LIfe at High Altitude in Colorado

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

-Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hiking the Peaks Trail in Fall (and Falling...)

At first-light, Bob dropped me at the trailhead in Breckenridge.
It was cloudy and cool with little wind -
a perfect hiking day.
Light dimmed as the trail led through ancient evergreens.

Especially when I hike alone,
I'm alert to my surroundings.
Besides watching the obstacles on the trail ahead of me,
I scan peripherally through the forest every few steps.

Unfortunately, on this day, only a few minutes into my hike,
my right foot snagged and held on an obstacle.
I slammed to the ground onto my left side.
My cheekbone and lip took a hard hit on rocky ground.

My lip and the inside of my mouth where my teeth scraped bled profusely.
I could feel my face swelling at the impact point.

Using ice water from my pack, I rinsed my mouth to stop the bleeding.
I began dosing with homeopathic Arnica pills that I carry for trauma.
I moved body parts to determine if there were serious injuries.
After calming myself for a few minutes, I continued on the trail.

As I hiked, I assessed the situation.
Aside from the shock of falling,
my injuries seemed minor.
With motion, I actually felt better.
So, I continued, more cautious where I planted my feet.

The Peaks Trail starts at 10,075' (3,070M) at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge.
It meanders 10 miles through pine, spruce, fir, and aspen forests
ending at 9,110' (2,776M) with views of Peak One and Victoria Peak.
The trail rolls through forests and meadows,
crossing many small streams and drainages.
I watched for moose or bear but saw only chipmunks and squirrels.

As I hiked, skies threatened and then cleared.
By the time I walked to my pickup point, the sky was blue.
Bob got a horrified look on his face as he walked up the trail to greet me.
I guess I looked like I had been mugged.
My lip was bloody/puffy and cheek swollen/black and blue.

However, I felt great and was elated by the beauty of the hike.
I enjoyed solitude until about a mile from the finish
when hikers came onto the trail from the Frisco side.

Yes, I hike alone and sometimes there is danger associated with that.
People ask if I carry a cell phone - I do.
However, in the backcountry, coverage can be spotty or non-existent.
Usually, someone knows where I plan to hike.
I'm careful, though accidents can happen. 
I carry first aid supplies.
Arnica pills and gel are invaluable for bruising, muscle strain, and trauma.
If I were disastrously hurt, I'd hope my family and friends could take
comfort in the fact that I was where I wanted to be doing what I love.
At 72, I wonder how many more years I can enjoy the outdoors as I do.
There will be a time when my activities are curtailed.
Thankfully, that time is not now.

This morning, we woke to this scene.
Fall is short in Breckenridge, CO.
I'm smiling a bit crookedly through a puffy lip, and there is a big purple bruise on my face.
The injuries will heal, but the memories of a gorgeous fall hike will linger.

PS Thank goodness I was carrying the Olympus on my right side - no damage to it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Golden Season in Breckenridge - Our World

Leaves are changing rapidly in Summit County, CO.
Aspens are the only deciduous trees that grow naturally above 10,000'.

Though my aspens have changed dramatically since this photo taken last week, I love the pink glow on the peaks. 

At dawn, when the rising sun turns western peaks rosy,
I savor my surroundings.

Each golden day is a gift to the senses.

I hike beneath a canopy of yellow.

The long view to snow dusted peaks is exhilarating.

A magical light shines through aspens groves.

I welcome this golden season with a smile.

Thank you for all the good wishes in the last post for our son Jim's recovery.
Luckily, he was in good shape before his accident.
He's healing and feeling less pain.

Photos were taken on a hike through Aspen Alley in Breckenridge, CO.
All photos except the last were shot with the 17mm pancake on the Olympus.
Final photo of me was taken by Bob with iPhone 6s.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Season of Changes

I know that we're not in control.
I remind myself often of this truth.
However, just in case we grow too complacent,
Life likes to remind us.

Our son, Jim, had a mountain bike accident over the weekend.
He was taken by ambulance to Summit Medical.
Luckily, Jim's injuries will heal.
He has 6 broken ribs (one fractured in 2 places).
He needed a chest tube to inflate the left lung which was pierced.
He was/is in a great deal of pain.
That's being managed with medication.
He's home recuperating now with his family.

sunset at our house

Bob and I are also recuperating. 
We're recovering from the fear of what might have been.
Thinking about the head and the spine,
we realize that broken ribs are preferable.

In an instant life changes.
We accommodate and adapt.
No matter how careful we are, how much we plan, how skillful we might be,
life intervenes in ways we can't predict.
We're required to accept a new plan and switch paths.
If we don't, we're lost forever.

Nature is good at change.
It teaches profound concepts in simple ways.
Summer is switching rapidly to fall.
Aspens quake yellow in the breeze.
Plants produce seeds for next summer's blooms.
The forest floor, once green, turns gold and rust.
Squirrels forage and cache for the long cold spell ahead.
Bears roam and gorge, readying for hibernation.

