Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Bay Window House - An Impressive Residence

The Bay Window House

Animas Forks is a rickety ghost town teetering high in the San Juan Mountains just east of Silverton, Colorado. It used to be a bustling community during the silver boom of the late 1800s but today only the miner’s spirit permeates the cool, mountain air.

Pictured above is the best preserved building, an impressive residence known as The Bay Window House. Broken down and beaten after enduring years of nasty weather, the resilient structure rises defiantly out of a dense thicket of green willows.

I can’t imagine how people lived up here all year long, extracting precious minerals from the generous earth. There’s no debate that they enjoyed breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks but struggling to survive the harsh winters must have been absolutely brutal.

Cool mountain air

The best preserved building

An impressive residence

Rising out of the willows

High in the San Juan Mountains

A miner's spirit

A rickety ghost town

Breathtaking views of surrounding peaks

A resilient structure

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Alderfer Park - Where Spring has Barely Begun

Alderfer Park

A obscure trail in Alderfer Park descends into a quiet drainage called Coneflower Creek. It’s a fascinating experience wandering deep inside this lost valley where springtime has barely begun.

Its banks crowded by stands of barren aspen, the shallow stream is slow moving because the big peaks that fill it are still locked in a fierce battle with snow and ice.

Blending beautifully into the rocky mountainside, an abandoned homestead and its historical outbuildings are a tangible record of our region’s earliest settlers.

It’s interesting to observe how the wildlife reacts to our sudden appearance. Mule deer are activated into a state of heightened alert and a cottontail becomes frozen solid while a downy woodpecker ignores our very existence.

The gray clouds don’t mean snow but they do suggest the possibility of a dramatic weather effect. Almost every afternoon during the monsoon the sky unleashes a torrent of heavy rain, thunder and lightning.

At the end of the excursion as the evening light shines through a veil of transparent clouds, the ambiance creates a solemn atmosphere that complements the peaceful solitude of an isolated wilderness.

Mule deer on full alert

The big peaks are locked in battle

Ice and snow

A frozen cottontail

A historical record of early settlement

Spring has barely begun

Coneflower Creek

The wildlife is interesting

A solemn atmosphere

The woodpecker ignored us

Peaceful solitude

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Three Mountain Passes - The Crest of a Continent

Kenosha Pass

Recently, we explored three mountain passes that traverse the crest of a continent. It may be spring in the foothills but after a looping excursion through Colorado’s Front Range, we discovered that winter is still lingering in the high country.

Kenosha Pass (10,000 feet) is a wide open space famous for its charming aspen grove and being bisected by the untamed Colorado Trail. The centerpiece of this grassy plateau has to be the sparkling blue lake that reflects the ring of white peaks that surrounds it.

As it’s early spring here, the cool temperatures create persistent snow drifts that are scattered across the muddy earth. Kenosha Pass descends abruptly while forming the steep eastern boundary of the spectacular South Park meadow.

Hoosier Pass (11,500 feet) is a narrow gateway to the town of Breckenridge renowned for its cluster of big mountains and rich mining history. The beautiful landscape is forested with a picturesque combination of subalpine fir and Englemann spruce.

It’s late winter in the raven’s domain where rock, snow and ice dominate this harsh environment. Hoosier Pass rises sharply below steel-blue skies while a steady breeze pours down through the forbidding quagmire of dark peaks.

Loveland Pass (12,000 feet) is an arduous, winding thoroughfare looming over the I-70 corridor while linking some of Colorado’s most popular ski resorts. Positioned well above tree line, it’s celebrated for crossing over the Continental Divide.

Winter is dug in deep here where a ferocious wind blasts your entire being with jagged pellets of ice and snow. Loveland Pass is a harsh environment blessed with panoramic views that include several, legendary mountain summits.

Kenosha Pass is wide open

A lake is the centerpiece

White peaks surround it

Spectacular South Park meadow

Hoosier Pass is a beautiful landscape

A quagmire of dark peaks

A rich mining history

Loveland Pass looms over the I-70 corridor

Panoramic views

A harsh environment

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Endless Winter - Sublime Grandeur

Endless Winter

The month of May is almost over and the Endless Winter continues to lay siege to Evergreen, Colorado. Day after day a merciless system of unyielding snow keeps falling heavy, wet and cold.

All that moisture combined with warm air creates a ghostly fog that circulates mysteriously through the white woodland. Even the most familiar places seem like strange land because the diminished visibility concocts an eerie atmosphere.

The unforgiving stream of storms has wreaked havoc on the plants, animals and people that inhabit this region. The limber pine trees rooted into the mountainsides are erected to withstand this kind of assault but the nesting birds are understandably distressed.

We’re all accustomed to enduring the long winters that dig in at this altitude and these delayed storms are not unheard of. In all my time living here, the latest date on which I’ve witnessed a substantial amount of snow is June 24th.

What appears like a disaster now will be a godsend tomorrow as the luxuriant grasses will host a profusion of wildflowers and the saturated earth will negate the threat of fire. I guess when viewed from that perspective, we should just sit back and enjoy the sublime grandeur that accompanies slow-moving storms like these.

The Endless Winter continues

Unforgiving storms

A strange land

A long winter

Late storms are not unheard of

A merciless system

Erected to withstand an assault

A substantial amount of snow

An eerie atmosphere

A ghostly fog

A white woodland

Sublime grandeur

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Song Sparrow - A Distinguished Neighbor

Song Sparrow

In the soggy marshland surrounding Evergreen Lake he sings his heart out. His sweet music includes twenty different tunes and at least 1,000 improvised variations so it’s no wonder they call him the song sparrow.

Full of complex rhythm and emotion, his colorful vocalizations are used to attract females and defend territory. His unique, prolonged melody distinguishes him as a neighbor rather than a stranger.

This common sparrow is an adaptable bird whose behavior and appearance is extremely variable and unpredictable. He is found throughout North America but individuals from different regions look completely different from each other.

In our neck of the woods, the song sparrow is described by brown, heavily streaked plumage, a mottled back and a white throat. His face is gray with a dark eye line and a white jaw line while his reddish crown has a neat gray stripe.

The female builds a nest that’s usually concealed somewhere near the ground but he does help collect the building material. An exposed nest is susceptible to being parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds as their eggs are nearly identical to the sparrows'.

Before being hammered by heavy snow, the sparrow heads down the hill in order to spend the winter at a more hospitable elevation. Another early migrant, he comes back in the spring feasting on insects, seeds and fruit and singing his symphonic song.

A common sparrow

Distinguished as a neighbor

An adaptable bird

Extremely variable and unpredictable

He collects building material

Colorful vocalizations

Streaked plumage and a reddish crown

An early migrant

He sings a symphonic song