Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Homestead Meadows - A Look Back

First view of Homestead Meadows
The hiking mileage was only 3 to 4 miles, but it was rather steep in places...very scenic...and on my first attempt to explore this intriguing location called Homestead Meadows not far from Estes Park, Colorado I discovered one of the jewels of Colorado.

Big rock on the right became my resting place
Seems like such a long time ago, fifteen years now, I found myself working in Denver Colorado on a contract programming job.  In order to divert my attention from being away from home and family, who were still in Oklahoma, I set about exploring the Rocky Mountains almost any time I was off.  Hiking became one of the primary weapons I used often driving up to Rocky Mountain National Park, or over to the northern reaches of the Colorado River for some fishing, and even a backpacking trip to the heights of the Rawah Wilderness area.  But, one of my favorite places to explore was this location called Homestead Meadows.

Just off the main highway leading up to Estes Park, I kept noticing a sign with Lion Gulch - Homestead Meadows markings across it.  One day, I decided to find out what it was all about.  Turns out back in the late 1800's and early 1900's, that area was open to homesteaders and a number of families and individuals took advantage of the opportunity and settled in to what is now called Homestead Meadows.  A number of homesteaders worked the area up until the 1950's and included a sawmill and cattle ranches.  Sometime I believe in the late 1950's or early 1960's a primitive hunting lodge was built in the area but eventually closed up.  Not sure when it occurred but eventually the U.S. Forest Service took over the property...probably in the late 1960's.

The old Hunting Lodge

The meadows area was 3 to 4 miles from the start of the trail and climbed from around 6000 feet to something under 8000 feet if I remember correctly.  The trail is steep in places and washed out in others and can be a difficult hike simply because of the ruts and rocks...but most of it is generally easily traversed.

I can remember my first hike into that area.  It was one of those gorgeous Rocky Mountain summer days with the fresh scent of pine in the air, warm but not hot sun gleaming in a cobalt blue sky.  The 3 or 4 mile hike seemed longer than that...but eventually it flattened out some and as I approached what appeared to be a wide area in the trail, the scene gradually opened up to reveal a most wonderful little meadow valley surrounded by peaks at both ends.

Scattered across the landscape were the remains of a couple of old cabins and upon further investigation I discovered that other remains were located in the area.  I spent the better part of the day hiking around and checking out the old cabins and eventually sat down on the top of a large rock to eat lunch and survey the scene in front of me.  It was everything I ever thought the Rocky Mountains were suppose to be.  As the day progressed, the air turned cooler and storm clouds began to brew...reluctantly, I made my way back down the trail not wanting to get caught in a mountain storm. 

I returned to this hidden meadow numerous times and even backpacked into there once for a weekend trip.  On that trip I ran across an elk hunter who was also camping in the meadows about 300 yards from where I was set up.  We had a good conversation and I learned a lot from him about the area as he had hunted and camped in there numerous times over the years.

My last trip into that meadow area came near the end of my tenure in was a day hike much like the first trip...and it was every bit as intriguing and enjoyable as the others.  What I gleaned from the experiences hiking into this area was a wonderment about how life has changed since those first homesteaders worked the land.  In our time we see the opportunity as their time it was their life where they worked hard to make a living.  What they saw as obstacles, we see as scenic beauty...when they experienced hardship from the hardness of the landscape, we see it as a way to revert let go of modern society at least for a while, and maybe not experience life as it once was so much, but at least ponder on the lives of those people and how they faced the world...a much different world from what we face today.

Of all the places I visited in Colorado, Homestead Meadows became my favorite.  As I would often do, that same big rock I sat on during my first visit, became a place of rest, a place to think about and take in the beauty of this simple lost little meadow landscape...I have never let go of those moments.


p.s. - Photo's were taken with one of those wonderful Kodak 35mm disposable cameras...thank you Kodak for providing a way for hikers to take great photos with a simple and inexpensive camera...

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