One Sheep of a Day: A return to Porphyr Gulch
Two summers ago a friend and I discovered, Porphyr Gulch.Porphyr is a jeep trail that leads to an alpine lake and has some amazing views along the way. Waterfalls, flowers, and of course mountains, the scene at the top of Porphyr is truly one to see, which is why we decided to go back this past summer. The first time back, we went a little too early, the closer we got to the top of the mountain the more snow we started to see. It was only May so we expected it. Snow lined most of the trail and the scene we were looking for, flowers, waterfalls, and such were in short supply. I hiked a little bit up the trail took some pictures and called it a day. While this day was a productive one, I was still itching to get back there and photograph the scene I had witnessed the year before.Fast forward a few weeks and I returned hoping the snowpack had melted. This time we had planned to do some camping and possibly a night shot or two, but again we would be denied. We set up a camp at about 11,000 ft, and then packed up the jeep and headed out onto the trail. There is one part of the trail that is very narrow to drive on and by narrow I mean a mountain on one side of you and a few thousand feet drop off on the other side. Even with a small Jeep your tires sit uncomfortably close to the ledge of road, but I have been on this trail before and while it is a sketchy drive its views are always a payoff. On this day though, it wasn't the road that was going to stop us. Right at the part where the road gets narrow was a sign "Road Closed to Vehicles." Well we have never seen this before, but we were so close that even at 12,000 ft elevation, we decided to hike the last mile or so of the trail. Now for newly transplanted NJ guy hiking at 12,000 ft with about 15 lbs of camera equipment and a restless dog, hiking a mile is not easy. Slow and steady will always win this race, so we parked the jeep and headed up one slow step at a time. I must admit hiking this part of the road was much less stressful than driving, but out in the wild without protection of the Jeep we were left vulnerable. Our senses were on high alert and my buddy and I started picking up a very foul smell and it was only getting worse as we continued our slow ascent. "Wait, did you hear that," says my buddy. "Uh Yeah, what was that?" As we slowly turn the corner, this former NJ guy was blown away by what we saw, and that NJ Dog well she was about to have a field day. Sheep upon sheep had taken over one of my favorite spots.Sheep on the hillside, sheep on the road, sheep everywhere! Of course we stopped, I handed my dog off to my buddy and started grabbing shots of this amazing scene so high up in the mountains. As I was photographing, a few hikers came through and it was clear that if we wanted to hike the rest of the trail we were going to have fight our way through this herd. But with two dogs, one of them being a sheep herding dog, we decided to stay where we were and grab whatever photos we could and then turn around. We never returned to Porphyr Gulch this past summer, but we will next summer and at this point there is no telling what we will find.