Bob and I see the changes and make our own preparations.
We watch golden leaves flutter downward.
We're mindful of the weather (which itself is unpredictable).
We work outdoors on our property.
We add layers to keep warm.
We take long hikes and celebrate endings and beginnings.
In the evenings, we light the fire and feel grateful.

last of the Shasta Daisies blooming in my garden

It's natural to wonder what lies ahead.
There is no knowing or predicting.
However, living at high altitude,
we're pretty sure our future will include white...

(Even so, I won't name the next season quite yet!)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Meeting a Blog Friend and Testing a New Lens

At the very end of August, I had the pleasure of meeting
my blog friend Pat and members of her family when they came to Breckenridge for the day.
Pat's blog is Mille Fiori Favoriti - she began blogging in her home state of NY,
but since 2013, she has blogged from her new home in the foothills of CO.
Pat is an excellent photographer who tells great stories and shares interesting facts
about her life in CO and her travels.
Drop over and visit her - tell her Barb sent you.

Thanks to Pat's husband Vinny for taking this photo.

My second happy news is that I recently bought a prime lens for my Olympus EM-1.
My mirrorless camera is a mere 15.6 oz (.44 KG).
The new 17 mm pancake lens weighs 2.5 oz (71g).
The reach of the lens is equivalent to about 34mm, allowing a moderate wide-angle -
 "what the eye sees."

The camera with the 17mm lens looks like a toy.

I'm having fun playing with it!

Here are a few photos with the new lens on a recent visit to Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek Village is at 8,100' (2,468 M) so the climate is milder than Breckenridge.
Gardens still look beautiful.

last bloom of the wild roses along the creek in the village
dahlias with burgundy leaves still growing in pots
echinacea in a final burst of pink 
filtered sunlight on mossy rocks
golden light in restful places

I practiced changing focus, both near and far.
I usually adjust focus myself.
The camera is smart, but it can't read my mind!

focusing on the petunias
focusing on the water

blurring the background

Back home in Breckenridge, hillsides of pale asters glow in early-morning sun.

Overnight frost is occurring above 10,000' (3,048 M).

Each day brings more fall colors to the landscape.

Do you have any new interests or projects you're having fun with just now?

Remember to play!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hike to Crystal Lake - Our World

I often hike alone.
Since my property backs to wilderness,
there are a myriad of trails and possible destinations out my back door.

Mount Helen (flat top), Father Dyer (pointy), and Crystal Peak

This past week, I climbed the steep trails to Lower Crystal Lake.
 I wanted to see the effects of colder temperatures on the alpine tundra.

Hiking alone, I'm alert to several things:
changeable weather, wild animals, and trail conditions.
Electrical storms and large animals are frightening if they're too close for comfort.
If I fall or am injured on a backcountry trail, I'm in trouble.

Life is full of dangers.
I have many female friends who hike and camp alone.
Each of us must decide on the chances we'll take.
I believe a bit of fear keeps us more alert.
For me, a life without adventure would be very boring.

After following a steep, rocky trail through old-growth evergreens,
I emerge into a huge bowl rimmed by towering peaks.
The wide-open vistas are exhilarating after the confines of the forest.
At nearly 12,000' (3657M), I can feel the effects of high altitude.

I hiked without poles and that was a mistake. 
I had to cross a stream before reaching the lake.
Balancing on rocks or logs is a lot easier with poles.
I managed the crossing, but it wasn't pretty!
I was glad nobody was watching.

The sparse clumps of trees and shrubs surviving wind and weather
are gnarled and twisted by time and the elements.

They are surreal beauties dancing on the alpine stage.

delicate Harebells jingle in the breeze

Mountain (Parry) Gentians foretell of snow to come - do you see the bee still gathering nectar

Wildflowers and grasses are dying and going to seed.
Only a few hardy souls continue to show their colors.

One final steep pitch and the lake comes into view.
A one-room miner's cabin from the 1800's crumbles on the shore.
I think about the miner and wonder at the hardships of isolation and weather he endured.

Unfortunately, dark clouds start forming behind the peaks.
The lake water shimmers green/gold as the sky becomes more overcast.
I'd hoped to hike farther to Upper Crystal Lake,
but the foreboding sky forces me to retrace my steps.

the miners cabin is at the far right of this panorama, the lake just to its rear

I arrived home with tired feet and a smile on my face.
I managed to avoid the rain.

In about 4 1/2 hours, I covered 10 miles (16K), gained 2,000' (609M) of elevation,
and experienced incredible views.
I'm thankful for another day on the trail.

Our World

All photos except for panoramas are Olympus OMD-EM1, which is a micro 4/3 mirrorless camera.
Panoramas are iPhone 6s.