Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In Between the Towering Giants

This morning I drove through the mountains, down steep inclines and around sharp curves, it was hard to watch the road with all of the spectacular views. Every turn was another rising peak and colorful changing foliage.

On the other side of the lush green mountains near Pagosa Springs the landscape becomes a flat open bowl of sand. After getting a bit turned around, missing 285 North, I ended up having to back track and was anxious to get back to the mountains. 

The cool blue peaks enticed me and I found myself not stopping to take many pictures until I came  across Russel Lakes State Wildlife area. What struck me was how desolate it was, the wind blew across the sand and there was nothing else, the only company was white butterflies that flocked along the roadside weeds.

I enjoyed the solitude and the drama of the huge landscape that surrounded me. There was a well surrounded by large willows that didn't seem to fit the landscape and the blue mountains in the distance, it was really a beautiful place, a foothill to the mountains ahead of me. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Road to Rocky Mountain National Park

After four days in Pagosa Springs, I was excited to get on the road, to explore the 5 plus hours of amazing scenery ahead of me. I left early to allow for time to spend in Rocky Mountain National Park but the 5 hours turned to 11 very quickly with the many stops along the way.

The light was just right in the morning as it painted the landscape with saturated colors. The further north I went the more the landscape changed, rich yellow aspens and golden mosses with few maples and oaks just starting to turn orange.

Near Wolf Creek Pass, I had to stop every few minutes because the light and colors had changed so noticeably. It was one of those moments where I was in perpetual awe. Any feeling of lack of sleep I had in waking up at 6:30 was gone, I was full of energy and eager to see the next turn.

The first place I stopped to hike was Treasure Falls. I didn't hike the whole trail, just enough to feel the cool breeze and smell the damp air. Water was rushing down from high mountain cliff. I definitely plan on painting the waterfalls and getting back to the original idea of painting water with all its delicate intricacies.

The trail was steep and I was uncomfortable hiking too deep into the trail, if I had an accident no one would know where I was. Instead I photographed the lower area of the falls and continued on the road to the National Park, it was going to be a very long day of driving.

The lighting kept improving as the sun burned off the clouds. I was seeing more yellows and reds as whole mountain sides were lit with yellow and orange maples and oaks. When I finally drove out of the green and heavily forested mountains I was driving between two ranges on a very flat expanse, I could not wait to get back to the mountains but the whole character changed from lots of trees to more rocks and sand.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A solo trip to Colorado

I've always loved Colorado, I've driven through it on the way to California and have enjoyed skiing several of its peaks and yet I've never truly experienced the state.

Last week I flew into Denver, tried desperately to avoid toll road E470, navigated the dark roads at night trying to find the Holiday Inn Express only to find the one I wanted was in Golden Colorado 36 minutes away. I learned about excessive baggage fees and reserving a hotel room while not directly speaking to the hotel, big travel lessons.

That first night, I was exhausted, I don't get to fly much, it's something you need to get used to. The car to the airport, the shuttle to the gate, security check, barefoot and awkward, flight to a strange airport, train to the rental car, shuttle to the rental car offsite and finally driving at night.

The next day I must say I was a bit overwhelmed but ready to get out of Denver. It's a gritty city, lots of interesting people walking, riding bikes, skateboards-but I was eager to get to the mountains. You could see them all around and I was excited about getting lost in them.

My initial plan was to visit the zoo, the aquarium and the cave of the winds but you need to be flexible. I planned on seeing them on the way back but Rocky Mountain National Park got the best of me, no complaints.

My first stop was Castle Rock, I was able to take a short hike up a mountain under the view of a large square structure of stone. I intended on getting as far as I could without committing to a full hike. I had no water, still feeling a bit of the altitude and just curious more than driven to see the peak. Instead I walked along two of the trails and just enjoyed being alone on a hiking trail.

Back on the road, my next stop was Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods. I've been through the area when I drove to California when I was eighteen but what I missed than I more than made up for this time. Huge sandstone Figures dwarf the groups of people walking along the roads that weave between the Sandstone Gods.

The blue sky vibrates against the rich orange sandstone and the yellow wildflowers surround the landscape. It was a bit warmer than I was comfortable with, I'm in Colorado, what happened to the cool mountain air? I would soon find my autumn oasis-I would eventually need a hoody to get through the rest of my trip. For now enjoy the Garden of the Gods and Castle Rock-more of the trip to come. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


I was desperate for that feeling of solitude, an intense need for being completely surrounded by nature. I went to Colorado to visit a friend in Pagosa Springs. I got what I needed.

There are stages of solitude and I experienced each one on this trip. First there is an ache for silence, the need to be separated from everyone, everything, to think and imagine without interruption.

When you finally achieve what you sought for so long, there’s a feeling like hitting a brick wall. The abrupt silence is unnerving. You feel yourself awake, aware and yet it’s a bit detached and awkward.

I drove through the gritty streets of Denver, feeling a bit lost. Honestly, I was lost.
You are overwhelming to yourself, there’s just you and miles of empty road. You watch the world like an outsider, everyone is involved, together, connected and you are detached.
After that initial awkwardness and separation, there is this feeling of amazing freedom. My senses aware of all my surroundings, my excitement of the summit of Pikes Peak looming in the distance, a realization, I am alone and am in love being alone.

Music sounds better, memories seem clearer, you start to realize this beautiful life you have left and it feels as much melancholy as liberation and freedom. The silence brings out ideas, disrupts words caught in the stream of day to day.

Colors and images seem brighter, things make sense, after hours of reveling in the excitement of just being,  you realize the people you miss. A change takes place, you start noticing people together, couples, families and you feel a bit absent, no one to share ideas with.

There’s a lack of voices, of ears to hear your thoughts, of eyes to capture inflection and suddenly you long for interaction. After hours of driving, enjoying the amazing country and the hum of the highway, I arrived at my friends house-immersed in the sounds of family, of kids playing, of what’s for dinner and where are we going, I got exactly what I needed.
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