On October 13 in Loveland, Colo., the day before a hard freeze and a six-inch snowfall, the flowers I’d planted on the west side of my house were still going pretty strong. That was no thanks to me, since I’m a novice gardener and not strong enough or educated enough to do the proper things, like amending the soil and fertilizing. (All I know how to do is buy the plants at Lowe’s and plop them into the dirt.) But these flowers have been very forgiving of me for the past few months. I was especially surprised to see foxglove blooming in October. And even now, on October 24, after the snow and the cold, the verbena still has blossoms. Even if the perennials among these don’t overwinter, I’ve gotten my money’s worth of enjoyment out of them.
For this year’s aspen photos I drove the 24-mile Guanella Pass Scenic Byway from Highway 285 north to Georgetown. The road starts out gently on the south side of the pass and gradually ascends. The aspens were at their peak, and flowers were still blooming here and there.
It was a beautiful Friday. These photographs show no hint of the sizable crowds at the Summit Overlook (elev. 11,669 feet); this is definitely “curated” reality. Something I’m learning about Colorado in 2018: There are now so many people driving the drives and hiking the trails that you must be a very fit person to find solitude in the mountains. Every trailhead I passed in eight hours of driving, from Highway 285 up through Clear Creek Canyon, had a pretty full complement of cars. A number of people were hiking the Square Top Mountain trail (below), which originates at Summit Overlook on Guanella Pass. It was an unusually warm day, probably at least 70 degrees at the pass and breezy.
This afternoon I drove up to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, located about 15 miles north of Fort Collins and about 10 miles south of the Wyoming border. The last several miles are on a very well graded dirt-and-pea-gravel road. I went to the north parking lot, where there was only one other car, and walked a short trail to a site that overlooks a former archaeological dig, now restored to prairie. This is some of what I saw. I’m still working on an identification for a couple of the plants. I’m also a bit puzzled by the rocks atop the fenceposts—are they decorative, or do they have some sort of significance I can’t read?
The sense of remoteness and the solitude were gratifying, very different from the isolation of being at home. It was a beautiful, unusually cool day for August and it was windy; my ears actually got cold. I was fine in a T-shirt but began thinking longingly of earmuffs; what a strange sight that combination would make! A hat or scarf would have done the trick. I want to return to this area soon with my Olympus and my binoculars.
Note: I have since learned that the purpose of the rocks is to divert water, thus preventing deterioration of the tops of the posts. Thanks to Michael Bliss for telling me this.
The puddle in question had some kind of plant matter—cottonwood seeds, perhaps, or sawdust—floating in it in great eddies. The photographic result made me think of clouds, waves, nebulae. Taken on Larimer Street, River North Art District, Denver. Cropped, with some color adjustment, and montaged.
Today I dropped off a photograph for an exhibit at RedLine Contemporary Art Center in Denver (yay! finally got into a Denver show!). Afterwards I headed up Larimer Street for a bite to eat and found myself in what is now called the River North Art District (RiNo for short). It appears to be a rundown industrial warehouse district now partially converted into a trendy, edgy place full of brewpubs, coffee houses, smoke shops, and clubs, many of which host little art shows. It’s the kind of place where you may need to know by word of mouth that there’s an entertainment venue behind a particular unmarked door.
I got a burger at Denver’s recently opened Shake Shack, a chain I hadn’t heard of until the local news channels trumpeted this arriving business as if the second coming was at hand. Then I wandered a few blocks down Larimer Street to Denver Central Market, which houses various eateries and places to buy gourmet foods. In between I took photographs of some of the abundant street art in this district, mainly vibrant murals many of which take their style and inspiration from graffiti.
RiNo seems to be a rapidly changing area. To help label some of my images I consulted Google Maps, which had photos dating to June 2017 and September 2017. Already some of the murals have been reworked and many more appear to have been added. I hope someone is systematically documenting the street art in this area. It would make an interesting book.
Last weekend I took my sister to the annual Denver Chalk Art Festival in Larimer Square. We went on Saturday; as we discovered, most of the pictures are not finished until Sunday, so that’s when we should have gone. Here’s a sampling of what we saw. Unfortunately, I don’t have the artists’ names for any of them. The portrait of the woman in white was especially interesting: The picture itself was oddly elongated, but a piece of paper taped to the ground in front of it directed you to stand there and look through your camera lens. And voilà, the picture appeared in proper perspective. It’s funny to think of the thousands of photographs of this picture that now exist in Colorado. Other chalk artists set themselves the task of reproducing a painting; the photo of the American Indian with the buffalo robe shows a detail of one of these.
I’m keenly missing many things from Southern Illinois—besides my friends, I mean, whom I miss constantly. Maybe it’s time to tally up a few things I like about Colorado and Loveland, to allay a sort of disoriented feeling I’ve been getting lately when I ponder that I really live out here now:
- Cool nights even on hot days.
- Lilacs. The lilacs out here grow much larger and bloom much longer than they do in Southern Illinois. (I guess the cold nights agree with them.) The large lilac in my yard bloomed for a full month this May. And in Loveland there are enough lilac bushes to perfume the air for several weeks.
- Rocky Mountain National Park. Now that U.S. 34 is once again open through Big Thompson Canyon, it’s less than an hour away. Also: The Peak-to-Peak Highway, which runs from Black Hawk to Estes Park, and the drive from Fairplay over the mountains to Breckinridge. I’m itching to do some mountain drives that are new to me.
- The sky. Although I don’t see as much of it as I’d like to, I see enough to appreciate that the clouds are very interesting out here. If it weren’t for the fact that winters and summers are both more extreme out on the open plains, and everything so remote, I’d like to live out there. Since my house has no mountain view, I wish it at least had a good view of the sky. Fortunately, things open out just a block or two from home.
- Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland, which has more than 100 works of art, mostly bronzes, in a very pretty pond setting.
- Aspens, of course, and columbines, with their lovely molded five-cupped centers.
- Tokyo Joe’s, a “fast-casual” chain where I can get a big bowl of udon noodles, veggies, and wild salmon for $11.65. Oh, and New York–style pizza bought by the slice. Yeah, they have that here! I wouldn’t be my mother’s daughter if I didn’t mention food in some fashion.
- No chiggers! As Calvin Trillin knows, this is never the least consideration in any list of positive attributes.
That’s a start. More later, I hope.
Composite of four photographs of wrought iron and shadows. Taken in Nederland, Colorado, with my iPhone.
Detail of ice sculpture, Loveland Fire and Ice Festival 2018. iPhone photograph.
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so here’s a crazy-tight crop of an ice sculpture featured at Loveland, Colorado’s Fire and Ice Festival. The resolution is terrible, but I love the colors. iPhone photograph.