Temptation of the path

I can resist a great many things, but not the temptation of a really good path.

I mean a good path. A really good path. Not some urban ramble of a couple of miles of sidewalk. Not some ambling squiggle though some downtown park where you never really get out of the sounds of traffic and car horns. That’s pretty much what I think of as commuting. And while commuting by foot is good for you, it’s not inspiring to the soul. It requires headphones and podcasts to distract you. It is the brussels sprouts of the offerings on the plate of hiking and biking.

Some folks really like brussels sprouts. If that’s your thing, then more power to you. But I can always look at them and say, no thank you.

Even if you cover them with cheese.

shoot-466A really good hiking path is surrounded by pines, and scrambles across rocks. It has a nice spot or two to just sit in the sun as the wind blows past and allows you to look down on a valley or river. It switchbacks when the grade gets tough, and gives you a nice spot or two to stop and look around while you catch your breath.

A really good bike path is mostly gravel or chat. It can give you some pavement, preferably asphalt, just to make you appreciate how smooth and beautiful it can be. Just enough to make up some time and get closer to lunch while you listen to the thrum of your wheels along it as you kick it up a notch and cover ground. But mostly, it needs to crunch as you go.

shoot-468It needs to connect something. A town or two, a good picnic spot, a nice overlook or lake to sit by are preferred. It needs to have character. The really long ones that can string all of that together are what I like best. If you can add in cool air and the crunch of leaves under your wheels, then you get bonus points.

And if you can throw in a good spot with a mean burger or tasty pizza along the way, well, I’m sold. I can’t resist it, and if you’ll excuse me, I need to be on my way.

Stories and wonder

I think it’s probably my J school training showing up, but I can’t seem to take a picture of something or somewhere without doing some research to see if there is a story.

Most of the time there is. It may not be an earth-shaking story, but I want to know the back story behind what I am shooting.

I’m re-shooting some shots of a few small towns in the plains of Colorado. I have some results I am not happy with of some, and some other film was ruined in development. This has been a step forward and two back pretty consistently. But I’m learning about a part of Colorado I’ve never spent time in and learning more about a type of photography I never did before.

I’ve learned that a particular abandoned gas station I’ve shot was once a Conoco opened in the 1950s by a man named Don Cooper. The abandoned tourist court next door, the Prairie Lodge, was run by the Calvert family.

shoot-415I’m unable to keep myself out of the mountains, though. Or off of the back roads.

Shooting this summer has been as much a research project as anything else. I’ve been looking through things so much and tagging maps online I’m considering getting a larger state map to put on the wall to mark shoot locations and cross-reference them with histories.

I’m not self-aggrandizing enough to think that my actions are helping to immortalize these histories. I’m not doing it for that. I do it because I enjoy discovering. There hasn’t been a place I’ve discovered yet that hasn’t had at least one story that I found that I didn’t like reading, finding or hearing.

There are a legion of stories of miners and how they entertained themselves in far away nooks and crannies of mountains. Most of what I have found of the plains has been more recent, tied to changes in the way we travel, but they are still interesting. How a place came to be first because of the railroads needing to water their steam engines and exchange goods, to providing gas and lodging on state highways, to everything closing up when the interstate passed a place by.

I hope to have something to show for my efforts this winter, when this project ends. I won’t stop looking for and listening to the stories, though. Steinbeck once said the world is peopled with wonders. I feel in most places, the wonders are the people and their stories.