Oregon Jewels

Oregon may only be a single state, but it has almost every type of landscape you could imagine. From the rocky coastlines to wooded forests, to mountain tops and the Columbia River Gorge, and everywhere in between Oregon is chock full of photographic treasures. It makes it hard to choose just a few of my photographs, but in the spirit of adventure, here are a few Oregon jewels.

Oregon Jewels: Heceta's Dawn

Heceta’s Dawn

We’ll begin this quick journey with the coastline. With 363 miles of coastline, there are quite a few opportunities. However, I’ll choose Heceta Head Lighthouse which is more or less in the middle. Built in 1894 this lighthouse has guided countless mariners around the treacherous shoals as well as providing a critical navigation point. I made Heceta’s Dawn just before the sun rose into the sky; I adored the purple tones that colored the morning, punctuated by the lighthouse holding its own against the raging sea. For me, this distinguished seascape represents our struggle to tame the sea and reminds me of seafaring stories and adventures from days long gone.

Oregon Jewels: Multnomah's Plunge

Multnomah’s Plunge

We’ll venture away from the coastline but still hold to the theme of yesterday to visit Wildcat Covered Bridge. Oregon has more than a few covered bridges, ranging from simple affairs to very elaborate ones. This one, though, reminds me of the classic covered bridge. Indeed, it once was on the main route from inland to the sea, but as newer, straighter and faster highways became common, the previous main roads became near-forgotten byways. If you stand very still, you can still hear the gentle rumble of the old cars, and perhaps an occasional horse and buggy, clickity-clacking across its wooden planks and back into history.

Oregon Jewels: Wildcat Crossing

Wildcat Crossing

Finally, let’s end at another old place, Multnomah Falls. Located not far from Portland, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Portland, dropping in two beautiful steps. The Falls are nestled amongst the trees and are an incredible site by themselves. A beautifully constructed walking bridge, the Benson Footbridge, transforms the scene into a stunningly beautiful one. Thanks to the generosity of Simon Benson, who donated the surrounding area to Portland, the falls remain for all of us to enjoy.

Your Own Oregon Jewels

You can see these Oregon Jewels for yourself at the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival at Expo New Mexico March 10-12, 2017. For those of you who can make it, I’ve created an extraordinary presentation of Heceta’s Dawn which captures everything a lighthouse should be (how’s that for a broad hint?)

Something is Coming…

Speaking of hints: watch this space for another announcement coming in the coming weeks. No, I won’t give anything more away. But I think you’re going to like it. Well, OK. Here’s a little clue: it will be something permanent and very, very fun for all of us.

Three Nightscapes

As the sun slips past the horizon and night begins its march across the land, many of us head indoors. We turn on the lights without a second thought, and continue our day inside. Should we glance toward a window, we see a square, if you have square windows, of inky blackness. We look away and enjoy the pleasures that light brings us. But what was it like long ago before the advent of electricity? What did our distant ancestors do after dark?

To begin to understand this we have to find truly dark skies. Today, that is not an easy task. You need to be far away from the nearest significant light source, and you might be surprised at just how much light even the tiniest of towns emits. There are places which are still truly dark, though, which is a good thing. Out west, it is a little easier to find dark skies.

From the moment you turn off all light, be that the sun or whatever light you brought with you, your eyes will begin to adjust. This is a gradual, slow adjustment, but a richly rewarding one. The stars slowly come to life, one by one, two by two, dozens by dozens and before you know it you are staring into the depths of space and a sky filled with countless stars. The more you look, the more you find, and the more you find, the more you look. In some locations and at some times of the year, you can see the core of the Milky Way, and that is a completely staggering sight. It can literally leave you speechless.

One startling thing about the night sky is that it isn’t quite as dark as you might first think. If there is even a sliver of the moon you will be able to find your way around. If it is a full moon it might as well be broad daylight and you will know it is night, but it won’t slow you down. Conversely, if you find truly dark skies on a moonless night, well, it is dark. Such nights are perfect making photographs of the night sky.

These three nightscapes are some of my favorites, and represent how different the Milky Way can look.

