The higher I climb the closer I feel to God, so on Easter morning it seemed appropriate to make my highest climb of the spring. With first light I could see from home that the peak was going to be magnificent so I gathered up my equipment and headed out the door. The sun hadn’t cleared the ridge and I was anticipating coming upon the mule deer herd, so I set my camera to ISO 400 with an exposure adjustment of +.25, a good setting for low light and nervous animals.

Soon I was rewarded as I caught a glimpse of a white tail in the trees. I slowed my walk and tried to avoid snapping any of the multitude of twigs littered about the trail from the long winter of heavy snow and wind. The deer saw me but didn’t seem to be to concerned on this Easter Morning. I moved about in the shade of the pines getting as many of the subjects as possible from several angles. Eventually the deer showed signs of becoming annoyed so I headed up the mountainside to avoid chasing them away from the lush meadow they were enjoying.

Soon the magnificent view of snow covered Pikes Peak against a dark background of early morning rain clouds came into view. A quick change in camera settings to ISO 100 and and an exposure adjustment increase of a full stop to compensate for the brilliance of the morning sun on the fresh white snow was in order as I stopped to captured the mountain in all it’s springtime glory.

As I climbed ever higher, I stopped to capture intriguing changes in the lighting and shadows on the north face of the big mountain. Finally I arrived at my destination, the top of the ridge and respite from the annoying sound of the highway below. I found a good spot and sat down to soak in the magnitude of the sacrifice that makes my joy in such solitude complete. As I absorb the sights and sounds of that mountaintop creation I get a small sense of the magnitude of the Creator. What joy He must have felt as He created the birds and gave them each a unique and beautiful song to sing. What joy He must have felt when he settled on the perfect scent for the pine trees that provide us with life giving oxygen. How soothing is the sound of the mountain wind blowing through the needles of the massive trees swaying above.

There is never enough time to spend in this heaven on earth and I turned around to make my descent back down into the reality of life. However the time that I spend up there remains with me, on the silicon sensor of my camera and in the recesses of my brain where they can be recalled whenever the stress of life becomes too much and I need to draw near to the Comforter.

Mule Deer

Doe mule deer

Easter Peak

Pikes Peak on Easter

Easter Peak

Pikes Peak Colorado on Easter Morning


More Snow

It was dark when I arose this morning but a quick check of the radar raised my hopes that I was going to get a chance to recover those spring snow pictures I accidentally deleted the other day. The snow had moved on out of the area and my mountains were in the clear. Final plans would have to wait for sunrise.

And a beautiful morning it was. Sunshine came streaming in through the front windows and the peak was bathed in sunshine and covered in fresh brilliant white snow. It only took a minute to get my boots on and sling my camera over my shoulder. The snow wasn’t quite deep enough to warrant snow shoes but in several  places a coat of ice under the snow made me wish I had brought them.

The peak was indeed beautiful and the pine forest was also a magical bluish white in the early morning light. An occasional breeze sent streams of snow cascading down from the trees in almost waterfall like streams. Fresh elk tracks in the snow attracted my attention so I followed them for a while hoping or a glimpse of the elusive beasts. Soon it became apparent that an entire herd had bedded down near there, but the trail led straight up the side of the mountain which was far too slippery for me to negotiate on this snowy morning.

After getting some good shots of the brilliantly light peak my attention turned to photographing the streams of snow blowing down from the trees. As the sun peeked over the top of the ridge the blowing snow was illuminated with golden sunshine. I paused to take in the glory of this winter wonderland and to try to do the scene justice with a few snaps of the camera. Haven’t had time yet to do a lot of editing but it looks like this morning’s hike was a great success.


Spring Snow

Awesome-Peak-2 Awesome-Peak-3

Blood Moon

I was really tired last night and was seriously considering just saying no the the Blood Moon and hitting the sack early. Figured I could see the pictures online. But as fate would have it, about the time I was ready to drift off, my neighbor was getting ready to see some company off and there was a big commotion outside that put the slammer on getting sleep right then.

The night sky up here at 9000 feet can be pretty awesome at times so I peeked out into the clear cold mountain darkness to see how this night was looking. Not a cloud in the sky, crisp and cold. A perfect night for star gazing, or moon gazing as it were. So I’m thinking, no excuses, this is it. Get out there.

With 40 minutes to the beginning of the big event I started readying my equipment, finding my parka, hat and gloves. I also made a quick check into my photo magazines to see if there might be a word of advice for photographing the night sky. It was going to be cold… some hot cider might not be a bad idea. Winter clothing, check, camera, remote quick release and tripod, check, flashlight, check, plenty of hot cider, check. Finally, right at midnight I was ready to go, so out into the cold I went, just hoping there were no mountain lions or bears with the same idea. My neighbor, curious as to why there was someone out wandering around in the dark, decided to join me in my astronomical aspirations. Some company and conversation in the ghostly light of the rapidly disappearing moon was a welcome addition to the experience.

