Friday, September 28, 2012

Aspen, Ice Caves, Grottoes, and Cascades - Colorado

Aspen Forest
Aspen: a tree, a city, a forest; in any case, a beauty to behold.

The city of Aspen is an alpine jewel set in nature's precious wilderness.  It is a wealthy city where billionaires push around millionaires; it's Beverly Hills on steroids; and it sits in the wild rich Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Arriving by plane or driving, one discovers the genteel habitat of eggs benedicts, mimosas, and NorthFace-clad hikers and mountain bikers.  It's the gateway to the playground of those who've arrived; or those who simply love nature.

Whether outfitted by REI or Walmart, everyone enjoys venturing past the city and into Mount Massive Wilderness Area in the San Isabel National Forest on the way to Independence Pass.

Magnificent mountains magically morph into an amazing aspen forest on the way to the pass.  First sight of an aspen clump of trees reveals a living organism composed of interdependent living units.  Each tree bolstering the other while searching for sunlight sings a primal leave-rustling melody beckoning to an earlier, perhaps mythical age.  They are tall with greenish white skin - scarcely a bark - and graceful round leaves like swishing earrings in auburn hair.

Within the forest wonders await.  Steep terrain belies a rocky bed where granite stones form crags, caves, and caverns topped by boulder mounds.  Tectonic plates are still forcing bedrock out of the ground and rock gardens of gigantic proportions pop up the mountainside.

Rainfall captured at the top cascades down, tumbling, and tunneling while carving hard rock into abstract sculpted stone; some looking remarkably like pock-marked faces in various stages of surprise.

Pocked Rock Face

Natural sculpture gardens filled with reflecting pools and zen reflections capture the imagination.  

Zen Reflection

Granite vessels and fountains randomly created by fickle streams surprise at every turn.

Granite Vessel

Exploring further reveals that hydrology has been busy beneath the surface.  There are rocky grottoes, cave entrances,

Cave Entrance

....and granite ravines, or gullies lead to the most unexpected surprise of all in the warm summer month of August.

Grottoes Ravine

Ice caves, not made of ice, but carved out of solid bedrock and stocked with ice deep underground.  A subterranean pool of melting ice delightfully green with thriving aquatic life greets the unsuspecting spelunker.

Ice Caves Pool

Spring water infiltrating rocky pockets as big as bedrooms freezes in Winter and tunneling endlessly year after year expands space to chamber-size proportions. 

Ice Caves

And always, there is light; playful meandering light overhead, entering deep within crevasses; illuminating, delineating, casting dark shadows over rounded boulders; a beacon, a ray to be drawn to... a hope.

Playful Highlights