Yavapai's NightYavapai’s Night was made in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Although the Grand Canyon isn’t quite as dark as it could be, it is still a good location for photographing the Milky Way. This photograph was made just after true dark, which is two hours past sunset. The Milky Way was just rising over the canyon rim, and the sight was certainly inspiring The Milky Way has a different personality every day, and it can take on different hues and colors depending on the time of the year, where you are, and importantly, the current atmospheric conditions. There is no predicting it, but Mother Nature will always provide a show. This night beautiful purple tones came out, making an excellent contrast to the canyon. The red glow on the far horizon is Tuba City. It doesn’t take much light to go a long way.

The sun began its decent toward the horizon, hurrying as it went, and thus the transition from day to night began. It was quiet in the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico, but this was usually the case for this particular wilderness is little known, little visited, and perfect for finding peace, tranquility and solitude. Best known for its hoodoos, it features much the same topology of its more famous cousin, the Bisti Badlands. Alone in the trackless maze of hoodoos it is easy to become disorientated; as the sun leaves the sky it is downright simple to lose your way. The setting sun, though, brings up another amazing sight—The Milky Way. Far from the lights of civilization, Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah boasts some truly dark skies. On a moonless night you cannot see anything, not even your hand in front of your face. It is that dark. The Milky Way shines clear and bright in those dark skies, and it simply takes your breath away. Also, in this photograph there is a vertical streak just above the horizon to the right of center. This streak is a falling star—a meteor—that happened when I made this photograph. Don’t forget to make your wish!

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah’s Night was made in the badlands of New Mexico in the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. This area is little known and well off the beaten path. Few people venture out here, but that is their loss for it has some amazing rock formations, and some of its hoodoos are beyond the imagination. On this moonless night it was dark as dark can be. Even with my eyes fully adjusted I never could see my hand in front of my face. However, that was to my advantage because I was able to create the entire scene. I lit up the hoodoos that I liked, and positioned the Milky Way where I wanted it, making this beautiful photograph. As a completely unplanned bonus a meteor streaking through the frame (you can see it as a small vertical line jus above the hoodoos in the back). The wish I made certainly came true!

As the daylight seeps out of the day and the early evening shadows begin their march to darkness, the world quiets down and tranquility settles in. Perhaps a few crickets chirp to announce the arrival of night, and perhaps a lone coyote howl echoes in the far distance, but other than that, all is quiet. The ruins of the Abo Mission also quiet down, and prepare to hold fast through the night once more. In the centuries before electricity and reliable light at night, twilight meant the day was almost done, and night’s darkness was broken only by a cooking or watch fire and there. The Abo residents would be stirring before sunrise, and their lives were governed by the rhythm of the daylight hours. Standing there, alone, at the ancient ruins of Abo at the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico, let me reflect on that time. The stars above shone as bright as I had ever seen them for the skies in this part of New Mexico are reasonably dark. The lights of Socorro, sixty miles away, provided a faint glow on the horizon, and the light of Albuquerque, just further than sixty files, another glow on the opposite side of the mission. As in the opening narrative above, a coyote howled in the distance, letting me know that some things never change.

Abi Night is the last of the three nightscapes and showcases the mission and pueblo in the Abo unit of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico. Although unoccupied since the 1600s, the mission still stands and makes an imposing foreground to the New Mexico night sky. Although not quite as pitch-black as the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness, it is still dark and the stars shine exceptionally bright. As with the Grand Canyon, however, modern civilization intrudes, with the cities of Socorro and Albuquerque contributing their glow to the scene. Still, it is not hard to imagine how this scene must have looked more than four hundred years ago.

When you get a chance, turn off your lights and step outside. Take a few moments looking up at the sky and let your imagination wander and roam. The stars above will be your guide. If you are in a city and you find yourself in the country, take a moment there to look up.

In the meantime, let these nightscapes inspire you!

Virgin River

There are always those places that hold your attention and draw you back time and time again. For me, one of these places is Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. The park is world-renown for its awe-inspiring beauty, from soaring, majestic mountains, to red rock formations that defy conventional description, to its tree-filled main canyon, an oasis in the desert that makes you feel as if you walked onto a different realm altogether.

