Crested Butte Wildflowers

It's no secret, Crested Butte, Colorado is the place for wildflowers in Colorado. Every summer, carpets of mule ear, lupine, indian paintbrush, columbines, and more appear on the hillsides around the majestic valley. So many in fact, during the second week of July the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival occurs in appreciation for all things wildflower. 

During the spring of 2015, almost all locations across Colorado set records for precipitation (especially during May, many locations having their wettest month on record) and this has lead to a veritable wildflower explosion in the mountains. Locations not known for their wildflowers have impression displays this summer, thanks in part to the wet May and continued showery summer so far.

I was in Crested Butte during the second week of July and I was hoping to capture the beautiful and lush valley under optimal conditions; the weather had other plans. The wildflowers were amazing, and everything was more green and verdant than I have ever seen but the source of the beautiful, the rainy weather, did not relent. I lived most of my life in the mountains of Colorado, I know the routine by now. During the summer, a thunderstorm builds, it rains for about 10-20 minutes, thunderstorm moves onward and it goes back to being partly cloudy. That didn't happen in Crested Butte though, a shower would push through, followed by another 90 minutes later, and another 90 minutes after that. So all the hiking I had planned was mostly scrapped because I was foolish and wasn't adequately prepared for the weather (forgot my rain jacket here in Boulder). The weekend wasn't a total loss though! 

Canon 5D Mk. III, 16mm, f/8, 15 sec., ISO 50, 6-stop ND filter -  Prints available

Canon 5D Mk. III, 16mm, f/8, 15 sec., ISO 50, 6-stop ND filter - Prints available

The above scene I didn't plan on shooting because I've never seen so many flowers at that low of an elevation, but from what I understand, the flowers are just starting to come in at the higher elevation and very populated at the lower elevations. I didn't get a chance to go up high really, so it was great to see such beautiful scenes lower. This was especially popular because Gothic Road was about 20 yards behind me. I waited for a little cloud cover, then I used my 6-stop ND filter (the welders mask!) to capture a 15 second exposure in broad daylight. This allowed for the streaking clouds, which I felt made the sky more interesting.

Later in the day I went up Washington Gulch and found a similar scene, but one where I didn't want the streaking clouds. 

Canon 5D Mk. III, 16mm, f/18, 1/16 sec., ISO 50 -  Prints available

Canon 5D Mk. III, 16mm, f/18, 1/16 sec., ISO 50 - Prints available

The only negative of the whole weekend was the amount of people traveling up and down Gothic Road. I've never seen that many people up near there, especially above Gothic on the way to Scofield Pass in the narrows. The "parking area" at West Maroon Pass was overflowing, as was the parking lot for Judd Falls. It's great for a tourist town, which is exactly what Crested Butte is, as it brings in valuable tourist dollars. Going along with that problem was the trip back on Sunday along US Hwy. 285. It took well over an hour just to get from Fairplay to the top of Kenosha Pass. It was brutal. Way too many people for a single lane highway, with way too many drivers who don't know what the speed limit is. Ugh, if you don't believe me go here or here. Weekend traffic is becoming a huge problem in Colorado. As more and more people are traveling out of town on the weekends to the mountains, it's great for mountain towns which tourism is their life blood. For drivers going either way, it's a nightmare though.