In 30 years of photographing the gullies, ridges and peaks of both flanks of the Gore Range, John Fielder had seen all but one drainage by the summer of 2010.
And when he bushwacked for seven hours to move three miles into the Black Creek drainage, his assumptions were confirmed.
"As I guessed, it was the most rugged of all drainages," he said.
High and low, wet and dry, open views and burdened by brush, it was also the most beautiful of drainages, he said.
He's ready to back that up at his Dec. 7 fundraiser for Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.
"I'll prove it to any disbelievers at the event," Fielder said.
Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness executive director Currie Craven supports the claim, saying, "The Black Creek drainage has no trails. It's magnificent ... It's immensely rewarding spiritually and to even know it's there ... and preserved."
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the doors to the Silverthorne Pavilion open, and for $15 in advance, and $20 at the door, ticket-holders can peruse and purchase Fielder merchandise including books, notecards, photos and calendars, and have them signed. Thirty percent of merchandise proceeds will go to the groups. Light appetizers will be served alongside a cash bar and musical entertainment.
Fielder said he's offering two books for a lower price than his products usually are marked. "A Colorado Autumn" and "Reflections of Colorado" are $25 and $15 each, compared to $50 and up for many of the other publications. If people already own Fielder publications, they can bring them to be signed.
At 7 p.m., Fielder and his photographs take the stage for a slideshow presentation of his Gore Range explorations.
It's not the first time Fielder has used his hobby and passion to benefit the nonprofits. Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness benefited from the artist's generosity about five years ago.
But Fielder wouldn't necessarily call it generosity. He'd call it giving back for something that was given to him.
"Thirty years ago when I turned my hobby into a career, I quickly figured out it wasn't appropriate for me to be making a good living off nature unless I gave back to nature in some way," he said. Since that realization, he's helped a myriad of conservation, advocacy, environmental and other organizations locally and nationally.
Lending a hand to the Summit County nonprofits is a no-brainer for the renowned wilderness photographer, partly because he lives north of Silverthorne at Acorn Creek, and partly because the Gore Range is one of his two favorites in the state. The other is the rugged peaks of the Needle Mountains in the Weminuche Wilderness above the Durago-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
"It's incredibly rugged and difficult to explore and as a result, is one of the most beautiful places," he said.
Craven said roughly 200 people came to Fielder's fundraiser five years ago. He hopes to achieve a similar attendance this year.
"Having it close to the holidays is an opportunity to buy (gifts)," Craven said, adding that it's also a good time to acquaint oneself with volunteer groups and join.
"It's a good opportunity to highlight both Friends groups - their similarities as well as their individual niches," Friends of the Dillon Ranger District executive director Jessica Evett said.
Craven said that though both groups focus on education, outreach and stewardship, Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness has an advocacy component, and it homes in on the specific wilderness area. Friends of the Dillon Ranger District brings together multiple user groups and focuses on the national forest more broadly.
"It's a great opportunity not only to see great images, learn more about the Friends groups, but also to get some nice, meaningful Christmas gifts," Evett added.
Craven thinks the coupling of the two Friends groups with Fielder's photography is a perfect combination for a fundraiser.
"He is so generous with his time," Craven said. "He's a very dedicated conservationist. He loves wilderness and wild places."
And to Fielder, it's a chance for the public to give back financially, whether or not they've already been doing so with their hands during volunteer days.
"Public land managers' budgets are not nearly high enough to manage effectively the wilderness areas," Fielder said. "These volunteer groups from Summit County and beyond are critical to effective management."
"If you can come, I promise you won't be disappointed," he added.
What: John Fielder's Gore Range Travels, Including a Week in Black Creek: A benefit
When: 6-9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Silverthorne Pavilion
Cost: $15 in advance, $20 at the door
Purchase tickets online at www.fdrd.org or at Wilderness Sports, Mountain Outfitters or Peak Provisions.