A routine Carbondale adventure at dusk
There’s no time I tell myself, you’ve missed it. But I’ve got to try.
I haphazardly wrap my Canon 6D in an old, wool sweater and cram it in my backpack. The wind bites my cheeks as I put all my weight into each rotation of the pedals. I make it to the base of Mushroom Rock trailhead.
Fiddling with the bike lock, I quickly turn my head and watch the sun sinking behind the mountain, and doubt sinks in. I tell myself if I can get halfway, maybe I can get a shot. I’ve been out of breath since I left the house. How am I still able to run up the mountainside? I look down, surprised to see my legs cranking out step after step.
I see a decent vantage point and quickly take my backpack off and set up the tripod. I get the camera mounted and shake my head in disappointment. The sun has set, and I’ve missed the shot. I sit on a nearby boulder with my head down, trying to slow my ragged breathing. I happen to look up for a second. My mind races, and I see the shot I can get. It is just dark enough to see the town lights, yet still enough light left from the sunset to illuminate Mount Sopris.
I scurry toward the camera and drop my knees into the snow and quickly make some adjustments to capture the fading moment. Then I realize a long exposure would blur the car lights on Highway 133. The long exposure makes the shot way too bright, but the blur of the lights looks amazing. I try several settings to offset the brightness while still keeping enough exposure to blur the lights. Each time, I get closer to the perfect combination of settings to get the shot.
The temperature is dropping; my fingers are barely moving; and I’m losing the small window of time for the shot. Please make this shot work, I tell myself, please. I hit the remote-shutter release and wait. The image appears on the display, and my jaw drops. I look up and see the sun fade behind the mountain. Lights out.
I get a warm feeling of success followed by a sharp headwind that reminds me of the temperature and my lack of clothing. I’ve got to get down this mountain, and fast. I feel for my headlamp in my backpack side pocket and put it on and take a last look behind me.
I scan through the dark trees and notice a refection — a set of piercing eyes glares back at me. My heart sinks, my mind races. A mountain lion. I know this cannot be my fate, I yell out, “Heyyyy!” hoping to scare the creature off, but the eyes don’t move, only a slow blink.
I let out a tense sigh, throw my backpack on, and start running down the mountain, yelling, in hopes to scare off whatever animal it was. I can only hear the loud crunch of the snow beneath my feet and the pant of my heavy breathing. I think to myself, I’ve scared it off, but, no, it can smell my fear. My pace speeds into a panicked sprint as I wait for a 300-pound mountain lion to pounce on my back and tear me apart.
I see my bike below and run my fingers over my pants pocket feeling for the key. Still running, I look back, expecting to see reflective eyes careening toward me. My foot sinks into a deep snowdrift. I stumble and fall backward into a cushion of snow. Heavy breath fogs the beam of light in front of me as I search the woods for the eyes. I calm my breathing to listen and keep watch. Silence fills the air. I stand up, and slide the key into my bike lock.
My tires hum down the mountain. The cold wind stings my face, and I burst into laughter. Still chuckling in relief, I round the bend in the road and see a group of eyes glaring right at me. Wolves! I think, as my mind races again. My frigid hands reach for the brake lever, and my skidding rear tire breaks the silence. Finally, the bike halts.
A pack of mule deer scurry off into the shadows. I laugh at myself again as I realize how extreme my imagination is, a mountain lion, a pack of wolves. I continue down the mountain and see the glow of the town lights; my hands vibrate as the bike tires cross over the cattle guard; a smile creeps in, and I remember. I got the shot.
Michael Mountcastle of Carbondale is an aspiring photographer/writer.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.