“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein
"Life is good...it says so on my ball cap." mej

Header Photo: Bobbie, putting the finishing touches on one of our many backyard 13ers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Prying Eyes of Aspen, and Dodging Bullets


The "Quakies" may not be changing color just yet, but their lush bedding below certainly is. What is it about aspen trees that makes them so interesting...so unique, with individual personalities? It has to be their "eyes," always watching, noticing, prying. If I could design my own forested back yard, it would be open meadows skirted with groves of aspen and forests of ponderosa. Throw in some mammoth granite boulders...a little creek for the birdies...and I'm good. Now, back to our hike; where were we?

Oh yeah, standing on the edge of a crumbly precipice, taking in the depth and magnitude of the elevation gain this quad-burner hike ascended us to. Oh for a Zip-line return route, as opposed to the thousands upon thousands of knee-bends it would take to get us back to the safety and ever loving arms of Sue Bee II. If you look real close, you'll see Highway 550—all Million Dollars worth of her—way, way, waaaayyyy down, some 3,000 feet at the bottom of the canyon. 

Sunlight was hit and miss through gaps between thunderheads; I was digging the patchwork quilt of light and shadow. If you want to be a photographer move to Colorado, it's soooo easy here. 


The quick way down...



I was like a kid in a candy store with our own private volcano to explore, with its seductive and subtle lavender, rust and burnt umber cinders. A few spats of rain brought reminded us of the forecast for "heavy thunderstorms and flash floods." Get thee down, man! Further exploration would have to wait for another day...which meant, Lord, we've got to climb this "Mo" again.

I so wanted to stay and play here...



Bobbie enjoys the different perspective that comes with hikes in new territory...more "dots" connected 




Red Mountain was in our view on the way down; it helps to have something pretty and familiar to look at when knees are aching. Vast fields of tundra was ours alone to wander...so vast it almost swallowed little Bobbie up. Good light came and went as if it couldn't make up its mind, and thunder rolled in the distance. 




We made quick work of the Alpine Zone. It always feels safer from lightning when back trees, but unfortunately, it's not true. Finally, a blush of orange from an early bird.



There is a sinister feeling of "being watched" when we hike through aspen groves. I wonder why?







As evidenced by Crystal Lakes surface, the predicted rain commenced just as we arrived back to the car...nothing serious, just another blown forecast. 

But then, shortly after arriving home, it sounded like a helicopter was landing on our roof! What a cloudburst...rain falling straight down in sheets and layers...a true monsoon. These things usually pass, but not this time; the thunder cloud wasn't moving. Lightning and thunder ricocheted throughout The Crevice as if the Battle of Gettysburg was going on. We couldn't hear each other it was so loud, and had to yell.

Below is a photo of what Sky Rocket Creek normally looks like this time of year...just a trickle of water through the white area. We have climbed the creek's falls several times in order to access The Blowout area above it—another extinct volcano, rich in color, volcanic tuff, and hoo doo formations—and hardly got wet.



After fifteen minutes of steady downpour we knew what was coming, and took seats at the Imax and waited...



One second a trickle, and the next...whoosh, a flash flood. The photo is shot through our window and sheets of rain so it doesn't do it justice. We could hear large boulders being swept down with the current; huge logs...just an incredible display of force. Here is a brief movie I tried to shoot through the storm...

video

So I guess we dodged a bullet by getting home before this storm unleashed its furry. There's nothing more uncomfortable for me than to have to sit out a severe lightning and thunderstorms above timberline. It's a very helpless feeling...like a face to face meet up with a Momma Grizzly Bear.

29 comments:

  1. Ah, we remember it well. Watching that muddy water rushing down the mountainside was one of the highlights of our visit to Ouray. Besides meeting you two, of course!

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  2. Loved the tree eyes! again, following you along with your description of the colors and photography really makes for a beautiful read this hot ol sultry day in the south ;)

    The video is scary ... I've seen the aftermath of trees and boulders making a path. nature is awesome... plain and simple.

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    1. I would like to send you some rain to go with your Hot and Sultry... Thanks Carolyn :))

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  3. Amazing to see that flasflood/rockslide coming down.

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    1. P and B,
      It's right out our window, too, so we could hear it.
      Thanks

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  4. What a hike! The aspens have become my favorite tree!

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    1. Aspens remind me of childhood trips to the mountains...from Phoenix's Phurnace!!! No wonder I like them :)

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  5. Glad you made it home in time for the grand finale!

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    1. I wish it was the "finale." Forecast has us pinned down for a while. Thanks

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  6. Holy crap. I bet the owners of that house to the right were "puckered up". -Maikel

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    1. Yes they have a close up view and ear for Sky Rocket's blow ups. I hope they have insurance. Gonna miss you in November...maybe you could take a long weekend...

