Sunrise at South Sunlight Lake
Sunrise at South Sunlight Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado
In the days before digital cameras reached the quality they have now, I used a 4x5 field camera for nearly all of my wilderness photographs. Although the resolution was superb, the gear was heavy. When I left the road for a five-day wilderness photo shoot, my pack weighed 70 pounds - about half my body weight. In 2005, as my knees approached the half-century mark, it became increasingly clear that I needed help to reach the remote wilderness valleys where many of my best photos have been made.
That summer I enlisted a former semi-pro mountain bike racer who is 15 years younger and three inches taller than I am to help me pack my gear into Sunlight Basin, 16 miles from the Vallecito Campground trailhead in the Weminuche Wilderness near Durango. The difficulty of the approach was compounded by the enormous piles of avalanche debris that blocked the trail in six places. An unrelenting series of fierce storms the year before had brought down the biggest avalanches in a hundred years. The avalanches had snapped off hundreds of trees two feet in diameter and piled them up like a giant's game of pickup sticks. The approach took us nearly two days.
On our first morning in Sunlight Basin, we were rewarded with beautiful sunrise light on 14,082-foot Windom Peak, 13,995-foot Sunlight Spire and 14,059-foot Sunlight Peak, all reflected in South Sunlight Lake. The marsh marigolds blooming in the foreground completed this idyllic image of the one of the most remote and beautiful regions of Colorado.