A Dozen Wildflowers

Gothic Road : Prints Available

Magnificent light before sunset over Gothic.

There is nothing that quite compares to the crazy display of wildflowers that occurs in the Colorado high country every year during the mid-summer months. The peak usually happens sometime in mid July to early August, so with a week’s vacation to work with this year, I just had to spend a few days worth in the annual quest for wildflower extravaganza.

I have photographed most of the ‘hot spots’ for flowers in Colorado, so this year I wanted to hit a couple of new locations.
The Crested Butte area was looking good, and while I have been there in previous years, I had yet to visit the high basins north of Crested Butte. In my last attempt a couple years back, the road to the high country was blocked by an avalanche. This year, the road was open, so I headed up to Schofield Park, a trailhead ten miles up a dirt road from the Crested Butte ski resort. A sign that recommended 4WD greeted me as I drive my low clearance Ford Focus up the narrow, windy, bumpy road. So much more fun with 2WD! And all those Jeeps coming down the road in the other direction were certainly not getting the wonderful gas mileage that I was! 🙂 At one point, I asked a passing SUV if I was going to make it up the road. I noticed him glance quickly down at my tires, then he said, “If you made it this far, you’ll probably make it the rest of the way.”

I set out on the W Maroon trail, which connects Aspen to Crested Butte via the road I had just come up. The trail quickly entered a series of basins that were just choking with flowers.

Afternoon Delight : Prints Available

Backlit flowers in late afternoon.

Endless Fields : Prints Available

Flowers as far as the eye can see!

Flower Power : Prints Available

Field thick with flowers!

Maroon Colors : Prints Available

Magnificent display of wildflowers in the high basins of Maroon-Snowmass wilderness.

After hiking much of the afternoon, I decided to head back to the road for sunset, since I had scouted out some favorable locations on the way up to the trail.

Purple Pano : Prints Available

Wildflower panorama from Gothic Road.

Gothic Reflections : Prints Available

Small pond reflects the summer sky along Gothic Road.

Then, as the sun set, I headed back towards Crested Butte to catch the East River in the bright light of the rising full moon. For some reason, this moon seemed bigger and brighter than many I had seen before. It was just a spectacular sight; I can only hope my photo captures some of the magic.

Gothic Moonlight : Prints Available

The full moon rises above the East Fork and Crested Butte.

I also consumed some fine brews in town, which was quite hopping for a Sunday night; a great place to meet an odd assortment of outdoor fanatics and artists,

The next day, I headed to Ridgway in the San Juan Mountains, to head up the Blue Lakes trail, one of the more spectacular trails in the state. The last time I hiked it was eight years ago, where I had about 10 pounds less camera gear, and 20 pounds less beer fat. So, I was a bit slower this time. I ended up spending most of the afternoon exploring the meadows above Lower Blue Lake, which is where the flowers seemed to be the most profuse.

Layers of Blue : Prints Available

Wildflowers and lake reflections at lower Blue Lake.

Mountain Paradise : Prints Available

Outlet stream at Blue Lake.

Blue Moods : Prints Available

Summer afternoon at Lower Blue Lake.

I dropped back down to the campground to catch Mount Sneffels as it lit up just before sunset. Magnificent! This shot rounded off my goal of a dozen decent photos for the trip. I’m usually lucky to grab two or three per trip, so I consider it a productive trip overall. Oh, and if you’re ever in Ridgway be sure to stop at the True Grit (yes, we’re talking John Wayne) Cafe and have one of their awesome deserts. I had the blueberry pie this time. A La mode. 🙂

Sneffels Sublime : Prints Available

Flowers explode in the meadows below 14,125 foot Mount Sneffels

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8 Responses to A Dozen Wildflowers

  1. Paul Beiser says:

    Really enjoyed the photos and the story Stan. Looks like a fantastic time!!!!

  2. Mike DeZuba says:

    Great images Stan. I also enjoyed your commentary. Have a similar story to tell about Schofield Pass. We were in my brother’s Kia 2wd with low profile tires to boot. I had him pull over right at the start of the one lane steep incline at the cliffs. I walked ahead and found a spot I knew he wouldn’t want to cross. As I was walking back a guy came down the road towards me in a Dodge 2 wd car and he said you can make it, so up we went. A little hairy, as you know, otherwise a bumpy drive. I’ve been in the Crested Butte area twice for aspen color, and this year is my 1st visit for the flowers. I’ve dreamed and planned for 5 years to do it. We were on the West Maroon trail Sunday afternoon. Did we briefly speak then ? I told you about 2 waterfalls up ahead. I wish we’d had the chance to go farther South to hike the Blue lakes trail. The shot overlooking the hillside with a full moon is awesome! I’ve recently retired and have to stretch my money as far as I can so I don’t have a RMNP membership yet. Have lurked there for years and maybe one day I’ll join. For what it’s worth we were on Shrine Pass on the 23rd and the lupine and paintbrush are at peak. Not as profuse as other years, but still putting on a show. Best regards, Mike

    • Stan Rose says:

      Hey Mike–yep, that was me! I figured you were a photographer with the tripod you were carrying, lol. Thanks for the note, funny story about Schofield.

  3. Kathy Barnhart says:

    Hi Stan,
    These flower photos are magnificent. The Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce ought to buy them! I definitely will put that area on my short list for wildflowers next summer. Thanks for sharing.

    Kathy

  4. Donna Rice says:

    Stan,

    Absolutely beautiful collection of wildflower photographs! I was overseas for an extended time this summer and missed out on wildflower season in Colorado. Hopefully I will get out next summer. Do you have a favorite lens you like to use for most of your wildflower shots? The depth of field is amazing. I’m just trying to pick up some pointers for next summer. Your work is some of the best I’ve seen.

    • Stan Rose says:

      Thanks, Donna–very kind of you to say. Yes, my favorite lens is my 24mm Tilt shift, which allows movements so you can increase the depth of field. It’s an expensive lens though! You can also use any wide angle lens and hypefocus–meaning focus so that the front subject is at the front of the depth of field. Either calculate the depth of field (there are tables online) or just guess if you’re lazy like me 😉
      Another way to do it is to blend exposures with imaging software that are focused for the front and back (focus stack) but I prefer to do it with one exposure.

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