Living – Places: 13

2013 (continued)

This is the view towards the Continental Divide from the south shore of Bierstadt Lake. You can't see them clearly in this photo, but there is a whole family of ducklings sunning themselves on one of the rocks in the middle of the scene, with mama watching carefully from the next rock beyond.

A wide shoreline of water grasses with a backdrop of pine forest and the Continental Divide beyond

We continued around to the east side of the lake, sat down to enjoy our lunch, and just as we were finishing, we saw this mama moose and her calf right where I had taken the previous photo.

A big mama moose walking along the shoreline with her small calf trailing behind her

After a few minutes, they headed out into the lake, chattering away to each other. Moose are very aquatic and swim well. They appeared to be heading towards the north shore of the lake, but right about in the middle of the lake, they turned and started heading straight towards us.

The mama moose and her calf walking across the shallow lake, ears alert

A mama moose is a dangerously protective parent, so needless to say we grabbed our packs and quickly headed around back towards the south side of the lake, where they had come from. When we were safely away from where they were headed, I started taking photos again.

The mama moose and her calf coming ashore; the calf was watching us alertly

Mama was at least 6 feet tall at the shoulders.

The mama moose was a dark chocolate brown, while her calf was an amber brown

They came ashore right where we had been eating our lunch. The baby seemed to sniff quite a bit where we had been sitting, then they ambled off towards the north again, eating voraciously as they went. I wouldn't want to be a bush in the path of a moose!

The moose heading off into the forest

Our lunch spot today was a magnificent flat boulder jutting out into Finch lake. We basked in the warmth of the sun, enjoyed the views of the Continental Divide to the west, and out of the corner of our eyes watched (and listened) as a menacing thunderstorm cell formed and rumbled over Mount Meeker to the north. We fully expected to hike the four miles back through a downpour, but surprisingly we experienced only a few drops the last ¼ mile of the hike. Nice! We had a similar thunderstorm cell form over our home on Friday and ended up getting a half hour of downpour that was as hard as any we've seen since we moved here.

A view along the souther shoreline of Finch lLke

Looking across Finch Lake at the mountains beyond.

Looking west from a perch on the southeastern shore of Finch Lake

Enjoyed a wonderful hike up to Mills Lake today. I love this lake! We found a great location to sit for lunch, surrounded by water on three sides. But just as we were getting our food out, the skies quite suddenly darkened with roiling clouds. We put on our rain coats and ended up eating in a very light rain, with mist settling down over the peaks of the Continental Divide. It was really beautiful, actually, sort of moody.

Almost as suddenly as it had moved in, the storm started pulling back and sun came out again, so I quickly grabbed these two photos from where we were sitting. You can see the retreating clouds and the mist still clinging to the peaks. As we left the lake, the skies were almost totally clear again. In a funny twist, that's when it started thundering! I guess a very localized storm was raging just over the ridge.

Looking west across Mills Lake towards the Continental Divide, where a storm was passing

A couple hours later, shortly after we got back to our car, it clouded over and started sprinkling again. Just as we were leaving Estes Park and climbing up out of the bowl it sits in, the skies opened up with a drenching rain! It was one of the hardest downpours I've ever been in, and it went on for several miles, getting harder and harder as we drove slowly on.

Then it started to hail. Man, did I freak out. I just got my car back last Thursday evening from being repaired from the hailstorm that blew though Lyons a month ago! Fortunately, the hail never got big enough or hard enough to be damaging, and just as suddenly as the skies had opened up, the storm abruptly stopped, and we drove the rest of the way home down a beautifully sun drenched canyon. Crazy!

Looking north across Mills Lake as the sun came back out

Hiked up in the Glacier Gorge area of the park today. We ate our lunch at this unnamed pond, a favorite spot of ours, and listened to the occasional sound of a fish jumping, the birds, and the water flowing out of the pond.

A small, shallow, tranquil pond on a shelf, with the forested hillside falling away beyond

Spent some time sitting quietly all by ourselves at Lake Haiyaha on one of the enormous boulders that juts out into the lake. I love this place. The surroundings feel so primal, the water is absolutely pristine, and there is even what looks like a Zen calligraphy drawing caused by a lighter-colored seam of rock (quartz?) on the opposite wall that you can see almost in the middle of the photo, just above the trees.

We sat there for probably 30 minutes listening to the water lapping and the tiny birds peeping as they gathered seeds along the shoreline. The quality of near silence in a place like this is so precious. As we were leaving the area, we passed several parties of people on their way to the lake, all of them talking loudly, so loudly that we could hear them long before we passed them. I was so happy to be headed away!

It always surprises me when people visit places like this and then spend so much time talking—really loudly—about things that are so trivial next to the majesty of the nature surrounding them. Garima and I rarely talk when we're hiking, and when we do, we speak softly, just loudly enough for each other to hear.

Looking west across the glacial green waters of Lake Haiyaha

During a visit to Anacortes, we came across Causland Memorial Park, which covers a city block and has an amazing wall around most of it unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was created by Louis Lepage in 1920s and is dedicated to veterans.

Like the bow of a stone ship sailing through green grass

The wall is such an expression of organic beauty.

An organic looking rock wall made of a mosiac of small stones, some a dark green color, others white

A view along a long section of the wall.