At midnight I could already see the earth’s shadow beginning to spread across the brilliant surface of the moon. I watched in awe as the amazing event unfolded, the bright sliver of moon getting smaller and smaller and the eerie red shadow growing behind. Finally the moment I had been waiting for, total eclipse. The big moment did not disappoint as the moon turned an unearthly red and remained that way until the cold began to penetrate my heavy winter survival gear. All in all I would have to say the loss of a night’s sleep was well worth the spectral glory imprinted on my brain. Perhaps I will invest in some real night photography gear. Maybe I have discovered a new passion in life.

Blood Moon

Blood Moon

Blood Moon

April Snow

It must be something I have carried forward from my childhood. Whenever it snows I just have to get out in it. I believe the love for snow may have been passed down from my father as well. I remember during the worst blizzards  Dad would make the anticipated announcement, “We’re going to get milk.”. Of course we didn’t need milk and that isn’t where we were going either. We would bundle up and walk the half mile to downtown and make a stop at the bar. I loved the place with the ringing bells of the pinball machines and the clacking of balls at the pool tables. Dad would get me an Orange Crush and it was fun to listen to the men talk and joke.

Today was no different, except now I am way too far out in the woods to get to anywhere quite as interesting as the “milk store”. But I still like to get out and walk in the snow. So today I put the Aqua-Tech weather cover on the camera and headed out in the snow to get pictures. I came upon the deer herd as they were making their way up the trail but I couldn’t get a clear view and they spotted me and hustled up the mountainside out of range.

There wasn’t much to photograph other than snowflakes, but I did manage to notice one scene that looked like it would make a nice snowy shot. Once again, my photo session wasn’t much of a success, but the time in the woods and the fresh clean air in my lungs was reward enough. And my legs are that much stronger for the adventures I have planned for summer.


On Fasting

This morning  I pondered the road ahead, life after the hospital and I know we are facing the most difficult battle of our lives together. Filled with grief at difficult choices that will need to be made, I was not able to eat and I looked up for strength from the Almighty. Bible verses began to cut through the morning fog enveloping my brain as I sought answers. I remembered Jesus explaining the story of faith as a mustard seed, “Say to the mountain, be thou removed” followed by the fasting verse in Matthew 17:21 “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

So why do we fast? When we prepare to do battle in the natural world, whether it be a running a marathon or another sporting event, or maybe even a battle in real warfare, we would want to build up our strength by eating a good meal. However spiritual battle is different because battle technique and the enemy are very different. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12.

So we fast to prepare for spiritual battle, not against physical enemies but principalities in high places that we cannot attack with our physical bodies. We have to call upon powers higher than ourselves to stand and fight for us against such a mighty enemy. So I wondered, how long would it take to starve myself until God would feel sorry for me and act on my behalf? Then it occurred to me, God is not concerned with my hunger or whether I am eating or not eating. As I fasted in preparation for the monumental battle ahead I realized the fasting was was clearing my head and my spirit of earthly obstructions and concerns. Fasting focuses us on the things of God. It opens channels to the spiritual world that we have closed with the constant concerns and distractions of daily life. It prepares us for the battle against the rulers of darkness.

Spring Again

The storms of early April have finally abated and sunshine has returned to Ute Pass. I am getting a late start today and even though I knew that all the wildlife would have already finished their morning feeding and bedded down for a nap, I need the exercise and the climb up the mountain as conditioning for adventures later this summer.

As I strode along the rugged trail I contemplated my future. Her recovery at the hospital is progressing slowly and not all of the news is good. Cold hard reality is settling in as I confront a future completely different than the one I had planned. How does one come to grips with the possibility that all of our hopes and dreams and plans may not be possible after all?

The mountain was magnificent this morning with a brilliant white coat of fresh snow and I managed to stop and snap a few pictures that I was looking forward to sharing. After returning I went about my usual exercise of exchanging the camera chip with one from the bag, putting the new chip in the reader and the old one in the camera. For the first time in almost 10 years of digital photography I elected not to hit the view button before formatting the chip. As I watched the chip in the reader load onto my laptop I was mortified as I realized that this was also the first time in 10 years that I didn’t actually put the new chip in the reader. I now have two copies of the April 3 snowstorm on my hard drive and no pictures of the magnificent mountain today.

Oh well, I’m glad I learned my lesson on common images. The mountain doesn’t look any different today than it did last spring so it was no big loss. And I did get the exercise that I went up there for in the first place.

