Falls Creek Images, CO  (26)  Bob Leverett 
June 29, 2009


Attached are seven images of what has become one of Monica's favorite places. The location is the Falls Creek Recreation Area in the San Juan National Forest just north of Durango. 

Falls Creek is an idyllic little mountain valley surrounded by long ridges capped by colorful sandstone formations. It is a quintessential western landscape. The hues of the sculpted rock are predominantly white and red-orange. Beneath the cliffs, along the sweep of the ridges, old pinyon and ponderosa pines mix with Rocky Mountain juniper to form a continuous cloak of green. Although the rock formations are prominent and eye-catching, Falls Creek is an environment dominated by forest and meadow. Where the ridge contours are gentle, interspersed with  the trees are displays of showy wild flowers - testament to abundant sunlight. One can easily identify a dozen or more species of flowers without looking for long. Throughout Falls Creek, splendid views occur in all directions. One never feels cheated or disappointed. The scenes are presented to the visitor in bold strokes, yet there is an intimacy to the place. It feels safe and friendly. 

While most of the surrounding ridges are too rugged for Monica to contemplate exploring, there is a narrow, relatively low ridge in Falls Creek that was designed specifically for her. She loves to walk along its gentle contours. At all points along the ridge, great views, old trees, grassy glades, wild flowers, and birds present themselves for Monica's enjoyment. Walking on the ridge crest makes one feel as though one is witness to a play written and directed by Mother Nature designed to enchant the audience and remind each member that nature is the master artist.

What especially appeals to Monica are the intimate spots where nature shows her wares in miniature displays. These haunting little places never induce claustrophobia in those so inclined. They are all cast against the grand backdrop of colorful sandstone and azure sky, so that the eye is treated to a rainbow of hues shining radiantly through curtains of dark foliage. Splashes of vivid whites, reds, and blues penetrate a surrounding of the dark green foliage and gray-brown trunks of the gnarly old trees. The dirt beneath the feet is red, the patches of grasses, green to amber. These fairy tale spots induce in Monica a feeling comfort and well-being. Nature embraces and soothes her. For a period, she becomes part of the place. There is no separation between her and the surrounding life forms. 

Well, with this admittedly inadequate descriptive introduction, I will now let the images do the talking. Hopefully, my pictures will capture at least a whisper of the spell that Falls Creek casts. 

Description of images:

1. This image looks into the Animas River Valley from the ridge top we were on. The train returning from Silverton is visible in the valley.

2. This image looks toward the northeast and across the verdant Animas River Valley. U.S. 550 and the Durango and Silverton RR run through the valley - one a corridor for the busy and detached and the other for the joyful and included. Farms dot the productive land productive near the river and help feed the growing population of Durango. To provide a vertical perspective, the part of the valley in the photograph lies at an altitude of between 6,500 and 6,600 feet. We're at an altitude of around 7,100 feet where I snapped the shutter.

3. This image looks to the southwest and across a ridge that hides a long, lovely meadow. It is the meadow we cross to reach our favored spots. Beyond the meadow, lie the walls of a scenic canyon. The road winds through the canyon. It is the route we take to get to Falls Creek.
4. This image looks to the north, across a grove of mature ponderosas and toward the towering peaks beyond of the lofty San Juans. The direction is toward the West Needles and Needles - subranges of the San Juans that attract only expert mountaineers. As an aside, for people driving north from Durango on U.S. 550, the Needles group dominates the view and presents some of the most dramatic valley to mountain contrasts. By late September or early October, the high peaks will don a mantle of white, while beneath one beholds the brilliance of the aspens. No sight is more glorious. But back to the spot. Within the grove of ponderosas are numerous small meadows. It is this quintessential mix of meadows and trees that I find most appealing. One has room to casually walk and appreciate both environments. 

5. This image is of one of those intimate little spots, which compels to Monica to return to Falls Creek. I call the spot in the image, 'Monica's Magic Hideout'. One can sit contemplatively in the shade of gnarly old pinyons that reveal their ages through the twists and bends of stout trunks and limbs, lost bark, and remaining tufts of foliage.  Gazing between their trunks and through their branches, the broad meadow   unfolds  beyond. There the eyes are treated to waving grasses of pure meadow that give way around its borders to savanna - those appealing mixes of grass and trees. Looking farther, bold cliffs rise abruptly as if to remind one that the land beyond, while beautiful, is unforgiving. It is a place of stark contrasts.

6. This image is of a small patch of vivid asters. Yes, a touch of New England. But there are many less familiar species of wild flowers to attract attention in Falls Creek. Monica and I struggled to identify a species of lily and a species of sunflower. Monica identified the sunflower as the woolly sunflower, but the particular species of lily was not portrayed. Flower books miss a lot of species that dominate a region and cause one to wonder what good are the little flower books that are supposed to present the species of a contained region. One must go out armed with 3 or 4 good books to have much of a chance - or one of those dreadful thick volumes with inscrutable keys that never seem to work well enough. 

7. The final image shows Monica, Rocky, and an old pinyon. This location is an intimate spot where Monica connects to the denizens of the ridge. The old pinyon is the patriarch of the  spot. Its role is to promote a feeling of harmony and well being among the denizens it supports. The sensation of well being comes naturally to those willing to sit meditatively in the presence of this old tree.



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