I’ve been in the park more than a few times, and I’ve been known to drive a few hundred, or more, miles out of my way just to drive through it. There is, however, one feature of the park that draws me back: the Virgin River.

The Virgin River is not, by any means, the mightiest river around. Far, far from it, and most days, it is quiet and unassuming and you can walk though it without getting the tops of your shoes wet. However, when the flash floods come, and they do, this small river becomes a torrent in its own right, and it has cut through and down into Zion National Park, leaving impossibly high and sheer canyon walls and small hidden treasures.

For this small adventure, we’ll work our way from north to south along the Virgin River.

Subway PoolsOur first stop is called The Subway. Here, the river has cut a near-tunnel through the solid rock. It’s not a true tunnel, as there is an opening, perhaps just a couple of feet wide, at the top. The walls are gently curved and rounded, however, and it resembles more than anything else its namesake: a subway. The river seems to be so gentle here; a thin film of water, not even an inch high, covers the entire floor. And yes, as you might expect, it is exceptionally slick, too, and you need to be mindful of where you put your feet. The highlight, though, are a few emerald green pools of water. The pools are a few feet deep, deep enough that you don’t want to fall in them, and just deep enough for the emerald green color to appear. In any event, The Subway is a highly photogenic location.

Archangel Falls

Just downriver from The Subway is a small, gentle series of cascades known as Archangel Falls, or sometimes, Arch Angel Cascades. To me, this is one of the most beautiful locations in the entire park, if not this entire area of Utah. The river still isn’t very large at this point, but what water there is cascades over a long series of sandstone shelves. The water flows every which way here, and when viewed from the bottom, the cascades really show their beauty. With the high canyon walls behind it, and the characteristic glow of reflected light on sandstone, the scene is absolutely breathtaking. A small stand of foliage at the top completes the tableau.

Swift Narrows

Further downriver, many miles in fact, the Virgin River is more of a river. Small side streams and springs along the way feed into the river, and it slowly begins to build. Along with that is the power to cut through canyon walls. The Narrows is a section where the walls are staggeringly high, almost one thousand feet, and the river runs from edge to edge. The effect is, well, dramatic, to say the least. This small river is now a quiet powerhouse. For me, I love the feel of the blue-green waters of the river and the high sandstone walls; the color combination just cannot be beat and again it feels like you are walking through a different time and a different place.

Subway FallsWe’ll leave the Virgin River with one more view of the Subway. This view is at the beginning of the Subway, looking up into it. I really like how the small waterfalls are formed between the pools, all flowing into a fault on the river’s bottom. This scene, perhaps, is my favorite one of the Subway.

The Virgin River cuts through Zion National Park, leaving us a myriad of wonders to enjoy.

Unbounded Chronicles

Unbounded Chronicles

Today I am pleased to announce my newest book, Unbounded Chronicles!

Unbounded Chronicles follows the same format as my previous book, Sojournic Tales. However, this time I go much deeper into the stories behind the photographs, and Unbounded Chronicles takes you on a visual adventure of a lifetime. There is a constant narrative throughout the book, making it a single long adventure.

Unbounded Chronicles takes you behind the scenes of some of my all-time favorite photographs. Join me for a harrowing ride up to the top of a mesa above Monument Valley, and an adventure out to the edges of Lake Powell in which the road behind me disappeared under water. We’ll witness new-born life enter this world and make its first perilous journey. Together we’ll ride the rails of yesterday and we’ll explore our past. True to the moniker “unbounded”, Unbounded Chronicles escapes the Southwest and we venture from coast to coast, exploring some amazing scenes from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We’ll roam the deserts as free spirits, and learn what it means to be a wild mustang. We’ll explore the history of some iconic American grist mills, and we’ll spend some time getting to know some of my favorite birds. In short, Unbounded Chronicles is a wild ride which will tickle your fancy and soothe your soul.

Unbounded Chronicles is available in both hard and soft cover editions. The hard cover features a beautiful glossy cover and is printed in premium color on heavy-weight paper. The soft cover version features a brilliant cover and is printed using the same premium color and heavy-weight paper.

In addition, Sojournic Tales has been released as a regular hard cover edition which perfectly compliments Unbounded Chronicles.

