Flying by Instruments

Day three of my “Getting Back in Shape” campaign… no discernible physical progress, but at least the effort is helping to clear my head of a lot of unwanted clutter. Funny how a goal and some physical exertion can do that. I was thinking about a road trip and a major hike or bike ride today but after remembering that it is Labor Day weekend and the last chance for the summer tourists to invade the mountains I thought better of it. Decided to avoid all the traffic and check AllTrails to see if I might be able to find something closer by to explore.

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Well it turns out that a ton of trails have been added since I last used my favorite hiking app! I found a bunch of new local trails to explore, now just to find them… Well, the Almagre Mountain Trail looks good, and close by too! Let me see… there is a directions button, so I click it and a Google Map comes up with a blue line on it pointing in the general direction based on my stated location. And that’s it. Last time I was on the directions actually would tell you where to go, what roads to take, where to turn 😦 Of course I am a little behind the times, my GPS turned off… because you know, the government might find me. Which begs the question… why would the government want to find me? When putting some rational thought to it… if the government is really looking for me we must have a lot of government employees without shit to do 😐 Of course that probably is actually the case, but they would have to be really bored to be looking for me!!!!

So I turn on my GPS, but still just a map and a blue line. How the heck am I supposed to find a trail head with just this stupid fat blue line to go by? Hmmm… a start button… that might be a good place to start πŸ™‚ So I pushed the button and almost fell out of my chair! A voice from God or something telling me to turn right on Eaton Avenue! Holy Crap, all I have to do is push start and my phone is going to guide me right to the trailhead! Who knew? Lol, eventually I decided to just follow my normal routine today while vowing to explore some more of the tools now available to me in this amazing app! For starters I recorded my hike today, complete with a map and elevation gain statistics. Cool, so I saved it, not sure what for or what good it is going to do me. Noticed that for some reason that I still have no stats available to the stats button.

So now a whole new world is open to me, numerous new trails to explore right off of Gold Camp road only a few miles from home plus gps to guide me into more remote locations. Also will make the trailhead for Mount Quandary easier to find for later in the month when I hope to be ready for the Class 1 peak. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the Almagre Mountain Trail as I learn to “trust my instruments” and use the new tools available to me via this amazing piece of technology called a “smart phone”! Man… what I could have done with one of these things back in the day!

For now though, a little weight lifting, a few pushups and sit ups and maybe even a ride on my mountain bike. Which reminds me… I need to investigate similar capabilities in my other favorite sports apps, Singletracks and 14ers.com πŸ™‚

Huge Bull Elk

Had to share my mountaintop with a huge bull elk this morning. As I cleared the ridge I spotted a few buck mule deer in the distance running back and forth making it difficult

Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

to get a decent shot. As I moved around a grove of trees in hopes of getting a closer view without disturbing them even more I spotted something else in the woods staring out at me. A massive bull elk was peering through the branches at me! I quickly attached my camera to the monopod / trekking pole and got off a couple of zooms. Unfortunately my camera must have picked up a branch or twig near the animal’s face because those turned out slightly out of focus 😦

As I continued my way along the trail the elk moved out into a clearing where he was keeping a close eye on me. I got a few captures with him posing against the wildflower filled meadow and then he moved onto the top of the ridge where I was able to include the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

Unfortunately it was quite a gloomy morning so the images don’t pop as much as I would like, but I’m very happy to have seen the majestic beast and happy to include these images into the permanent record πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website in the elk and wildlife galleries!

My Go To Move

One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.

Bucks in Grouse MeadowBut today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead.Β  It took a lot less timeΒ  to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.

But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.

I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows πŸ™‚

Bucks in Grouse Meadow

Farewell My Friend

He was my best friend… He went with me everywhere, pretty much anything I did, I did it because of the pure joy I received from the great enthusiasm he had for life and nature and all that could be discovered in the great outdoors. I met him full grown in 2016 and it wasn’t long before we became inseparable. He was the smartest dog I have ever known and it wasn’t long before he figured out that our main goal on all of our excursions, whether it was a hike or just a ride in the truck, was to find wildlife. As we drove along the mountain roads his eyes would scan the hillsides and ridge lines looking for deer and elk. When he finally spotted something he would let me know by pointing and woofing. Out on the trail his nose was in constant motion, his ears eventually alerting me to the presence of wildlife long before my human senses had any hope of detecting them. At the end of our treks we would go to the grocery store and get a ham, egg and cheese sandwich that I would bring out to the truck to eat. I would give him a puppy treat while I ate my breakfast and he would wait patiently and expectantly for the last bite of my sandwich. By day he was at my side, by night he slept at the foot of my bed. His snoring put me to sleep at night and his whining to go outside would awake me in the morning. He asked for nothing other than to be at my side wherever I went and when we got home from our travels he would lick me on the cheek to show his gratitude as I reached for his leash to hook him up to his run in the back yard.

