Hiking in Clouds

Like a veil, a moist gray haze inhabits the voids between craggy mountain slopes. Distant ridgelines fade, while nearby sunflowers and sneezeweed glow like bright suns against glistening black soil. Long dry days of blue canvas painted skies have passed. Now the atmosphere is vibrant as air and water dance in cycles from creek to cloud, seamlessly connecting earth to sky. A droplet of dew on a lupine leaf, frothy white bubbles in a rushing creek, floating billowy clouds, gathering, darkening then releasing multitudes of droplets returning to earth, dampness dripping from layers of leaves.

No need to leap in a lake when walking in a steady shower fragrant with pine or mint. Gentle raindrops become more insistent. In a momentarily wet world, rain claims its place nurturing all that grows below. Grasses respond in brilliant greens – moss, emerald, jade, turquoise and lime. Swaths of flowers glimmer with intense purples, rose pinks, and vivid magentas, punctuated by stars of yellow and puffballs of white. Together they resemble a washed watercolor painting with streaks, mounds and surprising exclamation points.

The sky around is ever changing as light rays play and tease amongst dark puffball clouds that form, disperse, regather, encompass and sometimes explode. It is within this time that I am hiking in clouds, in the wilderness of the Elk Mountain range that is my greater home.

Water is gurgling, rushing, falling down steeps, then meandering slowly across flats, at times concealed beneath lush leafy growth.
IMG_3378

In swirling gray mists, we wander the side basins and ridges of Buckskin and Willow Passes near the Maroon Bells.
IMG_3386

In the wet, white treasures abound, from shimmering stones on the ground to mountain goats precipitously perched on snow cornices and distant blue-white peaks.
IMG_3540

The long Yule Creek basin beckons and we are drawn to Yule Lakes and the summit of Treasure Mountain.
IMG_3533

To better know our natural world, I walk and sleep through life-giving water cycles of mountains near Marble. I follow valleys and summit saddles of Carbonate Creek, Avalanche Pass and Silver Creek. Water jewels sparkle on rainbow meadow flowers, contrasting against magnificent far vistas.
IMG_3420

Western coneflowers are happy punctuation marks in the meadows.
IMG_3441

IMG_3411

Each change in elevation, aspect and soil yields a new tapestry of flowers. Here in the high subalpine zone, paintbrush and lupine are newly bloomed.
IMG_3486

High hidden meadows and bowls are the territory of wild creatures. At dusk, a deer wanders by my tent, nose and ears quivering. In the morning, a curious elk peers over a nearby saddle. When I creep up to look, I realize a large herd of elk were my neighbors overnighting in a basin above.
IMG_3504

IMG_3512

I feel a mere human(about 60 percent water), both humbled and enlightened.

Flowers of the Elk Mountain Range, Colorado

An early morning in July, I headed for the Hell Roaring Trail that leads to the ridge between Capitol Peak and Mount Sopris. As I drove the bumpy gravel road towards the Capitol Creek trailhead, I was stunned by the show of blues and yellows sparkling in the meadows beneath the aspen trees. Not wishing to drive further and pass by this wonder, I pulled over and continued on foot towards the trailhead. Although it was less than a quarter mile distance, the flowers so entranced me that it took over an hour to get to the start of my hike! The display of lupines, false lupines, columbines, wild geraniums and paintbrush continued to entice me as I gained elevation. Crouching low in the meadows to capture light reflecting in flowers and foliage, I was finally reminded to move on by the buzzing and biting of busy bugs around me. I climbed higher along the trail where patches of snow still rested in the shade of the evergreen forest. In moist areas where the snow had recently receded, buttercups and marsh marigolds glimmered. At last I made the crest of the ridge, only to be wowed yet again by the rich and intricate tapestry of the tiny flowers of the high alpine zone.

A lupine glows in the meadows beneath the aspen trees
IMG_2858

Yellow and blues appear like the sun in the sky
IMG_2956

Lush blue lupines contrast with the snowy white slopes of Capitol Peak
IMG_2913

Old Man of the Mountain is a bright cheery flower in the alpine tundra
IMG_2925