Coming & Going

One of the many joys of spending time on the Great Plains is the opportunity to observe the sky on a grand scale. I find it fascinating to see weather events forming while still many miles away, and to witness the often dramatic interplay of clouds, colors, darkness and light—always changing, never the same show twice. On this day, we watched as a spring shower approached rapidly from the northwest…

32 minutes later—a look at the cell’s backside as it passed to the southeast…

And two minutes after that…

As I’ve said before, standing on the prairie makes you feel tiny.

Weld County, Colorado

(These prints and many others may be purchased at gallery.ridingwithcarl.com.)

The Great Trout Creek Adventure

Many of our photos from the Buffalo Peaks Ranch, like this one, offer a glimpse of Reinecker Ridge across the valley to the east. Through the middle of the valley, Trout Creek runs southward to join the South Platte River a short distance from here. Since I did not get to explore the eastern section of the ranch during my 2015 visit, Jay and I thought we should head out there and get some photos of the property from a new angle. Leaving Sarah behind to study the buildings in greater detail, we shouldered our cameras and marched off across the valley floor.

I certainly want to look back at the ranch from the top of this ridge someday, and I’d love to get there by hiking eastward through the valley. However, I was pretty sure we were not going to cover that distance on this particular trek. Experience has taught me that when you are traveling under the big skies out west, large landmarks are, in reality, much farther away than they appear. Consider this more of a scouting mission.

We were really enjoying the silence and the openness of this big, beautiful space. Through the final fence, the grass became taller…and taller again as we reached the center of the valley, where the creek was keeping the soil moist. At this point, the hike jumped several points in degree of difficulty, as we discovered that Trout Creek is surrounded by a braided network of small channels, carved out over the years by the caprices of the flowing water. The tall grass hid these rivulets from our view, so each step forward was a new adventure; would my next stride place me on firm ground at my current level, or would I plunge twenty inches deeper into a pocket of mud?

Laughing and cursing loudly, we hobbled a few steps closer to the main channel and immortalized our heroic journey with these photos. We knew that this would be the apogee of our excursion, and we both felt lucky that neither of us had broken an ankle or blown a knee up to this point. We turned back to the west and started for home, taking in this view as a low, light rain settled over the ranch…