Travel photography: USA
Southwestern Landscapes - Part 2

December 23, 2016

In a previous article I presented the characteristic landscapes of the American Southwest with its harsh desert appeal, sparse vegetation and astonishing, copper-colored rock walls. That however is just one of the many faces of this diverse environment and in this editorial I'd like to focus on the abundant forested sceneries that I encountered mainly in Colorado and California.

Colorado and the Rockys

Line of trees in front of the Great Sand Dunes in the San Luis Valley.
Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range also in the vicinity of the Dunes.
View into hidden valley as seen from the Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Another notable vista of the Rocky Mountains.
Panoramic view from the peak of Mt. Evans (4348 m).
Landscape of the Colorado Trail. A small portion of the 782 km long trail which stretches through most of the state can be seen on the picture.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that connects the two towns is a National Historic Landmark that has run continuously since 1881. Initially for the transport of silver and gold ore mined from the San Juan Mountains it is now a tourist attraction. The two steam-powered locomotives were built in the 1920s.
Forest views in Colorado.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of the most popular and famous National Parks in the US. In 1864 it was founded as the first park not only in the US but in the whole world. It is a major touristic magnet for more than three million visitors a year who enjoy the numerous hiking trails and magnificent rock climbing opportunities, and an inspiration for painters and photographers alike.

Two images of Lembert Dome in Yosemite National Park, California.
Yosemite is characterized by its vast woodland and massive granite rocks. Climbing one of the many domes in the park usually rewards with amazing views in all directions.
The famous El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley.
Plunge pool and Overhang of the Vernal Falls of the Merced River.
This amazing landscape with the Nevada Fall can be seen from the John Muir Trail a little further up the canyon.
The great Sequoia trees are another major attraction of the park.
The Half Dome seen from the Valley. It is actually possible to climb the Half Dome but you have to participate in a lottery beforehand so that you can maybe get a slot. Visitor numbers are understandably limited to preserve the natural environment.
Upper part of the Merced River in the so called Little Yosemite Valley.
Iconic view of the major rock formations of the park. El Capitan to the left and the Half Dome in the center of the frame.

As beautiful as these landscapes may be I'd like to use this site as a reminder that forests are delicate ecosystems that are threatened by climate change on a global level. US researchers report in Nature Climate Change that they devised models to project the impact of global warming on the forests of the American Southwest up to the year 2100, and these projections look more than grim.

The study suggests that 72% of the region's needleleaf, evergreen forests will die by 2050, with nearly 100% mortality of Southwest forests by 2100.

I'd like you to scroll back up and look at the images one more time. Everything you see on there will probably be gone in 90 years - everything but the rocks. That's one human lifespan.

To be continued…

The final article in this series is one more wildlife related piece with some coastal animals. See it here.

Thanks for reading!

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