Living – Places: 23

A meteor shot across the sky. No one spoke.
"What he said," Feng continued at last. "He said you must always step forward from where you stand."
—Eliot Pattison, The Skull Mantra

2014 (continued)

We hike to many beautiful spots in this neck of the woods, but sometimes we find a reminder of the magic of life right on our back porch.

Red Hibiscus bloom

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been enjoying the transition into a beautiful autumn of warm days and cool nights. We've made it up to Cow Creek twice, the first a climb up to the top plateau of Lumpy Ridge and the second a gentle walk up the valley enjoying the view of the aspens turning orange and golden, and the grasses and bushes turning yellow and tan.

As aspen with a splay of orange leaves

The contrast of the turning aspens against the dark green pine forests can be stunning, especially as the sun and cloud shadows move across the hills.

Brightly lit aspens against a shadowed pine forest backdrop

The glowing autumn grasses smell as good as they look.

Autumn grasses and bushes along the creek

Autumn brings such a gentleness with warm colors and temperatures: an invitation to take a nap in the grass under a benevolent sun.

Open valley of tan grasses and golden bushes along the creek leading up towards the mountains

The trees in the Cow Creek valley are large and stately, dwarfing Garima.

Large pines towering over Garima

Autumn is beginning its transition into winter. The peaks are now dusted with snow, the leaves have blown off almost all the aspens, and the lake grasses are turning a glowing golden tan.

The grasses in Bierstadt lake, with the Continental Divide beyond

We've been to Bierstadt Lake a few times this year, and have enjoyed the gift of sitting quietly and watching it evolve through the seasons.

Bierstadt Lake ringed by golden grasses, and framed by a pine forest with snow dusted mountains beyond

The clouds were moving quickly across the sky, but the lake surface was untouched by the winds.

Looking to the north across the mirrored surface of Bierstadt lake

We got our first taste of winter today when we hiked up to Mills Lake. While it was relatively warm at lower elevations, it was an overcast day and once we had climbed up to the lake, which is just shy of 10,000 feet, it was pretty chilly. About half the lake is frozen already, and the winds were gusting down at us from the aptly named Keyboard of the Winds range. We bundled up in lots of layers in order to stay cozy as we enjoyed our lunch.

The lake is named after Enos Mills, the first naturalist to work in the area. He also worked tirelessly to lobby congress and politicians to create Rocky Mountain National Park, so is considered to be the Park's "father." He enjoyed a lot of time in the Park, including climbing Longs Peak 340 times!

View looking south across chilly, half-frozen Mills Lake towards the Continental Divide

We were sitting on a stone peninsula that juts out into the northern part of the lake. This was the view to the west, where pine trees zig-zag down to the ice-encrusted shoreline.

View from a rock peninsula across the lake towards a rocky mountainside abundant with pines

Just north of the lake, the outlet creates a picturesque little pond.

View across a little pond with icicles flowing down the rock face on the other side

Looking back up towards the Mills Lake basin.

Looking south towards Mills Lake where a large pine is leaning dramatically over the outlet pond

A glimpse of the extraordinary ordinary from an early morning walk along the South St. Vrain.

A natural bouquet of autumn-colored plants

At the end of yesterday's somewhat cold and windy hike, we sat for a long time on the north side of Bear Lake basking in the late afternoon sun and enjoying the view of the Keyboard of the Winds.

View of the snow-dusted Keyboard of the winds across Bear Lake

A beautiful sunny day lit up the freshly fallen snow in our neck of the woods today. We took a hike up the Picture Rock Trail, then turned around to look back south towards our neighborhood. Wow.

The freshly covered foothills of our neighborhood

The temperature warmed up to just the freezing point, so that snow on rocks was melting then immediately freezing again.

Snow and icicles on a yellow lichen-colored rock

Garima and I enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving hike and picnic lunch today. We hiked up the Picture Rock trail, then enjoyed our lunch at the intersection with the Wild Turkey trail, where we enjoyed tofu and Tofurkey burritos.

The Picture Rock trail winds up a valley where farming and rock quarries once thrived. I wonder who parked this implement after tilling a field and then never returned, leaving it to witness the passing of the seasons year after year.

An old tiller rusting in a field

Looking through the iron wheels of a tiller across an open field toward the pine-covered foothill beyond

There's an old rock wall along the trail. Not sure what the structure was, but the craftsmanship is fine. Look how square the end of the wall is!

Garima standing next to an old rock wall

Some of the wall stones have fallen and are now painted in lichen.

Orange and pale green colored stones tumbled in the grasses at the foot of the wall

Some of the stones balanced precariously at the very top of the wall are also brightly colored with lichen.

Burnt orange and pale green lichen painted stones balanced on top of the nine-foot wall

Another mystery: someone drove this vehicle up to one of the picture rock quarry sites and left it. What stories are hidden in this gracefully rusting chassis?

An old rusting car chassis decaying in the remnants of a quarry

Many hikers are inspired to contributed their own art at the quarry site.

Garima standing amidst a variety of balanced rock sculptures

The wooden bed of this old pickup truck is now a haven for sumac bushes.

A rusted truck chassis with a rotting oak bed through which a thicket of sumac bushes is growing

Garima sitting on the hillside above the trail as it winds up the valley.

Garima sitting in the grasses in front of rock formation just above the trail that is winding up the hillside

These aren't the "painted rock" that gave this trail its name, but I love the way lichen colors these trailside rocks.

A rock formation along the trail painted with yellow and pale green lichen

A mud dauber wasp nest on a trailside rock.

A mud wasp nest with ten holes on a rock side

Another beautiful lichen-colored rock formation alongside the trail.

A striated rock formation painted in yellow and pale-yellow lichen

The view from our Thanksgiving lunch spot at the intersection of the Picture Rock and Wild Turkey trails.

A view across pine-covered hills

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