Thursday, August 13, 2009

Choices for Thin Air

So here I was standing in the family room with my backpack all ready to go except for the final couple of decisions... which camera and lens or lenses to take? I was about to leave for a late July trip to South Western Colorado to pack into the Weminuche Wilderness going up the rarely used No Name Creek drainage. The ultimate goal was to try and climb at least one of the 14 thousand foot peaks in the area.

Knowing that this drainage saw very few people, since the map did not show a trail, and one of the guys (out of 9) who had been up it 15 years ago telling me to “get ready for some good mountain pain,” I knew keeping the pack weight down would be helpful. The story of just how difficult the pack in was, and the surrounding details I’ll have to save for a different forum.

Anyway, now that I've got a couple of years behind me since embarking on the IFLC journey this question of camera and lenses posed some choices I had not needed to make in the past. It used to be I’d grab the point and shoot (set to auto of course) and go. The resulting average and often times blown-out pictures is what drove me to want to learn more about photography. I’m grateful fellow IFLC member Jason Geise found Rod’s course being taught through the Poway Adult Ed Center. It’s been a fun and enjoyable challenge to move away from auto function. I really was not prepared for how much I’d embrace and enjoy the art.

Getting back to the choices I was in need of making… I knew I was going to experience a beautiful part of the country that was going to present a wide range of photographic opportunities. A bigger range than I thought I could do justice with my point and shoot. So, I decided to go big and take my Canon 40D. I added in the 75-300 and 10-22 lenses. I wanted something for both distance and wide angles. I figured that middle range would not be as important. These two lenses are also not in the high end of Canon glass so in comparison their cheaper builds make them lighter.

Going with the camera gear also meant that I could not bring myself to add the additional weight of one of my other passions, fly fishing and its assorted gear. Wow, what has this photography thing done to me? It's hard to believe how much a couple of year’s time with new knowledge from Rod and Robin has changed my outlook. I decided I could catch trout in any number of places but I likely would not get a chance to capture pictures in this location again. Fortunately I've learned to go extremely lightweight with the rest of my backpacking gear so the addition of the photographic equipment was not going to put me on the edge. It turned out to be a great decision.

To reach the trailhead we needed to take the old narrow gauge railroad that runs between Silverton and Durango. This is something anybody would enjoy. The rail line was built in the 1880's and has been running ever since. We only rode half the distance since we unloaded at a stop called Needleton. There is really nothing there but a bridge that takes you over to the trailhead that the other 99.9% of hikers take. It did appear as though we were the .1% that hiked over to, and then up, No Name Creek. A difficult pack trip for sure, but spectacular in scenery and not another sole to be seen.

We made it to our high camp at about 12,500 feet, and still had a day to climb one of the peaks. We decided on Mount Eoulus. This route took us up and over Twin Thumbs Pass, down to Twin Lakes, then up to what is known as "the sidewalk in the sky," across it, and then up to the summit of Eoulus. After taking in the amazing 360 degree view we retraced our steps back to the high camp. The next day we packed up, headed back over Twin Thumbs, and then down to the Chicago Basin to catch the trail that everyone else takes along Needle Creek. I could go on and on about the trip itself but suffice it to say, this was a beautiful slice of mountain paradise.

Here is a very small representation of the trip.

The view from 12k.

We ended up having a bunch of these Rocky Mountain Goats around our high camp.

Use that polarizer.

One of the millions of wildflowers that we saw. Sure I've got plenty of the obvious shots like those above but this is the IFLC after all.

Right by our camp the 2nd night.

Gin clear water in this creek.

Balancing on the tracks while waiting for the train.

And so the journey ends and we head back to civilization.


  1. Very nice Tim. There all very beautiful.

  2. What a wonderful adventure. Glad you could take your big camera with and get those wonderful shots.

  3. Excellent photos and narrative. I especially like the photo of the goat...very sharp and lighting is great Thanks for sharing

  4. Amazing scenery & narative. Your photos reflect the real beauty of mother nature. The photo of the mountain goat is perfect. The blurred background makes it stand out even more.

  5. Wonderful stuff Tim!
    Love 'em all. Especially the last train/river work. No fly rod???
    This is serious.


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