Landscapes & Nature

The Best, Short, Day Hike in Colorado?

This could be it: Hanging Lake, just a few minutes drive east of Glenwood Springs.

You have easy, quick access off of I-70, and about three miles of hiking (total, round trip).

You DO need to be in something better than Standard American Couch Potato Condition, however, as you climb over 1,000 vertical feet in just over a mile. Then you come back down. If you just came from sea level, you might even find the walk challenging, asphyxiating even. Plan on 2-3 hours for the adventure.

Wear supportive footwear as the trail is rough and rocky in places.

Also, be aware that you’ll have to backtrack a bit on the Interstate before you can motor east toward Denver again, if that is your intended direction of travel.

I chose a beautiful autumn day to finally stop and check out Hanging Lake. I can’t believe a have never stopped before…

 

A small shelter you’ll find along the trail (off limits, however). The autumn changing of the leaves was in full swing and turned the walk into an idyllic odyssey:

Hanging Lake Trail, #1. Near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #1. Colorado, 2017

 

You follow beautiful Dead Horse Creek (what a contradictory name, eh!?) as you climb. This is a hand-held image with the Sony RX100iv…that’s right, no tripod was harmed in its making. The key is to snap maybe ten photos at various slow shutter speeds–brace on something if you can (or against the stretched out camera strap on your neck as I did), hold your breath, and gently squeeze the trigger. With luck, at least one will come out sharp and not blurred from camera movement. This one was taken at 1/5 of a second:

Hanging Lake Trail, #2. Hanging Lake, Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #2. Hanging Lake, Colorado, 2017

 

A lone cloud hangs over the narrow slot canyon:

Hanging Lake Trail, #3. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #3. Colorado, 2017

 

The actual Hanging Lake is really more of a pond–but a very attractive one with ribbons of water pouring in from all sides. In the early spring this must be roaringly spectacular. In winter, it must be a quiet paradise of vertical snow and ice. Another hand-held image, this one at 1/8 of a second:

Hanging Lake Trail, #4. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #4. Colorado, 2017

 

Ah, the warmth of autumn colors–but the air was dry and crisp:

Hanging Lake Trail, #8. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #8. Colorado, 2017

 

Another, wider, view of Hanging Lake. I spotted trout in the pond–how did they get there?

Hanging Lake Trail, #9. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #9. Colorado, 2017

 

Just because you might be a bit tired and shagged out from your prolonged walk, don’t blow off the short (five minutes, I promise!) trail to Spouting Rock, just above Hanging Lake. The water pours out of a hole in the cliff above and is almost more interesting than the Lake itself:

Hanging Lake Trail, #6. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #6. Colorado, 2017

 

On the way back down–they made me pose:

Hanging Lake Trail, #10. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #10. Colorado, 2017

 

Dead Horse Creek detail:

Hanging Lake Trail, #11. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #11. Colorado, 2017

 

A view of the main Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River, and the railroad tracks:

Hanging Lake Trail, #12. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #12. Colorado, 2017

 

Glenwood Canyon in autumn:

Hanging Lake Trail, #13. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #13. Colorado, 2017

The American West

Nevada Basin and Range, #3. Highway 50, Nevada, 2017
Nevada Basin and Range, #3. Highway 50, Nevada (Near Hickison Petrogylphs), 2017

 

Ah, the landscapes of the American West. I have a love affair going on with that zone of extreme geographic contortions and distortions. It’s canyons, slick rock, skies, clouds, mountains, rivers, basin and range undulations, forests, and all creatures contained therein, large, small, venomous and not (though the West does desperately need more wolves, lynxes, wolverines, jaguars, black-footed ferrets, and grizzlies)…

A West of not too many human beans, thank God.

Yet.

I’m off on a CO-CA-AZ circuit of nearly 4,000 miles in barely ten days to visit family in one last nostalgic embrace of the West (and of family and friends) before heading off to new and much more citified digs in Barcelona, Spain.

Or would that be Barcelona, Catalunya?

From one divided country to another, I am fond of saying lately. From the Divided States of America to the Bourbon-occupied principalities of the Spanish Empire. Interesting times, these.

But first, one last embrace of the land that is in my bones.

