The circularity of life is both compelling and confounding. With summer officially over in just a few more days, and a difficult to predict peak for the fall colors looming over the photography community, I have taken the time to explore a couple of locations that hold fond memories for me from my first years here in Colorado; the Medicine Bow Mountains along the Snowy Range Scenic Byway, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Medicine Bow is in Wyoming, and Rocky Mountain National Park is a mere 70 miles northwest of Denver. They are mirrors of each other in many ways, and even though 70 miles separates to two locations, their similarities are eerie. One is large and generally crowded, the other small and secluded. Both though offer areas above tree line and grace the Continental Divide, with a ruggedness and wildness that reminds you of just how small we are. They both feel a bit like home: Rocky Mountain National Park with it’s steady stream of tourist gawking their way through shops and souvenir providers, and the Medicine Bow with its stark beauty and rugged isolation.
There is a duality in these locations that is so, so familiar; my hometown of Charlevoix is a tourist destination on the north shores of Lake Michigan, Estes Park, nestled in as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is every bit the equal of Charlevoix in its tourist attractions and souvenir purveyors. The Medicine Bow Mountains take me “up north, to the TRUE north…” The “UP,” Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The UP is a mythical place, remote and empty, vast and stunning at every turn. This is how the Medicine Bow is; a place that time has forgotten. So, to explore these two places with summer waning and autumn making its entrance, is a natural and logical extension of the circularity that has been playing out recently for me. Exploring the familiar yet distance, grounding myself in the known but unexplored, pushing for deeper and more meaningful connections as all things around continue to change.
It was in the spirit of that circularity that I made the decision early this year to stay “home” for the summer. To stay in Colorado, the place that has been my home, and to explore the sites I hadn’t seen yet, and to make a connection with my present that I wasn’t truly honoring.
There is one part of Colorado that I have not explored thoroughly in my 30 years of living here; the San Juan Mountains. Bordered in the east by Lake City, the south by Durango, and in the north by Telluride and Ouray, this is the region of Colorado referred to as “the Alps of America!” And if holds this title well. A legendary place for skiing, backcountry expeditions’ and four-wheel trails, it is remote, rugged, and a rarity in its ability to rejuvenate. I’ve passed through and built some beautiful experiences in some of these places, whether with friends or family or in just pushing my own personal thresholds, and I’ve never been disappointed by what I saw, I’ve only been disappointed with how I was unable to capture it. For me it has somehow played a mirror to my emotions; when I was angry, it was dark and menacing, when I was sad, it cried out its own rivers, when I was elated, it held boundless joy. I’m curious to know how my next emotions will be welcomed.
The Wilson Massif, featured here, contains three distinct 14’ers: Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak, and El Diente. This place in particular has provided strange solace and rather interesting mile post in my journey over the past few years. I hiked into the basin with two close friends not long after my divorce when my heart and mind were a world of constant torment, and not many months later I met the most amazing individual who, under the shadow of the massif, helped me realize that my heart might not always stay broken. This summer, revisiting it, I felt a different embrace, one I’m still not completely sure about. But, I was offered a glimpse of the circularity again, and handed another test, another reminder that this is a journey of patience and not for the faint of heart.