I had limited time to enjoy the wildflower peak this season in the Colorado Rockies; one weekend to be exact. My original plan was to head for the San Juans, but the weather forecast (as detailed in my e-book!) and time constraints led me to one of my favorite go-to spots for flowers, Shrine Pass near Vail. Shrine isn’t the most dramatic mountain location, but the views are wide open and the flowers are thick! After hitting the trail at 4am, I listened to the coyotes cry as I made my way to the top of Shrine Ridge. Sunrise did not disappoint!
The mosquitos were not as nice. I couldn’t stay in one spot for more than 10 seconds before thick clouds of the blood-suckers would surround my head. This gave me more incentive to keep moving for new views!
I spent another couple hours hiking the ridge while the light was still good. I didn’t see anyone else until I started hiking back down the trail; then I encountered several groups of hikers and photographers headed up the trail. They missed a great sunrise!
The best thing about storm chasing in Colorado is that it is usually free of the long lines of gawkers and chasers that you will typically encounter in Oklahoma or Kansas on a High Risk weekend. It’s storm chasing the Old Fashioned Way; where you don’t have to worry about being trapped on a crowded street as a rain-wrapped wedge tornado descends on you. It’s almost like the heyday of chasing when every person you met on the road was someone you knew from either a previous chase or from the community of storm chasers. So, not surprisingly, when I chased this past weekend I ran into several other storm chasers who I knew either personally or by reputation. The first chasers I ran into on Saturday were Justin Drake and Simon Brewer, the stars of The Weather Channel’s “Storm Riders”. Since our chosen storm was not terribly exciting at the time, I had a nice conversation with them about chasing and photography, two subjects that we are all pretty passionate about. Shortly after, I stopped to say high to Roger Hill, one of the most acclaimed and respected pros, on a quiet road heading south with the storm. I’ve run into Roger at least a dozen times over the last 10 years, and he’s been a bit of a good luck charm for me, probably because he holds the Guinness record for most tornadoes seen. No terrific luck this time, though–just some real pretty storms and a nice sunset over the plains of Colorado.
After a day’s break to let my tired car rest, I headed out again on Monday to chase some more Colorado storms. After making a traditional stop in Limon for some lunch at Oscar’s Bar & Grill, I caught a storm forming near the small town of Seibert, Colorado, in the midst of intersecting lines of cumulus clouds that I had picked out in a visible satellite image. I watched the clouds rapidly expand and eventually split into two separate storms, which is classic behavior for a fledgling supercell (rotating) thunderstorm. I ran into John Farley, who I knew from online forums but had never met in person, as he sat on the roadside waiting for the storm to strengthen. And Todd Thorn, another long-time chaser who runs a popular storm-chasing tour company. The storm eventually was tornado-warned after it dropped a small tornado near the town of Kit Carson. I must have been driving or simply not at the right location since I missed the landspout/tornado, but the storm had some impressive structure and I followed it all the way to the tiny town of Towner, Colorado, near the Kansas Border. I waited out a quick blast of quarter-sized hail driven by strong winds, then stopped for a bit at the town cemetery to take a few photos as the storm moved away and the sun set over the Colorado Plains. Not a bad way to spend a weekend–good Ol’ Fashioned Chasing!