Son Boy waiting in the truck

Now, suddenly and without warning he is gone. Struck down in the prime of his life by complications from his Lupus Medicine. Monday began like any other day with a long hike in the woods. Monday afternoon he ate his food and a few hours later he was gone.

My heart is broken, I can’t seem to do anything because everything I try to do just reminds me of him and without him there is no joy in anything. I’m sure in time I will find the strength to go on, I always do. But for now I mourn with no desire to do anything so you all will probably not be hearing much from me for a while. My camera lies dormant in the corner along with my hiking boots, out of sight so that they cannot remind me of him. Without his hopeful eager eyes to spur me to action I have little incentive to reach for them.

Sooner or later my heart will once again yearn for the snap of the camera shutter, the sight of God’s creatures peering out from the woods at me and the smell of pine in the crisp Colorado mountain air. Eventually I will answer the call of the wild, but for now it just doesn’t seem worth going on.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he is running free in the tall trees on the other side of Rainbow Bridge where he will meet me some day and we can resume our adventures in eternity.

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

 

 

 

 

Dog Days of Summer 2019

The Dog Days of Summer… According to Wikipedia, “The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”. For me, the sun is up way before I am, the colors are obliterated by the intense light of the overhead sun, the animals are all hiding in the shade. Do I want to sweat out a photo shoot in vain? Or…

vParadox Brewery in Divide Coloradoo

What better time to try out a new watering hole πŸ™‚ I have driven past this place a hundred times, it’s right by some sort of feed plant and I always thought the unexplored building was just part of the feed business in rural Divide, Colorado. Until the other day I was doing a search for brew pubs and Paradox showed up in the search results. So I’m thinking, I know that place, it’s the feed building I’m always driving past????

Saw the bighorn sheep up on 67 the other day at about 2:30… no camera along of course but I make a note of the time and place thinking that they might be making a return trip on another day…

Paradox Brewery in Divide ColoradoSo the trip is planned, bring along the camera so in case I see the sheep, if not… onward to the brew pub. I love a sure fire plan :) Well those pesky sheep knew I had the camera along so they stayed out of view like always when I have my camera :( No matter, onward to the brew pub.

And what a cool place it is! I can imagine it used to be some sort of country business, a

Paradox Brewery in Divide Colorado

big metal building with double garage doors facing the south with an awesome view of the northwest face of Pikes Peak, I might add! I entered the building past some brewing barrels and into a comfortable tasting room where I encountered a friendly and knowledgeable young lady behind the bar who was happy to let me taste the large variety of brews that they currently have on tap πŸ™‚ Never had beer like this though, all called “sour beer”. Some are more sour than others but I did find one that I liked, called “Future Knowledge”.

Paradox Brewery in Divide Colorado

Outside the big doors is a nice outdoor beer garden with a view of the great peak… The sun was a bit too intense for me this day so I chose to just enjoy the cool shade of the bar at 10,000 feet of elevation πŸ™‚ Outside also is a food truck which was serving some tasty steak, chicken or fish tacos.

I arrived fairly early, probably earlier than most people would be out and about so I had the place pretty much to myself for a while, which suits me just fine πŸ™‚ It wasn’t long though, before the place started filling up, looks like a pretty popular place for those in the know! So anyway, that was how I whiled away one hot dry Dog Day in this short Rocky Mountain summer πŸ™‚ I highly recommend this place if you have an afternoon or evening that you can spend just relaxing in the Rocky Mountain High Country πŸ™‚

 

Brave Little Pack

Had an awesome little trek this morning… Got to the trailhead acceptably early so I was hopeful that I would be in time for a successful wildlife encounter. Put the camera on ISO 400 and selected only the center focus point, my preferred setting for precise focusing on the animals eye, and strapped the camera over my back with the big lens attached. Off we went up the trail… me and the big dog. As we cleared the summit I spotted some movement in the shade and readied the camera, ready for the herd of deer to present itself. Lol… well it was a herd all right, not deer but wild turkeys! By the time I readjusted my composition the little buggers had already scampered into the dense forest 😦 Oh well… all I could see was there little heads above the thick mountain grass anyway.

