckus. Meanwhile, mule deer are silent sentries moving discreetly between the woodland shadows.

There's also an unexpected reminder of death. Tucked away beneath a limber pine, a single grave is positioned to spend eternity in paradise. One solitary soul has chosen this peaceful setting to be a final resting place. Cradled by wilderness, the touching burial site is perfectly integrated into the landscape.

Hopefully, as darkness descends, there will be no regrets. The rocky summit of Elk Ridge pierces a starry night and the indigo sky is an unforgettable display inspiring wonder and awe. Heaven has never seemed so close.

Elk Ridge and Bergen Peak

The ridge is below Bergen Peak

Steep switchbacks lead to the top

The montane zone

Rocky Mountain elk

A nervous ground squirrel

A red-tailed hawk soars above

A lazy lizard basks in the sun

Red squirrels are quick-tempered

Black-billed magpies are always making a ruckus

Mule Deer are silent sentries