Nature Photographers Online Magazine
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Feature Photo...

Winter Garden

Text and Photography Copyright Jim Greenwood
All rights reserved.

Camera:    Canon EOS Elan
Lens:        Canon 28-80/3.5-5.6 USM
Flash:       None used
Support:    Hand held
Film:         Kodak Royal Gold 100
Exposure:  Unrecorded in manual mode
Filter(s):     None used

In October of 1997 I was preparing myself, both logistically and emotionally, to relocate from Colorado Springs, Colorado where I had been living for four years, to Honolulu, Hawaii where I currently reside. I had vacationed in Hawaii twice prior to that time, but I was uncertain about the prospect of living here. I was sure that my life in Honolulu would be very different compared to anywhere else I had ever lived, and there would be many things about Colorado Springs and the Southwest that I would miss a great deal.

The weather in Honolulu is pretty much the same year round. After three years of living here, among the things I really miss is the seasonal weather, the distinctly different weather during the four seasons, the transition of the weather from season to season. And yes, I do also miss winter weather. In Colorado, more so that other places I've lived on the mainland, the weather is also less defined by the seasons according to the calendar, although not quite exactly along the same lines as Honolulu. I've seen snow falling in Colorado in summer, and not just at the higher elevations. In Colorado Springs, the month of April, which is entirely within the season of Spring according to the calendar, averages 6.2 inches of snow, second only to March with 9.2 inches. The winter months of January and February average 5.0 inches. 1997 was not an average year in Colorado Springs. In late April of that year, a snowstorm left nearly three times the monthly average on the ground throughout the city. The month of October averages 3.1 inches of snow. But on the afternoon of October 24th of 1997, nearly two months before the official beginning of winter, a bona fide blizzard hit the Colorado Front Range dumping two to three feet of snow throughout the Colorado Springs area before the storm broke a day and a half later.

Garden of the Gods is a beautiful and well-known city park in Colorado Springs where I've done an extensive amount of photography. I was also a volunteer at the park's excellent visitors center and led guided walks through the park. I have a more in-depth Featured Photo article about the park in the NPN Archives. Please also visit my Garden of the Gods Gallery Web site. Sunday morning, October 26th dawned clear and calm, after the blizzard broke overnight. I had photographed the park on several occasions following snow storms during the previous four years, including two consecutive glorious mornings after the April storm. But in spite of the facts that the movers were scheduled to come early the very next morning to begin packing up my belongings and that I had plenty to do before they arrived, I just could not pass up what I felt was indeed a farewell gift, to be able to experience and photograph the "winter" wonder of Garden of the Gods one more time. Luckily I owned a four-wheel-drive vehicle, otherwise I would've never been capable of getting out of the parking lot of the apartment complex where I lived let alone driving the ten miles to the park. The streets were virtually deserted and there were numerous abandoned vehicles left where ever they happened to get stuck, including right on the road. It took about a half an hour, but I actually had no trouble making my way to the park. It was magnificent. I spent several hours revisiting many of my favorite spots one final time. The photograph above of South Gateway Rock is of one of the park's most recognizable scenes, although most visitors to the park have never actually seen it with their own eyes. The vantage point is not located along one of the park's maintained trails and it is a little difficult to find.

Monday morning the movers were able to come and get started packing my household goods. The following day, the parking lot had been plowed enough for them to get a truck in, although we had to clear a wider path through a six foot snow drift at the bottom of the stairs outside the building before they could start hauling my belongings out. The next morning I left Colorado Springs. I have not been back since. I headed south out of town, towards Dallas to drop off my vehicle for shipment to Honolulu. The remaining snow on the ground quickly diminished as I proceeded down the interstate highway and into warmer climes. I've enjoyed countless hours hiking, volunteering and photographing in Garden of the Gods, including a few very special and memorable hours one splendid wintry Fall day in October. I hope to be fortunate enough to return there again some day. Until then, it remains in my memories and in my photographs.


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