NH Photography: Revisiting the Colorado of My Youth

Do our past experience influence our lives in the present?  Of course they do.  Usually it is our past interpersonal experiences that we think of as shaping us today but our natural environment also can play a big role as well.  This second collection of photos from family trip to the western US last summer reflects the places that I was regularly exposed to as a youth.  I reflect briefly on how these scenes have influenced me as I share some of my favorite images from Colorado .

I will start out in Grand Junction, Colorado where I lived from the ages of 4 to 11.  Grand Junction sits in a valley at the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers.  We lived at the edge of town on the on the south side.  To the north a chain of mountains called the book cliffs  (image below) overlooked the city.

The "bookcliffs" overlooking Grand Junction Colorado.  I took this from the front windshield just before getting on I70.  Photo: Joel Duff

The ” book cliffs” overlooking Grand Junction Colorado. I took this from the front windshield just before getting on I70. Photo: Joel Duff

Arial view of the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction Colorado

Arial view of the Book Cliffs north of Grand Junction Colorado

I took this image with my Nikon camera while driving. Not the safest or best way to take a picture but not a bad picture though a windshield.  What you can’t see here is that the book cliffs are the result of the tipping up of a huge set of sedimentary rock layers. If you were able to climb to the top you would find that the other side is just gently sloping.  The beautiful colors come from many layers of shale rock which were deposited under varying conditions resulting in different chemical compositions.  The cliffs at the top of this ridge the result of a top layer of hard sandstone that doesn’t erode as easily.

A panoramic image of my "backyard" at the edge of Orchard Mesa south of Grand Junction.

A panoramic image of my “backyard” at the edge of Orchard Mesa south of Grand Junction.

I took this image in 2013 but this hardly looks any different than it did in the 1970s. This is what I would see if I walked to the end of the block and looked south (see Google Maps image below).  about the only difference was the fence wasn’t there at the time. I could just go an any direction.  I spent a lot of time looking at rocks and finding fossils here.  Those fossils were almost all gastropods shells which were something like a clam and sharks teeth both of which represented organisms that lived in shallow oceans.  Naturally, when you are looking at such fossils you wonder how they got there.

Google maps image of the area south of Grand Junction. The arrow points to the are in the picture above. Image Credit: Google Maps Inc.

Google maps image of the area south of Grand Junction. The arrow points to the are in the picture above.  The river to the south is the Gunnison and the river to the north is the Colorado River. Image Credit: Google Maps Inc.

The desert and mountains were a constant part of my life.  When your are around fossils and layered rocks you spend a lot of time thinking about them and though I might not have thought specifically about the age of the Earth I made a lot of observations that later one I could use to evaluate the claims of geologists and creationists  when those questions inevitably were thrust upon me.

The Gunnison River just below the Blue Mesa Dam.

The Gunnison River just below the Blue Mesa Dam west of Gunnison Colorado.

Further upstream on the Gunnison River is the Black Canyon and even further upstream of that is this pretty gorge just below the Blue Mesa Dam. After leaving the town of Gunnison we made a short stop here to take a hike.

Sandstone fins stand in the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO.

The evening sun strikes sandstone fins in the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO.

Growing up we never visited Colorado Springs but this summer we stopped as a small city park there called Garden of the Gods. What an amazing little park. Here red sandstone rock have been topped vertically and then eroded to created this long fins standing hundreds of feet tall.  Pikes Peak could be seen off in the distance and then the high Colorado plains to the east.  This same set of red sandstone rocks goes all the way up to Denver.

Vertical sandstone "fins" at Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Spring, CO.

Vertical sandstone “fins” at Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Spring, CO.

Approaching the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado from Montrose Colorado

Approaching the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado from Montrose Colorado

House in the ghost town of Animas Forks near 12,000 feet high in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton Colorado.

Some of my kids in the windows of a house in the ghost town of Animas Forks near 12,000 feet high in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton Colorado.

We spent 4 days in Silverton Colorado one of the highest towns in the US  at 9318 feet above sea level.  From there we drove up to nearly 12,000 feet including the above ghost town of Animas Forks.  My parents brought me here in the middle 1970s which I still remember. My dad took a picture of me in this same building which hardly looks as if it has aged a day since I last saw it 35 year ago (note the walkway to the door has been restored).

My daughter hanging out in Cunningham Gulth near Silverton CO in July of 2013. Photo: Joel Duff

My daughter hanging out in Cunningham Gulth near Silverton CO in July of 2013. Photo: Joel Duff

Cunningham Gulch is the termination of a small valley that comes off the main valley cut by the Animas River.  We spent several hours here hiking and playing in the mountain creek.  This was the kids favorite place in our time in the San Juan mountains in Colorado.

Silene acaulis variety subacaulescens (Moss Campion) in the Pink or Carnation family. Photo: J. Duff

Silene acaulis variety subacaulescens (Moss Campion) in the Pink or Carnation family. Photo: J. Duff

This is a clump of a moss campion plant growing in the Cunningham creek rock bed.  This is a member of the carnation family. The compact short leaves protect the plant from the harsh weather as well as preserve it when the creek floods.

Sunflowers (I believe in the genus Helenium) along the Animas River about 10,000 feet in elevation.

Sunflowers (I believe in the genus Helenium) along the Animas River about 10,000 feet in elevation.

You can't visit the Colorado mountains without taking the obligatory columbine flower picture.  Unfortunately it was quite breezy and so I didn't get many good flower pictures but I thought this one was alright.

You can’t visit the Colorado mountains without taking the obligatory columbine flower picture. Unfortunately it was quite breezy and so I didn’t get many good pictures of flowers but I thought this one was alright.

Animas River east of Silverton Colorado on the way to the ghost town of Animas Forks

Animas River east of Silverton Colorado on the way to the ghost town of Animas Forks

Comments

  1. You have some great photography skills, and great nature to capture through it.

    Like

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