The Mountains Decide

One of the rules of landscape photography is that you shoot right before sunrise or right after sunset or don’t even bother, the lighting won’t be interesting enough to make a decent image. However that rule, along with many others does not apply in the mountains. The mountains alone decide when they want to be photographed, climbed or just plain left alone.

Stormy Sangre De Cristo

Storm clouds on the Sangre De Cristo

Today was just such a day as sunrise was met with several inches of fresh snow and a layer of dense fog covering the entire area. I was thinking of an early hike with the camera but decided otherwise when I saw the conditions. Some biscuits and gravy at Bronco Billy’s seemed like a much better idea 🙂 However when I came out from breakfast everything was changed… The sun was trying to come out and I could make out some interesting cloud formations in the direction of the Sangre De Cristos so me and Big Dog headed for the trailhead.

The view from the trail summit was amazing, the clearest view I have seen of the mountains yet this winter! And to add to the scene, the storm clouds from the night before were still lingering, floating lazily just below the tops of the magnificent mountain range.

Sangre De Cristo Snow

Fresh snow on the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado

So for about an hour I had a window of opportunity to get some of the coolest shots of the season… not at sunrise or sunset, but on mountain timing. On my way home I noticed that the window was closing fast, the Arkansas Valley was rapidly filling with clouds and the mountain range was becoming invisible once again. By the time I got home it was snowing in earnest and the mountains were but a fond memory.  I thank the Almighty for the window of opportunity and for making me available to witness it in full glory.

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

I know it is going to be a good morning when my boots are the first to make tracks in fresh snow. There is something irresistible about being the first after a snow to experience the crunching of snow beneath my feet in the total solitude of the Rocky Mountain wilderness after a snowstorm.

The combination of fresh snow and the new light of spring hitting the north face of Pikes Peak was too inviting to pass up, even though I knew the morning would be cold and windy. I was not disappointed. The mountain was bathed in a beautiful new coat of white and the wind was whipping up clouds of snow in the dense pine forest below me. The beauty of the scene gave my legs the strength to climb the upper loop on my trail in hopes of finding some deer or elk foraging for food at the top of the ridge. The trail on the ridge was slippery so I had to pay close attention to my center of gravity and make use of the scrub oak branches to keep from turning the trail into a ski slope.

I didn’t find any wildlife to photograph, but the view of the peak was breathtaking and the fresh mountain air exhilarating. The shadows on the snowy ridges formed by the early morning light made for interesting subject matter as did the snow blowing around in the trees. I considered taking the lower loop past the burned out cabin back to the caves to search for the deer herd but decided against it. That place gives me a creepy feeling and I avoid going there.

It is now evening and the snow has already melted. However, my memories and the beautiful moment in time have been preserved in silicon for me to relive tonight.