Showing posts from July, 2013

Rural Nebraska - The Vultures are Circling

The old homesite is overgrown by weeds and sunflowers The summer heat was oppressive as we pulled into the old homesite. It had been 25 years since anyone set foot in the place. Overgrown by weeds and giant sunflowers, the decrepit structure stood defiantly. Several turkey vultures were flushed from their roost and managed to catch an updraft in the still air. It was a bad omen. When these birds are circling, death is imminent. Rural Nebraska is dying. Last weekend we departed from Colorado to attend a family reunion in Southwestern Nebraska. The early pioneers of my family homesteaded on the rolling prairie near McCook and worked the fertile land in the Republican River Valley. My childhood summers were spent at "The Farm" exploring the hills and tree rows in a quest for adventure. We hadn't been back in a long time so I was excited to see the many relatives who still live in the area. I also wanted to revisit the old stomping grounds and get some photographs. E

The Adventurous Spirit of Animas Forks, Colorado

Animas Forks “Wherever nature has planted her richest treasures, neither heights or depths can withhold them from the grasp of man.” ~ The Omaha Commercial Record, September 1883 In February of 1884 a 23 day blizzard buried the small mining town of Animas Forks, Colorado under 25 feet of snow. Most of the residents had migrated down to Silverton for the winter. The handful of flinty miners who chose to stay did what miners do. They dug. The men created a network of tunnels that connected the buildings and they spent the entire month of March in a cold, underground city. At 11,200 feet, Animas Forks is a stunning landscape but it’s downright inhospitable. The rush for gold lured prospectors to seek their fortune in the rugged San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. The hazardous topography was not a discouragement if they could just strike it rich in the end. After stories about the valuable discoveries spread, “greenhorns” poured into the region. Once claims were filed, m

The Magnificent Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado

The Mighty Flatirons Five angular rock formations form a distinctive backdrop for the quirky town of Boulder. Originally called the Chautauqua Slabs or the Crags, the Flatirons were ultimately named by pioneer women who thought the uplifted peaks resembled the flat, metal irons used to press their clothes. The rugged beauty attracts hikers and photographers while geologists take great interest in the conglomerate sandstone. They say the arrangement was forced upwards and tilted about 45 million years ago. It’s a Mecca for rock climbers as some of the world’s best have refined their skills on the rocky outcrops. Upon entering the park, a lush green meadow was dotted with pink and yellow wildflowers. Backlit by the evening sun, the peaks were a dark violet. We approached the First Flatiron via the steep Chautauqua Trail and began climbing the east face. The hard rock was warm and sticky which provided excellent traction. Curious chipmunks watched as we strained to reach the natura

Bighorn Sheep - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Bighorn Sheep" Colored Pencil Mountain thunder cracks across the crisp, blue, November sky. The echoes from the violent clash between massive combatants desperate to prove their dominance can be heard for miles around. The battle may last for twenty-four hours but the exhausted victor earns exclusive mating rights. The weapons of choice are the impressive, coiled horns that are the distinguishing feature of Colorado's state symbol, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep are ultimate gladiators built to live in the steep ridges and rugged canyons of the mountains. This fragile species must carefully navigate the precipice of extinction as they are extremely sensitive to artificial disturbances in the natural environment. I know it's a familiar story but the numbers are staggering. Before 1800, two million bighorn sheep populated North America. By 1900, after the Western Expansion , only a few thousand remained. Hunting, loss of habitat and disease sp