Colorado, 2010

Monument Valley, Hovenweep NM, Mesa Verde NP, Great Sand Dunes NP, Florissant Fossil Beds NM, Rocky Mountain NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

As the thunderstorms cleared one day I was able to go out for some short day hiking. On the way I met a cute Park Ranger and she asked me, "What brings you to Colorado?" I paused, those few seconds were like an eternity in which all the logic, reason, wonder, and expectations poured forth in an instant. And I could only think of one reply: "Colorado."

How majestic to be once again among the Rockies, how privileged to once again be a minute part of how they not only reach for but also aspire to surpass the sky itself. This land is imbued with magic coming straight from the Creator; it is here where truly you can almost lift up your arm and just reach forth a little more and touch God.

The true theme of this trip was "fortuitous timing". I started off by visiting an uncle of mine I hadn't seen in many years. My tires were separating in the Mojave so I decided to get ripped off in the desert and get them replaced. But if I didn't then, after getting the Camaro stuck in the sand, there was no way I would have seen my uncle returning home down the driveway after a day at work. And if I hadn't, then our paths would not have crossed.

I was so happy to see my uncle again after so long but also to finally witness the beauty of his ranch. It is a majesty I still cannot find words to describe; the small rock pinnacles reach upwards in glorious clusters to frame a path into a gorgeous valley. The afternoon storms filled it with bolts of lightening rending the sky in two as well as rainbows crowing the hills. I can see how one could fall in love with such a beautiful land, and what a great blessing for so many years to be able to call that land home; I can only hope that one day I can find such a sacred place, protect it, and share it with those I hold most dear.

After learning how to hydroplane across the Arizona washes, I found myself back in the ancient Puebloean ruins and just awash in a synergy of geometry, architecture, and the vastness and beauty of my surroundings. I started off on Hovenweep with the magnificence of the Square Tower group, just the beauty of geometry against a lovely canyon. Mesa Verde was exceptional and again, saddening. Such immense and wonderful structures and culture, and how little we know about these great people that came before us. Mesa Verde is really a phenomenal place. At so many other parks I could only see ruins from the distance, but here park rangers take you walking right through the ruins themselves. And the ruins in Mesa Verde are breathtaking. These really were gargantuan cities compared to all the ruins I saw before, and yet here you could walk among them and be a part of them. From the great kiva at Long House to climbing up the ladders to enter Balcony House, this was the closest I'd ever been to the ruins themselves, and the history provided by the ranger guides was wonderful. Such a rich history filled with mysteries makes me sad at such a great vibrancy that was lost.

With thunderstorms coming, I decided to avoid camping for the night and instead drive out to Great Sand Dunes NP. The skies were threatening, but all the rain held off. But I donned my rain gear to ward it all off and went out for a walk among the dunes. Just like at Death Valley, the sand in the dunes made flowing rivers of stone. The drizzle tried to become steady, the winds whipping it across my jacket, but the same winds made low flying streams of sand, reshaping the landscape in front of me and my own footprints behind me. With the wind whipping through them the dunes were alive, and the clouds racing past the mountains made the sky twist and bend between storm and light. Soon again the sun would poke through and give yet another rainbow on the horizon, but just for a minute, first stopped in awe and then paralyzed trying to see if film could capture such a fleeting angel. But such things were meant to be and, campground full, a hotel awaited with another night of staring at the atlas imagining the beautiful path yet to come.

Anxious, I woke up before the sunrise and got on the road as soon I would be up in the high Rockies and again stumbling around, awestruck as a child. What an honor to be able to step back and try just for a second to touch the sky. These mountains, their congregations of lakes, their choirs of waterfalls and babbling streams, they are our own window through which we can peer into the face of God, and forever they are here for all of us to enjoy, gaze upon, and share in the sheer immensity of wonder. These gargantuan mountains remind you of how insignificant we all are but again remind you of how blessed it is to be a small part of such a humbling world. And through all of the glory, the wind just howls through the canyons, irritating the aspens to break out into their percussive rhythmic song spawned by and married to the wind.

I ended my trip back in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Just as before, I arrived at the end of the day when the sun barely was able to reach down into the majestic chasm carved by this powerful river out from the volcanic rock. On the drive there this time I went across one of the dams restricting this river, a massive earthen pile of pebbles and rocks just daring the water to take it down. Long after we are removed from this world the river will finally win that challenge and again resume eroding away the rock and creating new foundations in this spired cathedral of God. How shameful and sad that I ran out of time...I must get back again to hike down to the bottom of the river and witness its rapids and hear its strong battle cry that could create such wonder.

Fortuitous timing had brought me clear camping nights, magnificent sunsets, majestic lightning, sunny hiking skies, and at least three rainbows stretching across the horizon. Every day my entire trip was filled with special moments, from meeting family long estranged to locating lonely peaks to capture one last time on gorgeous film. Even if the pictures do not tell a true tale, between the wonder of the history of the ancient Puebloeans and the majesty of the High Rockies, I can say that Colorado is a magical, beautiful, and blessed land and I hope to be able to return again to her soon.

The Photographs

In a few months Kodachrome will end, but before then again I hope to witness beautiful lands and gorgeous places for the last time capturing them on this, my favourite film. When I was a kid pouring over old second National Geographics, each photo would often have in the credits the film on which it was taken, and Kodachrome was always there. I am thankful I was given at least a few years with this film and maybe, just maybe, have also been able to capture with it just a bit of the wonder of this gorgeous world I've come to love.

I started off with a couple rolls of KR 64 and then finished with 7 rolls of PKL 200. I had embarked upon this trip as one of my final Kodachrome capture trips, but unfortunately after the second roll in Mesa Verde the built-in lightmeter in my old Minolta body went bezerk. I did my best to try and frame good shots with multiple exposures at multiple stops, and I hope some came out. Even if not, the entire experience between the ruins and the high Rockies was unimaginably great and I can't help but want to drive out there again.

Click "Next" in the upper right to begin.

Also, since I wasn't sure if all of my film was being exposed properly, I did take some pictures with my iPhone. It was the first time I tried to ever do some photography with it and it really seemed like a very wide angle lens to me, making composition erratic. Still I got some great photos to share and yet another reminder of what makes Colorado so majestic.