Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sat, May 26, 2012: Devils Head Fire Tower

I was invited for a hike to Devils Head Fire Tower by a couple of friends, and couldn't wait to take Kaylee on her first real hike of the season.  I have visited this place before and loved it, but the most memorable part was the terrifying climb up to the fire tower... and then back down....

It all started with a peaceful hike through the pines and boulders.  I still wish I knew more about the geological processes that made this area a home for these random, smooth, enormous boulders (more here and here).  
The wind was deliciously strong (except when it threw dirt in our eyes - bad wind!), and the air was hazy with dust on all horizons.
The boulders were covered with lichens:
I love these delicate flowers.

The fire tower...
... is tall...
... and has a lot of steps leading up to it that are very steep...
(You do remember that I'm afraid of heights?!).  Kaylee bounded carelessly up the stairs in front of me, turning around every once in a while to look at me as if wondering why I did not share her enjoyment of the experience.  I clung to the railings with both hands and instructed myself not to look down, which worked up until the point where we crested the rocks and a dust-veiled view of the expansive prairie punched me in the stomach.  So... high... up.....!!!!  Honestly, I think some weird little part of me is starting to like the terror of being up high, but don't tell the rest of me that.

The wind on top of the rock crest was furious and strong, pushing me around and shaking that little fire tower between its hands.  I couldn't help walking around it, though, so I leaned into the wind and soaked in the views.
143 terrifying steps!
This is supposed to be the prairie. :)
And this would be Pike's Peak.  I can barely make it out.
I love being up high, over the world with everything so small below me.  It's one of the best reminders, perhaps tied with a nigh sky rich with stars, of how tiny I am and how little my problems truly are.  My student loan debt was nothing to the trees and the wind and the millions of years old rocks that function on an entirely different time scale than me.  To them, I am like a tiny ant that barely registers in their awareness. But to me, they are so expansive and strong and beautiful, and they remind me that what is good about my life is what matters, because it's all too short to waste it focusing on what is not good.
Somehow, the tower managed to remain fastened to the rock!
Going up was hard enough, but the descent is always more difficult as you're forced to be aware of just how high up you are....
*gulp*  I asked my friend to walk in front of me, and focused on one stair at a time.  Again, Kaylee pranced down (her leash held by my friend!) while I conquered one stair at a time.  When I reached the bottom I said, "Hooray, I'm alive!", and really meant it.  There is something powerful about successfully navigating a challenge that is scary but doable.
There are a couple of small aspen groves in the pine woods of this area, and this was one of them.  One of the aspen trees had grown up very close to the rock, so it looked like the rock actually pushed into the tree.  Aspens just feel... different, and the earth where they grew felt different too.  The light became filtered and shimmering through their trembling leaves, the space around us lighter and more open.
I wish I could wear a crown of aspen trees, and have the inside of my head feel that light and beautiful all the time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sun, May 20, 2012: Annular Eclipse

I was excited about the annular eclipse on the 20th for weeks, and wrote it down on my calendar as soon as I learned about it.  I've never photographed an eclipse before, and wanted to try some camera experiments to learn how.

I figured that since the eclipse was occurring around sunset, my best chance of seeing it would be if I drove out toward the prairie, to minimize the height of the mountains against the horizon.  It was a rainy weekend, but the skies cleared up that evening and swept all the clouds out to the grassy ocean.  The edge of the front looked mighty and mean, and I took a moment to send a quick thought in hopes that it would pass and leave everyone safe.
I parked myself off the side of the road near the small town of Watkins, next to some cows who were peacefully munching away at their dinner.
I didn't realize that an annular eclipse would still be so bright!  Next time, I will definitely have to purchase a filter.  I ended up with a fun surprise, though, and was able to watch the eclipse even without one.  All of the little sun spots that can happen when taking pictures of the sun were actually in the shape of the eclipsed sun, rather than the round circle that typically shows up.
I "watched" the eclipse by way of these sun spots, fascinated by this unexpected and awesome phenomenon.  This picture is of the sun at the height of the eclipse.  Even though it still burned bright in the sky, there was this weird darker-ish disc in front of it that was visible in the quick glance I turned in its direction.  As the star was mostly covered, its rays beamed out massively across the sky, and the light turned a weird yellowish reddish color.
As the eclipse passed, the sunbeams faded back into typical, gentle daylight.

Watching the sun spots was so cool. :)

Eventually, the sun spots stopped appearing on my camera, and the eclipse faded into what turned out to be a spectacular sunset.
I took this picture by accident, but love it.  Hello, grass ocean, bathed in golden eclipse sunset light.
The sun was spectacular.

The sky was so rich and deep with color.

It gave one more brilliant show of rays before mellowing out into a soft peach sky.
I loved having this experience, and the neatest thing about it is that it didn't go at all as I had planned.  Next time, I'd like to try photographing the eclipse with a filter (and hopefully knowing a little more about what I'm doing), but this time it was the perfect experience for me to have.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thurs, May 17, 2012: Cherry Creek Trail

After scraping the despair of Bob from myself, I experienced a renaissance of perception and sensation, awakening pieces of me that feel like they have been dormant all this long winter.  This doesn't mean that everything is suddenly, magically "fixed", but it does mean that I feel better able to handle the difficult things that life is throwing at me right now.

Kaylee and I went for a walk along the Cherry Creek Trail.  I felt like blinders were removed from my eyes for the first time this spring.  It's as if I've been transported from two years ago into a world that is suddenly and unexpectedly lush and colorful.  It's strange that all of life has been happening around me; I feel I've been more a drifter than a participant lately.

Usually I'm not a big fan of golf courses, especially when one considers how much water is required to keep all that grass alive under the hot Colorado sun.  This place, though, is an open expanse of soft green that I can see whenever I want, and I have grown to appreciate that.
I don't think I've ever seen so many yucca plants in bloom.
Happy puppy. :)

I like this little random stand of trees, tucked away into a forgotten corner of the golf course.
There were so many flowers out!

Even the cacti had new growths, which I think will turn into flowers?
I am enchanted by this highway overpass, which is kind of strange for me as I'm not usually enchanted by man made things.  I think I just like its lines and shapes and the way they reflect in the narrow creek.

There were old yucca seed pods on a lot of the plants, and their textures and colors were fascinating.  I don't think I've ever looked at them this up close.  The flowers drew me in, but the seed pods are what kept me staring at the plants, over and over.

Seeds... flowers... blue skies and sunshine... welcome, spring.