One of my favorite signs of the impending warm up and summer season in Rocky Mountain National Park is not just finding the first Pasque flowers blooming along the forest floor but the start of the spring thaw out. Ice first comes off the streams in the lower elevations first and the snow begins to recede from the hillsides. As the days get longer and the sun gets higher in the skies winter begins to loosen her grip on the mountain lakes above parks and meadows in the lower elevations of Rocky.
With a week of mild sunny days soon enough the snow has melted off the tops of the lakes and open water is once again revealed after a long winter hibernation beneath feet of snow. It’s an exciting time because it opens up lots of new possibilities for landscape photographers whom have either passed on photographing in Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter months or who’s travel is restricted by the snow and ice covering the landscape.
For me its a great feeling topping the crest of a trail and seeing open water surrounded by snow. Photographing reflections of Rocky’s iconic mountain peaks in the thawed waters is another sign that my favorite time of year in RMNP is nearly upon us again.
I always get a spring in my step this time of year, spring being the operative word. The first wildflowers blooms of the season are not happening in the foothills of Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park. Pasque Flowers and Star Lily’s are starting to sprout along the slopes of the hillsides now.
Your not going to find fields of wildflowers just yet but if you head out you will find these small nondescript flowers growing the grasses under ponderosa pines or on rocky hillsides with good southern exposure. It’s a fun time to pull the macro lens out from the bag and work some close in compositions. Photographing these early season flowers can make for a nice change of pace as winter recedes from the hillsides.
With Pasque flowers now making an appearance here in Colorado we can expect other blooms to begin to follow in short succession. Mountain ball cactus, golden banner will soon begin to making appearances and then eventually the summer favorites like wild iris, paintbrush and columbine.
There is definite excitement in knowing summer is just around the corner. Take advantage of what’s blooming now because as is the case with all these wildflowers, theres a short window before they are gone for the season.
At least once each year I take a sabbatical from photographing Rocky Mountain National Park and head west to Utah for a few days of photography. Whether I end up in Bryce Canyon or the Moab area depends on a couple factors (Jeep week in Moab being one). Usually this coincides with spring break and both my wife and daughter get to tag along with me and we all get to spend time outdoors, hiking, exploring and spending time together.
It’s a nice change of pace and I welcome a few days out in the desert as the winter months begin to release their grasp on Rocky. This year we spent the better parts of four days in Moab. It’s an easy 5.5 hr drive from my house in Erie and it nice to get to a location and be able to spend sometime in a few spots waiting for the favorable weather for landscape photography.
When we made plans to stay in Moab for part of the week I had no idea that Arches National Park would be undergoing a major road construction project. Sunday through Thursday nights a construction crew is busy repaving the main park road and there would be no access to Arches National Park from 7:00 PM until 7:00 AM as the construction crew would have the road shut down overnight in order for them to work unhindered.
When I first heard this news posted on one of the social media sites, I was a bit dismayed. The timing of the closings would for all intense and purposes prohibit photography of sunrise and sunset in Arches National Park while I was in town visiting. While I love Arches National Park, I’ve spent plenty of time photographing the park and eventually I realized the overnight road closings would actual be a good thing. While I was staying in Moab, other than day hikes with the family, I would have to photograph other locations around Moab, something I often don’t do when the close convenience and easy accessibility of Arches National Park is available.
While in Moab conditions were very good for photography. Warm weather the weeks prior to my visit had pushed some of the wildflower blooms ahead of schedule. Lots of beautiful red paintbrush covered the desert floor. I was also lucky enough to be on the front and back end of two large pacific storm systems that passed through the area when I was visiting. While nobody wants rain while on vacation, photographers love unsettled weather as it creates the possibility of dramatic conditions and lighting. This certainly held true during this visit to Moab. Rain, storms and pot holes filled with fresh raindrops all helped to make for a successful trip to Utah with a couple of great sunsets and sunrises thrown into the mix.
So while its back to photographing Rocky (poor me), it was great as always to get back out to red rock country and enjoy some different scenery and weather for a change. Nothing makes you appreciate your own backyard more than photographing in somebody else backyard for a few days.