Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Secret Lake

Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park can be a pretty hectic place. Thousands of tourists pour through the entrance stopping every twenty feet to take pictures. For this very reason, I opt for the higher ground and places where the crowds can’t or won’t go. With Barry's help, we found the perfect spot.

The “Secret Lake,” as those who wish it to remain as such call it, was our first stop. Only a four-hour hike off the beaten trail we made it to our campground by 3:00. Bringing along the fly rods and waders, Hannah and I spent the latter part of the afternoon fishing for native greenback cutthroats.

The night sky was so perfect it even made the Ramen Noodles taste good.

We prepared for two nights of camping, but foolishly we did not prepare for rain or snow. In the morning, after a frigid and restless night of sleep or lack there of, our breakfast was interrupted by dime-size chunks of hail. Unable to imagine a full day spent under the shelter of the tent, we packed up and took a different route via a much longer loop through some new territory.

After an hour of hiking, the weather cleared and I brought my camera out from its protective rain guard. For another six hours we hiked through quaking aspen groves, around waterfalls, and atop high ridgelines. Kissed by gentle drizzles, occasional flurries, and sporadic sunshine we ran the gauntlet of seasons in one day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sweet Mountain Barry

Two years ago while at home on a vacation my neighbor Laura Goldfarb came over to introduce her brother, Barry. We talked, played horseshoes, looked at photos, and drank moonshine all within a few hours of meeting each other. It didn’t take us long to realize that we were brewing up a beautiful friendship. The head backcountry ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Barry offered his house and knowledge of the area should I ever find myself out west. A year later I gladly took him up on his offer after leaving the ranch in 2008.

This year, I made sure to set aside ample time to return and explore deeper, more secluded sections of the park. A fellow ranch employee, Hannah Dillard was brave enough to come along and meet the man and wilderness I had bragged about all summer.

Describing Barry is an undertaking I don’t dare attempt with my own words. Instead, I’m going to share a sermon he gave Hannah and me while having wine and cheese at one of his favorite spots in the park.

Placing a tiny pebble in the grooves of our palms he stood back with a proud grin and said “Canis Majoris is the largest known entity in the universe. It would take 7 quadrillion earths to fill its volume. I want you to think about that size, try to imagine the immensity of such a thing. Now, here’s my sermon. #1: The grain of rock in your hand, that’s Earth. #2: The thing that you’re standing on is Canis Majoris. #3: God loves you.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Snow in September

For the last week false weather reports flooded the airwaves promising 8 inches of snow for Carbon County. Most of the staff hailing from the southeast coast waited in anticipation for the bleak and unpredictable snowstorms Wyoming is famous for. Every morning over a period of five days I set my alarm for 5:30 only to open my blinds and find frost, but no snow. Finally, on Monday a cold front pushed through Colorado, spilling over the border and into the southern section of the state.

I shot out of bed at 6:00 and ran to Patrick Shehey’s room, a fellow fly fishing guide. We had been trying unsuccessfully for about a month to collaborate on an image of him fishing in the river. Due to fickle weather patterns and poor light I was never able to get the right shot. So when I knocked on his door at 6:00 am and told him to crawl from under his warm blanket and dress to get wet, he was a little reluctant. Eventually, after pleading and mimicking the menacing sound of an alarm clock, he finally obliged. An avid angler, Patrick guides professionally in Connecticut. He has entered plenty of fishing competitions and throws one of the most beautiful loops I’ve ever seen.

On our way out to the river, we stopped by the Sunday Left pasture and watched the wranglers jingle in the horses. The sound of soft powder creaking beneath 400 hooves followed by the piercing cries of cowboys echoed across the ranch.

After the horses were gathered in the catch pin Patrick and I headed for the North Platte and parked along a beautiful stretch of scattered boulders. We spent 30 minutes fishing and photographing until the bitter air and freezing water got the best of us. Unable to move my fingers enough to trigger the shutter, we called it a morning and headed back to the Fish Shack. Even though we only clocked in a half an hour, that morning on the river ranks in one of my top five fishing adventures.