My plan today was to go around in circles twice.
An inner circuit loop hugs the banks of Sprague Lake. An outer loop takes many miles to circumnavigate the lake.
In my plan the inner loop was to find the best place to shoot the lake at first light. The outer loop was for exercise.
Usually our plans only approximate what actually happens. “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless,” my friend John reminds me that Eisenhower said. “But planning is indispensable.”
Today was the rare exception. Unlike my hike on Friday when I had to improvise, today came off on the ground exactly as it had in my mind.
I got to the lake just before sunrise at 7 a.m. Hiking around the little circle, I found the spot where I wanted to set up my camera. This time I even remembered to bring one of my tripods along so I could shoot long exposures at low ISO settings.
I could not have asked for better weather. Just as I planned, the morning sun was bright and the wind was still.
I didn’t even plan on a view of the aspens turning on the mountains’ slopes. They turned part of my photograph to gold.
When I reached Sprague Lake, I was surprised to find two other guys there. I shouldn’t have been. They were on the same photographic mission as I was.
Like my hike on Friday, Sprague Lake is in Rocky Mountain National Park. But it’s much closer, only about an hour and one-half from my apartment.
Within a quarter of an hour I had completed my mission, just as I planned. Then I completed my inner circuit of the lake, went back to my SUV to dump the heavy tripod, and set forth on the outer circuit.
My expectation for the second hike of the day was limited to exercise. I had read that the trail wound its way through a forest of lodgepole pine. While forests are beautiful in their own way, they don’t readily give up their beauty to the camera.
But stands of aspen grow among the lodgepole pines. Because the weather is cooling off slower than usual this year, the season of their turning is an especially long and welcome one. Some aspens were turning on both sides of the trail.
The forest also has clearings. I found this elk eating there placidly — until, it appears, I approached too close for its pleasure.
Then, I completed the big loop and returned to Sprague Lake. At the exact moment that I finished that circuit this duck flew in and landed at my feet. While I hadn’t planned that, I did feel welcomed.