Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Day 12: The Mystery of the Smoky Skies

September 5: I woke up and hit the trail, but I passed a couple of small streams and decided to play with my fancy camera some more by taking long exposures of the streams. It was early in the morning so the light wasn't bright, and the streams were deep in the shade. I played around with the manual settings to get the longest exposure I could without overexposing the image, which turned out to be about 20 seconds. I didn't have a tripod to keep the camera steady during that time and would try resting it on rocks or the rail of the bridge crossing the creek so many of my photos turned out slightly blurry, but I really liked the silky look of the creek. It worked out well!

Smooth, silky water! =)

Almost immediately, I noticed that the sunrise was particularly colorful which, as the sun rose higher, I could tell was because there was a fair amount of smoke and haze in the air. I had no idea where the smoke came from, but I hoped and crossed my fingers that there wasn't a wildfire on the trail ahead. Later in the morning, when I got a cell phone signal, I texted Little Red--the friend who dropped me off at Waterton Canyon--about the smoke. I figured being local, she probably heard more information about local fires than most of my friends on the west coast would.

Definitely some smoky and hazy skies! Could there be a wildfire on the trail?

But the reply wasn't immediate, and my cell phone signal would come and go. So I hiked onward, not knowing if I was hiking into a wildfire or not.

I saw few people on the trail, but now that Labor Day weekend was over, I didn't to. The bicyclists were still gone since today I passed into the Mount Massive Wilderness and they were still on their detour since the Holy Cross Wilderness. (It's a 22-mile detour for them!)

Late in the afternoon, I got a reply to my text and Little Red said that the smoke was being blown in from wildfires in Montana, Wyoming and even California. California?! But that there were no major fires in Colorado much less directly affecting the trail. That made me happy! =)

But it still caused some pretty lousy views. I could barely see mountains that were as little as 10 miles away through all the smoke. Nothing I could do about that, however, so I didn't worry about.

The Colorado Trail led through the Mount Massive Wilderness, which is home to Mount Massive--the second highest peak in Colorado and the third-highest peak in the contiguous United States. But I wasn't really interested in climbing it because why? That wasn't my goal, and it wasn't even the highest peak of the state. It's a must-do for people trying to complete all of the 14,000-ft peaks in Colorado, but that wasn't my plan. So I skipped it.

The trail continued onward, eventually reaching the North Mount Elbert trailhead--the starting point for many people to want to summit Mount Elbert. Now this mountain I had wanted to do. It is the highest peak in Colorado, even if it's only the second-highest in the contiguous United States. (Mount Whitney, of course, is the highest.) By the time I reached that trail junction, however, it was late in the day and far too late to summit. Anyhow, the views from the top would probably suck because of all the smoke in the air.

So I pushed onward, eventually setting up camp by the South Mount Elbert trailhead where I made dinner, brushed my teeth, wrote in my journal and read my Kindle. My day was over!

If you look VERY closely at this photo, you can barely see a mountain range in the distance. I estimated the range was maybe 10 miles away, but I could hardly see them through all the smoke.
Another silky stream!

The highest point in Colorado is just a few miles away.... but I won't be hitting it on this trip!

Beaver pond! But I didn't see any actual beavers....

More evidence of beavers! This only happened about three weeks earlier!
Another beaver pond!
More beaver evidence

Sunset from camp


Unknown said...

All that smoke really stinks. Do you just breathe it? or do you carry any sort of face masks for that purpose? BBStacker

Ryan said...

I just breathe it. Unless the smoke is REALLY thick, I don't really smell it. In this case, it's something I could see from viewpoints, but I'd have never known there was smoke in the air if I hadn't been able to see the sky.

Eidolon said...

"second-highest in the contiguous United States"

What do you have against Alaska (the real #1-10)?!?