Andrew Terrill

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

One Night, But So Much More

SINGLE NIGHT OUTINGS might not provide the immersive depth of multi-month trips, but then again…

Murray Lake Camp 10-15-22

For various reasons – mostly because of the area’s well-known popularity – I’d never before walked to Colorado’s Front Range lakes of Silver Dollar or Murray Lake, despite them being so close to home. But finally a spur-of-the-moment decision changed that. Late-season crowds were descending as I hiked up. After the short two-mile walk I reached camp, and in rapidly cooling mid-October air I soon had the location to myself. In developing frost and flat light it felt slightly bleak. I had no idea at the rewards that lay a few minutes ahead.

Murray Lake Camp beneath Squaretop Mountain 10-15-22

Above camp, Square Top Mountain’s north face was dusted with snow.

Murray Lake Camp evening light 10-15-22

As sunset neared, the first burst of sunlight found a gap in the clouds, shinning on the slopes of Gray Wolf Mountain across the valley.

Murray Lake Camp evening light on Gray Wolf Mountain 10-15-22

As the evening light grew in richness, so did ruffles of fog on the upper slopes… and the drama.

Murray Lake Camp evening light on Gray Wolf Mountain10-15-22

Gray Wolf Mountain, and a glowing spotlight of alpenglow.

Murray Lake Camp evening light on Mount Blue Sky 10-15-22

Mount ‘currently-being-renamed’ looked truly spectacular.

Murray Lake Camp Sunset Square Top Mountain 10-15-22

Clouds above Square Top.

Murray Lake Camp Sunset Gray Wolf Evans and Bierstadt 10-15-22

“A day without awe is a day wasted,” as I wrote in On Sacred Ground, paraphrasing that Chaplin fella who said it about laughter. Moments of awe may only last moments, but their impact can sustain for days, weeks, months and even years.

Murray Lake Camp Sunset on Mount Blue Sky 10-15-22

What had been bleak was now a gift to savour.

Murray Lake Camp Sunset on Mount Blue Sky and Mount Bierstadt 10-15-22

Last light.

Murray Lake Camp sunrise 10-16-22

A wild night of strong winds and a hard frost finally gave way to first light. Clouds capped the hills, pouring over the upper slopes like water spilling into a basin.

Murray Lake Camp waiting for sunrise 10-16-22

With dawn approaching, the wind finally dropped, the lake stilled.

Murray Lake Camp camp beneath square top mountain 10-16-22

Sunlight took a while to hit, but soon it began banishing the frost.

Murray Lake Camp frozen creek beneath Square Top Mountain 10-16-22


Although river ice remained stubbornly in place.

Murray Lake Camp ice on creek detail 10-16-22

So many textures and swirls…

Murray Lake Camp ice on creek 10-16-22

The creek had become a work of art.

Murray Lake Camp ice 10-16-22

The extravagant beauty of water and the seasons in transition.

Murray Lake Camp hikers perched on rock 10-16-22

Eventually, the first of the day’s hikers arrived. It was wonderful to sit, talk and share the drama. And to discuss ‘that peak’ over there, and consider what it’s new name ‘should’ be… whether or not it should be named after human things, or perhaps instead after some intrinsic natural quality.

Murray Lake Camp mount evans mount blue sky above the clouds 10-16-22

Wandering clouds beneath the summit ridge of Mount… Mount… I just can’t use the old name any more! I now know that Colorado’s second governor, after whom the peak is named, was arguably responsible for genocide. With knowledge comes the duty to use it.

Murray Lake Camp square top mountain reflection 10-16-22

Not a breath of a breeze.

Murray Lake Camp clouds around mount evans blue sky and Bierstadt 10-16-22

Valley clouds forming.

Murray Lake Camp clouds around Naylor Lake mount evans blue sky and Bierstadt 10-16-22

And away home I went. One night only, but one-night trips really do add up. The impact can be as profound as a 7,000-mile thru hike.

Or perhaps one needs to have lost oneself within an 18-month walk for single nights to become so powerfully sustaining?


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