Of Bridges and Bears Ears

Water, wind, rock and sand – carving, looping, curving, intertwining, sculpting bridges and canyons.

We move over, under and through – through narrow or gaping openings, though rock doorways, and through time.

Our friends Cornelia and Steffen, and their camping gear, traveled many miles from Germany to meet us.

We camp and explore in the greater area of the Bears Ears National Monument – an ancient timeless place, thought protected but now threatened.

Our friends are natural desert rats, leaping into the adventure with curiosity and zest. Soon they can discern constructed stone walls from natural rock faces. And spot hidden ancestral puebloan markings among cracks on shadowy cliffs.

Another day, we descend to the base of enormous Sipapu Bridge – 220 feet high and spanning 268 feet.

From the canyon rim, we watch turkey vultures’ distant swirls. As they draw closer, black specks take form. Above us, it seems the swoosh of their wings is the sound of the setting sun.

Wearing backpacks, on foot under sun and stars, Dave and I move deeper through the desert canyons. We want to know these places seemingly so far from home, yet once home to people of the past.

We linger days among canyon and cliffs, sweating in midday heat, and slumbering in night’s coolth.

Our discoveries of secret hidden ruins seemed like the world’s first. We ponder riddles of how they were built so high on precipitous cliffs.

There are memories of the past in hand and footprints marking walls, rocks touched till they wore smooth, broken sherds and flakes from tools.

We admire detail and craftsmanship – openings that may be door or window each adorned in a different way.

We revel in simplicity of landscape and our daily life. Away from bothersome beeps, only birdsong, insect buzzes or owl hoots call our attention, though we itch from no-see-ums, bothersome biters.

There is realness and presence in the heat of the day. It is bright, harsh, and unremitting, until a tall rock or tree lends its welcome cooling shadow.

When in rare places, water seeps or springs from canyon walls, we rejoice in moist magical greenness. Precious jewels nestled within dry desert red.

We celebrate scarce desert pools. Singular in their unlikeliness, they bring life, bees and butterflies.

Desert creatures – snakes and lizards move lazily still waking from their winter spell.

Spring has so many meanings in the desert – a spring of water, spring bringing new growth, spring in our steps and that of the deer, mormon tea in flower and bright yellow holly in bloom.

As comb approaches canyon, life giving water becomes more plentiful, and wall art abounds. Our walking with daypacks is easier too.

When its time to turn for home, we pause at the iconic Fisher Towers. We watch the ever changing light and the passing of day to night.

New Works – Summer 2016

Bucksbaum Campus Phase 2 – In progress June, 2016
Aspen Music Festival and School, Castle Creek, Aspen

40BWORKS serves as the Landscape Architect for Phase 2 of the Bucksbaum Campus of the Aspen Music Festival and School, designed by Harry Teague, Architects. Phase 2 involved the construction of a composition of new buildings around the significant large ponds. The entire central area of the Campus is primarily a pedestrian environment.
IMG_9135 While the buildings are complete, planting on Campus is still in progress. Here, freshly-placed sod gleams.
IMG_9129 Ever-changing reflections in the ponds create another dimension of experience (during construction).
IMG_9149 Planting in Phase 1 is taking hold, restoring the wild natural feel of the riparian environment surrounding Castle Creek as it runs through Campus.
IMG_9125 It’s exciting to see wildflowers like this Firecracker Penstemon, and Rosy Paintbrush (not shown) blooming in the Campus specific wildflower mix, sown in Phase 1.

Pitkin County Library, Aspen – Opening Celebration, June 19

I worked on the Pitkin County Library Expansion project when I was at Design Workshop. I led a phase of planning approvals, landscape conceptual and schematic design and design development. The construction drawing and observation phase was completed by Design Workshop.
IMG_9009 It was a rewarding experience to attend the opening celebration and congratulate board members, library and county staff, and consultants. All worked with dedication to evolve the early vision into a constructed reality for the entire community and visitors.
IMG_9012 The library expansion opens on to a public plaza, merging indoor with outdoor space. In particular, the children’s room has a small sunken garden amphitheater for outdoor reading and activities.
IMG_9018 Patrons, board members and the community are excited to explore this new facility for the 22nd century!
IMG_9021 The roof reading garden features great views over the public plaza and towards the town and mountains.

Hiking the Elk Mountains near Crested Butte

In early summer, the mountains near Crested Butte are ablaze with colorful wildflowers. The lush green valleys, high basins and snowy peaks beckon keen hikers and bikers. I started my trip at Maroon Lake near Aspen, an area that is well known for viewing the scenic Maroon Bells, wandering the short hike to Crater Lake or embarking on the longer trek over West Maroon Pass to Crested Butte. It was approximately 6.5 gorgeous miles and almost 3,000 feet elevation gain to the top of West Maroon Pass at 12,500 feet. Crossing the chilly knee-high creek waters and navigating a few remaining avalanche-path snow fields, added to the interest of the hike. Marsh marigolds and buttercups were highlights near the still moist trail.

From the pass, it was a delightful descent into the East Fork valley. Columbines, paintbrush, and gentian among many other blooms invited me to linger in the meadows en route to Schofield Pass Road. It was early evening when I reached my camp for the night next to East River, above Gothic. As I was setting up my small tent, thunder that had been rumbling in the background was suddenly upon me and huge raindrops were falling all around. The evening storm brought a stunning double rainbow, followed by a vivid pink glow in the sky that was also reflected in the water. It was a fitting finale to a beautiful day.

The following morning, two hiking friends picked me up and we headed to Rustler Gulch trailhead. We left the main trail shortly and followed a ridge to the east, to ascend unnamed peak 13,010. High snowy mountains surrounded us: we were immersed in magnificent wilderness. Our descent was via a magical jewel-like high lake in which patterns of white puffy clouds played teasingly. To return, we negotiated avalanche-carried tree stumps down a steep slope, regaining the lower flower filled meadows near Rustler’s Gulch.

A curious marmot greets hikers as they summit West Maroon Pass

Colorful paintbrush invite hikers to enter the East Fork valley

A symphony of wildflowers

My tent beneath a stormy sky

The last blush of sunset

A magical high mountain lake