While it was nice to spend a leisurely day hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park coming off of my festival in Boulder, my main focus during the few extra days I had to spend in Colorado was actually a little further west. I came across a photo of this mountain in a book several years ago and it's stayed on my radar as one I wanted to see in person since. And though it's probably one of the more iconic peaks in Colorado, it does take a little work to get to. Ideally you would backpack in and set up camp in the vicinity in order to position yourself for sunrise- and I'd originally hoped to- but was unable to get one of the highly sought overnight wilderness permits for this area. So, I improvised. I decided to tackle it as a day hike, requiring a 2 am departure from the trailhead and a long walk in the dark to put myself in place for this spectacular view of early alpenglow.
I've been thinking- and writing- quite a bit lately about "what it takes" to be a nature photographer; and the things that usually aren't taken into consideration. Of course there's the required camera technique, development of editing skills... many of those technical, tangible factors that are easily overlooked by those that assume it's all about having expensive gear. But for some of us (depending on the scenes or locations we're seeking) there are intangibles required as well. It's not just having the skill (physical ability, navigational know-how, etc) required to set out through the forest or up the side of a mountain long before first light, but also the confidence to do it. I'm admittedly not usually the most self-confident person, and pretty much a train wreck in most social situations- but when it comes to wilderness travel, I do have faith in my abilities. I know that I can handle most backcountry situations, and that's not out of cockiness or a presumptive ego- but because I've proven it. I've traveled all over this country over the past 25 years, hiked thousands of miles, and it's given me a lot of experience to draw from. It's helped me to develop skills that aren't necessarily inherent with the geo-tag chasing roadside crowd- such as how to read avalanche conditions, how to cross a swollen river, or how to maintain bowel control when you come face to face with a pair of glowing eyes at four in the morning, six miles into the Colorado wilderness.
I'll have more of that story in my next newsletter, which subscribers can watch for in the coming days. (And if you haven't subscribed yet but would like to hear more from my travels, you can SIGN UP HERE.)
Of course the nice thing about an out-and-back hike, with the first half coming pre-dawn, is you get to see all of what you walked by (or crossed over) like it's the first time on your return. All in all it made for a great little adventure- well worth the early wake up, and one that left me eager for more.
Here's a little bit of what I saw...