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  • Andrei Stoica

"It's the Journey, Not the Destination"

I have fully validated that quote seven years ago during a trip to the world-famous Maroon Bells in Colorado. The mountain and its reflection in the Maroon Lake below are a magnet for photographers worldwide who swarm the lake shores every fall to capture the colorful landscape. However, in October 2013 the US was going through a government shutdown which effectively closed most of its national parks, national forests, etc. Maroon Lake is on such government managed land and was closed to car traffic, but open for walk-ins during the shutdown. The lake is accessed via a 4.5 mile long paved road and getting to it meant walking that distance way before sunrise. Knowing all this in advance and being the smart ass that I am, I brought in a bicycle with the idea of cutting down the walk time so I can be at the lake in time for sunrise -- the best time to capture the scene.


My best laid plans turned completely upside down, but in a wonderful way! That day was probably one of my most rewarding I ever had as a photographer.


The night before arriving at Maroon Lake, a snowstorm swept through the area and dumped a couple of inches of powder over the forests of evergreens and aspens. When I showed up at the locked gates before sunrise, the road was frozen and the snow was still coming down slowly.


But very soon after sunrise the whole scenery changed 180 degrees and the valley turned into an unbelievable show of colors that I will never forget...


It didn't take me long to realize that bringing the bike along was less than a brilliant idea: the road was slightly uphill and very slippery so I ended up walking the bike for almost four miles. At this point I've already given up the idea of catching the sunrise at the lake so I started walking the road and taking a million shots. Every turn in the road was just another glorious view of the snow-capped mountains, the glowing aspens, puffy clouds and blue skies.


Four miles of that scenery takes a long time to process and by the time I got to the lake, it was early afternoon, the sun was shining warmly and the snow almost completely melted. I was exhausted and happy.

Imagine the road wasn't closed that fateful day. Imagine the snow came down a day later. I would have never walked the road as I did. There are very few parking spots along the way, but most importantly, the call of that promised sunrise over Maroon Bells would have very likely prevented me from stopping at all. So a potentially hopeless situation turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I may never have again.


Arriving at Maroon Lake, I took some decent shots, but the journey there was worth a hundred "standard" sunrises that thousands of photographers took before me. Looking forward to those time machines coming up on sale just so I can go back to October 5, 2013.


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