Photographing fall color is never quite as easy as it seems. It’s so easy to get excited about the vibrant trees, especially when they first turn. I often find myself pointing the camera wherever the trees are, forgetting about finding interesting compositions and light. And I know I’m not alone in that. But after a bit of the enthusiasm wears off, it’s easier to settle down and shoot properly.
This morning in north-central Colorado was pretty dull. The light at sunrise was not cutting it, and then the sun rose bright and harsh. Although elevations are high in this area south of Steamboat Springs, there are no sharp rugged peaks. But the area is spectacular in its own way. The Colorado River, still fairly modest in size this close to the headwaters, winds through farmland and then plunges into Gore Canyon.
Gore Canyon was one of the major obstacles to a trans-continental railroad. An early Denver railroad magnate named David Moffat dreamed of building tracks through and over the Rocky Mountains to tap the mining and cattle trade. But it took a crew of death-defying men, called Argo’s Squirrels (J.J. Argo was crew leader) to complete it.
To survey the route through Gore Canyon, considered unnavigable at the time, the Squirrels came up with a plan. Some of the crew floated logs down the river while others lowered themselves by rope down the vertical granite walls to river level. Once there, they drove steel pegs into the rock, then caught and attached the logs to the pegs by rope, forming a precarious scaffolding.
This way the crew had a walkway, just above the raging whitewater, from which to survey the route. Old pictures show the Squirrels seemingly at ease on the spindly logs a few feet from certain death by drowning. They wore no life jackets, but amazingly no lives were lost. It’s also interesting that most of the men were immigrants.
Nowadays Gore Canyon is famous among rafters and kayakers for being one of the roughest sections of whitewater in the country. Gore Rapid is a solid Class V. You can do a commercially-guided raft trip through the canyon, but you better be ready. It’s considered by many to be the wildest whitewater accessible by guided trip in the U.S. A much calmer way to see the roadless and remote canyon is to take the California Zephyr, a scenic train trip over the Rockies and on to the west coast.
Back to the picture: I had stopped to make coffee, at a place that overlooks the river valley just upstream from Gore Canyon. The sun was busy burning off a bank of ground fog that had collected overnight along the river. Cold fall mornings that give way to warm sunny afternoons are perfect for this kind of fog. I could see cottonwoods along the river, in full color, just peeking out of the fog bank. I was some distance from the river, so I got my long lens out and zoomed in on groups of the golden trees as they emerged from the fog.
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of a remote but interesting corner of Colorado. Have a great week!