Frozen Ghosts

Frosty Rocky Mountain Forest

A dense fog rolled in while I was ascending Grouse Mountain this morning, covering the pine and aspen trees with a thick layer of beautiful white frost. The billowing mist surrounded the abandoned mining district making the dead gold mines from the old west era look even more ghostly than usual. An eerie quiet enveloped the high country leaving me only with the sound of my breathing and the clinking of Big Dog’s chain. It was like we were on some kind of lonely expedition, like the travelers of old that had previously explored this amazing place.

Of course I had the camera, which I trained on a few of the old mines and some of the Frost on Abandoned Mining Districtmore picturesque aspen tree groves… I have taken enough pictures of the mines that I don’t even really look at them anymore, but in the fog there was a moodiness that I was determined to capture. Slowly the weather in the mountains is succumbing to the inevitable approach of spring and there won’t be many more chances this year to photograph the beauty of snow and ice in the mountains.

Frost on Abandoned Mining District

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art and cool gift items. Give us a visit if you like!

Frosty Rocky Mountain Forest

Socked In

Wasn’t expecting anything much on our hike this morning, especially after the extra special day I had yesterday with the Daniels Park Bison… but you never know when the elk are going to show so the camera is always at the ready! As we approached the first ridge I could see to the south that the mountains were going to be putting on a good show, not going to be an ordinary day after all πŸ™‚

Fog in the Sangre de Cristo

As for the rest of the climb… the snow is mostly melted now, just a couple of small patches to contend with on the way to the summit. A beautiful spring morning in the mountains soaked with warm golden sunshine. Perhaps this long winter is finally coming to an end! As we cleared the first ridge I could barely see the majestic Sangre de Cristo poking through above the roiling storm clouds below. Some kind of weather is on the way… hoping we don’t get a dumping!

Fog in the Sangre de Cristo

Daniels Park and the Buffalo Herd

Marty McFly didn’t go back to the future to visit Douglas County Colorado in 1985… but if he had he would have likely found himself completely and utterly alone in the beautiful Colorado front range prairie landscape. Back in the day I visited this place every weekend… it was our winter training course for the Leadville Trail 100 race. My running bud and I would leave my house near Arapahoe Road, run down Colorado Blvd past County Line Road and into the prairie wilderness. Somewhere along the line Colorado Blvd. became Daniels Park Road, but there were no signs on that rugged and mostly deserted dirt road. There was nothing out there back then, just the road and the rolling Douglas County terrain. The beautiful rustic stone picnic shelter was positioned perfectly at the summit of Daniels Park Road and made a welcome rest stop about halfway into the long weekend run. It stood alone in those days, forgotten and forsaken at the edge of one of the most amazing views of the Front Range imaginable. There were no fences, no discernible trails and no sign of civilization other than the shelter and a couple of weathered picnic tables. Not too long after those winter runs I moved away from Littleton and never visited Daniels Park again.

Daniels Park, Douglas County, Colorado

Daniels Park actually has quite a history, the land donated by Denver high society member Florence F. Martin with the “The first 37.99 acres were given in 1920, and the second 962.76 acres given in 1937. Today there are still traces of Martin’s house and flower gardens. Ranch buildings remain on the land and demonstrate the architecture of a working 1920s ranch.”, according to the Castle Pines Connection website. Before 1864 Daniels Park Road was a major stagecoach artery between Denver and Pueblo and according to the Connection it is also the place where in 1868 Kit Carson made his final campfire before succumbing to poor health on his way home. Please read the article, it is quite interesting!

In 2007 Denver Mountain Parks and Douglas County teamed up to create the Daniels Park Master Plan to restore the park. Since then the park has become a popular destination for Denver and Douglas County area hikers, photographers, drone pilots and picnic goers. According to dayhikesneardenver.com miles of trails have been developed, overlooks created, restrooms added and plenty of parking provided.

This winter a picture of a beautiful bison rolled through my facebook feed and upon

Colorado Bison Herd

reading the post I discovered that a bison herd has been added to an enclosed area on the other side of Daniels Park Road and I was reminded of the good memories there. I vowed to return as soon as possible to see the improvements and the bison, and today turned out to be the day that all the factors converged… So early this morning, off the big dog and I went.

I chose to take Highway 67 all the way to Sedalia, through Woodland Park along the headwaters of the Platte River, through Douglas County and finally to Sedalia. From there I turned right along our old training run route and then left or north onto Daniels Park Road. It certainly was not the rough washboard dirt road of old though, now paved and lined with million dollar country mansions. About 5 miles north of there I encountered branch in the road indicating that a turn was required to stay on the route and thus avoiding Castle Pines. How you would get there from the north now is a mystery to me. With the addition of Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch both of which were just an idea back in the day, all the roads have been rerouted and renamed. What was once a straight shot down Colorado Blvd has now morphed into maze of bewildering new pavement.

