Living – Places: 11

2013 (continued)

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. 

Young elk looking up with ears alert

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.

The trail always takes me breath away a bit at this point, as the hillside falls away so sharply

There was still a lot of mushy snow and ice on the trail.

Garima walking down a snowy section of trail

Calypso Cascades was roaring!

Calypso Cascades spilling down the steep hillside through the pine forest

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!

We were a bit shell shocked by how our front area looked after the installation of the cistern

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 did an amazing job of landscaping the area

Garima captured this impromptu concert of a ponderosa cone and a tiny ball cactus singing their hearts out.

Small flowering ball cactus next to a ponderosa pinecone that's about the same size

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.

Two-lane dirt road winding up the valley and into the pines

There were thousands of Golden Banner blooming.

Bright yellow Golden Banner flowers

Moon-rose, a type of Evening Primrose.

The pure white Moon-rose has just a touch of yellow from its stamen

Mountain Parlsey.

I love this flower because it gives me a chance to say umbels of umbels

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!

Garima standing on a rustic log bridge looking downstream

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.

A delicate, pale violet flower on a long slender stem

Rocky Mountain Columbine, Colorado's state flower.

Five cupped white petals surrounded by five very pale purple petals

Fendler's Waterleaf.

A white ball of small flowers with spiky stamen pointed outward

A Pasque flower gone to seed.

A chaotic dance of whispy old man's hair

Pollen cones on a Ponderosa pine.

An image of the desire of life to perpetuate itself

Our destination, Balanced Rock, which looks a bit like a gigantic stone Morel mushroom.

How has it managed to come down though the ages and stay balanced on the slender stalk?

Purple fringe

Another very spikey looking flower, this one a rich purple

An old weathered bunch of roots from a fallen tree.

Looks a bit like an alien creature to me

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.

One of my favorite photographs

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 with grains of golden pollen on its forehead kisses a flower

Yucca flower.

We have a very old Yucca plant next to our deck that graces us with a few flower stalks every year

A honey bee making its way up a flower stalk.

I like the way the light highlights the bee's hairs and antennas

Wild Geranium.

The tiny golden grains of pollen are like dew on the stamen

A honey bee face plants into a flower.

Where does the bee end and the flower begin?


The very definition of orange!

I'm not sure what this flower is, but I love its delicate stamen.

The bright yellow petals of this flower look like paint strokes

Yellow and orange Columbine.

How can we feel anything but awe about life when there are flowers like this?

Purple and white Columbine.

I love the hints of purple at the base of cupped white petals

Yellow Columbine.

The disks at the end of the stamen are like gold coins

A second yellow Columbine.

The individuality of each flower in a garden is striking when you get up close

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