Living – Places: 11
A couple of weeks ago, we drove with a visiting friend up to Rocky Mountain National Park, which still had the feeling of late winter. We went over to the Moraine Park meadow to try to suss out the aftermath of the Fern Lake fire, which burned down into Moraine Park, and came across a big herd of elk. They're a bit scraggily in the spring as they shed their winter coats, but still magnificent animals.
There's definitely a lot of fire damage, though the meadow itself didn't look as bad as I thought it might. You can see charred grasses in some of these photos. In places where there are stands of trees and shrubs, there was a lot more damage, though there are still many trees untouched. The fire burned very hot up in the canyon, which hadn't seen a fire in an estimated 800 years, because years of drought and beetle damage created an abundance of explosive fuel.
Even after the first significant snowfalls in December, the fire continued to burn under the snow. We didn't see or smell any smoke on this trip, though, so hopefully it's fully out now. I'm not sure what to expect the next time we hike up into that area. Even though I understand that this is part of the natural cycle, I'm sure I'll experience a sense of loss.
We enjoyed a wonderful hike up in Wild Basin yesterday. Still a lot of snow lingering at that altitude, with rivulets running everywhere and a wonderful freshness in the air. The leaves on the aspens and bushes are just beginning to bud out. In this photo, Mount Meeker overlooks the trail as it hugs a steep hillside on the way to Calypso Cascades.
There was still a lot of mushy snow and ice on the trail.
Calypso Cascades was roaring!
This is what kept Garima and me busy this spring. We live in the foothills of the Rockies, and last year the cumulation of several years of drought resulted in our well, which is fed from underground flows of snow melt from the mountains above us, being unable to recharge fast enough to keep up with our normal usage. So we decided to install a cistern this spring. That way, our water supply can slowly replenish during the time we aren't using any, even at the slower recharge rate. In a worst case scenario, we could even have water delivered, but I don't anticipate that will be necessary. As much as we knew this was a long-term beneficial project, we were stunned with how disruptive the installation was. This photo—which Garima took after several days of backhoe, blasting, crane, and dump truck activity—was the low point. I found it truly painful to look at!
For several weekends after that, we shoveled, sifted, moved, and raked what seemed like a thousand wheelbarrow loads. Then we planted a slow-growing, drought-resistant native grass called Blue Grama (the state grass of Colorado) that should eventually reach about knee height, as well as several other native plants and shrubs. Finally, it's looking like it's beginning to heal. Whew! Once the grass is well established, Garima is going to distribute the little river stone sculptures you can see at the back around the area. Also at the back, you can see two pathways veering down into the woods. These are two entrances to a series of pathways we've created around the place so that we can enjoying walking around while being careful not to trample native plants and wildflowers. It seems to be working, as we've noticed more different types of wildflowers becoming established over the years, and more of them. Now back to our regularly scheduled summer program: hikes in the mountains!
Garima captured this impromptu concert of a ponderosa cone and a tiny ball cactus singing their hearts out.
We enjoyed a wonderful hike up in the Lumpy Ridge area of Rocky Mountain National Park today (Lumpy Ridge is the area behind the Twin Owls rock formation that you can see beyond the Stanley Hotel when you're in Estes Park). We were greeted with clear skies to begin with in the cool morning. Later in the day as the temp started climbing, clouds rolled in to keep us cool, and then thunderstorms started forming. It started raining just as we reached our car for the drive home. Perfect timing!
There was an incredible abundance of wildflowers in bloom along the entire trail. Recently, some people in the office gave a presentation about macro photography. I don't have a macro lens (yet), but was inspired by their examples to get as close as I could to many of the flowers I saw. We also saw a lot of Monument Plants (Green Gentian), including one that had produced a flower stalk; however, some critter had bitten off the flower head. This is a crazy plant: it grows for around 20 - 60 years, then flowers and dies!
At the beginning of the hike, we followed an old, now closed, ranch road up into the valley through which Cow Creek flows.
There were thousands of Golden Banner blooming.
Moon-rose, a type of Evening Primrose.
Garima soaking up the sun on the bridge across Cow Creek. I think she looks happy because we haven't yet begun the long, steep climb up!
Fairyslipper, a rare wild orchid. In this part of the forest, there was lots of pine pollen floating in the air and everything was coated with it.
Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado's state flower.
A Pasque flower gone to seed.
Pollen cones on a Ponderosa pine.
Our destination, Balanced Rock, which looks a bit like a gigantic stone Morel mushroom.
An old weathered bunch of roots from a fallen tree.
I've been working on a presentation about the Micro Four Thirds system for our photography group. My conclusion: knowing that I can likely get the shot because I have a better camera is causing me to see the world around me in a much more immersive manner; I see more, and that means I experience more.
I may have walked past this Golden Banner flower peeking up into the early morning sunshine without even seeing it if I hadn't been experiencing my surroundings in this fresh way. What a gift.
A new macro lens inspired me to take a tour of the beautiful garden that Garima has created around our home, opening my eyes to a level of detail that I often pass by with just a cursory glance.
A honey bee making its way up a flower stalk.
A honey bee face plants into a flower.
I'm not sure what this flower is, but I love its delicate stamen.
Yellow and orange Columbine.
Purple and white Columbine.
A second yellow Columbine.