Winter in Evergreen is remarkable, and scenic beyond belief. Within one mile of my home are the most scenic spots, that take on a magic quality when the blankets of white fall from the sky. I find subject matter that is simple, grand, intriguing, soothing, peaceful, invigorating, quaint, inspiring and fascinating.
These images were taken in, around and near Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, and along Bear Creek, just east of Evergreen.
The park has 770 acres of ponderosa pines, silver-plume quartz outcrops and scenic open meadows, accessed by 10 miles of gentle trails. The primary early landowners, the Alderfer family, named the landmark rock outcrops after their children: the “Three Sisters and the “Brother.” The park has become very popular with mountain bikers and hikers, many of whom drive up from the Denver metro area on weekends.
I find endless moments of adventure, exercise and solitude in the park during the week, when you can often explore for hours without seeing a solitary person. Animals represent a higher percentage of the population at these times. I’ve seen coyotes, deer, elk, fox, bear, marmots, and plenty of hawks and eagles.
One of my favorite little critters is the Abert’s squirrel, distinguished by its black coat and fuzzy upright ears. It is named after Colonel John James Abert, an American naturalist and military officer who led the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which mapped the western U.S. in the 1800s. The squirrels are found primarily in ponderosa pines forests, which they use for food, protection and nesting.
One inhabitant I’m happy to have never met on the trail is the mountain lion. They are known to inhabit the park, and I have heard a few growling off in the distance. I learned early on that it’s not a great idea to run the wooded trails at dusk or dawn.
The elk population in and around Evergreen has grown significantly over the past several decades due to their protected status and the small remaining number of mountain lions, their primary predator.
Human-elk interactions are a daily occurrence in Evergreen, where the concept of “Rush Hour Traffic” is very different from that found in the city. Rush hour in this community often refers to a herd of elk in the middle of the road, on your driveway, sidewalk or in your backyard. Automobile traffic is stopped by both traffic lights and elk herd crossings.
The funniest Evergreen “rush hour” moment for me was watching five elk parading aimlessly around a traffic circle in the center of town at 5 p.m., paying no heed to the well known rule that vehicles already in the traffic circle have the right of way! Fortunately most resident drivers are very alert to sudden elk appearances, and show great patience in allowing them their migratory freedoms in and around town. Letting them ravage one’s deciduous trees and gardens is another matter altogether.
When snow covers the park, hikers strap on snowshoes, skis and ice & snow crampons to tackle the trails. Some hardy mountain bikers continue to ride the trails when the snow is hard-packed.
Winter is such a highly rewarding time for photography. That’s when I experience and document unique contrasts, the mix of cool and warm light, soft gradients, the visual delights of falling snowflakes, the juxtaposition of stark blue skies and sheets of white, and the dance of snow clouds as they rake the mountaintops.
Then my lens moves to the fascinating formations of snow on the sturdy ponderosa pines and aspens, the gentle lines and reflections along the waters of Bear Creek, the sparkle of Colorado’s dry champagne powder, and the soft draping of powder on exposed rock outcrops.
My most successful winter images are those that actually capture and convey the hush that exists when a deep blanket of snow covers the landscape. That peace and serenity is also why I so enjoy braving the elements to bring you these images. Which brings me back to the primary reason I am a nature photographer. It keeps me outside and away from the computer!
As I get older and find myself staring down yet another winter, my mind drifts to thoughts of a warm tropical beach and all the comforts that come with it. But then I look out my door and find scenes like these in the Colorado foothills. I could never move to a one-season location. Look what I would miss!
© Eric Schickler Adventure Photographer
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