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Recent Adventures

If you thought I had forgotten to blog for the month of April, congrats! You were almost right! The last time I wrote was at the beginning of March, so nearly two whole months have elapsed since my last post.

Clouds blow over the summit of Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
The past two months blew past like these clouds over Long’s Peak!

In fairness to myself, work has been exceptionally busy and I write this blog in my free time. But enough about that! You’re here for some photos!

It turns out spring in Colorado – in the mountains, specifically – is a wild time. The weather is about as unpredictable as it is in Iowa, but instead of rain we get snow. Thankfully, on the days where I have gone to shoot photos, the weather has been mostly cooperative.

Snow and ice cover parts of a road through trees.
Hidden Valley, Trail Ridge Road

I took the above photo in mid-March in Rocky Mountain National Park. Steep valleys, narrow roads, and northerly slopes provide ample shadows for the snow to linger in. Plus, much of the snow that melts on warmer days refreezes overnight, creating tons of ice.

This next photo is of some wetlands near where I took the previous shot. Here’s the thing: this was nearly a month later. But given the elevation and location of these wetlands, snow and ice were still plentiful. I know that should not be surprising, but it is still kind of a weird difference compared to the plains.

A creek flows through frozen grass in an alpine wetland.
Wetlands at the Beaver Ponds in RMNP.

One of the things I learned on this shoot was how much more common wetlands are in Colorado than in to Iowa. My old state ranks third in the country for most wetlands destroyed, at least according to this report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with just about 1.2 percent of wetland coverage remaining. Despite having a more arid environment overall, the Colorado Wetland Center estimates Colorado’s surface is comprised of just under 3 percent wetlands.

The NPS signs near these wetlands read in part:

“Beaver dams once blocked the stream flow here, creating a pond. Silt and rich organic debris carried down from Hidden Valley accumulated behind the dam. In time, the dams decayed, draining the ponds and leaving fertile soil over 20 feet deep.

Sedges and grasses grow in this newly established soil to form marshes. Lush meadows will develop. Over time as tree seedlings invade the open space creating a new subalpine forest of pine, spruce and fir trees.”

A blue heron sits among tree branches
Although not at a real wetland, I spotted this blue heron at a lake in Denver's City Park.

Speaking of wetlands and associated wildlife, one of my friends at work happens to be an enthusiastic birder. I often rely on her to identify birds I have photographed after the fact, so I owe her my sincerest thanks.

In addition to identifying the above blue heron, she also told me this bird below is not a crow and is actually a raven. Thankfully, I did not need her help to identify the following birds, some turkeys.

A raven sits on a fence post.
I saw this raven at Lily Lake. Quoth the raven, “Stop taking pictures of me.”
Two wild turkeys sit on a rock in Rocky Mountain National Park
I took this photo of wild turkeys in Horseshoe Bend in Rocky Mountain National Park.

In another exciting development, the warming weather is a sign that other forms of wildlife are returning to higher elevations, too. On a trip up to the mountains earlier this week, I encountered a herd of elk marching along Highway 7.

I had my longest lens attached to my camera at the time, which significantly limited my field of view. However, I was still able to pull over and get this shot below.

Elk graze in a meadow with mountains in the background.
The elk return to Estes Park.

This was part of a longer trip up into the mountains specifically to try my hand at some more astrophotography. The last time I got satisfactory shots of the stars was back in September 2021, so I was a bit nervous going out. At the same time, I was also pretty excited to put a newly acquired camera body to the test.

Prior to going out, I had to check the weather and moon phase, map my route, get some fuel, and make sure I had spare coats and blankets in my car just in case. As an aside, part of the reason this post is so delayed is because I was waiting for a new moon to try to get this shot before posting again. Once I was confident the long drive would be worth it, I set out and got to work.

And I think it is safe to say it was well worth it.

The galactic core of the Milky Way rises over Estes Park, CO.
The Milky Way over Estes Park, April 29, 2022.

I know this is already a long post, but I would be remiss if I did not remind you to always make sure someone knows you are heading out if you are going by yourself.

And with that said, I think I will wrap it up there. Now that the warm weather is returning, I will try to post more often and ideally with more photos of wildlife instead of just landscapes. If you want to see more photos or videos of what my trips for astrophotos are like, check out my Instagram @zaakarybarnes.

Thanks for reading and as always, fly safe!

2 comentarios

Love this Zaak, great shot & story Glad you’re having such fun adventures

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As usual, great shots, Zaak!

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