Another long lay-off between waterfall posts. It is what it is. Spring is returning to the Rocky Mountains, and so am I.
I hiked up to Fern Falls on a foggy Sunday morning, not seeing another human for hours. Climbing the last switchback before these falls, however, I did hear the low bass huffing noise of a bear somewhere upslope of me. After my initial response, consisting entirely of freezing in place and straining my ears to place the noise, I broke out into song, in the hopes that my atonal vocals would prove unappetizing. I never saw the bear, but I did see the rapidly flowing waters over Fern Falls.
It’s interesting how differently areas that are so close together, can be so different in the Park. Since the big floods in 2013, I’ve visited three falls in this corner of the Park, McGregor Falls, West Creek Falls, and this weekend, Bridal Veil Falls. Approaching both McGregor and West Creek Falls, the valleys were scoured from the floods. Great piles of stones and boulders littered the stream bed. Trees were ripped up from their roots and snapped like matchsticks. Since those two hikes bracket the approach to Bridal Veil Falls, and are under a mile as the clouds fly, I expected the same.
But it was as if there had been no floods. No sign at all of the damage that is still being repaired elsewhere. The river bed was the same overgrown groves of aspen and pine. Cow Creek still wove its way around boulders from pool to pool, hiding itself under mounds of snow and ice. A remnant of what was just months ago, and a reminder that the floods may damage, but that damage is part of the process and doesn’t even act evenly.
A long weekend would be wasted had I not gotten to at least one falls. While I avoided that waste, I fear the pictures I took only partially represent West Creek Falls in its winter garb.
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And with this, I’ve finally posted all the photos I took in 2014. In the three and a half years since I had the idea for this project, I’ve made some progress, but not nearly as much as I’d expected. I’ve taken twenty-three separate hikes, totalling over one hundred and seventy miles of hiking. I’ve taken several thousand photos of the waterfalls of Rocky Mountain National Park, though most of those were uninteresting or unusable.
Of my original goal that I set of photographing each of the 31 waterfalls in each season (a total of 124 total visits), I’ve made 46, or just over a third of the total number for the project.
I’ve completed my goal of visiting only three of the waterfalls in each season, Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Ouzel Falls.
As another year begins, I’m going to keep plugging away at this project. Someday I hope to finish it, but if I don’t I’ll still have had many great days out in the mountains, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
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.