 

Somewhere near the Utah-Nevada border on a lazy, autumn-cirrus afternoon. This is trilobite country for those who collect such fossils:

Nevada Basin and Range, #1, Highway 50, Nevada, 2017
Nevada Basin and Range, #1, Highway 50, Nevada, 2017

14er Report #37: Uncompahgre Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions, South Ridge Route)

Uncompahgre, #12. Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado, 2017
Uncompahgre, #12. Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado, 2017 (In the red light of an autumn sunrise.)
 
“Uncompahgre” – From the Ute word for “red water spring” or “red lake” or “dirty water”, take your pick–or ask a Ute elder, to be sure.

 

After a day of resting our bones (see the September 15, 2017, Handies Peak Report) and checking our phones in the bustling berg of Lake City (population 500, counting dogs and cats), Rik Fritz and I were ready for our next 14er objective. Again, we talked of Wetterhorn, but yet another brief dusting of snow up high the night before made us reconsider. Fickle autumn! So, to avoid any chance of a Fritz-Joder epic (see my post “The Fall” for an extreme example of just such an “epic”), we chose the relatively easy trail up Uncompahgre Peak for the adventure o’ the day.

If you happen to be in this area in mid-September, by the way, plan for a day of hanging out in Lake City as their Lake City Uncorked Wine and Music Festival takes place then. A fun event! Also, the leaves will likely be changing (as they were for us), so it is a fine time to be there. Bring both a jacket and short sleeves–it will be chilly in the shade, but hot in the sun!

Also, of historical and, perhaps, gastronomical interest in this land of many gold and silver mines, is the strange 19th century tale of Alferd G. Packer. He and five prospector companions found themselves snowbound here in the San Juans one winter and only Alferd came out alive when the storms cleared–apparently, thanks to a bit of cannibalism on his part. He was eventually convicted of murder for his acts, although there is a good chance he was railroaded and was simply a “creative survivor” of a tough situation (not unlike the Donner Party (1846-1847) and the Uruguayan rugby team (1972).

Some morbidly humorous Alferd Packer trivia: I remember eating at the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill at the University of Colorado back in the 70s (Since renamed the “Alferd Packer Restaurant and Grill”, apparently–spoilsports!). I think they had a “Cannibal Burger” on the menu then.  Some of the slogans I have heard related to this eatery…”Have a friend for lunch!”…”Serving humanity since 1874″…and, “He ate the only two Democrats in Hinsdale County!”

But enough raucous levity. Let’s get back to the topic at hand–the trip report of our ascent of Uncompahgre Peak in late summer/early fall/light snow conditions. May you find it useful and/or entertaining.

 

…Click here for the complete report and a couple of dozen images to stimulate your retinas!

14er Report #36: Handies Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions–Snow!, East Slopes Route)

Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017
Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017 (Both autumn and winter are approaching at the same time!)
 
Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever.
–Anon

With a pending move to Barcelona this year, I thought I might get motivated and finish the basic list of 58 14ers this year but, alas, ’twas not to be. Rock climbing seemed to be the outdoor priority for me this year. So, I guess I’ll be back from Spain for a month or two next year with the remaining 14ers in my sights! Who wants to join me?

This particular trip up Handies (and the one to follow, up Uncompahgre) was special in that I was able to team up with a very close friend from way, way, waaay back in junior high and high school days–Rik Fritz. In fact, he called me up and got me going back to the big mountains on this trip instead of the local rock climbing crag.

Rik is an amazing guy and really needs to write a book about his exploits with rattlesnakes, on Yosemite big walls, on long, high altitude, cross country flights in his hang glider, and on his seriously salty sailing adventures. He is definitely a man who has lived life to the fullest–and continues to do so. (See my near-death blog post from June 27, 2017, “The Fall” to catch a bit of what I mean.)

It was great to catch up with him and talk about all that “Back In The Day” stuff! Ahhh…the stories…the stories…and all included at least 10% truth!

Our initial goal for the 3-4 days we had available was to haul our fannies up Sneffels, Uncompahgre, and Wetterhorn, starting with the Class 3 scrambling route on this last one, “Weather Peak”. Handies wasn’t even on the list. But, ah, the best laid plans…In mid-to-late September in the Colorado Rockies, weather can be tricky and fickle pickle, as we quickly discovered.

