Thursday, October 25, 2012

Final Trek

Starry night?
No ...
... it's a beaver pond, sparkling in the autumn light.

Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service warned that it was the last day of Indian Summer, and advised that work be set aside for one last trek in the Laramie Mountains. First stop was Pole Creek.  Experimenting with my point-and-shoot, I discovered that fast shutter speeds could capture sparkles dancing in the wind on a night-black surface.  It was fun playing with wind, water and sunlight!  I could have spent a lot of time there, but we had miles to go.
There wasn’t a leaf left on the quaking aspen, fall color was gone.  Landscapes were gray, brown, blue, white and coniferous green.
Common juniper and Sherman granite.
Red squirrel working on a lodgepole pine cone.
Quaking aspen.
This one has green bark (young aspen can photosynthesize with their bark!)
Then suddenly, a flash of yellow!  It was a lone dandelion along the trail.  I like dandelions, often the first and last blooms of the year.

We reached the Death Crotch Trail.  Ominous?  maybe for mountain bikes, but it’s a great hike, only moderately strenuous.  In less than a mile we were at the crest of the Laramie Mountains, with distant views east.  It was blowing so hard that it was difficult to stand still and take photos.
Communing with Sherman granite.
Great Plains in the distance, with wind farm (right of the dead tree, click to view).
Do we really need to farm wind in Wyoming?!
From the top it was down, down, down and then down some more, all the way to ...

... the Enchanted Forest!!
Here there was no wind, in fact no sound at all except for dead leaves crunching underfoot.  The aspen were bare, but still it was an enchanting place to be, as always (you can see the Enchanted Forest in its fall finery here).  A short break, a snack, a few more photos -- then it was time to go.  It was only 3 pm, but already getting cold.  Winter’s not far off!

The Happy Jack trails tour the crest of the Laramie Mountains in southeast Wyoming, just north of Interstate 80 only 12 miles east of Laramie and about 35 miles west of Cheyenne.  Weekends are busy, but use is surprisingly light during the week.  Trails are open to hikers, bikers, horses and dogs.  The area is managed by Medicine Bow National Forest (parking fees at some trailheads), but the best maps are available from the Pedal House in Laramie.

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