Daniels Park Picnic Shelter

Eventually the old picnic shelter came into sight, now surrounded by a massive fenced elaborate parking lot which was not that easy to navigate! Back in the day the shelter stood alone, beside the dirt road on a humble unmarked dirt area that passed for a parking lot. Now there are fences everywhere, you can’t go down the ridge at all and there are manicured paths wide enough to drive a truck on that lead you all along the ridge. Since there was no way to go down into the valley below I just snapped a couple of shots and got back in the truck in search of the bison. I imagine it was about a mile up the road to the north when I finally spotted the huge beasts grazing in a fenced field.

Colorado Bison Herd

It was looking like I wasn’t going to get much photography done with the six foot wire fence in the way but as it turns out the links are far enough apart to squeeze the big 100-400 into and as long as the animals were pretty much straight ahead I was able to capture some images. Unfortunately the best view with the most animals and scenery required about a 45 degree angle today so just as I was about to give up I remembered my swivel viewing screen! I could hold the camera over the fence and look into the view finder! So I pushed the button, the mirror snapped up and out of the way and I was looking over the fence through my beautiful viewfinder! First time in four years I have ever actually used one of the most popular features of this camera model! Fortunately not too long ago I thought I was going to use that feature for something so I got out the manual and researched how to do it. Worked like a charm and saved the day!

Colorado Bison Herd

Well anyway, it was a great and memorable day, wonderful to visit the place that was such a big part of my life so long ago. I would urge photographers and hikers to visit Daniels Park in any season. The view stretches from probably Longs Peak to Pikes Peak and would be an awesome place to catch a sunset! The animals are also an awesome thing to behold… and if you get too close to the fence you might also hear the mighty huff of one of these Giants of the Plains which will quickly command your respect… and distance!

As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and also as a myriad of cool gift, tech and household items with an image by #swkrullimaging!

Some Serious Snow

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

Seems like it is snowing every day these days… good for photography. It was snowing when I got home last night so I knew that there was a chance for a good show in the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range πŸ™‚ That’s actually a good photo tip… always look for some good captures right before or after a storm!

As expected, the mountains were stunning today and a quick hike to top of the ridge has paid off with these beautiful images. It was still a bit hazy this morning and it just seems like black and white brings out the mood of the scene better than the colorΒ  versions. And that snow is really piling up on the Sangre… haven’t seen this much snow in a long time. Hope you enjoy!

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

 

Grandeur

Rough legged hawk Soaring Above the Rockies

Sometimes in the morning I stop to just thank God for the grandeur of the surroundings that He has blessed me with. These majestic mountains, the beautiful wildlife and the peacefulness of this incredible wilderness. And this morning I was doing exactly that when I noticed this rough legged hawk soaring high above me.

It is a good omen I think, a sign that the almighty was listening to my grateful prayer πŸ™‚ It is also my prayer that through my pictures others will see His handiwork and appreciate the wonderful gift that He has given us in this amazing planet with all it’s wonders.

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

Splendor in the Gloom

Just a plain gloomy day from the start, not to say that is going to deter Big Dog from wanting a romp in the mountains! Wasn’t optimistic about getting any images this morning, but you never know when you are going to see an elk or a bear or mountain lion or something worthy of another shutter actuation. On the way to the trailhead I always glance over at the peaks to see what I am likely to encounter and it didn’t look promising on this day, just clouds and gray as far as the eye could see. If nothing else, I know I am going to have a great time just enjoying the solitude of the Colorado wilderness πŸ™‚

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

We have been getting a lot of melting these days so I took a chance and left the snowshoes behind. There are still a lot of deep drifts up in the higher elevations but there is enough bare ground to just walk around the drifts at this point. Better than putting on and taking off the shoes every five minutes.

Well, in the time it took us to scale the ridge the sun had poked through from somewhere. The sky was still gray overhead but the beautiful morning light shown on the Sangre de Cristo creating the magnificent splendor that this image conveys πŸ™‚ The Sangre de Cristo never disappoint!

This image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and cool gift items so check it out if you like! The Sangre de Cristo mountains have their own gallery if that is specifically what you are interested in!

Another Glimpse

Elk on the RidgeAnother glimpse… and that’s about all! The elk were back on top of the ridge but with all the racket my snowshoes were making on the crusty snow it didn’t take them long to notice I was there. So A couple of quick snaps of the camera were all I was able to capture before they drifted out of site into the dense Pike National Forest wilderness.

However all the recent heavy snow has left a beautiful mantle of white on the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountain range, well worth a stop for a couple more pictures. Spring is nearly upon us and there are 40 degree days ahead… I don’t think I’ll be snowshoeing much longer on this mountain, but it was a good winter. I got more of the exhilarating snowy treks in this year than I have in the last ten years put together!

