Behold the most amazing bonfire I’ve ever seen – a giant sculpture of metal and the elements of fire and ice, titled “Planet B” by Jeff Skoloda in Ouray, Colorado. The sculpture consists of an outer globe shrouded in ice (handiwork of the Ouray Ice Park ice farmers), with a smaller inner sphere filled with firewood set ablaze. Despite the intense heat of the fire, the ice clung on for hours as we watched it slowly melt and fall off in chunks.
Only in Ouray.
(I composited the stars into the second photo for a more cosmic effect).
My last hours of 2019 ended with quite a hair-raising experience, and I have a crazy story to tell you from my outings last night to photograph the New Years fireworks.
I had an idea last night to snowshoe up to a cliff overlooking town to gain a unique perspective of the fireworks over the valley, so at 10:30pm I bundled up, strapped on my snowshoes and headlamp, and started trudging up through knee deep powder towards my destination. When I was only about ten minutes up from the road, I was alarmed when I saw three or four pairs of orange eyes reflecting at me from behind some bushes up ahead. My first thought was that they were probably just deer. But I was a bit concerned that the eyes were orange; typically I remember all the deer I’ve seen at night having greenish colored eyes in light of my headlamp. Even more alarming, though, was the fact that the eyes had a certain calm and confidence to them – the animals clearly were not afraid of me and had no intention of fleeing like deer normally would.
About 20-30 feet from the “eyes”, I could see that one of the animals was standing up while the other two or three were sitting or laying down. I took a few more steps closer to get a closer look when I got a clear view of the one that was standing. It was a massive mountain lion staring right at me! Along with two or three of his buddies* (I was too focussed on the big guy to count the others). Holy shit. I quietly turned around and retreated back down through the snow, trying not to seem panicked or rushed like prey, but constantly glancing over my shoulder while trying not to trip over my snowshoes. I got back to my truck without incident, got in as fast as I could, and got the hell out of there, with a bit of adrenaline pumping through my veins!
So, although I was scared away from my intended photo destination, at least I got a story to tell! I had enough time to drive to an old standby vantage point and take the photo above as a consolation shot.
Happy New Year! I hope 2020 is full of more excitement and adventure, though preferrably not involving close encounters with mountains lion gangs!
* P.S. – It’s possible it was a momma lion with her teenage cubs; I didn’t get a good look at the others, just the big one standing in front.
For my fellow American readers, I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July! Here’s a few photos of the fireworks over Ouray last night.
One thing I’m feeling pretty patriotic about is our kick-ass U.S. women’s soccer team about to play the Netherlands team in the World Cup finals on Sunday! It’s been so fun watching the tournament so far.
Colorado, and most of the west for that matter, has been getting pounded by a powerful winter storm these last few days. This last weekend we did a quick trip to Ouray to catch up with some friends and get out for some backcountry powder turns.
Although we were both a bit sad to leave, after two great days of skiing we hightailed it through the blizzard back to Crested Butte, where two feet of powder blanketed the Butte by Monday!
Yesterday evening I was lucky to witness and photograph a fantastic sunset from one of my favorite overlooks of Ouray. This is a seldom visited spot that requires a steep bushwhack and an exposed scramble up crumbly cliffs to get to, but the reward is what I consider one of the best vantage points over the Ouray valley. I’ve been up here probably two or three times before, but never got so lucky with the sunset light!
The next week or so will be our last in Ouray at least for a while, so when I’ve been going on hikes recently and seeing such scenes (like this, and the rainbow last week), I can’t help but feel that the San Juans are smiling upon me, giving me a good sendoff! I know it’s dumb to think that way, but maybe I’m just getting a little sentimental!
It’s nice to be back!
I hope all my fellow American readers had a great 4th of July! Ouray was as rockin as ever — almost literally after the parade when Maj. Rasmussen, a fighter pilot from Ouray, roared through the valley in his F-16 on full afterburners. Incredible! Turn up the volume and check out this video of it:
Beer, water fights, beer, barbeques, more beer, and then we sweated out all that beer with a wine hike up to our favorite terrace over Ouray to watch the fireworks. What a day!!!