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˜‰

 

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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!

Hard Ride

Well, that didn’t go as planned… in my mind was an enjoyable ride, maybe out to the overlook on 67 near Victor, some awesome pictures and a joyous ride back down the hill to town. The reality turned out otherwise 😦 Two years ago I was in great riding shape, but haven’t had a lot of time for myself or for exercise since then. I knew the hills in Cripple Creek are formidable, but in trying to ride them on my mountain bike, they went from formidable to simply wicked!

Fox and KitsThe morning started out fine… a nice ride down the hill to Bronco Billy’s for a cheese omelette. Breakfast was awesome :) Then I began the ride to Victor which lasted about three minutes before thinking better of that idea. It wasn’t so much the hill up there at that point as it was the gloom of the day. The main reason for riding to the overlook was to get pics of the Sangre, but it is just so dusty and gloomy that successful photography was just not going to happen.

So instead I decided on the dirt roads south of my house. Thought that might be a place to test out the old legs and see what is left after two years of much less beneficial physical struggle. The ride up the hill from Bronco Billy’s pretty much answered that question. I made it about halfway before I had to resort to standing on he pedals for more leverage… That is when I found that the old legs were already too tired to stand, nothing left to do but get off and walk.

But I was not about to give up until I at least did some riding on the dirt! I was encouraged by the first hill, steadily climbing the mountainside to another vista point I enjoy. Once there though, the hills once again became too steep for me to negotiate on wheels so I just turned around and headed for home. Very discouraging ride, but I think I’ll try to stick with it and see if the aging legs will bounce back and make it possible to do some pedaling around this area.

Didn’t get picture one today, but I did get one processed last night from the little fox family that I found a couple of weeks ago.Β  I don’t know, maybe I’ll head down the trail with Big Dog this evening and see if there might be a nice sunset to photograph. Other than that, it looks like the end of the road for picture exploring for a while 😦

Spring

Today is the spring equinox and as it turns out, my fourth anniversary with WordPress who’s software greeted me with a nice electronic congratulations πŸ™‚ Can’t say I even remember signing up, but four years ago today was exactly nine days before Tricia went into surgery to try to save her spine from the tentacles of the cancer she was so bravely battling. Unfortunately although they called the surgery a success, she never walked again. I don’t even remember blogging the first year of my membership here. Every day consisted of pushing her wheel chair about a mile down to the coffee shop and back. The coffee shop had the only chair on the planet, as far as I know, that she could be comfortable sitting in. The sun would stream into the windows there and that warmth and comfort was about all there was to look forward to. By the next spring she was gone and I was starting life anew… Thinking back that first year alone in the campground was crazy! I’m sure I had plenty to blog about then, perhaps I should go back and read some of my entries πŸ™‚ I remember every weekend through the spring and summer I spent hauling the remnants of our lives together off to an auction house in Denver.

Sangre de Cristo Spring

Sangre de Cristo range on the first day of spring

Today didn’t feel much like spring though, yesterday the windchill was -1 and today the real feel was 10 accompanied by a couple of inches of blowing and stinging snow. That didn’t stop me and Big Dog from making the trek down to the mountain, it was cold but with a couple of inches of fresh snow and some beautiful sunshine it was a splendid day πŸ™‚ The alpenglow was some of the most pronounced that I’ve seen yet, but I shot that yesterday and felt like sleeping in a little today. By the time we got there the view to the west was obscured a bit from blowing snow and haze in the air from the spring snowstorm, but the view of the Sangre de Cristo range was stunning anyway. Although not award winners, the pictures from today are pretty and a good record of the first day of spring for 2018!

Snow on Pikes Peak

Fresh snow on the foothills of Pikes Peak

Was hoping to see some deer out early this morning but no luck with that. I wasn’t paying much attention on the return trail and missed the turnoff which produced a view of the Pikes Peak foothills and some blowing snow off to the east that I haven’t noticed before. Some wispy clouds in the morning sun added to the scene which kind of made the day πŸ™‚ However, plans to get out on my mountain bike were definitely dampened by the wind and snow, maybe next week!

I hope that this spring brings hope and joy to everyone, especially my readers and that all your plans for the warmer weather come to fruition! I know many are struggling with all kinds of issues and it is my fervent prayer that with the onset of the warm sunshine peace and prosperity will seek out and find each and every one of you πŸ™‚

Slipping the Bonds

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, β€” and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of β€” wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air… .” John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Hawk soaring

Bird of prey soaring overhead

OK, so technically my feet are still on the ground, but when I am in the solitude of mountains above 11,000 feet with the hawks and the eagles soaring overhead it feels like I have slipped the bonds of earth. Today it also feels like I have finally slipped the bonds of civilization. I have been a bit disappointed since moving here that I have not been able to find an easy way to get beyond the limits of the town and into the wilderness that taunts me from the edges of town. To make matters worse, the clutch went out on the old Dodge a couple of weeks ago and I have been limited to the distance that my feet will carry me. Today I decided that Big Dog and I were going to find a way past the dreaded cattle guard and explore the mountainside on the southwest side of town. Fortunately someone has taken down the gate beside the guard so that my four footed hiking buddy could pass and we were home free.

