The big thaw has started. After a record amount of snow last winter and a cool spring, the days are finally warming up and the snow is starting to melt. On a hike to Wild Basin in the southern part of Rocky Mountain National Park this week, and just a few miles from my cabin, water was running everywhere.
It was exploding from Copeland Falls (below), and roiling through the narrow gate above it between two slabs of rock. Small brooks were cutting across the hillsides, forming new indentations in the earth. I saw water where I’ve never seen it before. On the St. Vrain River, water was spilling over onto boulders that had always been high and dry while forming pools where no pools had existed before. In one place, water from the river had spilled across the trail, forcing hikers to either get wet or try to cross on two flimsy logs someone had thrown across.
At Ouzel Falls (top), the tremendous amount of water coming down across the lip of the rock and crashing on the rocks below was enough to form a fine mist, which felt like a cool shower on a hot day. On the path that led to the base of the falls, rivulets had formed across the hillside, making it hard to find firm footing and easy to get wet.
All winter long, snow had piled up in the high peaks, and now all those droplets of snow were melting, starting out slowly in small streams and pools, but gathering force as they headed downhill, channeled into low-lying areas. It felt like a huge surge of power, of some force being released, of something that could no longer be contained spilling over and onto the land. It seemed like the earth should tremble under this onslaught, that the boulders should split in two with this pounding from the water. But it’s just spring in the mountains. In a few months, the creeks will return to normal, the drowning boulders will emerge again, and the hillsides will dry out.
In the meantime, it’s OK to get wet.