Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mount Evans Christmas - Watercolor

"Mount Evans Christmas" Watercolor

It is a cold and windy day in a spectacular basin known as Upper Bear Creek. Buried under a blanket of fresh snow, Mount Evans is a lofty landmark that imposes it’s iron will on the local weather patterns.

Tethered to the foreground, sturdy evergreens are built to withstand the brutal storms that wreak havoc on this hidden valley. Here, heavy snow clings to the blue spruce creating an intricate pattern of dark and light.

This time of year, the landscape can only be expressed with mostly cool colors like blue and green. Surprisingly, there is also a few touches of pink and yellow scrubbed into this wintery composition.

Such a difficult medium to work with, watercolor painting demands that you relinquish control. Most of the fluid brushstrokes are allowed to flow freely as they encourage you to let your imagination run wild.

Strokes of pale color are washed across the smooth surface, giving a loose suggestion of the vast wonderland. Cerulean skies set the ominous tone that permeates the arctic atmosphere, instilling the inhabitants with a sense of dread.

It’s an uncomfortable morning devoted to tramping around on treacherous terrain. The risk involved in such an undertaking is worth it though because being immersed in such pristine surroundings is an unforgettable reward.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Dedisse Bridge - Into the Wild

The Dedisse Bridge

Hidden discreetly in Bear Creek Canyon, the Dedisse Park Bridge is an arched gateway into the remote shadowlands concealing the north face of the Three Sisters Peaks. The structure easily spans Bear Creek and its simplicity in form and color enable it to blend smoothly into the riparian environment.

Despite its close proximity to the crowded Evergreen Lake, the quiet swale remains relatively unknown to most local citizens. During the summer, bright sunlight streams through the abode and explodes into shattered bits of color, reflecting the excitement and energy found in a vibrant forest.

Wintertime is a much different story as the chilly atmosphere is expressed by a scheme of blues and grays. Big storms stall out over the mountains and fill the narrow gorge with extraordinary amounts of snow.

The lower, clear light still finds a way through the dense foliage creating irregular shadows that perfectly trace the deep, undulating drifts. Composed from a diverse array of boulders, branches and brush, the rugged landscape is completely blanketed in the purest white.

Bear Creek is a powerful force born in the big mountains so even during the harshest winters, it becomes only partially frozen. The frigid water flows persistently through a maze of turquoise ice sheets and sheer black rock.

Descending the gentle, southern slopes, a series of switchbacks is a slippery trail leading down to the stream and its modest crossing. Here, the Dedisse Bridge is a symbolic connection offering passage from civilization into the wild.

Hidden discreetly

The swale remains relatively unknown

A gateway to the shadowlands

Southern slopes lead down to the stream

The creek is partially frozen

A chilly atmosphere

The frigid water is persistent

A rugged landscape

Into the wild

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Mtn Muhly Trail - An Aura of Forbidding Mystery

Mtn Muhly Trail

Starting in a quiet corner of Alderfer Park, Mtn Muhly Trail descends into a steep gulch gouged by a little stream called Coneflower Creek. A grove of aspen sparkles in the late light as its long shadows tumble over the embankment and disappear into a ribbon of black water.

During winter, the cup-shaped valley is a barren landscape steeped in an aura of forbidding mystery. The confusion of branches and brush makes for a messy scene but there is a certain charm to be found in nature’s tangle of wild forms.

The slim ravine stretches easily through a dense forest of fir and spruce where only the tips of the tallest trees are lit by the golden ambiance of a setting sun. Climbing up and out of the chasm isn’t too much of a problem as the path empties into a rugged stand of lodgepole pine.

Weaving its way through a maze of old growth, a rocky route traverses the steep western slopes set below the Three Sister Peaks. Just as it begins to get dark, the ominous woodland gives way to a wide open meadow and a pink sky floods into the field of vision.

Once the dark curtain of a winter’s long night finally falls, the mountains get incredibly cold. There’s nothing left to be done outside except wait patiently for the dawning of a new day and hope that it will be warmer than the last one.

