19 October 2006. Wyoming and Colorado. 4:15pm
I'm writing from the Santa Fe library, continuing my tour of mountain-town public libraries and REI stores through the west. I've had these images shelved for a while but haven't gotten around to posting them, as I've been trying to set up contacts for the next three weeks of travel. As you might remember, I last posted work from the Tetons and Jackson Hole; from Jackson I headed south and then east to Saratoga, WY. I stopped in Saratoga and enjoyed their public hot spring after a cold and windy hour-long run. After the soak, I headed up to Battle Pass and over towards "Aspen Alley", a doubletrack dirt road through a thick aspen grove on the west side of the Sierra Madre mountains. At the top of Battle Pass, I hit a solid winter storm complete with thirty foot visibility and traction issues. So after a respectable amount of time ignoring the conditions, I retreated back down to the town of Encampment and camped there. I headed back up to the aspens the next morning, and then across the Snowies to Laramie, where I stayed with one of my former roommates/landlord Steve Sutter. Thanks Steve! On superficial review, Laramie didn't look to have changed much since my grad school days there, but I was only in town about 48 hours. Did a nostalgic run on the plains north and east of town. I really should have scheduled my visit for one of the Tuesday night potlucks, but I didn't manage to make that happen.
After Laramie I headed down to Colorado, first in the Front Range and then across the mountains. I had lunch with a former student Maya Osterman in Boulder, enjoyed Boulder's public library, and then headed up to the Peak-to-Peak highway from Nederland to Rocky Mountain National Park. At this point, in late September, I was figuring I'd start having less company, but evidently September is the prime travel time for retirees. Swarms of them. In big SUVs and motorhomes. Joy. I crossed over Trail Ridge road and down into North Park, then down towards Silverthorn and Leadville and over Independence Pass. The aspens were mixed; that storm that I hit in Wyoming had caused most of the high-elevation trees to drop their leaves early. The high country had its first snow of the season, and it didn't look like it was going to be melting before next summer. I headed down to the Maroon Bells and fought for space along the lakeshore, with an older gentleman pushing in front of me to get his super-wide angle shot right down at water level. If I'd thought the shot was that great (and not already cliched), we'd've exchanged words. With the mixed aspens and the crowds in the obvious spots, I felt like I wanted to go over to Moab and see if the La Sals were in color... I wanted a shot of aspens in the foreground and redrock sandstone canyons in the distance.
I only spent a few days photographing in Colorado, and I've likely offended the residents. But while the Sierra and the Tetons are fairly uniform as mountain ranges go, Colorado can be wildly disparate. From the San Juans to the Sangre de Cristos to the Flattops, there just wasn't any way I was going to have the connection and emotional resonance required for good pictures while scrounging for internet connections to chase after other people's foliage reports. I could have duplicated the postcard shots, but ultimately chose instead to light out for Utah.
Battle Pass. If you look closely in the brown portion of the sign, you can make out the streak marks of falling snow. Sadly, the long exposure dilutes the real sense of the storm. That's probably a good thing. September 21st.
Lodgepole pines and spindrift, the next morning.
Aspens and snow, the Sierra Madre mountains, Wyoming.
Aspens in the Snowies, Huston Park.
Moose in the Snowies. About eight inches of snow here, and almost powder.
Independence Pass, early winter.
The Maroon Bells, in morning twilight.
Ah, wilderness. There were another five photographers to the left...
Backlit aspens below the Maroon Bells.