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all signs point to fall

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Recipe: pear liqueur and pear garden cocktail

The nights are getting longer, but I’m sleeping less thanks to all of the goings on of fall. This is when events and people converge on my calendar in the same place and time, squeezed into the little spaces between shoots. It is the most frenetic time of year for me and also the most glorious – especially when the leaves are so good. I’ve been plowing through my latest photos because I hate having an enormous backlog to process. The way this season is shaping up guarantees a backlog at some point. Here are some photos from the road trip to Crested Butte and Aspen.


healthy gold stands near gothic

the maroon bells at sunset

confetti slopes

reds



There is something magical about aspen stands in autumn, as if they give off more light than is actually present. Our aspens (the quaking aspen or American aspen) glow when they turn yellow. Even when the sun isn’t shining on them, they appear like a beacon of golden light. This is usually because they keep company with dark green pines. Aspens are the first trees to move into alpine meadows and scree slopes around these parts. Although they can be found between 5,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation, we typically encounter them between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Aspens create a nice nursery for pine saplings which grow and eventually overtake their shelters. So when you walk through the forests in our Colorado mountains and step from the shade of the pine forest into an aspen stand, it’s as if someone poured a bucket of sunshine on your head. Stand quietly and wait for a breeze to move through the aspens. You’ll be surrounded by the sound of a million little leaves clapping joyfully. It makes me feel like clapping too.

mount elbert (14,440 ft)

afternoon clouds moving in

sunlit

understory of wild rose

orange aspen with red tips



You can find the entire set on the photo blog.

But autumn isn’t just about the colors. Up the road from where I live is a place you may have heard of… Rocky Mountain National Park? I don’t spend much time there except to take out-of-town guests. We have equally excellent wilderness closer to our house without the throngs of tourons. While Rocky has some decent stands of aspen, it doesn’t get me excited the way the southwestern quarter of the state does. I’ll tell you what is a sure bet and a lot of fun to shoot in fall: the elk. Elsewhere you can shoot the elk or shoot the elk, but in the national park, you can only shoot them with a camera. So that’s what Jason and I did the other day. It’s the rut, when the bull elk are continuously running around salivating, bugling, trying to hang on to their harem of cows while chasing off any other male competitor. It’s exhausting just watching them.


sparring in the tall grasses

bugling

it’s all about the ladies



I love the sound of elk bugling, especially early in the morning when mist hangs low over the frosted ground in the backcountry. They don’t tend to noodle about too much during the daytime, but in Rocky Mountain there are certain locations where your chances of seeing elk are better than good. This particular male was dealing with two competing bulls, one of which stole a cow while the male was off challenging the other bull. He never rested long if ever. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t approach or harass bull elk during the rut (or ever, but especially during the rut) because they can be incredibly aggressive and do you some serious harm.

i am aggressive

you’re not the boss of me!



The entire set from Rocky Mountain National Park can be viewed on the photo blog.

And of course, let’s not forget fall fruits. They are the subtle and sophisticated flavors that follow in the footsteps of their summer cousins. I haven’t quite had my fill of heirloom tomatoes yet (I don’t think I ever will), but I know their season is ending soon and it’s time to move on. I have a slight obsession with vodka infusions and the latest one is just in time for your fall bounty of pears. I did a little research and learned that comice or seckel pears are the sweetest and best to use for vodka infusions. They actually had both at the store which meant I had to try both…


comice on the left, seckel on the right

peel, core, dice



**Jump for more butter**

cool it with a lava flow

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Recipe: lava flow

Everything seems to be converging on August: visitors, good-byes, workshops (!!), travel, work. Instead of freaking out, I’m in that state of quiet panic while I watch everything fly past me in this surreal slow motion. Maybe it’s my allergy meds? But my allergy medications are good to me because I could stand in a field of hip-deep weeds without sneezing my brains out to get a shot of this the other day:


double rainbow in stormy weather, baby

the primary was super bright



After a spate of several hot and cloudless days, that storm and the cool air it brought was more than welcome. It’s my favorite way to escape the heat in mountain summer since we don’t have air conditioning and we can’t really work in the basement. I find it helps tremendously to drink a glass of ice water. It is my favorite beverage in summer and keeps me on an even keel. But once or twice each summer I will make lava flows to cool down.

i’m really all about the ice

…and fruit



What is a lava flow? It’s just piรฑa colada and strawberry dacquiri, but I love it because it’s fruity and cold. I also dig anything that refers to a geologic phenomenon that is totally amazing to witness. Here’s some lava from 2005 (the Big Island of Hawai’i)…

ocean entry

cream of coconut and pineapple for the piรฑa colada part

the ice is critical



**Jump for more butter**

signs of summer

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Recipe: blood orange green tea slushie

For a girl who gushes about winter as much as I do, I must admit that I say “I can’t wait for summer!” a lot. Summer is a lovely concept: wildflowers, hiking and backpacking, cool evenings, mountain biking, summer produce, grilling, open windows, trail runs, hummingbirds, ice cold drinks, afternoon lightning storms, neighbor kids screaming and laughing on their trampoline. That’s because my brain has selectively forgotten about mosquitoes, sunburn, heat, the unrelenting sun, hordes of tourists, pine pollen, dusty trails, and tacky, greasy sunblock. Well, summer has arrived.


she can’t go as far anymore, but she still loves her hikes

and the aspens are finally starting to leaf

caught the tail end of the pasque flowers

a cluster of three

the ever-charming western wallflower



There are signs that usually cue me in to the arrival of summer like the first pasque flowers to bloom on our local trails or the yellow-green haze that develops on aspen stands as their leaves bud. We are typically out exploring and observing these changes throughout the month of May, but May got away from us for a number of reasons this year. Catching these visual signals sets my mind at ease as if Nature is on schedule and the routine resumes. But Nature isn’t on schedule. Spring is late in the mountains, hanging about on the couch like a guest who has overstayed their welcome. Now that Summer has arrived it must contend with the mess Spring left behind. It’s not such a bad mess though…

the intersection of spring and summer: the bike-ski



Spring left a lot of snow in the backcountry. A LOT of snow. I heard on my local public radio station that the Colorado snowpack is 254% of average. No kidding. As we rode to the trailhead with our skis on our packs, we passed 12-15 foot drifts of snow. A forest service ranger said we had a good thirty feet of snow sitting on the backcountry. Then he smiled at our skis and said, “Have fun!”

unpack the ski gear, stash the bikes

that’s what i’m talking about

jeremy ducking out of the wind

happy to have the ski boots off and a fast bike ride back



While I’m anxious to have the trails melt out for some good high-country hikes, I have to admit that I love the fact that there is so much snow. It’s like the best of both worlds because I can ski in short sleeves! More exhausting than the physical exertion is the sun exposure. That sun sucks the energy right out of me – or maybe it’s because I get cranky when I’m hot. The rest of the day, I crave cold beverages. My beverage of choice? Ice water. Next? Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea). After that? Anything tea slushie with boba. I can dig a slushie year-round, but it is mandatory in summer.

how about a green tea slushie?

with raspberry and blood orange



**Jump for more butter**