Andrew Terrill

The outdoor diary of a writer, photographer, and wilderness wanderer

Places I Love #1

Golden Cliffs, North Table Mountain, Golden, Colorado

East from Golden Cliffs at sunrise, October 2016.

I’VE BEEN FEELING considerable sympathy for the many people I know back in Britain who are currently stuck in lockdown. For that reason, I decided to sprain my ankle on Friday and put myself in a comparable situation – stuck at home unable to reach the hills. How’s that for putting empathy into action?

Okay, I’ll admit it: it wasn’t really for that reason, and it isn’t really comparable. It was a hiker’s off leash dog that led to the sprained ankle. (“Don’t worry – he’s friendly”!) But – what the heck – pretending to myself that I’ve voluntarily entered lockdown in support of others removes some of the sting from my tragically swollen foot!

(Or, perhaps it was merely ‘the mountain gods’ teaching me a lesson in humility. ‘So you’re going to start blogging about yourself, eh? Well… take that! Now let’s see what you write about!’)

Anyhow, with my weekend plans broken, all I can do now is sit and look outside. Happily, the view isn’t too shabby. North Table Mountain rears above my home, a cresting wave of rough ground topped by an impressive basalt crag, Golden Cliffs. This is the view I see every morning when I step out the front door, a view I still celebrate. I’m unable to believe my good fortune that such a thrillingly rugged hillside awaits just steps away (even if those steps might as well be a hundred miles right now.) It isn’t something I will ever take for granted.

Golden Cliffs, a cresting wave of rough ground, May 2019
An early snow, and a photo bomb from a red-tailed hawk, October 2019

For this blog, I figured I’d share a few photos of Golden Cliffs, and let the images do most of the talking. Originally, I thought about making the blog about North Table Mountain in its entirety, but changed my mind when I realized the mountain is far too big to sum up with just a handful of shots. Even Golden Cliffs will be a challenge on that front. A hundred photos wouldn’t adequately do the job – and I’m sure you don’t have patience for that many anyway. (The mass of images shared below may test your patience as it is!)

Plum blossom beneath the cliffs, May 2019

After 17 years of close contact with Golden Cliffs and the land around it I’ve come to know it intimately, and with immense affection. As a landscape it is pretty insignificant compared to many wilder places, but it is huge in ways that count: in variety and character, in the life present both small and large, in the experiences available, and in the connection with nature it can offer. Way back when I first started visiting wild places I never imagined so much benefit could come from spending so much time in one small place. Back then, covering ground was what heading outdoors was all about. But I’ve learnt a few things since then.

For me, really getting to know a place well is where the greatest outdoor experiences lie, and where the greatest rewards await. It’s exactly the same as with people. The most worthwhile relationships are those you spend time building. The more you put in, the more you get back – love often follows. So it is with nature.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

South Table Mountain seen from a flat spot beneath Golden Cliffs, September 2013.
Wary monarch of the cliffs, October 2019.
Western meadowlark atop the cliffs, announcing the spring. April 2020.
Juvenile rattlesnake just above the cliffs, September 2020.
Praying mantis, October 2012.
Fence lizard – miniature dinosaur! May 2020.
The standard view most visitors get of a mule deer. Those ears! October 2019.
Spring paradise beneath the volcanic cliffs. Just watch for snakes. May 2019.
Fog and frost, February 2005.
Brightness beneath the volcanic cliffs! June 2007.
Mountain mahogany, ready to spread. November 2017.
It’s not just about the spikes. Prickly pear flower, May 2020.
Sumac in the snow, October 2019.
Hoar frost left behind by fog, February 2014.
Vermont in Colorado! October 2020.
Summer beneath the cliffs, and the living is easy! June 2019.
The snowstorm ends, the mist fades. Mid May (!), 2020.
An unforgettable morning. February 2005.
Golden by night, from the top of the cliffs, March 2010.
A frosty morning, February 2014.
Sunrise above the drifts, just above Golden Cliffs, April 2020.
Frosted trees at the climber’s parking area, April 2018.
An unusual view of the cliffs from Mount Galbraith, October 2019.
A blizzard screams in, March 2018.
Perhaps my favorite Golden Cliffs photo – for how it shows adventure is possible just ten minutes walk from home! March, 2018.
Or perhaps this is my favorite? Hard to say!

A FINAL NOTE: if you visit Golden Cliffs, or any other wild place, please consider that you have an absolute duty and responsibility to leave no sign you were ever there. This is CRITICAL. Travel gently, travel softly. Wild mountains may look rugged, and they are… but they are also easily damaged and diminished. Don’t just learn ‘leave no trace principles’… make them your guiding principles. The mountains will benefit, future visitors will benefit, and your own journey will be a thousand times better for it. Thank you.

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