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Trips : Colorado : Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Almost anywhere in the state of Colorado can be considered scenic. But one of the most beautiful areas according to my folks, is the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. We have been there several times for wildflowers in the late summer, with our favorite trail being the Fourth of July Mine trail, with the Diamond Lake trail as a side trip.

As mentioned on the Colorado page, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is located within the Arapaho National Forest. This area was first reserved for public use by president Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. Thank you, Mr. President.

"Fourth of July Mine Trail"
Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
Big Picture

The wildflowers in Colorado start their blooming season earlier down in the valleys, and much later in the year as you go higher in the mountains. This particular picture was taken on a hike to the Fourth of July Mine. The picture was actually taken in August, however. The red flowers that you see are Indian Paintbrush, the blue and white are Columbine (the state flower of Colorado). I don't have an identification on the others.

I returned to this same spot a few years later, at about the same time of year. The wildflowers were still going in full force, but the patch was smaller. The other bushes and trees in the area had all grown, which meant that there was a smaller sunny spot for the wildflowers to grow in. Over time this particular patch may be totally gone.

"Diamond Lake Trail"
Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
Big Picture

The shot shown here is a small waterfall found on the Diamond Lake Trail. The water was really going that day, but more importantly the wildflowers were absolutely beautiful. And plentiful. And beautiful. And all over the place. And did I mention that they were beautiful? I hope my photographs (this one and more to come) will help you enjoy the hike as I did.

The flowers have been tentatively identified as Parry's Primrose.

"Across the Valley"
Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
Big Picture

Once you get a bit higher, the wildflowers give way to rocks and junipers. The junipers and other evergreen plants can live longer since they don't have to bloom. Life is tough at the top!

This particular picture was taken on the same hike as the previous picture. Most of the guidebooks for hiking in the summertime in Colorado suggest that you get up and down before the early afternoon. During the summer time the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains make for dangerous hiking due to fierce lightning storms that can develop with little or no warning.

My Dad has hiked Longs Peak (twice!), and each time he was up and on the trail very early in the morning to ensure that he could reach the summit and descend before the afternoon storms rolled in. For a sample of what one of these storms looks like, take a look at the Mount Evans tour.

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"Indian Peaks Flowers"
Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
Big Picture

This picture is from a different area of the park, but appears to be the same flowers. In the first picture the flowers were growing right on the bank of a stream, where they could "keep their feet wet." The water is harder to see in this picture, but it's there. What looks like a little path in the rocks was actually a trickle of water melting from a snowbank higher up.

I don't know what the smaller white flowers around the edges are at this time.

"Indian Peaks View"
Arapaho National Forest, Colorado
Big Picture

One of the more interesting and challenging photo techniques is the "near to far focus" trick. You want to take a picture of something close, but want to have the distant horizon in focus as well. This technique requires an understanding of the Hyperfocal Distance, and you will be able to read about it on the Techniques page later on if you want.

That was the technique that I used on this image, in order to get the wildflowers (Indian Paintbrush, etc.) in focus in the foreground, and maintain the focus on the mountains in the background. This picture is probably one of my favorites from this trip. The sky has just the right amount of interestingly shaped clouds. The snowbank helps transfer the white clouds to the ground. And, well, heck, it's just a nice picture. I hope that you enjoy it!

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