Order your adventure today

Don’t miss out on the adventures! Order your copy today of Unbounded Chronicles and Sojournic Tales!

Big Sur

Contrasts make for very interesting subjects; and we find contrasts throughout our everyday lives. I love the desert Southwest, and all of its beauty, and all of the contrasts one can find within it, yet, I also wanted to provide an even bigger contrast. What better way to do that than with the Pacific Ocean off the California coastline? The Big Sur area comes to mind, so let’s celebrate those contrasts. Big Sur is indeed a very real town along the coastline, yet it refers to the entire area as well, and generally encompasses the coast from just south of Monterey, California to somewhere around San Simeon and the Hearst Castle area. The exact delineation isn’t important; the beauty is. As a whole, the coastline, just like the deep desert, provides different looks and moods, depending on when you are there. Spring, for me, is one of my favorite times to be out there, as there is some green and some flowers, although, not quite as much green as you would expect for spring. Still, it is a very dynamic time of the year and sometimes conditions can change within an hour. Point Sur The view above, for me, represents the classic coastline; long beaches, outcroppings that reach into the sea, and the vast, empty ocean, tranquil yet powerful. This the Point Sur light station, still in operation, and still guarding this section of the coast. I stood at this point for the longest time, transfixed by the never ending waves that rolled in. Wave after wave, each following the other, just kept coming, broken up only by a slightly larger wave now and then. The sea was calm, and the overall scene was very tranquil for me. After a while I knew how I wanted to present this image, and Point Sur is the final result. McWay's Paradise This is, of course, not the only awesome location in the Big Sur area. Tucked away in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is McWay Falls, a waterfall that falls directly onto the shoreline of the Pacific, making it a highly unusual waterfall. Before 1983 it used to fall directly into the ocean, making it even more unusual, but a fire in the area, along with a massive rockslide, changed the topography this cove around; the end result is that the waterfall moved back a little bit. However, in that process the secluded beach was created, so there is a little give and take going on. I enjoy the mood that this photograph gives me; we are peeking through the trees into a tropical paradise that few know about. Are we supposed be there? What if someone catches us looking in on it? And who lives there? Today, there is certainly no problem being here, as this section is protected as a state park for everyone to enjoy. The beach is not only off limits, but it is completely inaccessible, save by boat. Although this was once private property, it has been set aside for everyone to enjoy today, and thanks to that generosity, generation upon generation will be able to enjoy this view, and marvel that such a place can exist anywhere, let alone, right here. Of course, the Big Sur coastline wouldn’t be complete without the fabled fog, so let’s not forget that. Foggy Fishing This scene is one of my favorites. The fishing boat, barely visible through the fog, is just getting started on a foggy morning. The gentle ripples are on the only visual clue that the boat is, in fact, on the water, and the fog blankets the rest. I love the aura of mystery that surrounds time image. Of course, as the morning wore on the sun eventually won out over the fog, yet this image lingers, also well representing the Big Sur. All in all, Big Sur is a gorgeous area, and contrasts well with the Southwest as a whole.

Winter Train

The days of the steam engine have long passed us by, but if you know where to look, time has not passed us by.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is one of a handful of Heritage Railroads that still runs today, although these days its primary cargo is passengers. Operating between Durango and Silverton, Colorado, in the San Juan Mountain Range, riding on this railroad is just like stepping back into the past. The mighty steam engines, built in the 1920s, pull out of the station, take a short jaunt through the countryside, then head up into the high mountain passes. Black smoke from the coal-fired engine trails behind as the engine labors up the steep mountain grades, and the casual observer might do a double take as the train rumbles by. Despite the rugged winters, the train runs year round, and the winter train is a stunning sight.

I had the opportunity to be on that winter train, and what an opportunity it was. Departing the station right on time, for the railroad is as punctual as ever, the train pulled out of Durango and headed north toward Silverton. Before too long the grades started and the train began its long assent into the snowy mountains, where the real adventure began. Soon, the tracks met up with the Animas River, and sometimes, the train was amazingly close to the river, such as this section known as “Cement Wall:”

Cement Wall

In other places, the track soared high above the river, which was equally interesting for quite the opposite reason, and the bridge known as High Bridge proved to be a very photogenic location.

