San Juan Mountains, Colorado, USA by Robert Thaden

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This was a camping and off-road trip with my son around Memorial Day, 2016. Our first night after leaving Austin, TX was in northern New Mexico, tent camping and surrounded by patches of snow, just below tree-line. We visited most of the 4WD-accessible mountains roads from the Rio Grande National Forrest to the northern portions of the San Juan NF. Most of the mountain pass roads (dirt) in southern Colorado were open/plowed to just above tree-line, then closed with an average of 15 feet of snow.

This photograph is from near Ouray, Colorado. Lots of beautiful photos from the Alpine Loop area in the San Juan Mountains. We camped in National Forest campgrounds the whole trip, with below freezing temperatures every night and mostly beautiful sunshine every day. We drove each trail until we couldn't go any further due to snow. Some trails ended abruptly while other became progressively challenging with snow. We had at least one near-whiteout snow storm one day. This was a great time to travel for several reasons. For one, it was well before the tourist season in Colorado, and yet just late enough to allow access to mountain panoramas above treeline. We were very lucky given the variability in when the snow starts clearing. There was absolutely no one on the high roads, and the National Forest campgrounds had lots of space. This photograph was a snapshot taken along the highway, but captured some remaining snow along a creek with freshly budding trees. This photograph was taken with a Nikon D-90 and an 18-200 f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. Aperture f20, speed 1/50th sec., and ISO 200.


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