Living – Places: 27

   Christopher Fuchs describes physics as "a dynamic interplay between storytelling and equation writing. Neither one stands alone, not even at the end of the day." And indeed Fuchs, a physicist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, has a radical story to tell. The story is called QBism….
   "But then I found the perfect B. The trouble is, it's so ugly you wouldn't want to show it off in public. It's a term that comes from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. He described his own philosophy as 'bettabilitarianism.' It's the philosophy that, as Louis Menand said, 'the world is loose at the joints.' The best you can do is gamble on the consequences of your actions. [The portmanteau comes from bet and ability.]"
– Amanda Gefter (June 4, 2015). A Private View of Quantum Reality. Quanta Magazine.

2015 (continued)

Did you know that one cubic yard of road base, which is a mix of gravel and clay, weighs about 2,800 pounds? We found this out the hard way this past week as we shoveled, moved, and raked about 12 cubic yards of it that we had delivered in order to repair our driveway after the intense rains of May and early June washed away a fair bit of it. How much is 2,800 pounds? Let me tell you: a lot!

I suppose wheelbarrows are pretty boring for most people, but I really like the custom one I put together in order to meet the challenge of maintaining our long (~160 yards) and steep (as much as 15 degrees) driveway that, just to keep things interesting, is sprinkled with a few Goathead thorns, which kill regular tubed tires effortlessly (when we first moved here, our original wheelbarrow tire lasted about 30 seconds).

My 6-cubic-ft steel wheelbarrow has dual flat-free tires and, most importantly, the genius innovation called Total Control handles that True Temper makes. When I'm moving road base, I don't quite fill the wheelbarrow, but nearly; I'd say my typical load is around 5 cubic feet, which comes to about 500 pounds. The combination of the dual tires and Total Control handles makes it possible for me to keep control of a load like that when I move it down our steep driveway. Before I had dual tires, I spilled loads in the wrong place a few times too many, and when I had plain wooden handles, I used to have to keep them and my leather gloves wet in order to keep a grip.

Anyway, after a week of intense work (this isn't quite what I pictured when I imagined what retirement would be like), the driveway repairs are finished. Which is all just a long, long way of saying that we really earned the chance to go for a hike up in the mountains yesterday. And I gotta tell you, it was so much more pleasant to work up a sweat climbing to an alpine lake than hauling gravel!

Shortly after leaving Bear Lake on our way to Bierstadt Lake, we came across this view I love—beautifully lit by the morning sunhine— of a glacial boulder field spilling down the hillside right towards the trail, nicely framed by aspens and pines.

A rugged boulder field tumbling down a hillside

As we approached Bierstadt Lake, we intentionally took a left turn—a longcut, if you will—towards Mill Creek Basin in order to check out a stretch of trail we hadn't been on before. It was a great choice as it took us down a little-used trail though a beautiful bit of forest. One of my favorite things in life is a trail stretching out before me, enticing me onward with the promise of discovery.

A trail stretching off into the distance through a sun-mottled pine forest

We ate lunch sitting on the forest floor next to this grizzled old lichen-painted root ball. It seemed to be watching us intently, antennae at the alert, perhaps waiting to scrabble for any tasty morsel that fell from our tortillas.

An old root ball bleached by the years and painted by a pale green lichen

When we got to Bierstadt lake, there were a fair number of clouds moving overhead casting intermittent shadows on the water, the surrounding forest, and the peaks of the Continental Divide. Since our plan was anyway to just sit there and drink in the silence, I waited with my camera at hand until the light was just right … what a pleasant task with which to while away an afternoon! Each moment was different and many beautiful moments passed by, but here's my favorite from the afternoon. I'm pretty sure we're looking at Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, and Flattop Mountain.

View of the snowy peaks of the Continental Divide reflected in Bierstadt Lake

I simply love Salsify seedheads (I think this is Meadow Salsify, Tragopogon pratensis). For a short while, they shimmer with the grace of fine silk, then each pappus floats away on the breeze, carrying its seed towards the possibility of new life.

A salsify seedhead shining in the late afternoon light

Because it was so hot today, we waited until late afternoon to take a walk. The timing was fortuitous because we got a really nice treat.

The following is a portion of the sandstone cliffs we walk beneath on Old St. Vrain Road alongside the South St. Vrain Creek. Our gaze is often drawn upward because they are dotted with impossible swallow mud nests, some literally hanging directly down beneath overhangs. How they manage to build those nests is beyond me, but it's fun to see them swoop up into them.

