Open Sky Photography | DESTINATION: SUNLIGHT (Summer 2013)


August 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I'd wanted to visit the Grenadier and Needles mountain areas of the San Juans for quite some time, specifically Sunlight Basin. I finally got my chance the summer of 2013. My plan was to do a few side trips before heading to the main event: Sunlight Basin.

Porphyry Basin

There's no shortage of photos of this basin on the Internet, but I wanted to see it for myself. The water was a bit down, but it served to challenge me to try to get some neat shots...

Porphyry FallsPorphyry FallsSAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO Sunrise at Porphyry FallsSunrise at Porphyry FallsSAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO

What a beautiful basin! I spent the night up there. The only problem I had was a persistent porcupine who really wanted to gnaw on my truck's hoses. Not good. I chased him off with some nice sized rocks, but it definitely persuaded me to purchase some mothballs in the general store in Silverton before heading out to Beartown trailhead. The afternoon shot below (left) is Red Mountain. The morning shot below (right) was taken from the basin, looking across the million dollar highway over to the Grenadiers in the distance — where I'd end up in just a few days...

Red MountainRed Mountain Grenadier HorizonGrenadier HorizonSAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO

South Fork Mineral Creek

The next day I headed down to spend a bit of time at the South Fork Mineral Creek...

Falls on South Fork Mineral CreekFalls on South Fork Mineral CreekSAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO Pool on South Fork Mineral CreekPool on South Fork Mineral CreekSAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO

Engineer Pass

Then I headed off through Silverton to Engineer Pass. There's nothing like the feeling you get when you're standing (or driving) on top of a mountain range. Engineer Pass is the type of place where camera doesn't matter. It really is like a sanctuary to me, to be "on top of the world" with nothing but God's creation all around...

west side of Engineer Passwest side of Engineer Pass East Side of Engineer PassEast Side of Engineer Pass

What a view. The next step in the journey was a change of plans...

Clear Creek

I was going to hike into the Uncompahgre Wilderness toward Wildhorse Peak for a shot of the sunset on Dragon's Back, but unfortunately this year the rains were unrelenting, and the sky was completely obliterated by clouds. So, reluctantly I decided to head down the east side of the pass and spend the night at Clear Creek Falls. I'd been there before, but the sky was clear, and it just didn't turn out well. This time, though, the skies were clouded just enough for an awesome morning...

Dawn at North Clear Creek FallsDawn at North Clear Creek Falls North Clear Creek FallsNorth Clear Creek Falls

And then a short trip just down the road to South Clear Creek Falls...

South Clear Creek Falls VISouth Clear Creek Falls VI South Clear Creek Falls IVSouth Clear Creek Falls IV

Camp Redcloud & American Basin

So while I still want to get the sunset at Dragon's Back, I am very thankful for this detour. For more reasons than one, because my wife and little girls were spending the week at Camp Redcloud's Family Camp. So I got to head over there and spend a day with them! We had a blast together, and I spent the night there. What a fun time! The next day I was headed out over Cinnamon Pass, and thank the Lord my wife had signed the girls up for a day trip to American Basin — which is exactly where I was going! So I got to enjoy spending time with them in the basin as well, marveling at the beauty of God's wildflowers...

RyanRyan LoganLogan

I love my family!

Beartown to Trinity

So the main event was to be a backpacking trip to Sunlight Basin. My route was from Beartown Trailhead over Hunchback Pass, up Trinity Creek to Trinity Lake, up and over the high passes to Sunlight Basin and then back up the Vallecito drainage back to Beartown. The trip started out pretty well, with a nice lunch stop at an unnamed waterfall and nice cascade on Vallecito Creek. Found out later this was the place to cross the Vallecito to head over to Trinity Creek...

Falls on Vallecito CreekFalls on Vallecito Creek Vallecito Creek CascadeVallecito Creek CascadeSAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO

Sunlight Lost

Figuratively and literally. Unfortunately the rain/thunder/lightning was so relentless (try 6 hours straight each day) that I didn't want to chance the high passes past noon. I could have gone back down Trinity Creek, down Vallecito Creek, then up Sunlight Creek to the basin, but the timing was going to be off by a day I didn't have. So I reluctantly shortened the trip to climb a ridge south of Peak 3 for some shots of the sunrise on Trinity Creek Basin, Peak 3 and the Grenadiers. Note that these were clouds already formed before the sun rose. Knowing the San Juans, you can imagine what most of the day was like while I was out there. Sure did make for a beautiful sunrise...

Grenadier SunriseGrenadier Sunrise Dawn at Peak ThreeDawn at Peak Three Sunrise in Trinity BasinSunrise in Trinity Basin

If you look real close, you can see a tiny white dot to the left of the biggest lake in the basin. That's my tent next to a big boulder. For a more detailed report of this trip, see my Trinity Basin journey report.

Final Thoughts

So while I didn't get to Sunlight Basin — my goal — I found some amazing places in spite of it. It's a good thing, because it reminds me of how God works in my life. I make my plans and think it's what's best, but ultimately He knows what He's doing, even when He changes my plans completely (which He does often).

Next year it's a toss-up between finally reaching Sunlight Basin or making a return trip to Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range (now that I know my way around a camera a bit more).


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