Saturday, June 30, 2018

Elk Ridge - A Stormy Afternoon

A stormy afternoon on Elk Ridge

It’s another stormy afternoon as Bergen Peak looms over a lush meadow of tall grass. A fantastically-shaped, red pine is a picturesque sentry marking the beginning of a grueling uphill climb.

Halfway there and a patch of rugged vegetation sways wildly in the midst of a midsummer squall. Up at the top of the ridge, a setting sun strains to spread it’s last rays through a murky atmosphere.

During the trek back down, a spiraling spruce writhes towards the sky like a van Gogh painting come to life. Upon return to the bottom lands as the storm drifts away, a last bit of golden light sweeps triumphantly across the grateful land.

Bergen Peak looms over a lush meadow

A picturesque sentry

A patch of rugged vegetation

A murky atmosphere

Like a van Gogh painting

Golden light sweeps across the land

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Urad Lake - A Successful Reclaimation

Urad Lake, Colorado

With help from the Henderson Mine and some concerned humans, nature has successfully reclaimed the Woods Creek Valley. The centerpiece of this spectacular area is a slender reservoir called Urad Lake.

This new State Wildlife Area is teeming with, well, wildlife. Deer, elk, moose, black bear, red fox, pikas and golden-mantled ground squirrels have all been seen frequenting this high altitude habitat.

At almost 11,000 feet, it’s one of the only places in the world that offers a suitable territory for the critically endangered boreal toad. They eat insects and depend on shallow ponds with warm water in which to breed and underground dens in which to hibernate.

At the far west end, a few streams come rushing in, bringing even more fish into an already well-stocked pond. A fisherman’s paradise, the lake is chock full of small brook trout, pretty rainbows and plenty of cutbows.

As for the lake, it’s pinched into a steep, forested gorge where the water is deep, dark and freezing cold. A rugged trail traces it’s contour allowing one to fully inspect the indigo blue lagoon.

Reaching this subalpine environment requires negotiating a dangerous four-wheel-drive-only road. Off of the radar for most travelers heading to the mountains, Urad Lake is truly a peaceful sanctuary hidden within a realm of high peaks.

Woods Creek Valley has been reclaimed

The centerpiece

A slender reservoir

A high altitude habitat

The west end

Streams come rushing in

A fisherman's paradise

A forested gorge

An indigo blue lagoon

A subalpine environment

A peaceful sanctuary

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Loveland Pass Lakes - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Loveland Pass Lakes" Colored Pencil

"Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe

Situated above timberline, a pair of high mountain tarns are pure blue under a late-summer sun. Known as Loveland Pass Lakes, the shimmering jewels are set just below the Continental Divide.

Looming majestically in the background, a ring of rugged peaks encloses the isolated valley. Dark patches of far away forest cling to the steep mountainside and fade away as they reach ever higher.

The rolling hills of rough terrain around the reservoirs are covered with rows of pine that follow closely the contour of the land. The water is calm, clear and cold with the larger lake reflecting trees in its upper left corner.

Sweeping across the foreground, tundra grasses are ablaze in fiery colors. Conveying the sure sign that seasons are changing, an assortment of flushed vermillion hues are dragged across the textured surface.

Anchoring the right side of the page is a giant, gray rock that’s shaded with strong contrast. Balancing the composition on the other side is a thicket of brush and willows that come streaming in at an angle.

This drawing is not a rigidly faithful representation of the actual scene. It’s more an experiment that blends abstraction with realism, producing a work that emphasizes the primary forms of the mountain landscape.

Nonessential details have been removed in order to focus on the most important elements. The intense observation of nature results in a sensitivity to her dramatic scale and subtle nuances, culminating in a more real portrayal of this Colorado landscape.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Red-sided Garter Snake - A Docile Nature

Red-sided Garter Snake

Speaking of serpents, with summer in full swing, the reptiles are out searching for sun. Slithering out from the depths of his crowded winter den, a red-sided garter snake spends the afternoon in a shady patch of tall grass.

The red-sided garter snake rises early in order to begin regulating his body temperature. He’s warmed up by solar rays and becomes most active in the morning before it gets too hot.

He spends much of his time near water because that’s where he finds his favorite foods. This common snake eats earthworms, amphibians, leeches, slugs, snails, insects, crayfish, small fish and other snakes.

He’s uniquely immune to the toxic secretions of toads and can eat them without harm. While hunting, the red-sided garter snake uses his superb sense of smell and vision in order to capture prey.

He strikes with precision using sharp teeth and quick reflexes thus immobilizing his unfortunate victim. Harmless to humans, his saliva is slightly toxic to smaller animals making it easier for him to manage his meal.

A data-collecting tongue emerges from an imposing head that looks like its been constructed from fitted bits of chiseled stone. The perfectly circular eyes are razor sharp and shimmer with metallic hues.

The red-sided is a beautiful snake distinguished by his geometric symmetry. He’s cream-colored with two red stripes running the length of his body that are overlaid by a black checkerboard pattern.

Despite his undisputed beauty and docile nature the garter snake is often persecuted by people. In reality he plays a vital role in the ecosystem and when confronted by a human, he’ll hastily retreat.

If he’s backed into a corner, he’ll coil, hiss and flare into a dramatic display of self-defense. Truthfully, though, he’s not much different from most of us because I believe he’d rather be left alone to live his life in peace and harmony.

Slithering out from the depths

A superb sense of smell and vision

A chiseled head

And metallic eyes

Red stripes run the length of his body

A docile nature

Live his life in peace

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sandhills Summer - Fraught with Beauty

Dugout Creek, Nebraska

So far this summer, the Nebraska sandhills have been hit with heavy rain and sizzling temperatures. The combination of heat and moisture has the heavy air dripping with humidity.

Fortunately, just north of the farm there’s a shady oasis offering cold water, a cool breeze and infinite solitude. It’s a happy place where cattle, birds and wildlife congregate in order to escape the hostility of the Great American Desert.

The centerpiece of such paradise is a muddy creek that winds its way through a cottonwood forest. This year it’s more of a deluge as the water is rampaging through the canyon like a wild bull, making a crossing inconceivable.

Staying safely on one side of the torrent was still a satisfying experience as I saw wood ducks, woodpeckers and wild turkeys. The trees were topped with a fresh canopy of dense foliage that cast blue shadows across the lush grass.

This precious swath of verdant green is a unique environment fraught with beauty and peril. You can’t let your guard down while exploring this serene habitat because even in such an idyllic landscape as this, you have to be careful.

This time of year the prairie can be a dangerous place susceptible to fire, flooding and rattlesnakes. Somehow, though, no serpents were seen so the withdrawal from this Garden of Eden was a matter of free will.

The Nebraska sandhills

A shady oasis

A happy place

A muddy creek is the centerpiece

Dense foliage

Blue shadows

A unique environment

A serene habitat

A matter of free will