Saturday, March 1, 2008
Take a road trip through the Rockies and the Smokies with two pros who map the most dramatic spots in these American icons
East of Telluride and south of Silverton, the Weminuche Wilderness is nearly 500,000 acres of undeveloped land filled with nature trails and steep mountains. One of the best access points is Elk Creek Canyon, a trailhead that winds right into the Weminuche Wilderness five miles south of Silverton.
If roughing it is your photographic disposition, then entering the trailhead from Elk Creek Canyon will provide you with grand peaks and open vistas, eventually taking you to the Continental Divide. Elk Creek is also a great destination if you’re looking for a backcountry shooting experience because of its big, deep, glacier-carved canyons. When Kay shoots here, he usually hikes in eight to 10 miles to seek out the best areas. Kay has photographed subjects like summer wildflowers, as well as various lakes and water systems. You also can find alpine meadows and high spruce stands to serve as your backdrop.
North of Ouray on the San Juan Skyway, Yankee Boy Basin Road intersects Highway 62; this dirt road gets rougher and more rugged as you drive along. The road winds into a high basin called Yankee Boy Basin, famous for its wildflowers during the spring and summer months. Kay says the basin is known for its profusion of Colorado columbines and paintbrush flowers as well as a stream with several snowcapped mountains in the background.
If you hike up the creek bed at Yankee Boy Basin, you’ll run into the Mount Sneffels Wilderness, which is located about five miles west of Ouray. At 14,150 feet, Mount Sneffels is one of the most photographed peaks in the San Juan Range, and it’s the first peak you see upon your arrival. Mount Sneffels lies in the northern edge of the range, and Yankee Boy Basin is just below the peak, facing east.
Streams, turquoise-colored lakes and various wildflowers characterize the area surrounding Mount Sneffels. It’s also accessible via the Blue Lakes Basin trailhead, which is located just off the San Juan Skyway. Kay suggests exploring this trailhead, which leads into a hike where you’ll find three lakes filled with ancient glacial rock silt that turns the lakes into a beautiful turquoise color.
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