Photo of the Week – June 27, 2014

A selection of photos from a prairie ecologist’s family vacation in the mountains of Colorado…

Rocky mountain stream.

A rocky mountain stream not far from the door of the cabin we stayed in last week.  South of Idaho Springs, Colorado.


Slow shutterspeed

Since I don’t see fast flowing water (or rocks) very often in my part of Nebraska, I don’t often get to play with the old photography trick of using a slow shutterspeed to show the movement of the water.


slow shutterspeed again

I spent way more time than I should have on the slow-shutterspeed-trick…


Where the snow is coming from...

We got to climb high enough to see the melting snow that was feeding all those streams.  It was fun to think about the fact that the snow melt we were looking at would be flowing right past us in the Platte River when we got home.  Hell’s Hole Trail.


Boys and I climbed up a ridge one evening.

One evening, the boys and I climbed up a ridge near our cabin just because it was there.


John thinks he's funny

John thought it was funny to pretend he was clinging to the edge of a cliff.  (His feet are solidly on the rocks below.)


Favorite part of mountains are above the tree line.

My favorite parts of the mountains are above treeline where I don’t feel so closed in.  Chief Mountain.


Dan also likes

Daniel (and his brother) lobbied hard to climb Chief Mountain, even though we’d done the same hike only a year before.  The scenery WAS very nice…


Bristlecone pine

Bristlecone pines are found only at very high elevations.  Both the live and dead ones are very picturesque.


Summit lake near Mount Evans.

One cool evening, we dodged some light showers and took a short uphill hike from Summit lake near Mount Evans.  The scenery was enough to take your breath away – though the 13,000 foot elevation helped with that as well…  


Mount Evans and Summit Lake.

A  panoramic view of Mount Evans and Summit Lake from the trail.


Douglas fir cone.

Of course, despite the gorgeous scenery, many of my  favorite photos from the trip were close-ups.  Just as in prairies, close-up photography helps me see details I would otherwise have missed.  For example, did you know Douglas fir cone had these funny little trident-like appendages on them?


Colorado spruce

A close-up of Colorado spruce needles.


Venus's slipper orchid, aka Fairly slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa).

Venus’s slipper orchid, aka Fairly slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa).  My wife found several of these near our cabin.  After I photographed one, I looked it up in one of the field guides in the cabin.  My favorite quote from the guide was: “Although one of our smallest orchids, Venus’s slipper is the most exquisite, as well as the most elusive.”

It was great to spend a week in cooler weather and see some different landscapes, and I really enjoyed the concentrated time with my family.  Pine and spruce woodlands are very pretty, though the alpine meadows above them were certainly my favorites.  I can see how some people really enjoy living in the mountains.  However, while I like short trips to the mountains, I am always glad to get back home to the wide open landscape of the Nebraska prairie.

Photo Of The Week – June 20, 2014

I am writing this from a cabin in the rocky mountains of Colorado.  (Can you call it a cabin if it’s got wireless internet and satellite TV?  Probably not…)  Anyway, we’re taking a family vacation this week, so I’ve been seeing some landscapes, plants, and animals I’m not used to.

However, I got a pleasant surprise yesterday when we reached the end of a long hiking trail in the Mount Evans Wilderness.  The terminus of the trail was a high, wide open meadow (elevation 11,500 feet) with scattered bristlecone pines and abundant blooming wildflowers.  It felt much more like home than the steep wooded slopes we climbed to reach it.  Many of the wildflowers looked like they must be related to plants I know from home, but I didn’t know what many of them were – with one exception.

Pasqueflower (Pulsatella patens) at 11,500 feet in the Mount Evans Wilderness south of Idaho Springs, Colorado.

Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) at 11,500 feet in the Mount Evans Wilderness south of Idaho Springs, Colorado.

I sure didn’t expect to see pasque flower at 11,500 feet elevation!  Can you believe a species found in the prairies of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska also thrives way up in the alpine meadows of Colorado?  That’s quite a range!

Pasqueflower seedheads in the same meadow.

Pasqueflower seedheads in the same meadow.

I’ll probably post some more photos from our trip next week.  For now, you can always go look at last year’s batch