Thursday, October 3, 2013

San Juan Mountains in Fall- the Sneffels Range

Most years, the aspen on the north side of the Sneffels Range are at peak color by the last week in September.  This year proved to be an exception, and although the trees around Red Mountain were at peak (see my previous post), most of the trees around Ridgway were still green during my visit.  Despite that, I still enjoyed exploring the mining roads in the area, as this was my first visit in a four wheel drive vehicle that allowed me to go further up into the mountains than during my previous trips.  The spot above is on Co road 7, which is accessed off of CO Highway 62.

This is the view of the Sneffels Range from beside the visitors center at Ridgway State Park, which was where I camped in the back of my pickup during most of my trip.  The good facilities there, especially the electric hookups, were greatly appreciated on nights when the temperature dropped well below freezing, and there was heavy frost.  A combination of sleeping bags, electric blanket, and small electric heater kept me warm under my camper shell on those cold nights.

Clouds at Sunset over Sneffels Range- from Dallas Divide

One of the most accessible spots from which to view the Sneffels Range is a parking area just off of CO Highway 62 at Dallas Divide, near Ridgway.  I was there on several evenings during my visit, and this particular one provided the best color at sunset.

Rocky Mountain Sunset

The Ancient Ruins of Hovenweep National Monument

My visit to Hovenweep was timed, in part, to get my visit in before the government shut down on October 1, 2013.  The day was sunny, warm, and very windy- if my hat blew off once, it must have blown off fifty times!  It was even hard to stand up without getting blown over, and the thought of getting blown into the deep canyon beside the ruins had no appeal to me.  I had planned to go to Bisti Badlands the following day, but a heavy rain blew into the area, and Bisti is probably not a good place to hike in the mud.  On my return to Ridgway the following morning, I even ran into heavy snow and sleet up on Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass.  My sure-footed Frontier 4x4 pickup got me to my destination without any problem.

Tech info:  Canon 5DII (all images), various focal lengths

I've become increasingly interested in photographing ancient ruins over the past few years, since visiting sites such as House on Fire Ruin, Fallen Roof Ruin, Mesa Verde National Park, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

These structures are estimated to have been built between 1200 A.D. and 1300 A.D.

Most likely, these structures are in better shape now than my house will be in 700 years.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

San Juan Mountains in Fall- Red Mountain

Aspen along mining trail

The fall of 2013 proved to be unusually late for aspen to turn in the area around Ridgway, but at higher elevations, such as along highway 550 ("Million Dollar Highway") the aspen were at  or near peak color during my visit there.

Tech info:  Canon 5DII, 35 mm focal length, polarizer

A short drive above the highway on CR 31, I found this old abandoned mine structure.

Yankee Girl Mine

 A little way higher up the trail is Yankee Girl Mine, which is one of the more well-preserved and well-known mine structures in the area.  

Storm clouds moving through mountains

A few days later, I was driving north on Highway 550 when heavy snow started falling on a couple of the mountain passes.  At both Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass, there was probably between one and two inches of snow and sleet on the ground as I drove through.  I didn't stop to take any photos until I reached lower elevations, but the shot above, taken near Ouray, shows the clouds that were moving through some of the lower peaks.

Aspen Grove along Highway 550

This photo was taken once I reached lower elevations on my snowy drive along Highway 550.  A light mix of snow and rain was falling, as you may be able to detect in the distance.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Crystal Mill

Crystal Mill is an old powerhouse that is located on the side of a mountain near Marble, Colorado.  It is accessed from the town of Marble by a narrow and extremely rough and rocky  mining trail.  Before I set out on my trip in my Nissan Frontier 4x4 pickup, I decided to put on several skid plates to help protect the vital components of my truck from rocks.  I'm glad I did. Having said that, if I had known just how long, rough, and rocky this road would be, I doubt that I would have attempted it.  I spoke to a couple of other photographers there at the site who were equally as stressed out by this drive as I was.  I considered turning back several times along the route, except that the road was generally too narrow to have any hope of turning around successfully.  Somehow, all four tires managed to survive the trip to the mill and back, but I don't really see how.  

My advice to anyone who is not an avid rock crawling enthusiast, and in the most ruggedly equipped vehicle, would be to spend your cash on a guided tour tour to the mill, rather than on replacing tires...the tour would probably be less expensive.  If you must go, perhaps a weekday might require less backing up for other vehicles along this one-lane road than the Sunday afternoon that I made this journey.

Tech info:  Canon 5DII, 35 mm lens, polarizing filter

Night Sky in the San Juan Mountains

Ridgway State Park,  Milky Way

On my recent trip to the San Juan mountains, I decided to try sleeping in the back of my Nissan Frontier pickup under a camper shell.  The air was particularly cold and clear one night, and I could see the stars shining very brightly out the window of my camper shell, so I got up and took a few photos from my campsite, right beside my pickup.  Here are the results.

Tech info:  Canon 5D II, 50mm lens, 10 seconds at f1.8, ISO 6400.

5D II, 24 mm lens, iso 6400, 25 seconds at f2.8

For those of you who might be considering a trip to the Ridgway, Colorado area, Ridgway State Park has what I consider to be excellent facilities.  The electric hookups in the campground enabled me to plug in my electric blanket and a very small portable electric heater to keep warm on nights when the temperature dipped well below freezing.  I also met some very nice fellow campers there...Nick and Amy, if you give me your address in the comments, I'll send you a print of your favorite.