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Uncompahgre Peak at Sunset

Uncompahgre Peak at Sunset, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Colorado

Uncompahgre Peak at Sunset, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Colorado

If the only difference between men and boys is the size of their playground, then the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado are the ultimate playground for boys of all ages. All told, the San Juans cover some 10,000 square miles – enough precipitous peaks, lush, steep-walled valleys, roaring streams and peaceful lakes to provide a lifetime of adventure.

In the summer of 2007, I decided to explore the headwaters of the East Fork of the Cimarron River, in the northern part of the range. This valley attracted me initially because two of Colorado’s most spectacular Fourteeners, Uncompahgre Peak and Wetterhorn Peak, rose at the head of the valley. As I studied topographic maps of the area, I realized that in mid-July, when the wildflowers would be peaking, Wetterhorn Peak would be bathed in warm light at the moment of sunrise; Uncompahgre Peak had equally good potential for receiving sunset light.

I timed my trip for the peak of the wildflower bloom, trekked nine miles to my high-country campsite, then spent five days exploring the basin below Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn. Each morning I got up two hours before sunrise and worked on photographs of Wetterhorn glowing in sunrise light; after a siesta in camp at midday, I went out again each evening and worked on photographs of Uncompahgre lit by the setting sun. This photograph of heartleaf arnica and Uncompahgre Peak is my favorite view of the highest peak in the San Juans.

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