High Bridge

 

With the trusses of this bridge dating back to the 1880s, it is easy to image that we are in a different time and a different place as we watch the nightly locomotive brake as it enters the bridge, and time, indeed, stands still.

Winter's CutHowever, for me, the highlight of the winter train was at a place called The Cut. Here, the winter train has to come up a steep incline; at the top, the rock has been cut into a very narrow gap. This 350 foot long gap is just wide enough for the train, and even at that it is a tight squeeze; once through it the train heads off into the San Juan National Forest heading northbound, and is back to civilization while southbound. Here, as the southbound train begins to climb up the hill into the cut, the excitement builds, and you can’t hardly wait for the train to come barreling through The Cut.

Sometimes, though, it is best simply to watch a video:

All in all, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a treasure well worth seeing, and stepping back to the past on.

All aboard!

Coyote Views

It appeared at the corner of my eye, a shadow perhaps, then was gone. I brushed it off as my far-too active imagination, but then I saw it again. Staring intently into the woods, I realized that the woods were not as empty as they might have been. It was a grey, gloomy day in the mountains of New Mexico, and the snow just added to the gloom; surely nothing was out and about. Little did I know I was about to experience some incredible coyote views. For what I did know at that moment was that a coyote was about to step out of those woods.

The coyote did not share my assessment of the day, and it was out and about on its business.

Hunting Coyote

My first good look at it was as it was gliding out of the woods into a small clearing. Covered in snow, it was completely intent on its prowl, and luckily, and paid no attention to me. That suited me more than fine. As it was moving through the clearing, more quiet than a whisper, it kept its gaze forward, and somehow, amazingly, didn’t react at all to me. Oh, I don’t flatter myself that it didn’t know that I was there; merely, it decided that I was not of concern. This afforded me the wonderful opportunity for the first of these wonderful photographs. The coyote drifted along a few feet.

Coyote's Winter

After a short bit, it stopped and simply stood there in the snow, a frozen tableau of nature. It’s sharp, keen eyes appeared to look beyond and through everything else; oblivious to the snow it was intently focused on whatever caught its gaze and attention. I was almost as frozen as it was, daring to hardly even draw a breath; the moment for us both seemed to last forever, and it was an extraordinary moment in time.

The coyote moved on into the winter’s day, yet these coyote views will let us relive this amazing moment in time.

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You can preserve this moment in a very tangible form for yourself, since Hunting Coyote and Coyote’s Winter are both available.

Zion’s Autumn

As autumn creeps across the country, the landscape begins to change. Gone is the lush green of the summer, replaced, instead by the subtler, yet equally vibrant, hues of fall. Soft golds and yellows; rich oranges and reds, and every color in between begin to dot the landscape, in pockets here and there, and in vast swathes of color in other places. Even the desert Southwest dons fall colors, and especially Zion National Park, in Utah.

Zion is a very interesting park, and each of its different sections presents a completely different feel. Along its eastern edge one can find twisted sandstone shapes and canyons, with etched lines in the rock that defy the eye. Along its far western section are staggeringly large canyons, full of evergreen forests that seem to go on forever. But its middle section, where the Virgin River flows, is one area of the park that relishes fall. Here, the cottonwoods line the bank of the river, and it is those cottonwoods that turn into vibrant yellows come autumn. As the river flows through the canyon, carving its way down the soft sandstone walls, it flows past some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and it is here that Zion’s autumn really shows off.

Zion Serenity

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On the right time of the right day, the Virgin River seems to run with pure gold. The light reflecting off the canyon’s walls softens everything, and adds a rich hue to it; by the time the light reflects off the river, it is mostly gold anyway, completing the golden illusion. As the cottonwoods reach over the river, they add their own rich hue, and the result is an absolute surreal scene.

The river has more tricks up its sleeve, however, for it sometimes flows over small waterfalls and rapids, just for a change of pace. In this section of the park, none of the falls are very high, and none of the rapids very fast, but it does help to vary the tone and the tempo of the river as it cuts through the canyon. And it provides a different set of views, too. As it makes its way over these sections, the cottons still continue their march down to the waterline, and some very intimate views can be found, as long as you know where to look.