Small Pack of Coyotes

Onward and upward… soon we had traversed the mountain and were on our way back down when I heard the bark of a dog followed by a couple more barks. I assumed the barking was coming from the parking lot far below until I heard a chorus of howls to go with the racket. It was my little pack of coyotes thatΒ  I had photographed in the spring just as they were in the process of beginning their new lives πŸ™‚ It took a bit but I was finally able to spot them in a thicket of trees, by now all joining in on the beautiful wilderness song. I had to smile though, they are bigger now but their squeaky voices are still small πŸ™‚ I think their original plan was to hold their position in the thicket and stand their ground but after seeing the massive size of Big Dog they soon lost their nerve and took off for a more distant position from which to make their presence known.

Even with the big 400mm lens attached, the animals were too far away for a salable

Small Pack of Coyotes

capture… but I at least got these to record the amazing encounter with these distant shots πŸ™‚ Already though on my Instagram account… a comment to jolt me back to this present reality, something about an AR-15 which I of course immediately deleted. Some people, all they can think of when they see an animal is how they can kill it. These little predators are not hurting anyone and they deserve to live in peace, performing their intended task ofΒ  keeping the rodent population down. It’s no wonder there are so many mass shootings in these times, we live in a culture of death which will only worsen until people are taught from an early age to value all life, starting with an appreciation for these beautiful wild creatures.

Storm Chasing Debut

Tornado watch in parts of the state, flash flood advisories, hail and torrential rain… all in the forecast. I had the day off on Thursday and I could already see the storm clouds billowing into the sky to the west. Looked like it was going to be a great day to get some storm pictures so I consulted the weather charts to find the most likely viewing opportunities. I was hoping the storms would come right up from the Arkansas River Valley where I would get a good view from all my favorite overlooks… but no such luck. Pikes Peak is so massive that it often creates it’s own weather, and even more often it shapes the weather as it pleases. On this day it appeared that the big mountain would split the storm with the worst of the activity streaming towards the north over Woodland Park and on into Colorado Springs.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds

There have been reports of bighorn sheep activity along highway 67 so what the heck, I might be able to get some wildlife pictures and storm pictures on one trip.. so I loaded up my gear and headed over the pass. Unfortunately there were no sheep but it wasn’t long before I was in a major downpour! Obviously being in the midst of the storm is not the optimal photographic scenario so I pressed on to Divide thinking that the park on top of the hill might be a great place to see the storm development in all directions. Well I could definitely see in all directions but the best part of the storm was still right over me with no good views of the thunderheads in any direction. Bummer… well I thought, maybe Pikes Peak will have some interesting activity to view from the mountainsides in Woodland Park. Needed to stop there for supplies anyway so off to Woodland Park we went.

The big peak was putting on a pretty good show so me and the big dog climbed the ridge on the north side of Ute Pass and we got a few nice shots from there. We also saw some deer but were not able to get into position for any decent pictures, the underbrush is just so thick and lush due to all the rain this year. It almost looks like a rain forest like Oregon or Washington! So a few shots of clouds streaming over the massive mountain were all that we were going to get on this day.

On the return trip I could see storm activity all around but no matter where I went… there were trees in the way, or a hill or a mountain or the edge of a cliff with no place to park.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds Finally I thought I might be able to see from the top of the gold mine… but there was still the rest of the mountain to the north in the way of the best view. A quick trip down to Victor Pass from there provided a somewhat anticlimactic view of the remnants of the days storm on the south face of Pikes Peak, but overall the whole dayΒ  was a major disappointment.

I guess the lesson learned from this story is that storm chasing in the mountains might be a losing proposition… Colorado is not like Kansas where there is a uniform network of farm roads that allow you to get anywhere you want to go in a hurry. We have long winding roads with mountains in the way everywhere! I did get a tip though that might prove useful in the future. Apparently there was a good view from the one place I didn’t go, the high plateau traversed by Teller County Road 1. I’ll give that a shot next time.

As always these pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, tech gadgets, apparel and household items are also available with a beautiful mountain scenery by S.W. Krull Imaging.