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

 

After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!

 

What Falls in Your Lap

I guess the message of this post is to focus on what falls in your lap.Β  Woke up early this morning and as usual I opened the curtains on my way to the coffee pot. 16 degrees and socked in with fog… couldn’t see a thing. No matter, I was wretched tired anyway and a cup of coffee and a nap on the couch sounded like a pretty good plan πŸ™‚

Frosty Colorado Forest

Drank my coffee, let Big Dog back in and shut my eyes… that was going to be the end of it. I suppose it was about an hour later and Big Dog was starting to complain so I kind of opened one eye and noticed that the sun was starting to shine through on the distant aspen trees which were magnificently covered with a heavy layer of frost. Now this is a scene I have long wanted to capture but there just isn’t any way to get in position for the shot. But wait I thought… Now I have the 400mm… twice the reach I usedΒ  to have!

So I went back in, grabbed the camera and headed off to try once again to capture the beautiful grove of trees. This time I had a little better luck. 400mm seems like just the trick! Hope ya’ll like the image πŸ™‚ As always it is available as wall art on my website, this one is in the Rocky Mountain Winter gallery.

Bighorn Adventure

Back in the day I used to go to Waterton Canyon every weekend for my long run while training for the Leadville 100. We didn’t see much wildlife in those days, maybe an occasional deer or hawk, but in the last few years the bighorn sheep herd has been growing nicely and I have been wanting so badly to get back there for a photo shoot.Β  I tried once back in 2015, but felt like Clark W. Griswold when I got there and there was a gate across the entire entrance saying, “Closed for Maintenance” 😦 First time in the history of the canyon as far as I know!

Bighorn Sheep Along the Platte River

Well last night I checked the forecast and it was calling for snow in the Denver area so I was thinking that might just be the right weather to bring them down out of the high elevation and into the canyon. So I got the truck all ready to go yesterday, mountain bike in the back, tank full of gas, oil and tires checked. Didn’t wake up exactly when I wanted too… so I got there somewhat later than I was planning which probably worked out to my advantage because when I arrived I had to drive through a virtual lake of water and mud at the entrance! So I surmised that the expected snow did indeed fall last night and hoped it had the desired effect on the critters.

Unfortunately the mud was so deep that I couldn’t even ride for the first few hundred yards, had to walk and push. Finally after about a quarter of a mile the mud was less deep and the road underneath was solid enough to ride on, so I began to pedal up the canyon. For whatever reason, the canyon didn’t seem as long or as steep as it used to… you wouldBighorn Sheep Along the Platte River think that ten years would have done the opposite? Well anyway I rode along scanning the canyon walls for the magnificent beasts, the plan was to ride all six miles to the top of the canyon if need be! Well pretty soon a friendly looking woman with a big camera was walking back down so I asked her if she had seen any sheep and she motioned that they were right around the bend.

Bighorn Sheep Along the Platte River

A few more yards and there they were, a couple just lying in the sun along the Platte River and a few more resting in the sun on a grassy knoll on the canyon wall. I stashed my bike and camera backpack and approached the animals slowly hoping that they wouldn’t run, which they didn’t. They seemed completely unconcerned by my presence so I just shot away until I was satisfied that I had captured that scene. Then as I looked back down the canyon I noticed an even bigger part of the herd walking towards me and looking like they might be wanting to cross the road for a drink out of the river, which is exactly what I wanted. The sheep with the river and canyon walls in the background. Now this bunch was a little more wary of me so I decided to just take a seat on a rock and just watch them a bit while they settled down.

Soon they were satisfied that I meant no harm and went about their business of eating and drinking on the river bank, perfect for getting all the pictures I could possibly want! The sun even came out for me so I would have some nice light allowing me to dial the ISO back to 200 for some even better images than I had gotten before.

Bighorn Sheep Along the Platte River

Finally all the animals decided it was time to lie down for a nap which wasn’t making for very interesting pictures so I decided to call it a day. All in all I filled up two memory cards and captured over 500 images! After a quick review I have decided these are my favorite of the day and have uploaded them to my website.

By then I was pretty tired and hungry and the drive home seemed long… On the way up I had noticed a Pub sign in Palmer Lake so I decided to check it out on the return trip πŸ™‚ The Palmer Lake Pub turned out to be a great little place in a great little town, the beer and food were both excellent and I was soon revived enough to finish the long drive back to Cripple Creek πŸ™‚ I’ll be stopping back in there as often as possible!

These images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and traditional framing and matting. Also available are tons of cool gift items including blankets and pillows, tech items such as battery chargers, apparel, yoga mats and more! All with a beautiful S.W. Krull Imaging picture! I have over 500 more pictures from today to process, so be sure to check back often!