A pounding, hours-long, cold rainstorm the night before–as we camped at the Wetterhorn/Matterhorn Trailhead–made us rethink things. There would surely be snow above and, sure enough, morning revealed a heavy coating on the high peaks tapering off finally at about treeline. Hmmm…best not to do exposed Class 3 scrambling on icy and snowy rock without the proper gear and attitude, we both said. So, instead of Wetterhorn, off to Handies we bounced in our 4×4 pickups–Handies would be a much easier peak, even with a wet, white blanket o’ schnee.

What follows, then, is what eventually transpired, to the best of my sometimes-faulty recollection, along with my usual merry montage of inspiring images…

…Click here for the rest o’ the story!

2017 Total Solar Eclipse at Glendo State Park, Wyoming

The big lesson learned from yesterday’s major celestial (and social media!) event?

Absolutely DO NOT miss a TOTAL solar eclipse. It is weird, eerie, and otherworldly…it makes you realize that we really do live in a universe with planets, moons, solar systems, galaxies and gases, other strange odds and ends, and elegant orbiting orbs.

We are mere specks!

A total eclipse is special. No camera or video really captures what it is like to be there…to feel the temperature changes…to see the shadow approach…hear the shouts of joy and amazement from fellow onlookers…to see the stars and planets that come out momentarily as sunset falls on the full 360 degrees of horizon.

Totality was barely 2 1/2 minutes. Like the noble and coveted orgasm, alas, too short, too short!

 

In this image, that may be Mercury off to the left. Maybe an astronomer can confirm? The corona is spectacular!

Total Solar Eclipse, #1. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #1. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

Here is the classic “wedding ring” as Mother Moon begins to move away from Sister Sun. Note the solar flares in the reddish areas along the rim:

Total Solar Eclipse, #2. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #2. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

And a handful of portraits–the confused and amazed human gang on the hillside, then three of those human observers close up, a camera aimed at the firmament, and, finally, to bring us back to the Earth’s surface and remind us of our inevitable mortality, one deceased-but-still-quite-elegant tree:

Total Solar Eclipse, #3. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #3. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

Total Solar Eclipse, #4. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #4. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

Total Solar Eclipse, #5. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #5. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

Total Solar Eclipse, #6. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #6. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

Total Solar Eclipse, #7. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Total Solar Eclipse, #7. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

 

Portrait of a Deceased Tree. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017
Portrait of a Deceased Tree. Glendo State Park, Wyoming, 2017

Longmont Neo-Topgraphics

The march of progress continues along a southern section of Airport Road in Longmont, Colorado (as it does all along the entire Front Range). The constant drone of generators and the pop-pop-pop of the air guns as they relentlessly and ceaselessly drive nails into the wood framing…the sound of jobs…the sound of new homes in the making…the sound of a “healthy” economy.

So…I now have two more examples for my Neo-Topographic portfolio.

These new apartments or condos are going up along Airport Road, on the southwestern outskirts of Longmont. Note how Nature (here, as exemplified by that sliver of a glimpse of Longs Peak on the far horizon) is slowly being boarded up. The storm clouds are gathering–no coincidence. A “worm” or “snake” in the foreground tempts our eye into the image:

Longmont Construction, #1. Longmont, Colorado, 2017
Longmont Construction, #1. Airport Road, Longmont, Colorado, 2017

 

Here is another, very similar, view. We still have the storm clouds and Nature in the distant background slowly being extinguished but, to this composition, I add a hilly foreground that rhymes with Longs Peak in a certain way–they are both mountains of rock and dirt, but the former is a result of short-term human economic activity, the latter a very, very long-term project of the geologic forces–plate tectonics–of the Earth:

Longmont Construction, #2. Airport Road, Longmont, Colorado, 2017
Longmont Construction, #2. Airport Road, Longmont, Colorado, 2017

An iPhone Postcard Landscape

Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017
Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017

 

From the sea back to the high mountains… and a local iconic (cliché?) postcard landscape for you from just above the Boulder Bubble, aka The Friendly People’s Republic of Boulder.

With my D800 and my 24-70mm lens off at Nikon for repairs (they were dropped some time ago…both still worked, but were pretty banged up), it is the iPhone that I have with me most often these days.

REPAIR UPDATE: It appears that my D800 is coming back from Nikon as “unrepairable” This means I will have to use the thing sans battery door and with a small pointy object always handy to pry the battery out of its slot each time I need to charge or change it. The camera still makes good images, though, even with the bashed batt compartment.