Just so you can see what it was like, here is an image from last spring 🙂

Fresh Snow

Fresh snow on Pikes Peak

Rebuttal to Wildlife Professionals

Since my rebuttal to the many posts opposing my Examiner article on bow hunting is too large, I have decided to place it here in it’s entirety:

I have been following the thread with great interest and have found a few of your ideas to be valid, however I won’t continue to debate the subject with a group of people who obviously have not even had the respect to read the original post. Today I deleted the entire thread. I can’t seem to resist looking at the updates and my blood boils every time one pops up into my profile with yet another inane argument, riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, on why hunters should be allowed to continue maiming wildlife with high powered archery equipment.

Many in the group believe in the superiority of the bow to the gun. I am ex military and have a pretty good idea of the capability of both. For example, the muzzle velocity of a .270 Winchester round averages over 3000 FPS, depending on the weight of the bullet. The speed of an arrow shot from a modern compound bow might reach 300 FPS. At 50 yards that is a flight time of .5 seconds vs less than .05 seconds. Even if you shoot with 100% accuracy, a half a second is plenty of time for an animal to hear the slap of your bow string and move out of position to become wounded instead of killed.

Someone said archery is the only acceptable method of culling animals in the city limits. I don’t believe the citizens of this country want to see their neighborhoods scoured by bow hunters trying to reduce the deer population. If a mountain lion or bear or any other predator is harassing humans within city limits, Fish and Game or the police would be called. This is a job for professionals, not hunters. Professionals are always assumed to be allowed to use equipment that is not necessarily available to the common populace, so the idea that bow hunting is necessary for this reason is nonsense.

This group’s continual comparison of bow hunting to cars is disingenuous. Cars are a necessary function of modern society and car deer collisions are unavoidable. Furthermore, people do not deliberately run down deer with their cars with the intent to maim or kill them. The act of shooting an arrow into an animal is the deliberate and avoidable choice of the hunter. The group says that animal activists bring up problems with no solutions. If this group would read my article it would realize I have identified a problem, the problem of large animals wounded by hunting arrows, and provided a solution. Banning bow hunting is a valid solution to animals wounded by arrows and it would affect only a small percentage of the population. Sweeping speed limit laws and other traffic regulations would affect millions of drivers. Furthermore, if this group feels so strongly about animals hit by vehicles, anyone here is free to advocate for wildlife protection traffic laws.

You speak of what a time honored tradition bow hunting is. Many of our ancestors and fellow humans have had and still have traditions that have no place in the civilized world. For example the recently canceled annual Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival where stray dogs are hunted down, beaten, skinned and boiled alive because in the middle ages there was a problem involving disease and stray dogs. Recently the bloody dolphin slaughter in Taiji Cove, Japan drew the ire of the entire world and even though the hunt this year was completed as planned, negative publicity and public awareness will most likely result in it’s cancellation next year. There is no more ingrained tradition than bull fighting in Spain, however due to EU pressure and public awareness, the barbaric tradition of torturing a bull to death for entertainment has been officially banned in Barcelona. Even though the Andean Condor is a threatened species and the national bird for a number of countries, the Yawar Festivals where the birds are captured and tied to bulls until they are thrashed to death continue. Hundreds of thousands of names have been added to petitions to end this madness.

Someone said I wanted to ban bow hunting just because I don’t like it. This is apparently another person who did not feel the need to read the original article before sounding off. Nowhere did I say I didn’t like bow hunting. I said bow hunting should be banned in the hunting of large animals because of the unacceptable wounding rate.

Someone took offense that I called bow hunters sadistic. I am struck by the number of members in this group who believe in their great hunting prowess, yet according to dozens of studies, somehow over 50% of the time, despite your touted skill, you still manage to miss your target. So how can you say you are not sadistic when you take the shot knowing that going in you have a greater than 50 /50 chance of horribly wounding the animal? It is also disingenuous to compare your hunting to suffering of animals caused by predators. Predators have to kill to survive, most often taking the weakest and the sick of their prey, strengthening herds and enhancing the environment as intended by God Himself long before man appeared on the evolutionary time scale. Hunters kill the best and the strongest specimens among the species they hunt, weakening the herds they purport to support.

Someone spoke about the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, saying that this is a requirement for consideration in the group as a wildlife professional. Where is this noted in the group bylaws? Why was I allowed to participate in this group when I am not considered a “Wildlife Professional”? Wildlife professionals themselves do not even follow the NAWCM: “Sister #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations. Your own code prohibits the hunting of wildlife for profit, yet coyotes, wolves, bobcats, raccoons and more are routinely hunted for their fur. One of your participants prided himself in being hired to kill overpopulated wildlife. How is that not commercial hunting? Sister #5 – Non-Frivolous Use In North America, individuals may legally kill certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection. Laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife merely for antlers, horns or feathers.” I live in the mountains in wildlife country. The carcasses of headless wildlife are routinely found rotting on the ground, the obvious victim of trophy hunting. Coyote and wolf slaughter contests are hardly seen by the general public as fitting “strict guidelines”.

