A larch in front of other larches

Looking for larches

Move over, aspens. There’s a new fall tree in town.

This weekend, Cobalt and I went on an epic hike in search of larches, trees I had never heard about until a few weeks ago. These needley trees look like your typical evergreens during the summer, but then in the fall the needles turn yellow and fall off, like your typical deciduous trees. So cool!

In addition, it’s been two years since Cobalt and I have lived in Colorado, and we missed our fall tradition of seeing the glorious aspens turn yellow against the bright blue Colorado sky.

So when we found out that the Pacific Northwest has larches, we knew we had to go find them.

It’s not exactly easy. Larches in the state of Washington live at high elevation (~5,000 ft) in the northern part of the Cascade mountain range. So we had about a three-hour drive to wiggle northeast to the Cascades and then up.

But it turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive. To get to the Cascades, we drove through tunnels of orange and yellow trees that were shrouded in fog. Perfect for people who love fall and Halloween. Then as we climbed into the mountains, the sun came out and we were surrounded by outstanding views of the craggy mountains in this mountain range. Seriously, it was jaw-dropping.

My co-worker had recommended that we do the Cutthroat Pass trail, because it would definitely get us high enough to see larches (the trailhead is about 4,000 feet), and it would possibly be less crowded than other popular hikes in the area. The weather was too perfect though, so I think half of the state of Washington had the same idea we did.

Anyway, the trail was great! It was coated in snow, which ranged from a little dusting at the beginning to more prominent snow as we climbed. But the sun was out, so we weren’t too cold. We had INCREDIBLE views of the surrounding mountains, and we started to see larches nestled on them as the trail went on. Then suddenly, at about 6,000 feet, we found ourselves surrounded by these beautiful turning-yellow trees…. and all the other humans who had come out to find them.

We found them!!!
Cobalt admiring the view

Cobalt and I wandered around the larches for a while, taking pictures and getting to know them.

Getting up close and personal with a larch….

Their needles are thinner than those of other needled trees I’ve encountered, so they felt feathery and soft. Their softness and the way they were organized on the branches made the branches look like yellow pipe cleaners jutting out of the trunks. For some reason, the twisty nature of the larch branches made me think of skeletons. Not sure why.

Similar to other deciduous trees, each larch needle turns yellow in its own time. It makes for a gorgeous mix of yellow and green on any given tree.
Looks spiky but soooo soft…

After meandering through larches and humans, we found a large rock in the sun and decided to stop for lunch. We enjoyed our excellent views of the larches and the light breeze that swept across the area while we munched on carrots and cheese.

Also part of the lunch view: This neat mushroom!

Then it was time to head back down. :(

These little puffs caught my eye as we headed back down. I like that you can see the larches in the background.

These trees are magical. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again next year — or maybe next week. I miss them already.

Leaving you with some mushrooms and a baby tree!

Los Alamos

If you don’t immediately associate today’s post with the Las Conchas fire or with evacuation and possibly losing your home, you should probably go google the “Las Conchas fire” near Los Alamos, NM. I feel so helpless here in Colorado, far away from everything crazy going on down there. So this is my way of showing support to those who have been evacuated and those who are working hard to contain this crazy wildfire. Seriously, if there is anything I can actually do to help, please let me know. *goes and does a rain dance*
I think this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. See for yourself:

Sunset over Pagosa Springs

This picture is from our first day in Pagosa Springs, CO a few weeks ago. See that storm lurking over the mountains? Yeah, we drove through it. It was epicness. Kind of nice to be safe on the other side. Anyway, we were driving back to our hotel after dinner/exploring the town and looked behind us to see this gorgeous sunset. I loved everything about it – the red mountain, the looming clouds that only loom so far and then disappear, etc. Fun times. We had to stop so I could take a picture. I liked messing with the f stop settings to try to enhance the contrast between the dark clouds and the bright red mountain… :)

Only 850 miles to go!

