Andrew Terrill

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

The winter-spring seesaw

Centennial Cone and Clear Creek Canyon in winter
only guarantee, stability is but a fleeting illusion. Few things illustrate this more clearly then the annual winter-spring-winter-spring seesaw that takes place here in Colorado’s Front Range foothills.

deer on north table mountain
Last week, temperatures soared. The sun shone with soul-caressing warmth. I strode across hills and open space watching the land emerge from its covering of snow. Watercourses ran with increasing volume, flushing away winter. Mule deer migrated to sunny south-facing slopes, escaping the cold blue northern hillsides. The repeating trill of newly-arrived red-winged blackbirds filled the air with spring-like optimism. Shirt off, I basked contentedly on a basalt slab, appreciating the ease of the moment with quiet elation – elation made all the greater by knowing it wouldn’t last.

Just five days earlier, temperatures had been notably different: almost eighty degrees Fahrenheit colder. Dawn had arrived at -7°F, -17°C: a penetrating reality to step into that even people utterly detached from nature couldn’t completely ignore. During my daily outing I travelled briskly, feeling the air hard and sharp against my face, fighting for dexterity in my fingers after the questionable wisdom of winter photography. There was little basking on basalt slabs. But there was still elation, and once again it was made greater by knowing that conditions wouldn’t last.

north table mountain icefall golden colorado

I think about change a fair amount. I find it hard not to. I dwell on the knowledge that nothing lasts, that change is inevitable, that what I have now won’t be had forever. It may sound negative, but it’s not. It leads to immense appreciation. It leads to focusing on what I have when I have it. And it leads to excitement for everything still to come, although not to any expectations about what will come. What does the future hold in store? No one knows. For me, there is only hope and possibility.

Plunging cold and rising warmth; bright sunshine and glowering cloud; dry air and falling snow; gentle stillness and raging storm: the winter-spring-winter-spring seesaw keeps on tilting, a reminder that life itself offers endless seesawing cycles of storm and sunshine, turmoil and peace. Storms are inevitable, but they can strengthen us if we let them, difficult though this can often be.

As I write this, I’m conscious of everything that’s going on in the world. But I’m also thinking about yesterday’s sparkling wonderland of freshly-deposited snow, today’s bright thaw, and tomorrow’s forecast for yet more snow and cold. It is clear to me: there are so many things that I can’t control, and yet there are profoundly important things that I can: my own reaction being one of them. I can make the world a better place through every single encounter, and I can step outside into nature every single day to find solace, perspective and an all-encompassing beauty that can’t be measured or quantified.

The photos from the last two weeks that accompany this blog hint at the seesawing drama of unstoppable change. They remind me to appreciate each fleeting moment; to accept and continue to embrace change.

This day – today – is a one off. It won’t come again. Whatever else is going on, nature awaits…

sunday sunrise
A warm night out in a rocky nest. The overnight temperature stayed far above freezing.
here we go again winter snowstorm and juniper
Here we go again. Another round of snow moves in.
golden colorado on a winter day cold
My home town, Golden. The high on this day was 8°F, -13°C. 
falling snow along beaver brook trail golden colorado
Still below freezing, but a return of sunlight began a slow thaw.
winter along the beaver brook trail golden colorado
Shadowy haunts on north-facing slopes.
snow laden pine trees beaver brook trail golden colorado
Snow trail through a sparkling wonderland.
Pillows of snow along the beaver brook trail golden colorado
Deep snow beyond the sun’s reach. Successive snowfalls can clearly be seen in the different layers. Freeze-thaw, sunlight-snow. An illustrated history of change.
sunlit winter forest along the beaver brook trail golden colorado
Frozen and still, but shining with light and colour. The air held that special sugary sweetness that only comes with snow.
pillows of snow
Winter’s crystals lying deep.
view through the trees beaver brook trail in winter
Beguiling trail through the forest.
andrew terrill in leant to at night
For a change, and with snow forecast, I slept in a lean-to, but with the temperature at 6°F, -14°C it was a cold choice. For once, I thought to myself: ‘Why am I doing this?’
andrew terrill in leant to
The answer came at dawn. I woke to above-freezing temperatures, warm sunlight, singing birds, and an immense sense of well being. ‘So this is why!’
golden gate canyon shelter 004 lean-to
The lean-to in a valley dripping with change.
thawing snow in valley
Within a few days the temperature had climbed to 71°F, 21°C. Winter was thawing into oblivion.
ponderosa pine in rough valley
Contrasting seasons: sun-warmed on one side of the valley, snow-covered on the other. Typical for March in Colorado’s Front Range.
rocky hillside in spring
Winter stripped away. (I love traversing terrain like this, no matter the season. So many treasures to unearth. So many nooks to explore.)
ponderosa pine and rocks
The photo I took of this view a few weeks earlier looked very different.

snow covered rocks and ponderosa pine golden colorado

just watching the sun rise
Aside from taking this one photo, it was a long, slow morning. I spent most of it just sitting, being, making the most of the warmth.
snowstorm mount galbraith golden colorado
Another change. Snow backlit by a fleeting moment of brightness.
icicles on granite golden colorado
Winter returns.
windblow snowdrift and ponderosa pines colorado winter
The wind had left its mark.
rough slope mount galbraith
Rough terrain to cross with care – for the land’s sake, not only my own.
clearing snow storm mount galbraith golden colorado
A glimpse of the sun. Another change, coming. Change is ALWAYS coming…


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