Chaos in the Canyon

Cold and dreary today, my bones ache so I can be pretty sure winter is returning to the high country tomorrow. That was definitely not the story yesterday though, it was nice enough in the mountains but it felt like summer in Waterton Canyon. Beautiful day for a mountain bike ride so even though I was running behind from my trip to Englewood Camera, there was no way I was going to miss out on that!

Beautiful Blue Water of the South Platte in the Rockies

On the mountain bike ride up the canyon I saw evidence of the bighorns, mainly in the form of rocks strewn all over the trail in a couple of prime spots but unfortunately I didn’t see any animals. Stopped on my way back down to try out my 4 stop ND filter on a particularly beautiful spot on the river. Got some nice pictures but the water is really not running fast enough at the moment to warrant a motion blur picture. The canyon walls were dark and would remain so until late afternoon, long after I intended to be on my way home.

Sometimes I like to ride hard on the way down but this day I just took up a leisurely pace

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

hoping to give the sheep time to come down from the mountaintops for a photo op. As I rounded a bend about three miles in I saw a small group of ewes and perhaps one young ram gathered by the river. I rode in just close enough to get set up without disturbing them and readied my gear. It was looking like my 28-105 would be the right lens for the situation, the big 400 mm was not going to be necessary with the critters right on the road and I was hoping to get a wide angle video of them at the stream getting their daily drink of water from the South Platte.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

It all started out well, the sheep ventured down the riverbank to the beautiful pristine blue water of the headwaters of the Platte for their drinks and I moved over to a rocky outcropping in the stream for a good view. All was going well until some other hikers and a couple of horses appeared on the scene. The little herd ran back up the embankment onto the dirt road at the edge of the cliffs and began to feed on the grass and make their way to their

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

trail back up the mountainside. Finally they were out of range for the wide angle so I switched to the big 400mm lens.

As they were meandering up the hillside they dislodged a couple rocks which made quite a noise, scaring the horses who took off running in the other direction. The thundering hooves scared the sheep who then high tailed it to the top of the ledge, knocking a bunch more rocks down, which of course dislodged even more rocks in my direction. I wisely scampered to the opposite side of the road keeping a close eye on a few hefty threats rolling toward me in case I needed to dive out of the way!

Fly Fisherman in the South Platte River

Finally the chaos subsided, the horses stopped running and the sheep went back to eating. But they hadn’t forgotten… every animals was keeping a wary eye on those horses as their riders coaxed them back into their trek up the canyon. it did make for some interesting pictures, all the sheep lined up in a row at the top of the ledge ๐Ÿ™‚

Eventually I packed up and headed back down the canyon. I knew there would be no more sheep so I pedaled hard to the trailhead for my long drive back to the mountains.

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items are also available with a beautiful mountain scene, including apparel, bedding and pillows, shower curtains, coffee mugs and tech gadgets includingย  battery chargers and phone cases!

I have also created a YouTube video on my channel for some HD footage of the action! Please subscribe if you like! I have a long way to go to get my first 100 subscribers so I can get my own custom URL!

The Perfect Rig

Photography Rig by the Pristine Waters of the South Platte River

I’ve been working for some time now to assemble the perfect rig for gaining access to the back country for landscape and wildlife photography. I don’t know whether it’s really the perfect rig or not, but it suits me perfectly and I was dying to try it all out together! I wanted the Tamrac Anvil 23 for it’s size and rugged construction, big and deep enough for all my gear and including a camera with battery grip and long lens. It also has straps on the center back strong enough to carry a heavy duty tripod comfortably. Then of course a carbon fiber tripod with a good video head, I decided upon the Manfrotto 502A for it’s rugged build plus it’s capability to operate effectively in the harsh Colorado winter. And of course the bike, which luckily I was able to find pre-owned and in like new condition, a Nishika Colorado 21 speed mountain bike with shock absorbers on the front forks ๐Ÿ™‚

My idea was that Waterton Canyon was going to be considerably warmer and the best

Pristine Waters of the South Platte River in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter

place to try it all out! However the weatherman was forecasting a cold gloomy morning and I was pretty sure that the sheep were not going to come down ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I felt kind of guilty driving 100 miles just to go on a bike ride so I was going to back out, but I called my favorite camera store Englewood Camera, and they just happened to have a good deal on a 4 stop ND filter that I’ve been wanting so I thought what the heck… I’ll stop in at the camera store and maybe I’ll even be able to try it out on my favorite part of the river. Years ago back in the film days I had captured a great image of the river and I’ve tried repeatedly through the years without success to duplicate it with the awesome new technology at our disposal these days so that I could have it for sale on my stock portfolio!

