So, instead, I thought I'd share some of the photos I took on yesterdays hike, where we took advantage of a [supposed] break in the monsoons to hit one of the most scenic locations in the San Juans: Ice Lake.
We've done this hike twice before, but only once have reached the destination of upper Ice Lake itself. Nestled up high in the mountainous basin west of Silverton, it's a hugely popular day hike and backpacking destination for locals and photographers.
As it seems with so many things, the best things never comes easily, and that's quite apropos for this hike, where the spectacular views are proportional to the degree of difficulty required to obtain them. With a trailhead elevation of 9,900', it gets serious right out of the blocks, with 2,400' of elevation gain in 3.5 miles to the first money shot:
Ice Lake - 2-part pano
Yes, the lake is really this color
Wildflowers at alpine tundra elevations are right at the cusp of peak season, so I brought my tripod and both lenses along for this hike rather than the plein air get-up. It requires much more mental energy and concentration to paint rather than set up and take photos.
Getting there is not easy, but scenic the entire way as it passes through forested sections of fir and spruce (the aspen are left behind within the first 1/2 mile or so), and open meadows.
Every hike I take, I obtain several photos of the view along the trail itself - the light and shadow patterns and trees full of character never get old. It's hard to just choose one for these blog posts.
[This is for Dan]
I keep speaking of a series of trail paintings, and it's a certainty I'll never run out of reference material.
At timberline elevations, larkspur, monkshood and these tall white flowers are abundant.
The huge boulders of what appears to be a mix of conglomerate (rock composed of smaller rocks of older and different compositions and origins) and what appears to be volcanic basalt deposition are scattered in the meadows.
Perennial waterfalls are found all along the hike, cascading down through the dark rock and occasionally making crossings difficult.
The pale slopes - mine tailings - are a testament to the history of this area as mining country. The main creek that enters Silverton from this area - Mineral creek - still carries heavy metal contaminates from these old tailings. The water is crystal clear...and is devoid of all life.
I've been on a major butterfly photographing kick this summer, and never pass up the opportunity to get a good photo of these colorful and beautiful creatures.
With the unfortunate closing of Borders, I was able to get Kaufman's field guide to North American butterflies at a great price, which helps to identify this male Shasta Blue. He is very small - about 1" wingspan.
Patience, persistence, practice, location and luck, along with a telephoto lens are what you need to shoot members of the Lepidoptera order.
This is the final 200-300 yards, out of the somewhat exposed and most treacherous part of the trail, and as you are hiking, you wonder if the unrelenting trail ever ends and if the lake or the promised views really do exist...
...and then you see this:
Colorful wildflowers explode on the tundra of the basin, and the eastern side of Yellow Mountain is visible; time to swap out the telephoto lens for the regular zoom.
But, it gets better as the deep turquoise blue lake comes into view.
By this time, clouds are building up and to my dismay, I hear some thunder off to the south. However, there is no lightning and to the north and east the skies are still relatively clear...at least for the moment.
A cluster of beautiful blue columbine sets off the foreground of this photo of a smaller lake and the Yellow Mountains.
It's one of my favorite of the "money shots".
pano shot of the upper and lower lakes - what a view!
After hearing more thunder, we decided not to push our luck any more than we had already, and quickly beat it back down the trail, hoping to escape any torrential downpour and possible lightning.
It did start to sprinkle, but stopped after we dropped below the lower Ice Lake.
This is the view of the timberline meadow below the steepest section of the trail.
The view after reaching the meadow. Amazingly, we didn't get any more rain for the remaining 3 miles of the hike.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the photos and the hike.
For those that find these photography-based posts boring and tedious and choose to un-follow the blog...well, sorry, but this is never going to be a painting-only blog. Photography is a much a passion for me as painting, and I enjoy sharing the photos of these beautiful places I visit with you all.
And thank you again to those who are reading this - you are the best!