Starting in a quiet corner of the park

A steep gulch

Forbidding mystery

Confusion of branches and brush

A slim ravine

A golden ambiance

Coneflower creek

A setting sun

Slope below the Three Sisters

A wide open meadow

Winter's long night

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Big Snowmelt - A Burst of Mild Weather

Big snowmelt

In between winter storms, there are short periods of warm sunshine that result in big snowmelt. The snow slides down off of the tree branches dousing the wanderer with a shower of cold water.

During these fleeting bursts of mild weather, treacherous trails into the lonely forest are packed with rocks and ice. If you dare to venture out during this muddy interlude, tread with caution and expect to get wet.

It may not be the most beautiful time of the year but there is a certain elegance inherent to the dull color scheme. The ochres, browns and grays sparkle in the clear light, contrasting sharply with the morning’s dark shadows.

The meadow has been swept clean by a strong, west wind blowing down from the highest peaks. It has been nice to receive a respite from the repeating cycle of historic storms because it gives us some time to document their impact and prepare for the ones still on the way.

In between snowstorms

Morning's dark shadows

A fleeting burst of mild weather

A muddy interlude

A certain elegance

Short periods of warm sunshine

The meadow is windswept

A nice respite

Snow slides off of the branches

Sparkling, clear light

Preparing for more snow

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Winter Storms - A White November

Winter Storms

This year we have skipped fall and descended directly into the dark season as winter storms Aubrey, Bessie, Caleb, Dorothy and Ezekiel have already pounded the foothills with heavy snow. It is generally during the month of March that we receive most of our moisture but the amounts dumped this autumn have been historic.

It is not just the excessive precipitation that is remarkable but also the arctic cold as the deep snow is piled into drifts of feathery powder. The mountains are cloaked in a robe of glittering gray while the limber pine are bent by the weight of thick frost, creating an arched pathway into the frozen, forest kingdom.

When ploughing across the pale meadow, your footsteps make a distinct crunching sound that can only be heard when walking on soft snowpack. December is usually dry so it is unpredictable as to whether we will awaken to a classic Christmas Day but I know one thing for certain - dreams of a White November have already come true.

We have skipped fall

Storms have pounded the foothills

Descended into the dark season

Arctic cold

Historic snow this fall

Deep snow

The mountains are a glittering gray

Winter Storm Caleb

A pale meadow

Excessive precipitation

A frozen, forest kingdom

A White November

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Sheep Lakes - Eternal Shades of Pastel Blue

Sheep Lakes

A bitterly cold wind sweeps down through Fall River Canyon and the frigid air settles in a scenic gorge named Horseshoe Park. Scientists call this place a glacial outwash terrace, I call it a glorious gateway to one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado.

Ensconced in Rocky Mountain National Park, the gorgeous meadow was sculpted by a 500-foot-thick glacier during the last ice age. That glacier crept down the valley and reached its maximum extent about 15,000 years ago.

The powerful force of nature gradually retreated and as it did, the glacier released sizable chunks of ice and rubble. The dynamic combination of melting ice and strewn debris wreaked havoc on the thawed earth, creating cavities in the soft ground.

When the deep depressions, resulting from the event’s epic aftermath, are filled with water - they are called kettle lakes. These ponds are special because they have no surface drainage and the land surrounding them has been transformed into a natural salt lick.

Locals call this place Sheep Lakes because Bighorn Sheep, attracted by salt deposits in the ground, congregate here during the summer. They come down from the Mummy Range in order to graze on grass and eat the soil, obtaining minerals not available in their alpine habitat.

Horseshoe is a paradise for all kinds of wildlife during the summer but the winters are brutal as the park is laid to rest in a snow-covered tomb buried below picturesque peaks. At this time of year, the forbidding landscape can only be described by dead quiet and eternal shades of pastel blue.

One of the most beautiful areas

A glorious gateway

Winters are brutal

Horseshoe Park

A glacial outwash terrace

A snow-covered tomb

Picturesque peaks

Eternal shades of blue