Cobalt and I have rediscovered the disposable camera. It’s funny in a day where people are obsessed with trying to get their crisp digital or phone pictures to “look old” when really, all you need is a plastic disposable film camera to get the same effect. Of course finding someone to develop the pictures for you is a bitch, but it’s worth it I think. Remember when disposable cameras were the in thing? I remember packing 2 or 3 of them whenever we went on band trips. Then as soon as I got home, I’d use up the rest of my film taking pictures of my cats/family before running the cameras over to the 1 hour photo (double prints were a must). The next day at school, we’d swap pictures so that everyone could have a full story of the hilarity that happened. It was so rich and so fun and now it is so gone… It’s weird to me.
Anyway, nostalgia over. Last May, Cobalt and I bought a disposable camera on a whim and it followed us around as we went various places over the summer. And then we forgot about it until we went to Pagosa Springs last week. Obviously accidentally dropping a plastic disposable camera into a hot spring would be not as bad as dropping a digital camera in so the disposable camera got to go to the hot springs! We finished the roll and got the film developed in Pagosa Springs. And then we got to have the joy of looking at our prints. Look at the colors! Look at this hilarious thing that we did that we forgot about! Look look look! We immediately went out and bought a new disposable camera…
Anyway, disposable camera story over. This picture. This picture is from our epic road trip from Colorado to California (This is in Wyoming) to visit my family last summer. Looking out at the long road ahead. I like it. I like my stuffed octopus (his name is Nico and he lives in the car) at the bottom. I like his reflection. I like the clouds. I like the colors. So much fun.

Black and white: Dry

Also from my walk with Cobalt last weekend (see! I took some landscape pictures and I used my old(er) zoom lens!). I really like this picture. I think the trees and the clouds in the background are pretty ominous. I also like the pokey guys in the left hand corner of the picture, just peeking in to see if it’s safe.

Black and White: And suddenly it gets very flat…

One of my favorite things about Boulder is how it seems to exist in a state of transition. On the one side, it has these gorgeous mountains/giant flatirons that erupt out of the earth and on the other side, it is just SO FLAT. It is just so weird to be hiking up in the hills and look down at all the flatness as far as the eye can see. I come from the land of rolling Californian hills so this strange combination never ceases to interest me…

Here we are, two across a river

(Today’s title is from Lucy Wainwright Roche’s song “Bridge”)
So yesterday I talked about how black and white is good for composing photographs (and inspiring creative pictures) but today I am going to tell you that color can be awesome too! Once I saw those red bushes, I knew I needed to use them in a photograph. They are just so vivid! In this picture, I like that there are red bushes on one side of the creek and brown bushes on the other. I also like the fact that the creek is flowing from the left hand corner of the picture and then it wiggles its way through the picture after that. If you recall my post from November when I talked about composition and how the lines draw your eyes can give you a certain inherent ease or unease about the picture, this would be an example of something pleasing. The post from November, if you don’t remember, was an example of something that should give you a sense of unease.

Black and White: Icy Reflections

This was another picture I took this weekend with photographer’s block weighing heavily on my brain. I got the idea to shoot this picture in black and white from this article, which I mentioned yesterday as well. In the article, she suggests taking black and white pictures so as to draw the viewer’s attention to something else besides the colors in the picture. I talked a little bit about my feelings on black and white photography before in my picture of the sideways gate. I think that shooting in black and white makes you think harder about the composition of the photograph and what you really want as the most important part of the picture. All that thinking and crafting is definitely good for jolting your creativity, especially when you have a half frozen creek in front of you to photograph. For this picture, I decided I would use black and white to try to draw people’s attention to the water, with its lazy ripples, as it flows through the iciness of the creek.

Cell Phone Picture: Tilt Landscape!

Whoa… This picture turned out crazily. I took this picture on Monday morning on my way to work. I really liked the clouds hanging low over the houses in the background and the wet streets (all that snow from last Friday’s post had finally melted… although it snowed again yesterday so we have a fresh coat of snow everywhere) just looks really nice to me. It felt very “new” to me and it made me wonder if it was secretly spring and we’d just had a nice spring rain (oh wait… we get spring snow here in Boulder… :p). It was a good feeling and a good way to start out the week, I think. Part of me wonders if I was half asleep when I took the picture though… That might explain why everything seems strangely skewed (especially that lamp post)… Cell phone pictures are supposed to be easy to take, right? :) I hope you all have great weekends!