The guidelines even contradict themselves. How can it be OK to hunt for profit in some cases and not in others? How can bounty hunters claim not to be commercial? How can hunting one animal for fur be frivolous and the killing of another for its fur completely legal? How can this model purport to be the law when different states have different laws, many of which contradict the model?

I was repeatedly chastised in this thread to keep my personal feelings about individual animals and pets to myself, yet post after post after post was submitted describing the personal feelings of hunters, with no studies, facts or figures to support them, about how they felt about their skills, their feelings of closeness with our ancestors, their feelings about walking with nature, etc. Not one person told any of them to keep their feelings to themselves. I can’t count the number of times I have read, “I would bet” and “I would wager” from major contributors in this group. I have provided studies, facts and numbers in my article and have been met with nothing but vitriol from alleged scientific experts who have nothing but bets and wagers to offer in rebuttal. Instead of attacking with your feelings and your beliefs, let me see some real numbers, real studies and real evidence.

As a reporter some of your statements have only reenforced my position that the hunting community cannot be relied upon to police itself and those statements will be put to good use by me in future articles. For example someone said, and I am paraphrasing, “although sometimes valid, personal beliefs, feelings and ethics have no place here”. What kind of a person thinks a hunting license and a gun exempts him from ethical behavior? Another in gory detail explains how the broad head arrow is designed to wound the animal and cause it to hemorrhage to death in hopes of recovering the animal later. I doubt my readership will find this to be an acceptable rebuttal.

I was told that it is wrong to consider the feelings of an individual animal. This group may consider the pain of a single animal to be inconsequential to the overall goal of wildlife conservation, but fortunately the bulk of the populace does not feel the same way. That is why hundreds of thousands of people will take time out of their day to sign a petition to free an orca named Tilikum. It is why a utility worker will risk injury to free a coyote caught in a fence. It is why a firefighter will risk his life in a fire to save a mother cat and her kittens. It is why wildlife sanctuaries exist, often taking in animals that your group has deliberately injured. It is why public outcry in Colorado forced wildlife officials to helicopter in hay to a deer herd that was stranded in the snow in the high country. It is why ordinary citizens will enter an icy stream to rescue a hypothermic wolf or risk drowning on a frozen lake to save a single dog. It is why I once risked getting fired from my job, taking a whole day off to capture and take an injured fox to a rehab center, to load up a duck that couldn’t fly, take a poisoned pigeon to a bird center, rescue a baby sparrow that my border collie stood fast and pointed out and to take time out of my day to remove a bull snake from the highway.

That is the beauty of our country. The good and compassionate people of this nation have the right to take their petitions to their government and demand change. In my state we have successfully banned bear trapping and dog racing, horse tripping has been banned in Oregon. Bear baiting continues in South Carolina, but public pressure is turning the tide. Our constitutional freedom of the press has brought to light the plight of captive animals at Sea World. In most of the cases I have mentioned, the outrage of the many has overridden the desires and pleasures of the few. And regardless of all of your opinions and your feelings, I will continue to press to have bow hunting banned for the hunting of large wildlife.

Winter Returns

Yesterday was a tough day in the surgery recovery room. She seemed weaker and could barely move her legs. The expected move to the rehab floor was canceled and a winter storm was in the forecast.

I woke up to heavy snow and a heavy heart this morning as I was not able to make my daily visit to the hospital. A dark cloud settled over me and I didn’t want to do anything. I thought of going snow shoeing, but just could not make myself go out. I didn’t feel like working on my stock photo business, or even eating. I wanted to work on this blog entry, but words had utterly failed me.

Then came the phone call I was waiting for. Today mobility was better, strength was returning, legs getting stronger and the move to the rehab floor back on. With the return of her strength came the return of my strength. My enthusiasm for the snow returned and I scrambled to locate all the necessary equipment. As I searched my backpack for my worn out gloves I encountered a little miracle of my own. I have apparently been visited by the glove angel. Right on top of my outdoor gear in my pack was a brand new pair of gloves still in the package, perfectly suited to managing the delicate controls on my camera. I don’t remember buying them or putting them in there, but there they were! My snowshoes beat me out the front door by about a half a second as I hurried to catch as much daylight as possible.

As I listened to the steady whoosh whoosh whoosh of my snowshoes in the deep snow, I had to ask God for forgiveness for my sulking. While my beloved was fighting for her life I should have been praying and going about my day as if a miracle was just around the corner, looking up instead of down, climbing high instead of sitting. With the new news, I had no trouble climbing to the top of the ridge where I always find strength in the magnificent beauty of His creation.

As the dark clouds over my life lifted for a while, so did  the clouds on the peak. For a few brief moments on top of the ridge, Pikes Peak became visible in all it’s incredibly massive glory. Shooshing along in silence, the presence of the Almighty enveloped me once again. As I focus on Him, words for this blog flow easily and I am reminded to think upon the Problem Solver, not upon the problem.