As I write this, nearly seven years after the fact, Summer has begun here in the Gunnison Country. Barely a week since the Solstice and the temperatures are still warming. It is difficult to imagine that fresh snow could fall, as it most certainly had done recently when I took these photographs, while the previous Winter’s accumulated snows are still melting. My axiom for the Gunnison Country is something like this: In Winter it is difficult to believe in Summer and in Summer it is difficult to believe in Winter.
Not too surprisingly I barely remember this hike. I don’t remember anything specific about this day and have only the vaguest recollections of making a series of hikes during this Autumn at Hartman Rocks. I’m not sure why, but these hikes that I took at this time have more or less escaped my mind. Perhaps it is simply a case of me not really challenging myself with what I consider to be iconic hikes such as the ones that I made in Spring and Summer of the same year.
Snow doesn’t appear to have fallen at the lower elevations around my home in the City of Gunnison but it obviously has dusted the higher peaks surrounding the basin. The San Juan, Elk, West Elk and Sawatch Mountains all are coated with the sure indicator of Winter’s oncoming. As the length of days shorten, the snows begin to accumulate and soon enough hiking will be one of many things that go dormant during the cold, dark days of Winter.
Because of my lack of clear memory regarding this short hike, I cannot say exactly where I was on this day beyond that it was somewhere in the confines of the aforementioned recreation area that is Hartman Rocks. I would guess that I walked up Bambi’s Trail before heading a bit further south towards a group of rocks that I am attracted to. It would seem that I didn’t take any photographs of my route, which is not surprising considering how familiar I am with the locale, and that all of them consist of the various peaks found on the horizons. All ten snapshots were taken in a span of two to three minutes.
Looking at these images I am stuck by the clarity of the sky. Not a cloud in sight whichever way I look, and the air itself seems to be dry unlike in the Spring when the melting snows create a certain amount of humidity and concomitant haziness that obscures features of more distant skylines. The dry, clear air is one of the features that makes Fall my favorite season. From my vantage point that day, I could make out many named mountains and peaks, including the Baldies in the West Elk Mountains, Carbon Peak, Mount Axtell, Whetstone Mountain, Sawtooth Mountain, Razor Creek Dome, Uncompahgre Peak and Henry Mountain. Not a bad view to be had.
The colder temperatures of the Autumn require a certain amount of preparation that I tend to have to relearn with the onset of chilly weather. I don’t want to burden myself with too much gear but at the same time I am not a fan of being excessively cold. This blue sky day most likely started off below freezing but I would guess it warmed up quickly once the sun began blazing down. In fact, when I looked closely at some of the images I realized that snow had fallen at lower elevations but had already melted off. The evidence is the scant amount of snow remaining in the shadier aspects.
Hartman Rocks has many fine attributes. It is part of the sagebrush steppe that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and vegetation. It also consists mostly of a bedrock that looks like granite and many folks like to climb and scramble on the various outcroppings. Although there are many folks riding around on bikes and motorcycles, as well as people out in their four-by-fours, there exists the opportunity for solitude and reflection should that be what the soul desires. While I would now guess that I was happy enough to run around on foot, shortly I would be joining the masses who congregate there to enjoy the skiing. I am blessed to have such a fine recreational opportunity a short five to ten minute drive from my home. Did I mention the views? They are fantastic and always command my attention no matter what the day.