The blasting wind had ripped big blue streaks across the sky above Mary’s Lake by the time my brother and I arrived in his car, through two hours of flurrying snow from Denver. Across the lake, excess Colorado River water tumbled from a chute next to a hydroelectric plant, which produces power for nearby Estes Park, with its main street full of tourist memorabilia manufactured far away from these Rocky Mountains.
The bright and newly revealed early afternoon sunlight flickered on the snowflakes blowing incongruously and horizontally past my window, as I loaded a roll of 220 Tri-X film into the well-used, 13-year-old Mamiya in my lap. Even though I’d brought a big, fluffy down jacket to Colorado from Brooklyn, I was putting off stepping out into the cold, waiting slap of that alpine air for as long as I could. My brother tilted back the driver’s seat, where he sat with a Colorado state high school football championship game tuned on the radio and announced, “I’ll wait right here for you.”
I’d come to Colorado to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family, but knowing I’d be close to the headwaters of the river, whose story I’ve been trying to tell for the past few years, I’d packed some gear and hoped I could talk a relative with a car into driving me up to the mountains during some down time, so I could steal a look at river.
And to that effect, my 78-year-old father and I had driven the day before to see Grand Lake, on the other side of the Continental Divide, behind the cloud-shrouded mountains looming over the spot where my brother and I had parked, up where the Colorado itself flowed. Deep under Rocky Mountain National Park, the two lakes were joined by the 13-mile-long Alva B. Adams Tunnel to bring the river’s water to the dry eastern slope of the range, as part of something called the Big Thompson Project.
Without it, the state of Colorado would look much different than it does today, though whether or not that would be a good thing or not depends on your perspective.
And whether or not I made any good pictures after I opened that car door and stumbled into the wind toward Mary’s Lake with my camera remains to be seen far away from here, when the film is hanging up to dry on my darkroom. Or even later, after the icy mountain scenes of that day are frozen in the emulsion of a contact sheet. I honestly never know for sure if I’ve succeeded or not until then. At least.
As this is my first attempt to write an entry for the Blue Earth blog I’ve hardly known where to start and certainly haven’t known where to finish. But I’ll make a promise to report on the results of this short photographic side trip in the coming weeks, after I’ve had a chance to process the film. I’ve also got a show of the work up in an exhibit and I’ll be sending some words and a couple of images from that shortly. Promise.
Trotter’s current project at Blue Earth is No Agua, No Vida: The Thirsty Colorado River Delta. Images from this project can be seen November 11, 2008 - January 20, 2009 at the Gallery Space at Wagner-New York University, 2nd Floor at The Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street in New York, NY.