Living – Places: 25

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.
– John Muir, from his journal entry for July 27, 1869

2015 (continued)

The forecast for last night called for up to an inch of snow. Imagine our delight when we awakened to a winter playground covered in 8″ of freshly fallen snow. Can't wait to go out and play!

Snow-covered ponderosas and foothills beyond

And play we did, hiking a few miles up the Nighthawk trail at Hall Ranch. It was a day of strange and sometimes dramatic light. When we started, the cloud cover was nearly solid, but there was still much contrast between the rocks and snow-covered hillsides and bushes.

The dramatically dark reddish rock of the Hatrock mesa rising above a snow-covered hillside and outlined against a uniformly pale white sky

As we walked, the clouds began to break up to the west, and the sun started brightening.

A snow-covered zig-zagging ranch fence with a dramatic sky beyond of brightly backlit dark clouds

The contrast between rock and snow emphasized the striation of these hills.

Mesas rising atop a base of mille-feuille rock formations, made more dramatic by the snow interspersed between layers

Snow-frosted mullein sentinels.

A field of snow-frosted mullein seed stalks, looking as though they are standing watch over thier surroundings

I don't know why barns are so often painted red, but I'm glad they are, especially when I see them in a snowy landscape. [Actually, I just read about it: originally, farmers painted their barns with linseed oil with rust (ferrous oxide) mixed in for its anti-fungal properties, and the rust turned the orange-tinted oil red. After commercial paints became available, red remained the color of choice due to tradition.]

A red barn tucked amidst snow-covered pine trees

Garima adds her own splash of color to the landscape.

Garima in her bright-turqoise jacket hiking up the snowy trail

The sun broke through and lit up Hatrock against the dark clouds beyond.

Hatrock mesa glowing a salmon color against a dark cloudy sky beyond

The poetry of wind-blown grasses in snow.

Wind-blown olden grasses frosted with snow

As the sun was getting lower in the west, it lit up a mesa to the east of a now shadow-darkened hillside.

A brightly lit mesa top jutting up beyond a darkened hillside

Our final treat was seeing the nearly full moon rising above cliffs that were catching the last rays of the setting sun, astonishingly in a suddenly nearly cloudless sky.

Nearly full moon rising in a deep blue sky above pale orange cliffs

Earlier this week, we took advantage of the nice weather to go up for an afternoon walk in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's amazing how quiet it is there on a winter weekday!

Looking east down upper Moraine Park just as it was catching the very last rays of the sun before it sank behind the ridge

Celebrated a beautiful day today with a short hike up the Nighthawk Trail in Hall Ranch. I took this snap from a hillside I was sitting on, resting and soaking up the warm midday sun. It's particularly satisfying to look down a steep valley you've just climbed up, knowing that the way home will be much easier!

Looking south down the valley that the Nighthawk Trail climbs alongside

It was my first hike wearing a pair of custom hiking boots made by John Calden of Estes Park, CO. John has been making mountain boots for more than 30 years. In this age of ruthless mass production, the care and passion he brings to his craft is heartwarming.

It was thrilling to wear, for the first time in my life, boots that actually fit my unique feet (wide forefoot, narrow heel, high midfoot). Before this, most boots just didn't fit at all because of my wide forefoot or my midfoot. Of the few that I could get on, I'd either have to live with cramped toes or a loose heel.

I had expected the boots to be well made with good quality materials, but John surpassed my expectations; his boots are works of art. Perhaps the feature that most surprised and delighted me is the butter soft leather lining hidden inside the rugged exterior. It's like putting on a pair of fine Italian gloves.

John has a long waiting list—it took a year and a half before I was finally able to pick mine up earlier this past week—but it was definitely worth the wait. The boots have only a few miles on them so far, but I already can tell I'm going to enjoy them for the rest of my life!

I got his Mountain Lite boot, rough-side out for abrasion resistance, and with the optional double tongue

Time for a different pair of boots this morning, as we had a beautiful overnight snow that meant some time with my snow boots and snow shovel. The air was filled with a fine mist of snow falling and the sun murmured softly, "Don't worry, I'm still here."

The distant hills and the sun are barely visible through the haze of snow

I love the way dried wild grasses look in freshly fallen snow.

Tall tan grasses highlighted against the white of the snow

After a few weeks of cold weather and lots of snow, our more usual sunny skies returned along with some warmer weather, so we headed up into the mountains and ended up hiking up into the Lumpy Ridge area. When we had climbed up through the forest a bit, this was our first view of the mountains to the Southwest, across the valley in which lies Estes Park.

View of the mountains through the ponderosas with some very dynamic clouds above

We caught our first glimpse of the Twin Owls, though they look more like an Easter Island statue from this angle.

The TWin Owls rock formation jutting up into the sky, looking like an Easter Island head

A little more than a mile up the trail, we came to my favorite viewpoint, a big rock formation from which there are amazing views. The snow was melted off some areas and the sun had warmed the rock, so it made a great spot for us to sit and enjoy our lunch. This was the view to the southwest of our perch.

The snow-capped mountains of the continental divide see across the Estes Park valley

The view to the southeast framed an amazing ponderosa, it's death highlighting the sky-embracing dance of its branches.

A dead ponderosa with symmetrical braches reaching up in to the sky

After lunch, we decided to head back down, and then took the trail that branches towards the west, skirting around under the Twin Owls, which look different from each angle, but always dominate the sky.

The Twin Owls rock formation rising up above the pine-covered ridge into the sky

As the trail passed just beneath the Twin Owls, we paused for a bit. Garima spotted what seemed to be the last chunk of ice adhering to the side of the rock outcropping just to east of the Twin Owls. Just as she turned to me to draw my attention to it, we heard a huge crash and heard something crashing down the hillside for a few moments. When she looked back up, the ice was gone. I became very aware of the huge rocks balanced above my head as we continued down the trail!

Looking up the steep hillside towards the Twin Owls towering above

The next glimpse of the Twin Owls revealed just what a massive chunk of stone it is, and also showed off its sun-drenched colors.

Bone white rock formation with light peach streaks

A bit further west, looking back towards the Twin Owls, a view that reveals the formation's striations.

View of the Twin Owls shown vertical striations

The next branch of the trail took us towards the southeast. As we got further away from the Twin Owls, the right one began to show why they got their name (from across the valley, the image of two owls becomes very distinct).

When we were passing through this area, we were surrounded by scores of birds, some kind of phoebe, feasting on juniper berries, singing their hearts out. The symphony was amazing.

The right owl begins to reveal its head and beak

Looking back up the trail towards the northwest, we caught a nice glimpse of a snow-capped peak rising above the top of the valley.

A glimpse of a snow-capped mountain at the top of a long valley

As we climbed up out of the valley towards the trailhead, we caught one last view of the Twin Owls.

Final view of the Twin Owls, very similar in perspective to the last one, but from further away

Just as we began our descent back towards the trailhead, there was a wonderful rock formation towering above us. It's easy to understand how Lumpy Ridge got its name.

An interesting rock formation looking a bit like a turtle with a couple creatures riding on its back

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