Given a choice between an overnight backpacking trip or a 3 hour drive in a Jeep to a trailhead deep in the mountains, I’ll take the Jeep. I like a higher starting point for hiking with my camera. I’m not lazy, I need to get to the scene as fast and easily as possible to take advantage of the changing weather and light. So I start from Ouray, a historic mining town in the heart of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains – in my Jeep. I have company. Lots of it. Jeeps from all over the US gather here for some of the most interesting 4 wheeling in the world. The very primitive, challenging roads that go up deep canyons, on sheer cliff sides, and up steep mountain passes, are all on National Forest land without the driving restrictions found on National Park land. So I start bouncing on the rough dirt road to Yankee Boy Basin where the big attraction is the profusion of wildflowers – and photographers in a forest of tripods. I pass on photographing that area and hang a left up a really horrible road up Governor Basin, where I finally took the photograph above – A Bluebell, scads of orange Indian paintbrush, with a few Columbine in the distance – and no other photographers! I had parked my rig, as they call it, and hiked with my 2 Sheltie dogs and my girlfriend. No backpacks for us – just day packs to spend the afternoon trudging off trail to find the best concentrations of wildflowers to photograph. We were at over 12,500′ in elevation, 3,000′ above Ouray. In the distance was a dark cloud – a storm cell with lightning in it – approaching us fast. So we high tailed it back to the Jeep just in time to get inside before the hail pelted the vehicle; the bolts of lightning came really close, but we were safe inside the hardtop Jeep. There is nothing worse than being caught above tree line near a mountain top in a sudden lightning storm.In the photograph above, you can see the previous hail storm covered parts of the peaks in a thin white. If you might be wondering where the name “Ouray” comes from, it was from the name of a famous Indian chief who roamed Colorado and Utah in the 19th century. Ouray is pronounced – get this – You-ray, not ooray!
- Ancient Tree on