It was still cold and gloomy in the canyon by the time I got there at about 10:00 a.m. so I bundled up and hoped for the best. Indeed I did not see a single bighorn sheep in my entire ride to the top of the dirt road. Modifications I

Pristine Waters of the South Platte River in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Winter

had recently made to my bike, including seat, hand grips and pedals proved worth the investment as I rode hard all the way to the turnaround without having to dismount a single time ๐Ÿ™‚ On the way up I identified the very spot that I captured my favorite image so many years ago and on the way back down I stopped there for pictures and video. The other time was autumn so I knew I would not have the beautiful colors, but I have always wanted to try the image in winter as well. I spent a good amount of time there using wide angle and long lenses, the polarizer and a plain skylight filter. The water wasn’t flowing sufficiently to need the new ND, but I’ll try that out over at Eleven Mile pretty soon.

All in all I think I am satisfied with my winter images and I got a great workout on my mountain bike in the fresh mountain air of the Pike National Forest. As always these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and traditional matting and framing! Also I have no sponsorship or compensation of any kind from any of these products. I have purchased them with my own funds because I found them most suitable to my needs.

Plan B or Maybe C for 2020

Things definitely not going to plan for 2020 so far. Took vacation from work for the first couple of weeks of the year to get a head start on winter photography, maybe a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, a couple excursions to Waterton Canyon for mountain bike rides to see the bighorn sheep and perhaps a snowshoe trek at the Denny Creek Trail, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. And my local trail into the mountain back country is supposed to be reopening as well. Unfortunately on my first day off my truck has decided to start acting up and is in the truck hospital as of this morning. Hopefully it won’t be anything too serious and I will quickly be back in action!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

Not wanting to completely waste a day yesterday, I decided that since I might be without wheels for a few days maybe I’dย  better give my mountain bike a little tune up to coincide with my New Year’s Resolution to getย  back in shape! My last ride up Waterton Canyon was a struggle atย  best, far more difficult than I thought it should be, worrying me that I have spent far too much time watching Youtube videos about mountain biking instead of actually mountain biking ๐Ÿ˜ฆ However the tune up proved to be quite successful especially the saddle adjustment that I completed. Turns out the seat was way too far back making it extremely uncomfortable in addition to placing my legs completely out of the power leverage angle. A short test ride with the new placement proved two things, one, I’m not in as poor of physical shape as I feared… and two, I’m going to need to be in a lot better shape than I am in order to do the things I have planned for this year!

So plan B today was going to be a mountain bike ride to my local trailhead for a ride up the new road they have built to the summit. At first I wasn’t too pleased to see the improvements, knowing that all the more people will be invading my sanctuary but now I’m thinking that with mountain biking as my new preferred form of exercise, the road may come in handy ๐Ÿ™‚

But it only took one step out the door this morning to see a problem with plan B… it is unexpectedly frigid out today! It’s cold and grey and there is a wicked wind blowing out of the north ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Perhaps it will warm up a bit later today making for better riding conditions… or perhaps plan C will be enacted to spend just one more day working out with my weights inside and a little bit of time at the computer before beginning in earnest the work towards my New Year’s Resolution!

Riding Waterton Canyon

As it turns out I was awake at 4:00 a.m. this morning with nothing to do but stare out the window at the darkness. Or… I could jump in the old Dodge and head for Waterton Canyon in hopes of arriving just after sunrise. Been watching with envy as the Denver photographers post all those great shots of the bear and the bighorn sheep on the canyon Facebook group!

Platte River in Waterton Canyon

Well the first part of the plan came together just fine, I arrived at the trailhead parking lot just after sunrise, jumped on my mountain bike and headed into the canyon. Bypassed some deer that were feeding on the leaves on the riverbank, they were pretty much in the dark anyway. Soon I arrived at the usual location where the animals come down and unfortunately there were no bighorn sheep today. So I thought, well I’ll ride up the river for exercise and look for the bear.

Six miles I rode up the dirt road hugging the South Platte River on it’s way down from the Rockies and onward to Nebraska where it meets up with the Mighty Missouri. I watched the banks of the river and the cliffs behind intently for any sign of the wildlife I so wantedย  to photograph. But alas, today was not going to be my day, there was no wildlife to be found. If I had time I suppose I could have made the ride again this afternoon but not sure my legs would have been too happy about that!

Eventually as I neared the end of the ride I saw a small group of people staring at something high on the canyon walls… so I stopped to see what the attraction might be.

Golden Eagle in Flight

Turns out there was a golden eagle perched on top of a rock high on the cliffs overlooking the canyon. I snapped a few shots of him sitting there and then waited to see if he would take flight. It wasn’t too long and he began to rustle around so I readied myself for the shots. Soon his giant wings spread and the big raptor took flight. I had my camera on high speed for the occasion so I rattled off about 20 pictures in the few seconds I had before he flew off out of range along the river.

So the day wasn’t a total loss, and how could a beautiful mountain bike ride along a pristine blue Rocky Mountain stream ever be a failure! Heck, when I lived in Denver I rode the canyon all the time just for the pleasure of the exercise! So, there will be another time soon when I get the chance to find the sheep and the bear. Not tomorrow though… think I might explore Mueller State Park a bit ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Exploring Tunnel Drive in Canon City

I finally visited the Royal Gorge this spring for the first time and did some hiking along the Canyon Rim Trail. It was nice way up on the top of the canyon, but what I really want to do is explore the canyon from the bottom! On another failed attempt to do so on mountain bike I discovered a road called Tunnel Road which I was tempted to explore that day but instead opted for the visit to the main park on the canyon rim.