The treat was that as we were looking up, we caught sight of a family of Great Horned Owls looking down at us with those fierce expressions they have. To see more, click through to the full-size photos.

Sandstone cliffs along Old St. Vrain Road

We enjoyed one of our favorite hikes yesterday (though I'm moving a bit stiffly this morning!). The hike is an eleven-mile circuit (including spurs to lakes) that starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead and takes us to a half dozen montane and subalpine lakes nestled in the high valleys (9,500 - 10,200 feet) between peaks of the Continental Divide.

When we left home early in the morning, the skies were socked in with clouds and mist, and the forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms. This promised cooler hiking temperatures, which is nice at the height of summer, but also meant it likely wouldn't be as photogenic a day as we often enjoy up in the mountains, so I left my camera and gear at home. The upside of this was that my pack was a couple pounds lighter, which makes a difference to me on a hike like this.

When we reached Bear Lake trailhead at 9,475 feet, however, the cloud cover began to break up, and by the time we reached the first lake, we were enjoying lots of sunshine. Then something quite extraordinary happened. Though storm clouds formed and roiled overhead all day long and we even heard some thunder and experienced a very light rainfall later in the day, just as we reached each lake, the cloud cover broke up enough that we could sit lakeside bathed in sunshine. Fortunately, I had my phone with me, so was still able to capture some memories of this wonderful day.

Here, we've just reached the rock outcropping above Nymph Lake (9,700 feet), which is the first place the view really opens up (Nymph Lake lies out of frame below and to the left). Off in the distance, center frame, is Longs Peak (14,259 feet) and the formation known as the Keyboard of the Winds on its northern flank. Mills Lake, the final lake in this little tour, lies in the valley visible beneath that, though the lake isn't yet in view in this shot (it becomes visible when the trail gets up around 10,000 feet). Because of the volatility of the weather, we weren't sure we'd get that far, but we hoped we would.

View across the pine-covered hillsides towards Longs Peak and The Keyhole

Looking west across Dream Lake (9,900 feet) at Tyndall Gorge and Hallett Peak (12,713 feet).

Dream Lake reflecting Tyndall Gorge and Hallett Peak

Emerald Lake (10,080 feet) lies in Tyndall Gorge at the foot of Hallett Peak, with Flattop Mountain (12,324 feet) to the right. There were lots of waterfalls flowing down from the last of the snowpack on the flanks of the two peaks, so the music in this little amphitheater was exceptional.

Emerald Lake reflecting the flank of Hallet Peak

Because we had an abundance of late Spring snow and rain, there were lots of wildflowers. This is an Alpine Primrose. Lots of them seemed to be growing right out of a shaded vertical rock wall we passed while climbing up from Dream Lake towards Lake Haiyaha.

A stalk of magenta flowers emerging from a plant hanging on the side of a slab of granite

Lake Haiyaha (10,220 feet) lies in the next valley to the south of Emerald Lake, so now we see Hallett Peak to the right, and that's the flank of Otis Peak (12,486 feet) on the left. We enjoyed lunch here, sitting on a big boulder jutting out into the lake. This is one of my favorite places.

Lake Haiyaha nesteld in the craggy boulders in the gorge between Hallet and Otis peaks

The trail then goes down the steep hillside for perhaps a mile amongst several brooks flowing down the flank of Otis Peak until it passes alongside this beautiful and, as far as we've been able to find out, unnamed pond. We love this spot, and always sit on the rocks above the pond for awhile when we pass by. This section is the trail is marked "unimproved," but the Rocky Mountain Conservancy and the National Park Service partnered to do some work on it a few years ago, and it's actually quite a decent section of trail.

A small, quiet pond nestled in a pine forest

The trail then wanders gently downward to Mills Junction (9,804 feet) where you can choose to visit The Loch, Mills Lake, or continue on down to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. We first went up to The Loch on the Loch Vale Trail, which climbs steeply up a glacial gorge down which Icy Brook tumbles. Though it has the gentle name of "brook," it was thundering from the snowmelt coming from the peaks surrounding The Loch.

Icy Brook falling down a steep section of the gorge beneath The Loch

The Loch itself is nestled quiet and serene at 10,090 feet in the basin formed by Thatchtop Mountain (12,668 feet) on the south (out of frame to the left), The Shark Tooth to the west, behind which you can see Taylor Peak (13,153 feet) towering, and Otis Peak to the north.

