Tag Archives: Estes Park

The Best Laid Plans

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” has never been more true than this year.

I was in Denver last week to attend a five-day photography workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park, capturing fall color and wildlife under the direction of a professional photographer. I’d also visit my daughter Rachel and get in a run with my niece Robin, who’d just moved to Denver. It promised to be a really good time. I even bought a new camera for it.

Eighteen-hours of driving later, I arrived at my daughter’s place and got some lessons in the basics from one of her friends, also a professional photographer. I wanted to be familiar with manual mode for tricky lighting or for special effects. I was armed and dangerous, ready to start clicking that shutter.

And then a message from the instructor appeared on the workshop’s Meetup page. He was sick. A followup call confirmed it. He had flu-like symptoms and was on his way to the hospital. The workshop was officially cancelled.

What to do? I called the other attendees, who said they were going ahead with shooting in the park, and they invited me to join them. I thanked them but decided to do my own thing instead. Without the expert instruction, spending five days in the park didn’t seem all that attractive anymore. But I do love Estes Park so I spent an afternoon there practicing with my new toy. And I got in that run with Robin, and Rachel joined us too!

The following photos were taken with my new (used) Olympus E-M10 Mark III, at various aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. I didn’t crop or edit these photos, except where really needed. I’m not claiming any of these to be good; I was just playing around, learning what this camera can do. But I’m hoping you might find them interesting.

These shots were taken at a park in Denver. You can see the effect of aperture here. Low F-stop (large opening) means things close up in focus, while large F-stop (smaller opening) brings everything in focus.

Low f-stop.

Higher f-stop.

In Estes Park, along with experimenting with exposures, I worked on the four basic elements – line, color, pattern, and texture.

These were studies in “line”:

By visitor’s center.

Lake Estes and power station.

Creek by coffee shop.

Along the road.

Near Lake Estes.

These were texture:

These were pattern:

And this one was for color. Notice that every color of the rainbow is represented in the photo.

Behind coffee shop. (Colors not retouched.)

Later this month I’m off to the U.S. Trail Running Conference in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Warm weather and great trails. Looking forward to some good running and more opportunities to use the new camera!

The Magic of Estes Park

One hundred yards into the run, and I was already fatigued.

It wasn’t a huge climb, and I was walking it. I was fully warmed up. And yet I felt like I’d already run 20 miles. When we got to the top of the rise and began running down into the canyon, I caught my breath and fell into a groove. Until we began climbing again.

Are we done yet?

I knew what was wrong, of course. And despite the struggle, I was having the time of my life.

I just returned from five awesome days in Estes Park, Colorado attending the U.S. Trail Running Conference, an event I’d looked forward to since February.  I attended presentations and panel discussions, networked with race directors, and tried out some pretty cool products, all of which I’ll talk about in upcoming posts.

And, of course, got in some running. I went up and down (and up) the gorgeous Black Canyon Trail, climbed 1,500 feet over two miles to Gem Lake, and ran loops around Lake Estes. All of this in sunny, cool weather which calls to trail runners like chocolate calls to – well, everyone.

I came back convinced that every trail runner or hiker should travel at least once to Estes Park. Here’s why.

Mountains.

For some of you, such as my daughter living in Denver, ‘nuff said. (“Mountains” is her TL;DR why she moved there from Michigan.) I don’t share her deep and permanent love for them, but I was continually struck by them during my visit. They’re a continuous reminder of just how small and insignificant we are.

The trails included some incredible overlooks at the larger, snow-capped mountains farther away, and valleys and plains below. During group runs, many of us stopped at them just to take in the scene for a few minutes. (That’s my excuse, anyway.)

Gaining a new appreciation for breathing.

I’m not out of breath. I’m just taking in the scenery. Yeah.

After several years of training and racing, it usually takes a pretty good effort to get me breathing hard. Not so above 7,500 feet. Experiences vary: one runner described it as, “trying to breathe through a straw.” I had no trouble breathing fully, but fatigue hit me on any climb whatever, even at the start of a run. My first day 5-mile run felt more like 10, and even walking uphill was a slog.

I gradually acclimated, and running got easier. At Lake Estes on my final day there, I felt nearly normal and was able to enjoy an eight mile run on a mostly flat path. Not ready for those 14ers yet, though.

Getting away from everything.

One of the overlooks on the Gem Lake trail.

What they saw.

Estes Park makes you want to throw away the cell phone and submerge yourself in nature. Although I spent most of each day at the conference, I made sure to get outside. Each morning there was a fun run on the trails, and the sessions started late enough to not feel rushed. A long walk during the day was also a must, either after lunch, after the final session of the day, or whenever the hell I felt like it.

Or how about a nice climb?

I spent the morning of my departure packing up, staring out at another beautiful day. I just couldn’t leave without one last run. So after checkout I headed down to Lake Estes and ran the paved path around the lake. I had just enough time to sneak in two loops, about eight miles, before driving to Denver for the flight home.

Just enjoying running.

Training is part of my weekly routine, and there’s a temptation to just push through it as necessary preparation for my upcoming race or races. But racing isn’t why I run. I started running longer and harder because I wanted to. Because I came to enjoy it.

And while I try to appreciate each run while it’s happening, it’s much easier to do so away from the routines of home. Last week I could just go out and run for the sake of it, and enjoy the company of those who share the passion for the trails. No one cared how slow or fast you were, how far you went, how hard you worked. We were running trails, and that was all that mattered.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor, nature and water

The payoff: reaching Gem Lake (elevation 9,000 ft.)

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(BTW, next year’s conference is in San Luis Obispo, CA, home of the Race SLO series. Just in case you’re interested.)