There's just something about a snowy scene like this that evokes a feeling of tranquility. Light, fluffy, new snow, blanketing the meadow, a placid stream, blue sky and sun-warmed trees make a perfect recipe for a calm winter landscape.
The location is not remote in the least. This photo was taken on a January day, 2008, just after a night of new powder snow falling to caress the landscape near Mesa Lakes Resort on the Colorado Grand Mesa. With our cross country skis under foot, we had skied to this location where a footbridge crosses the creek and had to stop to take photos of the serene and tranquil scene. The new powder snow may be a skiers delight, but a scene like this can be appreciated by anyone.
For many years, we had wanted to cross country ski into the Maroon Bells during the winter and capture these unique mountains in their winter coat of snow. It was February of 2008 and the Friday evening forecast indicated a clear day to follow. Arising early Saturday morning, we left our home at 6:00 AM and drove straight to Aspen and up the Maroon Lake road to the end of the winter maintenance. By 9:00 AM we were underway, skiing on 4 - 6 inches of new, untracked snow. We were the first to head up this day.
Arriving at Maroon Lake just before noon, we broke out the camera and began shooting. This particular winter had seen heavy snows in the mountains and we found the peaks blanketed and the lower terrain around the lake buried in six to eight feet of snow. We marveled at the snowy landscape and the silence. Amazingly, we were here all alone.
As we sat eating our lunch, we took this photo. The clouds to the right signaled an approaching weather system. In fact, within another 45 minutes, as we skied out, the skies became completely overcast and gentle snow began to fall. We felt so fortunate to have enjoyed this brief glimpse of these magnificent peaks in all their winter glory. For a color version of a similar scene, go to "Landscapes."
"Sturdy Like an Oak"
Favorable snow conditions in early January of 2009 compelled us to make a drive to Ridgway and cross country ski back into the Burn Hut area on Dallas Divide. The trail begins on a plateau above the town that has open meadows, scrawny aspen, a few conifers and Gambel Oaks.
The oaks at this altitude rarely grow more than 10 - 12 feet tall. Harsh winter conditions are partly to blame, but often in the spring, just as these trees are budding out, a late, hard freeze may cause die-back. Eventually the tree recovers and sends out new shoots on its branches, resulting in the twisted, gnarly shape these hardy plants take on.
While skiing in, this group of oaks arrested our attention and we had to stop and photograph them. In some ways, they may be an allegory for our own lives - enduring harsh circumstances, but for those with faith and perseverance, finding a way not only to continue living, but even thriving in the most difficult of environments.
"Sturdy Like an Oak" in black & white
Winter landscapes offer a starkness that lends itself nicely to black and white photos. Pure white snow, dark vegetation and mountains, and deep blue skies convert nicely from color. So for several of our winter scenes, we offer a black and white edition.
For the story behind this photo, see the color version just before.
"Don't Fence Me In"
Fences can come in a number of materials and styles. The one pictured here is made out of aspen and is called a "snake rail fence." In this particular case, the style has been slightly modified by the inclusion of a post at each junction to help stabilize the fence. With an abundance of aspen in the area, it's no surprise the owner of this property used that for his material. Such fences are not uncommon in the Colorado high country. Ineffective for deer or elk, a fence of this sort is primarily used to contain cattle.
Zig-sagging through the snow-covered landscape, this fence seems to possess a certain charm with several inches of fluffy snow clinging to the rails and set amid this grove of aspen. When you see one of these in Colorado, you can expect to find an old barn or log cabin homestead nearby.
This photo was taken in early January, 2009 on a cross country ski trip near Ridgway, on our way to the Burn Hut, one of several backcountry huts in the San Juan Hut System for skiers to use in the winter and hikers & bikers in the summer.
"Don't Fence Me In" in black & white
For the story about this photo, please see the previous color version.