Living – Places: 21

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas, Do not go gentle into that good night

2014 (continued)

We revisited Cub Lake today, hiking the loop from the Cub Lake trailhead to the Fern Lake trailhead. This is just the second time we've hiked up around Cub Lake since the area experienced the largest fire in the history of Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter of 2012/2013. While there remains much devastation from the fire, our relatively wet spring and summer has really aided the recovery. The marshy areas are thick with undergrowth, the aspen stands that had burnt are thick with young aspen starts, and even the steep hillsides are beginning to get some undergrowth, though it's much more sparse.

Although it's mid-August, the first hints of autumn were evident on our hike today. There are still many wildflowers in bloom, but there also are many berries ripening and seed heads forming, and even a few leaves starting to turn red on some of the bushes. At that elevation, summer is short, so summertime is compressed.

This stand of Foxtail Barley looked liked shimmering, multi-colored silk in the early morning breeze.

Grass heads with long, graceful, feather-like strands

The marshy areas are full of brightly glowing Golden Glow Coneflowers, which are up to 5′ tall and are just beginning to form their seed heads.

One still immature coneflower surrounded by more mature seed heads

Many people don't like Needle and Thread Grass because it's seeds are barbed and burrow into socks, but it's so cool looking!

Grass seed head with long, spikey strands going in all directions

There are still lots of light violet Asters blooming, and we came across one very brightly lit cluster of near-white Asters. It was a bit like looking at a spotlight.

Many dozens of brightly lit asters growing very close together, like a natural bouquet

Right alongside the lake, there isn't much vegetation coming back from the fire yet, so this cluster of Black-Tipped Senecio really lit up the hillside.

A cluster of bright-yellow flowers with a matching bee

We sat for a long time on a rock next to the water watching fingerling trout swimming around in the shallow water and large dragonflies darting about, mating, and laying eggs in the water. I tried to get a photograph of the dragonflies, but they move so fast I only managed to capture blurred images. The Water Sedge next to us was more cooperative, appearing to be growing up above the clouds.

Sedge grasses with seed heads forming growing along the shoreline with clouds reflected in the water behind

I still find it difficult to look at the totally burnt forest surrounding the lake, especially remembering how beautiful it used to look, so I mostly focused on the Yellow Pondlilies, which are in greater abundance in the lake than I've ever seen before.

Thousands of lily leaves floating on the surface of the lake

Baneberry berries are generally red, but sometimes, oddly, they're white. We saw a lot of bright red clusters sticking up above the surrounding undergrowth. And then we came across these two clusters side by side.

A cluster of bright red berries next to a cluster of white berries

Cow-Parsnip seed head umbels, with Ladybug.

A large umbel of green seed head umbels, with one orange Ladybug

This is the first time I've seen Fireweed in all three stages at once: flowering, forming seed pods, and with some seed pods bursting open to release their fluffy seeds.

A stand of Fireweed, some flowering, with some young seed pods, and some mature seeds pods bursting open to release white fluff

We hiked up to one of our favorite lakes today: Finch Lake in Wild Basin.

On the way up, we saw something a bit unusual, a stand of red paintbrush just in front of a stand of creamy white paintbrush.

A bunch of red paintbrush flowers standing just in front of a bunch of white paintbrush flowers

The red paintbrush.

Closeup of the red paintbrush flowers

The white paintbrush.

Closeup of the white paintbrush flowers

Just on the other side of the trail was this stand of creamy white paintbrush tinged red. Garima tells me that paintbrush crosses easily, so there are a lot of hybrids.

A bunch of white paintbrush flowers with red-tinged tips

When we arrived at Finch lake, we walked a short ways along the east side of the lake on a social path and were rewarded with this view of the lake with Copeland Mountain beyond. I think that's Ogalalla Peak on the Continental Divide beyond and to the left of Copeland Mountain.

A view from the eastern shoreline across the lake with the mountains beyond

Then we hiked around the north side of the lake and found a nice boulder jutting out into the water to sit on and enjoy our lunch. This was the view up the shore from where we were sitting.

A view of the western shoreline of Finch Lake

The light from the mid-August sun was beautiful, almost as if the pine trees across the lake were back lit.

The trees across the lake were glowing

As I took a few more photos across the lake, my attention was drawn to how dramatically the surface of the lake was changing as the breezes played across it. The following images were all taken from my same perch on that shoreline boulder.

Another view of the trees across the lake and the sunlit water between

Sometimes there were diamonds dancing across much of the surface.

The surface covered with patterns of twinkling light

Other times, a few diamonds danced in contrast to dark ripples in between.

A few instances of twinkling light on the surface interspersed with dark patterns caused by the ripples

At times, the ripples really picked up the blue of the sky above.

The rippled surface displaying patterns of sky blue and black

And then they would play with a cloud passing by.

The rippled surface showing patterns caused by a reflected cloud

Yes, I was mesmerized.

A final shot of the patterned surface reflecting the blue sky, a bit of cloud, and changing to solid black at a distance

Afternoon thunderstorms have been common this summer, sometimes with gorgeous side effects.

A beautiful evening double rainbow

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