Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mountain Lion Loop - Unfamiliar Territory

Mountain Lion Loop

"Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." ~ John Wayne

One day this summer, we left the safety and comfort of our hearth and headed into the high country. We logged an out and back at Mountain Lion Loop on a warm August afternoon. It was unfamiliar territory, a land where uncowardly lions leap from pine tree limbs. Fortunately, such a frightful encounter never transpired.

Instead, we found flowers, butterflies and bluebirds. Up out of Golden, the gorgeous meadows were gushing with greens and yellows. It was a glorious day in the mountains. We continued ever further, leaving behind the crowds and cell service. We faced our fear with a faith that we would enjoy a triumphant return.

Beyond the crest, we strayed from the path and made a risky, cross-country romp out to a scary cliff edge. Under a cloudless sky, the perch overlooked a quiet creek where white rocks were bleached by the scorching sun. Regaining the right track, our unjustified concerns were met with an unwavering confidence.

So close to the finish, the way was blocked by immovable obstacles beyond our control. We were forced to improvise and boldly blaze a new trail home. Back at the barn, as we prepared for our next misadventure, we recounted our bravery with a laugh. Remember, always be courageous and if you fail... fail with enthusiasm.

Unfamiliar territory

Lions leap from tree limbs

We found bluebirds

and flowers

Meadows were gushing with greens and yellows

A glorious day in the mountains

White rocks were bleached

Fail with enthusiasm

Saturday, August 23, 2014

St. Vrain Mountain Trail - An Epic Journey

The Mantlepiece of Mountain Gods

I heard the stories about a remote trailhead and a hidden pathway to a secret Shangri-la located high above the treeline. Ignored by serious climbers and unknown to tourists, the St. Vrain Mountain Trail is an epic journey to a world I thought existed only in mythology.

Below, an ancient grove of aspen was a natural cathedral of air and light. Up, we followed a rocky creek and climbed a steep stairwell of endless switchbacks. The snow became a formidable obstacle and almost halted our expedition. With dogged determination, we pushed on and soon entered the land above the trees.

As we crossed a shelf of tundra, a spectacular explosion of incredible mountain scenery was suddenly detonated. I'd never seen so many beautiful peaks crowded together in one frame. Stopped dead in our tracks, the landscape was mesmerizing. Each lofty summit and crooked ridge seemed to beg for the photographer's attention.

Veiled in braids of white snow, the violet range struck a dramatic pose. It was a grueling ascent to the Mantlepiece of the Mountain Gods. A roll call of Front Range royalty provided the decorative framework enclosing Wild Basin while Longs Peak was seated on an elaborate throne as the undisputed Monarch.

The artistic design extended all the way to heaven. Hiking up the St. Vrain was truly a religious experience. As we made our way down to earth, there was a rumble of thunder in the distance. We tread softly out of Olympus and back to the transitory life attached to us mere mortals.

A secret Shangri-la

A natural cathedral of air and light

We followed a rocky creek

Snow was a formidable obstacle

We pushed on

A spectacular shelf of tundra

Incredible mountain scenery

Veiled in braids of white snow

The ascent was grueling

Longs Peak is the undisputed landmark

Back to our transitory life

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Longs Peak - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Longs Peak" Colored Pencil

In an eerie breeze, obedient aspen quake with fright before their dark master. Longs Peak is a purple monster streaked with passages of resilient white snow. The Rocky Mountain monarch dwells in an enchanted woodland threaded with creeks, wildflowers and waterfalls.

A trek to the top begins with a march to the Boulderfield. Above treeline, the alpine environment is distinguished by treacherous terrain and spectacular scenery. Proceed with caution through the magical Keyhole, up into the steep Trough and across the frightening Narrows.

A quick scramble up the final Ramp and you're at the football-field sized summit. The struggle for glory is rewarded with bitter cold, ferocious wind and an indescribable illness. At such an inhospitable altitude, the weather will almost certainly take a turn.

Now, the weary traveler must be ever cautious because the bitter rock revels in its dangerous decline. Follow landmarks that lead into the protective forest and you'll soon be back at the trailhead. Bruised, beaten and burned, I begin to wonder why? Because it's there.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sneffels Range Summer - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Sneffels Range Summer" Colored Pencil

Last summer, we attended a Saturday evening service at the altar of one of the world's finest cathedrals. Located in southwest Colorado, the Sneffels Mountains are a divine sub-range of the scenic San Juans. This chain of volcanic peaks may be one of the most beautiful landscapes in the west and probably my favorite place on the planet.

This country of blues and greens is an oasis before the vast sea of desert that extends into the void. A magnificent mesa of brush-covered hills tumbles south until it crashes into a wall of steep rock while a patch of dark piƱon is blended into the soft, red dirt. Below, a meadow of hay is enclosed by a row of crooked cottonwoods.

The heavenly divide emerges out of a soft, blue sky like a dream as the evening light permeates the purple peaks, creating a broken gradient from orange to violet. The clear, dry air evokes a transcendent luminosity that can be found nowhere else on earth so a palette of pastel hues is absolutely required.

Reminiscent of stained glass windows adorning a Gothic church, the scene is composed with areas of flat color. A form of ancient architecture, the Baroque skyscrapers were constructed by the Master Builder eons ago. Here, the wilderness is a welcoming place of worship. After a perfect day breaking bread with nature the mass has ended. Go in peace to love and serve.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Blue Lakes - A Land of Rock and Ice

Blue Lakes, Colorado

During the first part of the journey, we looked at all the life. There were plants and goats and marmots and things. Blue Lakes was a cool pond of icy indigo stair-stepped in a deep moraine.

After a while, we were dwarfed by a massive summit called Quandary. We continued through the mountains hiking towards a peak with no name. It felt good to be climbing without pain.

Further up, unstable snowfields slid into the transparent lake. We listened to the chirping of marmot calls. The eerie echo ricocheted between steep canyon walls.

A chilly breeze skimmed snowy peaks. It funneled across the lake delivering an arctic blast. The thawing ice sheets were shattered into frosty shards of floating glass.

Pouring down from a headwall, the creek became a rush. Crossing through frigid water cut like a knife. Granite, gray giants enclosed the valley in an austere tomb of rock and ice.

To the chaos and confusion below. We returned from the peace and quiet above. Under the cities lies a heart made of ground but the humans will give no love.

The first part of the journey

Rocky Mountain Goat

Yellow-bellied marmot

A pond of icy indigo

Stair-stepped in a deep moraine 

Massive Quandary Peak

A peak with no name

A transparent lake

The creek rushes out of a headwall

Frigid water cut like a knife

An austere tomb

A land of rock and ice

We returned from the peace and quiet above

A heart made of ground but the humans will give no love