Backcountry, Canon, F-Stop Gear, Fresh tracks, Gitzo, Juniper Trees, Lake Helene, Outdoors, Photography, Pine Trees, ReallyRightStuff, Relaxation, RMNP, Rocky Mountain National Park, Snow, Snowshoeing
We all do it…we become so engrossed in our work, whether it is preparing for the next photo shoot, workshop, assignment and trip, that we forget to take some time for ourselves!
This past weekend, I started out with the intention of snowshoeing up to to Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park, so that I could make some new images to replace those that I had taken a couple of years ago. Those images I took weren’t bad, but I wanted to really capture the essence of Lake Helene, Notch Top and Little Matterhorn!
Colorado, much like a lot of the USA this Winter, is being blessed with a healthy amount of snow. Snowshoeing conditions have not been this good in a few years and because Rocky Mountain National Park is so close, I do spend a lot of time exploring and looking for new locations to shoot and making myself as knowledgable as I can with all of the areas within the park.
The base depth of 75+ inches with another 8-10″ of fresh powder from overnight snow meant there would be a fair amount of fresh tracks to make. Since I had started out with the intent of getting to Lake Helene to make new images, I had my F-Stop TilopaBC pack with all my usual camera gear, safety gear and my Gitzo tripod / ReallyRightStuff BH-55 ball-head and a 3L Camelbak bladder filled to the brim. This brings my pack to nearly 50lbs!!
After driving up to the Bear Lake parking lot, I started my GPS watch locating satellites while I geared up. A few minutes later, I was off to the trailhead and enjoying an absolutely stunning day!
Normally, I would be at the park well before the sun peeks over the horizon, but I wanted to capture Lake Helene and Little Matterhorn in a certain light, to create a magnificent black + white image. That meant I didn’t need to be on the trail at oh-dark-thirty like usual, so an 8am start was rather enjoyable!
There were quite a few backcountry skiers gearing up to take advantage of the fantastic conditions; I exchanged pleasantry’s with them as I started out, knowing full well that they would soon pass me.
As I trekked through the snow, there were parts where the trail was still pretty well defined in the snow along with spots (sometimes a quarter mile long or more) that were not so well defined.
Along the way, I saw this tree and this was really the point during my trek that made me stop and realize that today was not meant to be a “work” day, but rather a day to just enjoy a great day of snowshoeing and some photography if it came to be! The tree demonstrates the normal growth pattern and I wished there were some kids around to make this stop a perfect teaching moment! There were none, so I got the camera out and made sure I could use the moment at a later time if needed!
As I trekked on, it was again evident that the snowfall this year has been very plentiful and this is such a blessing for all who rely on the moisture the snow brings! I came upon this small clearing and noticed a series of trees that (sadly) reminded me of the darn AT&T wireless commercial, so I just had to take the picture!
I continued trekking along, stopping periodically to check my heart rate (I’ve been battling some lung capacity issues for a while and am currently using an asthma inhaler each morning for a month) and to make sure that I was following the waypoints I had put into my GPS watch. Summer trail markings are rarely found and if you are not careful, getting turned around or lost is only a few wrong turns away!!! I am fortunate to know my way around most every place I go through a lot of pre-trip research, but assuming you won’t get lost is really a bad assumption and can cause your overconfidence to lead you into some very bad situations!
Regardless of season, I never leave on a photo trek, even a simple 2 or 3 hour trek without a map of the area (NatGeo trail map or a USGS map, as appropriate), a good compass/signal mirror and the knowledge of how to use them! I also carry a small Handi-Talkie radio that I have programmed with all the 2m and 70cm HAM radio repeaters for the area(s) that I will be traveling to or through. Once I acquired my HAM radio Technician license, it was a no-brainer to have the handi-talkie! In an emergency, I can always climb up to the summit of a mountain and have some radio communications.
Anyway…I trekked along and came to a point where Flattop mountain is barren and winds tend to blow down the slope making tracks or trail definition almost impassible to find. Today was one of those days, so I had to trek across a wide open space making fresh tracks. That was totally fun!!!
Eventually I happened on to Mill Creek and was close to Marigold Pond. There were no tracks that I could find and I had been enjoying the trek more than I was focused on shooting Lake Helene & Little Matterhorn. Time had escaped me a bit…but I really did not mind. I was in the great outdoors and enjoying the spectacular day.
Little Matterhorn was visible through the trees, though my location did not provide the clear view that I would get if I were at Lake Helene. Regardless, it sure was beautiful!
After shooting a few images, I had some trail mix to replenish calories a bit (including dried banana chips to replace potassium and prevent leg cramps later). Roughly 30 minutes of dilly-dallying and I realized it was time to start heading back to the trailhead!
Always amazes me that the trek back to the trailhead never takes as much time as the trek to the shoot location. So much fun was had along the way and as I continued back down to the trailhead, I came to a point high up above Nymph Lake and Bear Lake looking towards Glacier Gorge and the beauty was just too much to not shoot an picture!
I still had a ways to go, from this point, but it was all downhill. Still plenty of folks out snowshoeing up the trail, so there were stops to chat. Eventually I made it back to Bear Lake parking lot. As I removed my gear (backpack, snowshoes, shell, mittens, etc) the total relaxation of the day really hit home. Yes, my legs were a bit tired from the trek, but well worth the adventure of the day.
Taking time to just enjoy all that is surrounding you can really invigorate your creative juices. Knowing that I had taken some well earned “me time” was not the end of the world and perhaps something that we all should do a little more often is to stop working and enjoy time with the family or just time to yourself doing something that you love doing (not that I don’t LOVE photography because it is indeed my absolute passion), but do that thing for the pure enjoyment and relaxation feeling!
As I close out this blog post, I would like to share something I came across in 1994. I do not know the author, but these are words that I try to live my life by each day!
The Time Bank
Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.
There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow. You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today.