We are privileged to live in Montrose at 5,807 ft. in elevation. Our climate is semi-arid. However, only 25 minutes west of our home is the Uncompahgre Plateau which reaches 10,000 ft. in elevation and is covered in aspen, spruce and pine forests. Summer comes to the plateau in June at the earliest. This past winter was a wet one, so snows on the plateau lingered longer than normal. Blooming literally next to melting snow drifts were vast fields of glacier lilies (first three images below). They bloomed in an abundance we had not seen in previous springs. Another species rarely seen in drier years on the plateau is the Gunnison Mariposa Lily.
2023 was also a good year for Columbines. The photo on the right was taken on Ophir Pass in late August. It is unusual to see Columbines this late, but always a treat.
No summer is complete for me without a visit to Porphyr Falls (pronounced poor fir e). Porphyr is a dark gray or black rock that often contains silver and sometimes gold. Miners looked for porphyr formations in their quest for riches. I look for it for the waterfalls, solitude, wildflowers, pikas, and endless photo opportunities. A short, but rough Jeep road takes you to the falls west of Red Mountain Pass. Bullion Lake above the falls at 13,000 ft. was still snowed in this year until late July.
This is one of my favorite places in all the world (so far).
Union Basin (east of Highway 550 just over Red Mountain Pass) looks west towards Porphyr Falls.
Delta (20 miles north of Montrose) held their first summer balloon fest this year. An early morning trip yielded some really fun images. You cannot take a bad photo at a balloon rising. One tradition I was not aware of at balloon festivals near water is when the balloon pilots bring their baskets down until they just skim the lake surface. The evening balloon "glow" was cancelled due to high winds.
When our son, Kevin visited this summer we took a quick trip over to Silverton to watch the narrow gauge arrive from Durango. Two trains come in each day around noon. One train pulls more cars, so two engines are used for the trip up the Animas Canyon. They then split the two engines, one returns solo, the other pulls the passenger cars back to Durango. This was my most ambitious attempt at drone photography since receiving the drone from Jed and Kevin last Christmas. Drones don't record sound, so I added a sound track to the final edit. I am also not very smooth in flying the drone, so please excuse the jumpiness in places.
Can you find the old sourdough panning for gold in the Animas River for the benefit of the tourists as the train passes? What a fun story he told us that day.