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  7. Remember experiencing one of these 3 years ago while camped at 4J. The boulders coming down the flume sounded like thunder. Amazing what water will move! If you are getting tired of the rain, please send it our way. Our little corner of Illinois has only had an inch in the past 2 months so the old corn fields are pretty parched and sad looking.

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    1. Sorry to hear about your dry corn :( All that work to plant and Mother doesn't do her part...it must be frustrating. I hope you make it up next year. The Flume is amazing during flash floods. Until they put a couple of those in houses and downtown got flooded every year. Thanks guys

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  8. Fall is showing its colors across the meadow! Just some small hints! It is going to be gorgeous soon.

    So glad you made it home when you did. That video is amazing! I can't believe how fast that water builds into a raging river.

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    1. We so look forward to the next few weeks...more aspen hikes for sure. It's going to be great. Thanks

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  9. The storms this past week have been incredible, damaging many of the trails in Ridgway SP and today the weather just won't let up. No reprieve in AZ...flash flooding there too. Glad you guys made it off the mountain before the sky opened.

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    1. It's been a wet summer..We've been lucky to dodge most of the rain on our hikes. Sorry we couldn't make the "burgers." See you down the road, tho :)

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  10. Now why have I never noticed those Aspen eyes before? Glad you managed to dodge that storm.
    Nina

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    1. Nina,
      The Aspen eyes noticed you, tho :))
      thanks

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  11. Love watching storms like that from safe inside. Quakies are my favorites, too. They not only watch, but they whisper, too!

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    1. Yes, I see their mouths sometimes :)) Thanks for your comment.
      mark

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  12. We too love th watch the storms, but nice to be out of the weather.

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    1. Danger from a distance, I always say :)
      Thanks Geo.

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  13. Going back to my trail notes from July 20, 2011 "Departed Hayden TH 9am, very strenuous up hill climb for the 1st 1/2 hour, then fairly steep but worth the effort as you walk the green basin with fantastic 360 views". I rarely use the the words very strenuous but you and Bobbie have the quad horse power to make it look easy going up the Hayden trail. Amazing to see that much water going through Sky Rocket Creek. No one would want to get caught hiking that trail during those heavy downpours. Great pictures!

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  14. You take trail notes? Cool. I thought you had hiked that trail...did you make it to the saddle?
    thanks John

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  15. Mark, in my recent trip through Montana, Idaho, and northern Utah, I couldn't help but notice the absence of aspens in most of those mountains and how barren they look. Aspens really are Colorado's crown jewel.

    And the flashflooding out your window is pretty scary. I was camped near Green River, Utah last night and have never experienced rain like that - it was like someone was throwing huge buckets of water from the sky. Lots of lightning. Moab got lots of rain, too. At this rate, our region will erode away into flatlands way before its time. :)

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    1. And when I saw the title of your post, I thought of the town of Aspen, since I'm about 45 miles away right now. It kind of fits when you go up there and your muffler goes out. :)

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    2. Spotted Dog,
      Funny you should mention that...when we were last in Yellowstone, even with all it's thermal beauty, I found the forest areas lacking. I told Bobbie "this place could use some aspens."
      I would trade a few of Colorado's aspens for some of those Utah maples, however. They are so startling...places like Logan Canyon, Zion, above Richfield...and even along Utah's front range. I don't know why they are so rare here...a good excuse to go to Utah every year tho :)

      You must have read that I talked Glenn into going there. I thought it would be a story of "contrast," conspicuous consumption verse Living In My Car. Sure enough, he made a scene...or sound...He put a dent in their spit polished chrome. Ha...love it.

      and finally, I will take you up on your offer of a beer in Moab. We can gang up on my Pal...show him the light. It's funny how when he's in an argumentative hole how he suddenly wants to drop the subject... like I'm missing the whole point of his post. But he's the one who keeps challenging "beauty in the form of landscapes," like it is banal garbage to get over. I can't let someone challenge my Love, or my "loves" with out facing them down. It's his loss, tho, so who am I to question his choices. I just wish he would put a warning at the top so I could choose not to read those kind of posts. They rile me up too much :)) Gotta love the guy tho...

      Good to see you back and sharing your newest experiment in minimal camping!!!
      See you soon in Moab (actually, somewhere outside of Moab, hopefully).
      Let have a confab with Boonie.
      mark

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    3. I did read about the muffler thing - very entertaining.

      Yeah, Boonie thinks there's something wrong with landscapes that hurt your eyes, I guess. What I suspect is that he finds it disconcerting that nice landscapes are typically filled with people and he has to cope with them. Can't say I blame him, though.

      I was just in Logan Canoyn a few days ago and the colors haven't started yet. Another really nice place for maples is in Salina Canyon.

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