This section of wall combined slate, brown, white, and green stones in a wavelike pattern

The Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. It was foggy during our walk through the park, but the colors were still brilliant. This is my favorite shot from the visit. I love the contrast between the leaves and the delicate pale green lichen on the branches.

A branch of deep red leaves with branches wearing pale green lichen

The highway to Estes Park reopened in its temporarily patched state last week, so we were able to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike today for the first time since the catastrophic flooding in September. Oh, how my heart has missed the mountains!

We hiked up to Cub Lake for the first time since the fire last fall/winter. The fire was erratic, singeing some places, devastating other areas, and leaving other places untouched. And in many, though not all, areas that burned, there is a strong rebirth of undergrowth. In some areas, like the one in this photo, the autumn grasses were just glowing in the afternoon sun.

An open field of golden grasses glowing in the afternoon sun

This year we managed to get a table at the very exclusive Wild Basin Bistro (we were the only ones there!), where we feasted on our delicious and traditional bean burrito Thanksgiving dinner while enjoying a spectacular view of Mount Meeker. What a beautiful day!

I'm grateful that the recent floods didn't cause too much damage to what is one of our favorite hiking trails. I'm also grateful to the people who did such an amazing job of reconstructing the heavily damaged highway 7 along the South St. Vrain. They managed to finish early, just in time for us to drive up the canyon today to the Southeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Garima sitting on a large boulder in a snowy open area with snow-covered Mount Meeker behind her

While there are opportunities to learn in every moment, extraordinary events have often proven to be the most powerful teachers in my life. As I've reflected on the floods over these past three months, I've learned much. The primary lesson is that everything changes, no matter how much we hope they won't or try to keep them the same. Of course, I always knew that, but it's so much more vivid now.

In that realization is a gold nugget: the reminder to not take anything for granted, to enjoy as fully as possible what we are experiencing this moment. For many years, our most cherished winter hiking spot has been a place called Buttonrock Preserve. We've hiked there hundreds of times, and while I always appreciated its beauty, in a certain sense I took it for granted because I imagined it would always be available to us. Now we can't get there, because the road to it was completely washed away. I'm not sure what we'll find when we finally are able to return, but I'm sure it will be much changed, with much destruction along the river bed.

The other thing I've realized is that with so much devastation around me right now and how strongly my attention is drawn to the startling rawness of the destruction, I need to consciously raise my eyes up and look beyond the scars, because there still is much beauty to behold.

Today, looking for an alternative to Buttonrock Preserve, we took a hike in the hills to the east of us, on the beautifully and aptly named Eagle Wind Trail (there were both today). Accustomed to the beauty of the river at Buttonrock and the forested valley it winds through, this new trail at first seemed a bit bleak to me as it climbed up a barren winter hillside. But as we climbed higher, the vistas that opened and the pastel colors that colored the landscape awed me.

We can't go back. So I guess the trick is to stay open to the possibilities the path ahead may bring us to.

As we climbed higher, the mountains emerged above the winter tan foothills, pointing up into the pastel blue sky

We learned that the Arapaho called these mountains Nay-ni-sote-uu-u, which means Twin Guides.

A view west twoards Mount Meeker and Longs Peak, the Twin Guides

My heart feels joyful anytime the trail ahead winds through a stand of trees.

The trail winds upward through an open Ponderosa forest

Later in the day, the clouds in the sky became a bit more dramatic.

Looking west again towards Mount Meeker

Dignity

A gnarled old pine with crazily dancing branches, still somehow vividly alive, though long dead

We enjoyed a beautiful, sun-drenched hike yesterday (December 24th) in Hall Ranch, which abuts the south side of our beloved Buttonrock Preserve, still inaccessible to us. As we had guessed, there were only a handful of people out, so it was a very nice, mellow day beneath an endless blue sky. At the beginning of our hike, our view was dominated by this rock formation jutting up into the sky.

A sandstone butte juts up into the deep blue sky

About two miles up the trail, we got our first glimpse of the Twin Guides, Mount Meeker and Longs Peak.

The mountains are barely visible peaking above far hills

We found a nice spot for lunch, nestled in amongst a giant jumble of boulders and pines, overlooking a large open area that was bustling with hundreds of prairie dogs, chirping their alert calls to each other as anyone walked by.

A view westward across a large open area with golden and brown grasses

About three miles up the trail, we got our next view of the Twin Guides.

A much larger view of the mountains projects a very strong presence over us

About four miles up the trail, we came to a beautiful wooden bridge crossing a jagged wash. At that elevation, the wind had turned icy and the trail ahead was hard-packed snow, so we decided to turn back.

Garima standing on a wooden bridge with a sunlit face

We took a short hike this morning in Rocky Mountain National Park, up the valley towards Cub Lake. As we were returning, thick storm clouds rolled in (snow coming tonight) causing it to feel like dusk in the middle of the day.

Up higher, everything was covered in snow, but down at the level of the trailhead in Moraine Park, which is the broad valley ahead in this photo, there were only patches of snow here and there, as well as a solid ribbon of snow pack on the trail itself, which created an interesting visual effect. (We were wearing Diamond Grips, so the walking was easy even on the icy snow pack.)

On the drive back down the canyon, we stopped to pick up a still-warm-from-the-oven cherry pie from the Colorado Cherry Company cafe in Pinewood Springs. Heck yeah, good day!

Following the snow pack trail down to Moraine Park

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