Deer Mountain

Herd of Deer on the Mountainside

If this good fortune keeps up I think I’m going to rename this mountain… Deer Mountain sounds like a good name!  When we began our climb these ladies were in the shade so I didn’t even know they were there until I was halfway up the hillside. Finally though the light and my angle changed and there they were! It was about 40 degrees by then, the sun shining, just a perfect place to stop and take a few pictures. Big Dog was content trying to dig to China in some holes that the ground squirrels had made.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words… a time like this 🙂 My words just can’t adequately describe this amazing moment in time, so I’ll just let the pictures do it for me.

Herd of Deer on the Mountainside

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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

 

Cutting the Trail

I arose early this morning in preparation for a snowshoe trek over the top of the mountain, the wind was not as bad and the snow has taken a break for now. I knew it was going to be a tough morning though, cutting a new trail through the deep wind blown snowdrifts!

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo

As I began the climb with Big Dog I was thinking maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad after all… the wind had blown the snow completely off the trail and we were just striding along in comfort on the hard packed base. But… it wasn’t long, the trail took a turn and we found ourselves in a deep drift which seemed to go on forever. Big Dog was really struggling to get through and for a bit I thought we were going to have to give it up. But soon for some reason the drift hardened, and with the snowshoes both me and big dog could hike along in comfort right across the icy surface.

Up in the trees there were a couple of spots where we had to cut a new trail, but on the top of the ridge the snow had mostly blown away. The view from the summit was of course amazing as usual so I stopped for some pictures. A couple of bucks were also of the mind for cutting a new trail and I could see that they were having a tough day as well. Buck Mule Deer in Deep Snow

The backside of the mountain was easy, the snow had completely blown away leaving bare grass and dirt most of the rest of the way. Here I encountered a trio of doe mule deer foraging on one of the pine tree. So intent upon their task were they that they paid us no mind at all making for a great photo op and a couple nice portraits. These are not shown in this blog post, but are definitely for sale on my website in the wildlife gallery!

Now that I have the hard part done I’m looking forward to another trek over the top in the morning and hopefully some more wildlife pictures! There are rumors of more snow though… stay tuned!

On the Deer Trail

On the deer trail early in the morning today. I was thinking about taking the day off but Big Dog was definitely not in agreement. It was supposed to be snowing by now but I’m seeing nothing but blue sky and it was a beautiful dawn to be out in the high country!

Awesome Buck Mule Deer

Just as we were getting ready to crest the first ridge I noticed a slight bit of movement out of the corner of my eye, as if this magnificent buck mule deer was saying, “Hey, look over here!” After I took notice of him he started to take flight, but for some reason turned around to look and check if he was actually being chased. When he noticed that he wasn’t in immediate danger he stopped and took a few steps toward me out into the clearing. Perfect, I could not have asked for a better situation.  A bigger lens would have been nice but this was as good as it was going to get for today.

On top of the mountain I could see the snow

Beautiful Clouds on the Sangre

building on the western ranges but for us there was nothing but beautiful warm sunshine! Perhaps we will see some of the snow later which would be OK with me.

How fast Colorado can change! As I was writing this piece, 10 minutes ago Big Dog was basking in the sun in the back yard… Now we have wind driven snow pellets and he is looking up into my window all squinty eyed… Lol, guess I’d better go get him! Wonder if we are going to have a white Christmas after all?

As always this picture and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and lots of cool gift items.

 

No Bull

Lol, yup… No bull today, the surly beast has moved off the trail and on to another part of the forest. The coast was clear and we hiked to the summit and the high meadow where I always hope to see some wildlife. I don’t always see wildlife there, but today was a good day. As we crested the summit I scanned the edge of the wilderness for any animals that might be enjoying the clearing and the sun. Today there were two

Twin Bucks in the Snow

beautiful buck mule deer just standing there looking at me and the big dog trying to ascertain our intentions. I snapped a couple right away, my strategy for making sure I at least get some record of the sighting. Then we moved in behind a grove of trees hoping the big males wouldn’t notice. Turned out to be a good strategy, when I looked around a big aspen tree trunk I saw that the stags had not moved an inch. Using the tree to steady my camera I snapped a few more using various shutter and focus settings before calling it good. By the time we got back around the trees the pair of bucks had disappeared into the wilderness to the west.

We also saw a herd of elk, but they were in a terrible location right at the top of a ridge in shade with bright sunlight behind them. I took a few pictures anyway but I’m sure they didn’t turn out. I’ll take a look at them later to see if they can be salvaged with some creative cropping or something.

Driven

Misty Mountain Wilderness

I was so tired this morning… when I awoke I could only think of coffee and then while I was having coffee I was thinking of more coffee 🙂 But as I swallowed the last cup of my little four cup pot the usual butterflies appeared in my stomach. I don’t know what it is… but somehow I’m driven to get my camera and the big dog and go out into the woods. Once my coffee is gone there is no relaxing until after I have been out to see what the mountains have for me that day. As I try to sit still I am tormented by what I might be missing knowing full well that every day has something different to behold. The wilderness could be shrouded in fog, there might be some cool cap clouds on the Sangre de Cristo, there may be an elk herd, deer, bighorn sheep… But one thing I know for sure, I will not allow myself to miss it!Pair of Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Fortune

I always take my Canon DSLR with me… usually to no avail. Sometimes I tell people that I carry it as protection from wildlife… as long as I have it with me there is no chance that I will encounter any wild animals 😦 Fortunately this day was different, I encountered a herd of bighorn sheep on the side of the mountain posing in a grove  of beautiful autumn colored aspen 🙂

Leaping Bighorn

I quick snapped off a few pictures and then noticed that the nimble beasts were intent upon crossing over a large crevice by jumping from one large boulder to the next. So I quick set my camera to ISO 400 in hopes of getting a sharp action picture. One by one the critters deftly leapt from one boulder to the next over to a rock clearing where they could rest. As fortune would have it, they decided to take their afternoon break right in a grove of aspen trees that were some of the few that have already taken on their autumn colors.

It was a bit bright by that time in the afternoon and I noticed that my highlight warning was indicating quite a bit of  clipping on the light end of the scale so I decided to reach into my pack for the polarizer. One quick turn of the dark filter and the leaves took on the expected amazing deep saturated coloring that I was envisioning.

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

The sheep, safe on their high precarious perch were completely unconcerned by the activities of any humans far below and I was able to shoot for as long as I wanted. When the entire herd had made it across the boulders to the clearing the leader began another short migration to the next vantage point but I knew I had the shot I wanted and departed the scene as well.

My plan for today was to head over towards Breck in hopes of scouting out the trailhead to Quandary Peak. I’m not too confident about completing a 14er in style this year, but the thought of spending another entire winter thinking, “maybe next year” is too disheartening to contemplate. I have to see 14,000 feet this year, that’s all there is to it and 14,265 foot Quandary looks doable even in my less that optimal physical conditioning. According to 14ers.com the East Ridge route is only a little over six miles with a difficulty rating of Class 1 all the way. Since I already live at nearly 10,000 feet and regularly climb to over 11,000 feet extra elevation training is not that big of a concern.

So next week I will make the drive to scout out a camp site on Hoosier Pass and have a lookat trailhead parking. Don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark looking for a place to park when I should be getting a jump start on the climb!

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