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 wantedΒ  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 πŸ˜‰

 

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 😦

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 πŸ™‚ Storm clouds were already forming over the majestic peaks and it was an amazing scene to be sure πŸ™‚ 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.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!

 

A Little Exploring

My original plan for the day was to just stay home and give these tired old legs some rest… Lol, in my case, the flesh is willing but the spirit isn’t, I’mΒ  just not good at resting it would seem! So once again I decided to load up my backpack, get on my bike and see where the day would lead me. First off I noticed that I could still get down to Bronco Billy’s in time for the cheap breakfast, so down the hill I coasted for some French Toast while I pondered my next move.

I thought about seeing if I could ride clear to Victor but the sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor train whistle reminded me that I had yet to explore the abandoned mines on the mountainside visible from my bedroom window. There aren’t any obvious roads going up there and I have been wondering for almost a year now if I could get up there for some images. Well… today was the day as I began my journey by pedaling east through town towards the dirt road that leads up to the narrow gauge train tracks. I always figured that it was private property beyond the train tracks because there is a sign posted beyond there along the dirt trail. However as it turns out the sign is just a notice of the Cripple Creek mine reclamation project boundary, so the area is fair game.

Cripple Creek Train

The first hill was wicked and I was not able to pedal up it, but I didn’t mind pushing the old 21 speed for a few feet to the top. As I neared the top of the first ridge I could hear the train whistle getting louder and also saw the most beautiful view of the tracks that I have ever seen. The train tracks can be seen winding out of the forest against a backdrop of a magnificent valley with the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background. Only today you have to look very close to see the mountains, unfortunately it appears the Arkansas River Valley is filling with smoke from the distant fires in the southwest corner of the state. Took a few shots of the train and some abandoned buildings located in the vicinity before looking around to see if the trail would continue.

Abandoned Gold Mine

There did appear to be some sort of access road leading along the ridge toward the big mine so I thought I might give that a try on the bike. It was nice road for mountain biking, but it only went about a half a mile back into the woods before coming to an end at another mine reclamation sign. At that point I got off the bike to look around for a possible composition or maybe a foot trail, neither of which seemed to be available. There was a steep berm created for the reclamation project leading up to the top of the next ridge, not something that looked like it was wanting to be climbed but I was curious what kind of view might be possible from the summit. So I found a climbing stick for myself and headed up the steep hillside. Unfortunately the top was a false summit and proved to only be the bottom of another even worse climb that I was not in the mood to tackle. However there did appear to be a trail leading around to the south that looked well worth checking out but only ended up at the base of the big mine in view of the massive trucks hauling ore.

On the way back down the hillside I hoped I would spot a two pound gold nugget just laying out in the open… No such luck but I did find a giant rusty iron spike weighing about five pounds. Although I would have liked to add it to my collection of useless junk it was far to heavy for me to want to carry on my bike all the way back to town! It appears that gold and riches will have to wait for another day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangre_de_Cristo_Range

The ride back down was much easier than the ride up, although there was once place where the downhill on rocky gravel was so steep that I thought better of it and got off and walked. I have never forgotten the harsh lesson of an endo that I experienced on the White Ranch Trail system over 20 years ago! Riding a bike is something you never forget, so they say… but flying off a bike upside down onto a rocky mountain trail is something you never forget too!

So… calling the day a success, I got a little exercise that I really didn’t need or want and a few nice images of the failed mining endeavors attempted by my Cripple Creek predecessors for my website if you would like to take a look πŸ™‚ Wall art on metal and acrylic is available as is more traditional framed and matted prints. Cool household and gift items are also available, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, yoga mats, blankets, beach towels and more! Just above the images on the site there is a button for galleries, which are how I divide my work up into categories if you would like to explore my site a little more thoroughly πŸ˜‰

 

A Good Ride

Wasn’t too sure what I was going to do today… getting back in shape at my age is no easy task and I just felt tired this morning. But I resolved to get on my mountain bike with my camera backpack and head down the hill for a 50 cent cheese omelette at the casino. Figured I could just call it good from there if I decided to, but thought maybe at least having the camera along I might be inspired to go further πŸ™‚ And when I got done with breakfast it was so beautiful that the idea of just going home became unconscionable πŸ™‚ So off to Victor it was!

Herd of Mule Deer

Saw a small herd of mule deer along the way so I had to get off the bike and get a couple of shots. Unfortunately by the time I had my camera out of the backpack and ready to go the deer were getting nervous and headed off to other parts 😦 But I still thought this one turned out kind of nice, even though they were already a ways away. It appears a few mountain wildflowers are beginning to bloom up here at almost 10,000 feet of elevation!

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Next stop, just short of the bridge in front of the mine I found an abandoned mine site that had an awesome view up the valley all the way to the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, and it appears that there is some new snow blanketing the high peaks. By then the sun had begun to light up the haze a bit too much for good pictures so I thought it might be a good time to try the polarizer on my #Canon F4l 70-200 long lens. The scene through the viewfinder was much more dramatic with the dark glass in place, so this last one of the day is the one I chose for this blog post. I have many more to process, including some of the alpenglow effect on the range before sunlight that I shot while taking Big Dog for his exercise and morning constitutional πŸ™‚

Now back home after a good hard ride up and down the hills of the Cripple Creek mining district. Glad I didn’t let the early morning negativity defeat me today πŸ™‚ Hoping all my readers enjoy the pictures, please check my website for new prints and gift items that will becoming available in the coming days as I get around to processing them!

Facing Fear

I have been wanting to ride my bike to the overlook near Victor along highway 67 for some time now… I started up the road a couple of weeks ago, but I have to admit… I chickened out. Not a big fan of cliffs and dropoffs and even less a fan of miners in their pickup trucks angry that they are on their way to work 😦

Victor Mining DistrictRode my bike down to breakfast this morning with the intention of contemplating the ride again, but still not too sure about it. After a nice egg sandwich and hash browns I buzzed over to the bank only to discover that it was not going to be open for another hour. From the bank I could see my nemesis, the highway winding around the mountain towards Victor. With an hour to kill I didn’t have much choice so I turned my headset towards Victor and started to pedal. Then I thought better of it and turned around, before getting mad at myself and turning around again, LOL. Well, I finally just headed down the highway, what could it hurt to try it out?

It has been a long time since I was riding regularly in Woodland, but after a half a mile or so it was old hat again, “Just like riding a bike” I guess πŸ™‚ The hill really wasn’t that steep, small sprocket in the front and somewhere around the middle sprocket on the back had me gliding up the hill at about 10mph with no trouble. A few trucks roared past, but it was no trouble to just get on the shoulder for a minute well out of range of the disgruntled blue collar mayhem. It was probably only about a 20 minute ride, far quicker and easier than I had conjured it up to be in my mind πŸ™‚

Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see from there on this day. Clouds and fog almost completely obscured the view of the Sangre de Cristos, and there was no wildlife in sight. No need at all to open my backpack and get out my big #Canon. But I did take a shot with my phone camera, if only to prove that I was there today πŸ™‚ This picture is the beauty that can be seen from this overlook on the right day!

The ride back down to Cripple Creek was nothing like the terrorizing downhill plunge that I had envisaged, and was in fact kind of fun πŸ™‚ So I guess FDR was right, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” πŸ™‚ Now I’m looking forward to riding all the way into Victor and up into the mining district where I can do a photo study of the historic abandoned structures with the greatest view of the Sangres of all in the background. Stay tuned!