Royal Gorge Passenger Train

Had some stuff to do in Canon City yesterday so I decided to see where Tunnel Drive would take me. At first it didn’t seem very far, I took a wrong turn and wound up at the gate of the public works plant on the upper road. A quick turnaround and right turn back onto Tunnel Drive had me once again headed in the right direction ๐Ÿ™‚ I was concerned that the tunnels would be too small to drive my big truck through, or too rough, or too busy… But none of that happened. After a short drive of no more than a mile or two I arrived at a nice little parking lot at the base of a trail called Tunnel Drive Trail… imagine that ๐Ÿ™‚

So it turns out that the Tunnel Drive Trail is a nice developed trail head with a restroom

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

providing access to the canyon for families, mountain bikers and hikers. I grabbed my camera backpack and headed up the trail with no idea what I would find. After about a quarter of a mile up a steep concrete path I encountered a series of tunnels and a flat and wide dirt path heading through them and into the canyon high above the ugly brown water of the Arkansas River below. The tunnels were interesting enough for me to do a little research on the history of this trail and I discovered that the tunnels were originally blasted out by convicts as part of a water project. Apparently it was open to auto traffic for a while but now it is for recreation only.

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

The trail now runs about two miles out and back for a total of four miles with mileage markers and numerous benches and picnic tables along the way. There are great views of the Arkansas, canyon walls and the canyon visitor train and tracks snaking their way along the river below. Had I done a little research I would have discovered that this is a nice bike trail and I could have saved myself an hour and a half of walking by just getting my bike out of the back of my truck! If there is a next time I will definitely do this trail on wheels!

My real reason for wanting to get back into the canyon is so that I can do some whitewater rafting photography and I don’t think this trail is going to help me. It is way too far and high above the water for that but from there I did spot some kind of access path along the river bed on the other side. When I get some time I’ll try to figure out how to get on it with my mountain bike, a subject for another blog post!

Adventure at the Royal Gorge

This was supposed to be a mountain bike adventure along the River Walk Trail in Canon City… and it was for a while, at least until the trail soon became Ditch Walk Trail. I was intending to ride up the river until I found something interesting, but the ride only lasted about a mile before it turned away from the river and up a drainage ditch before dead ending at the college. So I just turned around and rode back to the truck. Tried to think of other things I could do, but already too much time had been wasted so I just headed for home.

Royal Gorge Colorado

As I climbed the hill out of Canon I saw the sign for the Royal Gorge… What the heck, might as well drive back in there and see what I could see was my thought. So I turned left and took the windey paved road back to the gorge. Noticed a small parking lot at a trailhead for some mountain bike trails but pressed on. I wanted to see the gorge, have been in Colorado over 30 years and have never been. Also noticed an interesting dirt road to the left, something about a picnic area and overlook. But again I pressed on to the visitor center figuring that’s where the best experience might be.

Finally there… parked and walked to the visitor center hoping there would be some kind of observation deck, but no… just a bunch of souvenirs that I can’t afford. Looked all around there for a view but there wasn’t much. All I could see was the other side of the canyon wall, no way to look down without paying for the gondola ride or a trip across the bridge.

Well there was still the overlook and picnic area so I got back in the truck and headed for

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

the dirt road. The road wasn’t bad, a few bumps and twists and turns but nothing that couldn’t be handled by any passenger car. Some of the picnic areas were full so I didn’t find a parking place until almost the end, which as luck would have it is where the overlook actually is located. Not only was there an overlook, but a whole trail system surrounded the area. Some visitors were getting out mountain bikes to ride on a trail that would at times come uncomfortably close to the 1000 foot or more drop off the edge into the river. Not for me! In fact after a short distance I went back for my trekking pole! The area is filled with cactus and I had no desire to face plant one one of those devils, plus I was feeling extra clumsy today ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I was expecting to see only canyon and river on this outing, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some excellent views of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo across the canyon in the distance ๐Ÿ™‚ Storm clouds were already forming over the majestic peaks and it was an amazing scene to be sure ๐Ÿ™‚ Finally, satisfied that I had seen all there was to see I loaded up the camera and headed for home. Thought of going back into town for a micro brew at a new place called the Worlds End Brewing Company but already too much time had been spent. I was tired and ready for the drive home.

Probably won’t go back there, although maybe sometime the train ride might be fun… but not on one of my usual solo adventures. That doesn’t seem like a solo activity. Well as always these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets plus tons of cool gift, household and tech items! My site has been redesigned and might bear some explaining. There is a row of buttons near the top of the landing screen where you can choose the type of product you are interested in. This then brings up a page with all of my collections, or galleries. These two images can be found by clicking “more collections” and then the “Colorado Rocky Mountains”. Or you can just look below the collections on the landing page where my most recent images are displayed.

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.ย  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” ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!