The Shark Tooth casting a rippled reflection on The Loch

At the southeast corner of the lake beneath the ridge running down eastward from Thatchtop Mountain, there was still a large snowpack ledge. This feeds directly in the lake's outlet, so Icy Brook is going to be roaring for a while longer this summer.

A large snowpack, partially melted beneath, above the lake's surface

After hiking back down to Mills Junction, we turned to the southwest and up to Mills Lake (9,940 feet). Once again, we enjoyed some splashes of sunshine as we sat quietly on a big, low rock outcropping that juts out into the eastern portion of the lake. Mills Lake is nestled between the flanks of Thatchtop Mountain to the north and Longs Peak to the south.

We've sat on that outcropping many times in a variety of types of weather that reflect the volatility of the mountains, from brightly lit stillness to thundering downpours to bitter cold winds gusting across the ice (when we better understood the name Keyboard of the Winds). This time we enjoyed a gentle warmth as dappled light played across the water and mountain flanks, and a soft breeze etched patterns into the lake's surface.

The view across Mills Lake towards the Keyboard of the Winds formation

Favorite rootball of the day.

An old rootball weathered gray, but still tinged ochre in places

Garima enjoying the sounds and beauty of the Mills Lake outlet.

Garima standing above the white water-tinged outlet

Just as we began our three-mile walk out to the trailhead, we came across this nice bouquet of subalpine asters clinging to the steep side of a rock outcropping. A short time later, a brief thunderstorm and light rain passed over us, though we still enjoyed more sunshine after that as we wound our way down the valley.

A few dozen small, pale violet asters with yellow, amber, and burnt orange disks

A little later in the afternoon, just as we arrived home, the skies finally darkened completely and then opened up in a drenching rainfall that, while it felt very refreshing following the long day of hiking, we were happy happened after we were off the trail!

One place we return to regularly—usually at least a couple times every year—is Finch Lake. By now it is like an old friend. We love to sit on its shoreline on a big rock that juts out into the lake and enjoy lunch in its silent serenity.

The view from the north shore of Finch Lake towards the west

Another view along the shore of Finch Lake from our lunch spot.

The view from the north shore of Finch Lake towards the east

Looking across Finch Lake. Often when we are there, the trees across the way are backlit, giving them a spectacular glow.

The view across Finch Lake

One of my favorite spots: Cony Creek flowing past Finch Lake and down into Wild Basin. Rocky Mountain National Park.

The copper-colored Cony Creek flowing through a pine forest

We passed the day by taking a meandering drive in the mountains, then saw a sign for a trail we had never explored, and ended up taking a nice walk up to a series of small lakes, ponds really, called Rainbow Lakes. They are nestled in the pines just at tree line, with the glacier that feeds them looking down from the mountainside just above.

Such beauty! We enjoyed our lunch sitting at the side of the first pond.

We were so grateful to enjoy the beauty of this pond alone and in silence

The second pond is a bit larger, with a good view of the glacier that feeds Rainbow Lakes.

Looking across a pond with a view beyond of a glacier on the mountainside above tree line

We sat quietly for a long time on lichen-painted boulders in a little scree field that separates two of the lakes, which were perhaps only 20 yards apart, one about a dozen feet higher than the other with a little brook flowing between them providing the background music.

Two glacial ponds nesteled side by side

Dancing into eternity.

The dancing, needleless limbs of a lakeside pine

Beautiful clouds, distillers of the essence of life, were gently forming in the sky overhead.

A cottony cloud in a deep blue sky

On a hot August afternoon, we took a friend visiting from sea-level for a drive up to the beautiful Peak-to-Peak Highway. Just south of Estes Park, we stopped to stroll around Lily Lake where we enjoyed beautiful vistas and a nice cool mountain breeze.

Looking across Lily Lake at the ridge line beyond

On our first lap around the lake, we came across a handsome bull moose. Later, when we are on the opposite shore of the lake, we saw this bull moose and another walk into the lake for a long, leisurely drink of water.

A bull moose with a full rack standing in the foliage besides Lily Lake

Then we took the Lily Ridge Trail loop that climbs up above the lake and came across this tenacious ancient pine, still clinging to the rocks long after it died.

Exposed roots of a dead pine woven around a solid rock outcropping

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