All the best laid plans. . . . After a failed attempt to see Mertensia Falls several years ago, I’ve poured over topo maps to find the best way to approach it off trail. It seemed straightforward, follow the isocline off of the trail, loop around to the river, and then up to the Mertensia.
Whoops, that contour line was impenetrable forest. Massive amounts of blow down and dead trees, rocks and brush, and a small cliff here and there. Back up plan, further up to Thunder Lake and around to the Falls just off the Eagle Lake trail.
Again, whoops. Small matter of a large cliff blocking that approach. In the picture, Mertensia is just around the corner beyond the rocks. Just beyond the cliff.
Thirteen miles hiked, some bush-whacking, not a single picture of Mertensia Falls. Back to the maps and the drawing board.
I realized this summer while hiking to Copeland, Calypso, and Ouzel Falls that my photographs of the waterfalls are deceptive. I go out of my way to avoid including people in any of my photographs, so they provide the impression of wilderness and isolation. This is made easier by starting in the pre-dawn, when most people are still asleep, but sometimes it is difficult to adjust reality to what I want. This photo, for example, looks as it could be taken miles deep in the trackless wilderness without another person for miles. In reality, there was a loud and overweight tourist standing atop the stone just to the right, taking selfies with her phone. I lowered the tripod slightly so that the stone on the left would hide another woman sitting on a distant rock painting watercolors. There were long pauses in my shooting while I stood in the stream and waiting for one group or another to wander aimlessly through the frame, quickly pressing the shutter during the clear gaps.
These photos were taken a quarter mile from a large parking lot and trailhead, so fully packed on this autumn day with people come to see the changing leaves that I was called to as soon as I stepped off the trail and began walking to my car, in hopes that I was leaving and opening up a space. My photos are deceptive because they never show the impact of the people who come to use this area, myself included. As the population of the Front Range continues to explode, I’ll have to be more and more careful when I take my photographs to preserve the illusion of wilderness.
Was archiving an old drive and found several batches of water fall photos I never posted. Catching up with them as I plan a return to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Calypso Cascades Spring 2013 Gallery
Lyric Falls Winter #1
Sadly, but two short posts ago I had the same idea for a posting. ‘A new year’ and all that. Unfortunately, last year saw little progress on my goal of photographing all the waterfalls of Rocky Mountain National Park in each season. Partially this was due to my finding all forms of new distractions that kept me off the trails, and partially because I’m running out of the easy parts of the project. The hikes to see the waterfalls in their seasonal variability includes more and more very long hikes, or at least long and painful ones because it’s winter.
This visit to Lyric Falls was no different. The trail out of Sandbeach is always a tough start as it climbs straight up the ridge before leveling off (somewhat) and diving into the depths of Wild Basin. In the snow and ice, it was even more difficult. Microspikes and snowshoes saved the day as I lay track along untrodden trail, the snow ahead broken only by the criss-crossing paths of Snowshoe Hare, mostly invisible in their winter coats.
Reaching the Falls themselves involved a half-mile slog through deep fluffy snow that I sunk into to my hips, only to then catch my feet under the hidden downfallen trees and branches that litter the valley along Hunter Creek. Lyric Falls itself was nearly invisible under the snow and a fresh layer of fallen trees, fallen I think during the Great Rain of 2013 in September that flooded so much further down the watershed. It will have to wait until my spring visit to see if the pools that lay beneath the small falls look anything like they did before the rains or not. Even without being able to find the exact spots I had previously been, Lyric Falls in the winter was a quiet and solitary trickle of water between deeply snow covered banks, shared only by myself and the hares.
A few weeks ago, I dashed up to the Park on a spring afternoon, forgoing a training ride I’d planned to do, because the weather was gorgeous, the previous weeks had finally signaled that spring was truly returned to the mountains, and I hade a new hope. I had read somewhere while researching this project, that Calypso Cascades were named for a flower. An orchid, no less. I had a hard time imagining orchids blooming amongst the pines and firs, so I set out to find them. I have taken many hikes to seek these elusive blooms, they stand only about 10 centimeters high, grow in undisturbed soils, and flower for only a short time each year.
This year, I finally found them. They are just as exotic as one would expect from an orchid, and to find them blooming alongside a trail and piles of fallen needles is one of the more incongrous sites I’ve seen while pursuing this project.
This is Trio Falls. The final posting from the long hike I did a couple months ago that included Thunder, Fan, and Mertensia Falls.
Trio Falls Autumn Gallery
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