Virgin ViewTake, for example, this small scene. The gentle flowing waterfalls add their own touch to the overall sense of peace in the canyon. The trees reaching down to, and around, the bend just seem to pull one into and beyond the view and the arching canyon wall helps pull you along. Not far from here the canyon walls completely close in, squeezing out the trees completely. This just adds to the complexity and character of the river’s journey through the canyon.

A mile or so downriver this spot the river picks up speed as it rounds an area known as “Big Bend.” Here, the canyon takes a relatively sharp turn, taking the river along with it, or perhaps the river is the one making the turn and taking the canyon along with it? Either way, this is a beautiful area, and can make for some beautiful panoramic photographs.

Zion's Bend

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Zion National Park is rated as one of the ten best places in the country for its fall color, and it is small wonder why. The Virgin River and its attendant canyon surely accounts for almost all of that rating, for after all, red rock, beautiful water, and amazing fall colors are an excellent combination. This is not to take away from Zion in other seasons, of course, or any other area of the park, for it is amazing throughout the park in any time of the year.

The river runs through the canyon and beyond; not far from here, just a few more miles in fact, the tall canyon walls begin to widen and then fade away as the river makes its way out of the park and into the lands beyond. That’s way of most rivers, of course, and not a problem, for the beauty that it leaves behind is beyond amazing.

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You can purchase each of these pieces and always be able to see autumn.

Glade’s Mill – The mill at Glade Creek on a gorgeous autumn day

Glade's Mill

Glade Creek Grist Mill in West Virginia is one of those incredible places that can transport you from the hustle and bustle of the modern day world to a different time entirely. As you stand there, you can feel yourself fall effortlessly back into the late 1800s, and it is quite easy to imagine that era.

The clear, crisp autumn day has been a little bit warmer than the previous ones; a welcome, though brief, respite from the encroachment of winter. The farmer brings his wagon to a halt at the mill; his horses, having hauled a load of fresh grain from field to the mill are more than happy to oblige. The farmer greets the miller, and the old friends catch up on the local news and events, for these trips provide the opportunity for more than just milling. Eventually, they get to the task at hand, the actual milling itself, although while doing that they continue to catch up and talk as old friends do. Despite the hard work, many hands make it easier, and they put their backs into it willingly. The sluice is opened, the water flows over the water wheel, the milling stones grind against each other and grain is slowly turned into the much needed flour. The farmer can already taste tonight’s fresh-backed bread–so can the miller, for his payment is a portion of the flour. The flour is loaded onto the wagon, and once again the horse and farmer start the short journey back to the farm. The forest quickly swallows them up, and the mill’s stands silent until the next load comes its way.

Today, the mill stands there, testimony to a time long past. Yet it provides us a with a bridge to that past, and helps us remember the those times and stories.

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Sprague Morning

Sprague Morning

There is something amazingly peaceful when lakes and mornings are combined. Morning at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, is the very definition of “peaceful,” and one would be hard pressed to find a more tranquil and serene setting.

Despite the large number of small lakes and tarns in Rocky Mountain National Park, you would think that there wasn’t a need for one more. However, back in late 1800s, Abner Sprague decided to build another lake on Glacier Creek to improve the fishing for his lodge. He couldn’t have chosen a more perfect location, and today, enjoying a morning at the lake, not only makes for the perfect morning experience, but also takes you back to a time over one hundred years ago, and lets you make a connection to the days gone by.

What is very neat, at least to me, about this particular morning, is that shortly after I made this photograph, I went on to make Elk’s Paradise. I was at Sprague Lake looking for wildlife, but in the process, managed to distract myself with this view. Frankly, this very scene helped me into the best frame of mind possible for working with the wildlife, for you need a calmness about you to be successful. This is, without a doubt, one of the best mornings that I have experienced in a very long time.

Sprague Lake isn’t the biggest lake in the park, that’s for sure, although it has a surface area of around thirteen acres. Looking out over the lake from this location, we can see the Continental Divide, including Half Mountain, Thatchtop Mountain, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain and Notchtop Mountain. Abner Sprague certainly knew what he was doing when he built this lake, and today, we still enjoy his foresight and vision.

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