Friday, November 15, 2019

American Bison Trail - A Secret Passage

American Bison Trail

Tucked away in the Front Range Foothills, a discreet meadow is home to Colorado’s treasured herd of buffalo. Broken by rocks and ice, a muddy pathway circumnavigates the sturdy enclosure while offering unobstructed views of the Continental Divide.

The American Bison Trail traverses the lower slopes of Genesee Mountain, winding its way through an old-growth forest of ponderosa pine. The morning sun has just slipped over the ridge so bright light floods into the open woodland.

Sequestered in the backwoods, the trail is a secret passage through the wilderness that even the locals don’t know exists. One of the most common inhabitants in this netherworld is the cautious mule deer but encounters with this shy creature are transient.

It is pretty quiet in the deep interior but if you listen closely, you’ll hear a whole chorus of resident birds. Crows drift across the treetops as woodpeckers and nuthatches tap tree bark while Stellar’s jays squawk noisily, disrupting the peaceful ambiance.

Tiny, black specks graze in a golden grassland unfurled below an impressive expanse of blue mountains and big white peaks. The hardy beasts are settled in the center of the pasture so a long camera lens is required to reach out and capture their shaggy silhouettes.

Sweeping down from the high country, an autumn chinook eats through the frost still drifted in the dark shadows. It is a clear day and the calendar says it is fall but down in this secluded valley, the deep snow and bitter cold make it feel like the dead of winter.

The Continental Divide

An expanse of mountains and white peaks

A ponderosa pine forest

A discreet valley

Shaggy silhouettes

The wilderness

An open woodland

A secret passage

The sun has slipped over the ridge

The deep interior

Feels like the dead of winter

Sunday, November 10, 2019

In the Forest, Bear Creek - Colored Pencil Drawing

"In the Forest, Bear Creek" Colored Pencil

It is late summer in the Colorado foothills and Bear Creek is flowing steadily through a narrow, forest-filled canyon. The pastoral scene is a study in contrast involving shapes, edges, values and color.

The forest interior is one of the most alluring places on earth providing asylum from the cold steel, glass and pavement found in the city. Life slows down along the creek where earth, trees, water and air create a comforting atmosphere.

The flickering landscape makes a gradual transition towards abstraction as the indistinct edges of the riverbank melt into the rushing water. The calm ambiance is disrupted by an explosion of streaming light that shatters into small shards of pure color.

It is a natural patchwork of opposing pigments where a warm highlight streaks across the creek’s cool surface. The rock cliff’s sharp angles convey action and dynamic movement that spreads across the unusual drawing.

A murky silhouette of pine trees suggests the tangled canopy of a dense woodland. The vibrant palette is scumbled over an orange-toned paper that permeates throughout the entire piece, unifying the intricate composition.

The depiction of this splendid niche in the planet is meant to express the mystery of an untamed wilderness. Just like the white cloud drifting into the background so will the forest’s fiery mosaic fade into the icy tones of winter.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Rocky Mountain Columbine - A Vivid Buttercup

Colorado Blue Columbine

Winter is here now but not so long ago, the snow-covered meadows were blanketed with colorful blossoms that attracted bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and the artist’s eye. The most revered of these lovely wildflowers is the iconic Rocky Mountain Columbine which blooms from mid-May through July.

An avid hiker named Edwin James first discovered the blue columbine while scaling the steep slopes of Pikes Peak. This hardy perennial thrives at high altitude in the mountain west from the foothills up to the alpine.

Because of its magnificent display of blue-violet petals, white cup and yellow center, the Rocky Mountain Columbine was designated Colorado’s official state flower in 1899. The elegant, triadic, color scheme is a perfect fit because the blue symbolizes the sky, white our eternal snow and yellow our rich gold mining history.

Reclusive despite its beauty, the lovely flower favors moist, rocky soil and it prefers to hide along small streams, near an aspen grove or in the shade of a ponderosa pine tree. After an especially wet spring, I find them more showy in the damp gulches where they sway gently in the warm, summer breeze.

Even though the columbine is successfully adapted to growing here, every fall it must still obediently succumb to the natural rhythm of life. We may be descending into the dark season when the fields are barren but I have bittersweet memories of last summer and those vivid buttercups clinging so delicately to the edges of a dusty trail.

Along the edges of a dusty trail

They thrive at high altitude

A magnificent display

Colorado's state flower

Reclusive despite its beauty

A revered wildflower

Showy in a damp gulch

They favor moist, rocky soil

Bittersweet memories

Prefers to hide in the shade