Peak of the Water Cycle
This is Longs Peak, in some of my favorite lighting for photographing harsh contrasts. Under sunlight filtered by middle level clouds, it was a dark, imposing hulk of a mountain sharply mottled by snow fields in troughs and kettles. Like other "fourteeners" in the Front Range, this mountain wrings the moisture out in the form of snow, no matter the wind direction. With spring's melt, it returns the water to the rivers -- and ultimately, to Great Plains agriculture or the Gulf of Mexico. The hydrologic cycle is like the chicken-and-egg argument: Where does it begin and end? At least, unlike picking poultry's origin, we can set a standard of some kind. For now it will be elevation! Though east of the Continental Divide, Longs Peak is higher, and as such intercepts airborne water from both the Pacific and Gulf. The curiously flat top of the mountain may represent an extremely ancient land surface, a piece of a Precambrian plain once buried deep under sediment. It then was hoisted over 2-1/2 miles by the crust-buckling uplift which built the modern Rockies in the last 60 million years. Long since worn away, that former coating of softer sediment left behind the harder, older land surface as it was jacked up during mountain making.
11 W Estes Park CO (30 May 3) looking SE