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

Sangre de Cristo Winter Morning

We made our way to a hilltop where there is an awesome view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range and few people have experienced. I love it when IΒ  get out to views that I know not many people have set eyes upon πŸ™‚ Didn’t see any large wildlife, but there are hawks and eagles circling the hillsides there and they are a challenge to photograph to be sure!

As I looked around I noticed a wealth of excellent mountain bike trails that I will have to explore that are well beyond the distance that my feet would like to take me. One of my great disappointments in the Woodland Park area was the dearth of places to ride a bike without getting killed by bike hating lunatics in pickup trucks. My bike has been chained to the wall since moving here and I’m sure the tires are flat but hopefully they aren’t dry rotted as well because I can’t wait to get out there πŸ™‚

I am also determined to remember to bring along my circular polarizer as I believe it would dramatically add to the appeal of the distant Sangre’s. But for the rest of today though, me and Big Dog will be content to hide from the wicked wind that has developed on this mountaintop! A sandblasting is not something that I feel I need 😦 Maybe tomorrow!

As always, these pictures and more will be available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, matted and framed and as RF stock for those needing commercial licensing. Also available are many cool gift and household items including yoga mats, blankets, pillows, apparel, batteryΒ  chargers and more!

Solstice 2016

The new year holiday is meaningless to me, based on nothing but someone’s idea of a chronological date indicating an arbitrary division of time developed centuries ago. However, the Winter Solstice is real, something significant in the alignment of stars, planets, the sun and the earth. It is a mark in time that has a profound effect on my life as I squeak out a life here in the mountains of Colorado. It is the day when the hours of light stop becoming shorter, a day when I can count on more time under the beautiful light of the sun even if it is only a few seconds more than the day before. There is something psychological about knowing that the next day will be longer, perhaps warmer and without a doubt a bit lighter. It is also a day we can count on, a day that we can say without a doubt will be a division in time, the day that identifies an exact moment in time where something changes for the better.

Summit-HikerFor me, in two days it will be the new year… a time to reflect on the previous year and look with hope towards a new one. It is also a time to review whether the previous year will be a year in which I will receive the only thing that really matters, the words of the Almighty, β€œWell done good and faithful servant.”. I could not bear to hear the words in my mind… β€œOf him will I be ashamed… ”, speaking of those who were ashamed to speak His Name.

2016 was supposed to be simple, beginning with a trip to REI, my happy place, to invest my yearly dividend on some new bike riding gloves. A year when I was going to prosper, to enjoy life after years of caring for my wife of 25 years as cancer ravaged and eventually destroyed her body. A year that was going to be free from conflict and strife, pain and struggle. A year that began with a great victory, a winter climb to Colorado’s highest peak…

But it was not meant to be so… The war rages on, if not in my life in the lives of others. Early in the year I prayed to the Almighty, let the struggle be over let me just enjoy life now. Fortunately He did not listen to my prayer… the war is not over and neither is my part in it. As I look back it is hard to comprehend that the events in less than 365 days could be confined to just one year. You would have to go back and read all my blogs to gather it all in, but the short story is without my participation it is very possible that two lives and two souls may have been lost. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that as a result of my efforts some suffering may have been averted, a few lives made better and for some there will be new hope and a new chance for a future.

SummitIn spite of the struggles of life, the year also found me in two more of my greatest moments, summiting the three highest peaks in Colorado, counting the winter climb to Mount Elbert my buddies and I also summited Massive and Harvard in the summertime. The west face of Pikes Peak in wintertime has continued to elude us, but also resulted in an experience of a lifetime. Buddy Ralph and I were literally blown over by the strongest wind I have ever experienced… followed by a quick and desperate struggle for survival that will be fuel for stories for years to come! I wish we had some pictures of our frozen faces and beards but the sprint to lower elevations didn’t allow for time for that. However, now when we see the snow blowing a thousand feet in the air over the top of the Peak we can look at each other knowingly… well aware of what life is like on the Peak when that happens!

mariah-steve-summitThe year also yielded another first… my first drive to the summit of Pikes Peak on the Pikes Peak Highway. Barely squeaked that one in on a work day with my friend and co-worker Mariah. A beautiful day down at the base of the Peak was followed by a very cold and windy visit to the summit, but for sure it was a day I will never forget!

But the end of this year finds me tired, injured, and in doubt for my own future. For the next year I must depend on the blessed words of scripture, β€œBut without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”. I have to know that my efforts this year on behalf of others will not go unrewarded, and that β€œFor I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”. I have to know that He is watching over me and that there are plans for my life that I am not yet aware of. This year saw the demise of the news company I was writing for as well as any hope for a future with my main photo agency iStock / Getty. I have begun anew with a fledgling portfolio at a newer agency hosted by well known media giant Adobe, but it is only hope at this point. At this time I am out of pictures to upload, out of ideas for new ones and left praying for ideas.

For the new year, I am devoid of ideas for my own plans… spiritually drained and wondering how to start over yet again, but I am confident that the Author of the Future is not taken by surprise, not discouraged and not deterred. I go into the new year knowing that the Blessed Hope has plans I don’t know about and that my best days are before me and not behind… Knowing in my spirit that the next year will be a better year than the last.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items