Saturday, April 20, 2019

Panorama of Winter Weather - Rough Seas

Winter Weather

Winter weather has continued to pummel the foothills leaving behind a panorama of white meadows and black forests. The big peaks have all but vanished from the landscape as a layer of thick fog has erased them from view.

The animals are tired of contending with the everlasting cold and wet weather. We are all waiting patiently for Mother Nature’s palette of Spring colors to be painted across the gray environment.

Wide stretches of vast wilderness has become a desolate winter tract into which neither man nor beast wishes to go. Positioned on the Western Front, the region is mired in a rut of mud, muck and monochrome.

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the way the storms come crashing into the mountains. As the new season unfolds, the snow keeps falling in dense squalls that make the trees look like ghosts of the Great White North.

It’s not an ideal situation but battling the harsh elements is the type of adversity that makes us strong. We’ll bide our time while navigating rough seas because in just a few more weeks, we’ll enjoy a summer of smooth sailing.

A panorama of white meadows

And black forests

A gray environment

Something hauntingly beautiful

Everlasting cold and wet

Ghosts of the Great White North

A desolate winter tract

Looking forward to a summer of smooth sailing

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Ushering in Spring - An Arctic Landscape

Ushering in Spring

A classic seasonal storm swept across the foothills, lengthening an unending stretch of cold and wet. Dawn broke gray and murky as a thick vapor of fog permeated the pine forest, evoking an eerie atmosphere.

The illusion of great depth was exaggerated as trees in the distance were placid silhouettes while the nearer rocks revealed a rough texture. An abandoned homestead was barely visible as it melded into the haunted hillside.

When the turbulent episode finally hit, the snow came pouring down in sheets of freezing rain transforming the local wetlands into a white valley. Evergreen Lake with its black water, icy shoreline and invisible horizon looked like an Arctic landscape.

The only inhabitants to be found on that frigid evening were a few geese whose silent wake shattered the serene reflections. Although a shock to the system, the winter-like weather is not unusual for this time of year.

By the morning after, powder blue skies began to reappear and that same old cabin came into crystal clear view. The deep forest was a dazzling display of dappled light and silvery shadows.

The trail’s edges were blurred by drifts of melted slush. The wet snow was smothered over everything creating an encrusted shell that can only be cracked by another attempt to usher in Spring.

Rocks revealed a rough texture

Dawn broke gray and murky

An abandoned homestead

A silent wake shattered reflections

An Arctic landscape

Snow came pouring down like rain

A white valley

Blue skies began to reappear

The old cabin came into clear view

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Last Light on Bergen Peak - First Birds

Last Light on Bergen Peak

Bergen Peak’s high summit has been streaked with eternal snow all year long and the mountain’s east face is displayed like a silver facade. Ribbons of gray clouds fill the sullen sky, creating a forbidding flyway.

During the transition between seasons, a mighty wind is funneled down through the foothills’ many drainages. It’s as if the powerful breeze banishes the current, lingering season and brings forth the stubborn, new one.

After such a cold and stormy winter, the still frozen lakes and ponds have delayed the arrival of our feathered migrants. Despite harsh conditions, the first birds I’ve seen were a flock of famished American robins.

The long flight apparently infused the red-breasted marauders with a voracious appetite. The birds were observed on the rocky slopes plucking blue berries from the fringes of a fresh juniper bush.

The robins’ signature calls betrayed their frantic activity that added some color and interest to an otherwise dull and lifeless landscape. I can tell it won’t be long now before the rest of the clan arrives and raises a raucous over nest construction and territory defense.

A feathered migrant

Transition between seasons

Wind is funneled through a drainage

A cold and stormy winter

A silver facade

A forbidding flyway

Streaked with white snow

Robins were first to arrive

A voracious appetite

On the fringes of a juniper bush

They added color to the landscape

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Forest Dwellers - Revealed by First Light

Forest dweller

On a cold, winter morning while traversing a snowy hillside, a couple of hidden creatures was revealed by the day’s first light. A young doe and buck were foraging so quietly in the shadows that they could have been easily missed.

As they must be used to human contact, they never became startled and seemed to be curious about my ability to maintain balance. The north facing slope is always more difficult to negotiate because the shadowed terrain is broken by rock, snow and ice.

The harsh conditions didn’t seem to bother the mule deer as they were completely at ease while grazing in the depths of a dark woodland. It’s a secretive environment described by dense foliage, damp atmosphere and cool temperatures but it’s a safe haven providing security and shelter to all of its forest dwellers.

Completely at ease

Quiet in the shadows

Revealed by first light

A secretive environment

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Hooded Merganser - Positively Flamboyant

Hooded Merganser

The hooded merganser is a secretive creature that prefers to live in a secluded woodland somewhere near a small pond or stream. A mated pair nests in a cavity of either a live or dead tree where the female lays a clutch of seven to fifteen eggs.

Remarkably, the fuzzy hatchlings leave the nest within 24 hours after they hatch. Upon reaching open water, the tiny youngsters begin diving and foraging immediately but remain close to mom for warmth and protection.

The hooded merganser is a diving predator and the only duck that specializes in capturing fish. They’re able to track down food by sight because their eyes are specially adapted for unsurpassed underwater vision.

These speedy, little ducks are found almost exclusively in North America. They must like it here because even during the spring and fall their migration routes are usually just a short distance.

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic is their striking appearance as both male and female exude elegance in their own way. The gals take on a dusky look with a dark head, bill and chest but they display a fancy orange hairdo that can be raised and lowered at will.

The guys are quite spectacular with bright yellow eyes, chestnut flanks and a white chest that’s crossed by two black bars. Their crest is white with a black border and when fanned out in excitement, the presentation is positively flamboyant.

A secretive creature

Lives in a secluded woodland

A diving predator

Found almost exclusively in North America

Speedy, little ducks

A striking appearance

Quite spectacular

They like it here

Crest is fanned out in excitement

Positively flamboyant

The females exude elegance

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Winter Cyclone - A Blizzard's Aftermath

A winter cyclone

Over the past month, the Front Range foothills have been battered by a series of severe storms. The latest of which has been appropriately deemed an historic weather event.

The winter cyclone came spinning into our state from the southwest, dumping buckets of heavy, wet snow. A vicious wind came blasting down through the valley at 70 miles an hour leaving 10 foot drifts in its wake.

The only saving grace during this unique system was the warm temps that pumped much needed precipitation into the parched landscape. After the blizzard subsided and daylight broke, Bergen Peak was a black mountain frosted with white dust.

The big mountain loomed solemnly over a barren meadow of smooth, polished snow. The fresh pack was about knee-deep and required a great amount of physical exertion in order to plow through.

The exposed ponderosa pine were blown clean of any pale lace but in the more protected pockets, the trees were plastered with snow. The silence was eerie as no one else was crazy enough to venture into the frozen woodland.

While it’s much more enjoyable to tramp through the mountains on a warm, summer day there’s something invigorating about experiencing the wilderness after such a fierce snowstorm.

The foothills have been battered by storms

A barren meadow of snow

The cyclone was an historic event

A black peak frosted with snow

Ponderosa pine

The big mountain looms solemnly

The silence was eerie

Drifts were left in the wake

Trees were plastered with snow

Much needed precipitation

After the blizzard subsided

The fresh pack was knee-deep

A fierce snowstorm

A frozen woodland

An invigorating experience