Brown’s Canyon National Monument

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is another one of Colorado’s hidden gems… almost too well hidden! I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, ever since I missed the day of hiking with the Sierra Club. Well I finally did it πŸ™‚ I was in the area photographing rafters on the Arkansas until finally I found myself in Salida. What the heck, the park is just on the other side of Salida so I consulted my phone for directions and headed up 291 in search of the entrance… piece of cake πŸ™‚

Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon National Monument

Not a piece of cake. You would think that being a national monument there would be huge signs everywhere. But no… no signs anywhere 😦 Totally passed it by, drove all the way up 291 until I finally hit Johnson Village and had to turn back around. At that point I decided to let my GPS guide me in and managed to find the place, County Road 191 to the east from 291 will take you right in… after a couple of miles on a curvy dirt road over a ridge. When you finally do get there you will be greeted by a big sign with some of those fee envelopes and a $8.00 per day use fee. So I paid my fee, dropped the envelope in the box and went on in.

There is a large parking area and a campground along the Arkansas River where the

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rafting companies were all ready to pick up rafters. I grabbed my camera and trusty trekking pole and headed down a trail along the river towards the south. The original plan was to mountain bike back in but it didn’t take long to ascertain that the trail was above my meager riding skill level so I just hoofed it in a ways. The trail and the river are amazing and the area is vast. I imagine you could easily hike for days and not see it all.

 

By this time it was really hot and dry and I was not at all prepared for a long hike so I just turned around and vowed to hike up the other direction for a while but quickly abandoned that idea too and chalked the whole visit up to a successful scouting mission for a longer visit on another more prepared day.

On my way back through Salida the Soulcraft Brewery looked like the perfect answer to my parched throat and worthy of a stop πŸ™‚ Tried the Dopple Bock brew and it was delicious. Being short of time I didn’t try any food, and didn’t really see anyone else eating either. I assume they have food there, but would have to be something for another day as well.

Cute Doe Mule DeerWas hoping to photograph some more rafters along the Arkansas on my return trip, but by the time I was passing by again the rafting was all over for the day. Nothing but the long drive home to look forward to at this point.

If you are a fly fisherman the trail along the river is an awesome place to visit! For hiking though, I’m not so sure. There are no high peaks to scale and except for along the river it appears that there are a lot of miles of parched land to explore. It appears to me that the Continental Divide Trail passes through there on it’s way to the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista and there are miles of fun to be had for moderately skilled mountain bikers and a lot of rocky cliffs for rock climbers to hone their skills on! And I didn’t see many in the heat of the day, but I imagine there would be a ton of wildlife to photograph early in the morning.

 

 

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Between Storms in the Rockies

Staying inside today… a grim looking ice storm in progress outside. I will go out in most weather to get the picture but for me an ice storm is over the line 😦 I was out… long enough for me to discover that my truck is encased in a quarter inch of ice. Not going to deal with that in late May.

Herd of Colorado Springtime Mule Deer

Yesterday before the storm was awesome though, for a while anyway. Had to take Big Dog into town for a teeth cleaning so I had to make our hike a solo event 😦 Probably just as well though,Β  the snow and ice from the week’s series of storms was pretty slippery. Skiing down a steep embankment in tow behind an exuberant Big Dog is not my idea of fun!

Once past the semi dangerous embankment, the rest of the hike was awesome, sky a brilliant blue, aspen trees blooming and warm sun shining down into the dense forest of the north side of Ute Pass. It wasn’t long before I spotted a small herd of deer making their way around the mountainside, tasting the green forest grass along the way. Unfortunately they quickly spotted me as well so the closest I was going to get to them was the other side of a large ravine at a range of probably 75 yards. These distant captures were the best I could do, even with myΒ  Canon 400mm lens. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring along my monopod / trekking pole so I was able to steady the camera pretty well and was able to capture some pretty good detail despite the expanse between me and the critters.

By the time my trek was near it’s end the weather was changing rapidly. The wind had

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

picked up and an icy cold fog was beginning to roll in.Β  Clouds were also beginning to form on the summit of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak as well, including some misty thin clouds spreading across the north face at about tree line. The clouds on the peak were a bit blown out so I stopped to put on myΒ  B+W circular polarizer which brought out the detail in this majestic scene.

Springtime Buck Mule Deer

Later on I encountered this big fellow who was obviously aware of my presence, and completely unconcerned! I snapped away and he just kept chewing his food. He is a beaut of a buck though, I’ll bet those are going to be some pretty formidable antlers when they reach full growth for the autumn rut!

By this time I was hungry and could not resist a brat and a Dunkel at Bierwerks, my favorite watering hole in the Pikes Peak high country region πŸ™‚ By this time Woodland Park was completely socked in with clouds, cold, wind and fog and even a few snowflakes… so I was perfectly content to wait out Big Dog’s procedure indoors sipping my favorite beverage πŸ™‚

And as always, these images and more are available on my website or purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting plus tons of cool gift, tech, apparel and household items with an S.W. Krull Imaging picture on them!

 

 

 

 

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!

A Tough Slog

We’ve had a lot of snow lately and a lot of cold to go with it! I’ve been waiting out the worst of the cold before attempting any treks into the back country. Must be getting soft in my old age, but deep snow and sub zero temperatures seemed like a good excuse to stay home and get caught up on my stock photo uploads.

Snow in the Colorado RockiesWell, today was the day, no more excuses. It was 18 degrees and sunny this morning, a perfect morning for a hike. So off we went, me and the big dog. upon arrival it looked like the trail had been packed down by more intrepid hikers than myself so up the mountainside we went. Unfortunately the trail was cut for only about a half mile by what appears to be kids and their toboggans. Following that was a deep snowdrift covering the trail all the way to the top :(

The backside of the mountain was no better. The wind has done an awesome job of piling deep drifts on the entire trail, making for a long tough slog. Apparently the short respite has not hurt my cardio conditioning much as we were able to continue through the beautiful fresh powder without gasping too badly for air πŸ™‚ looking forward at the top of the ridge though, the snow looked pretty deep and we decided to abort this attempt about a half mile early.

There is yet another storm headed our way for this weekend and I’m pretty sure that will about do it for hiking up there without snowshoes. So the first thing I did upon returning home was to dig out my winter gear. Found the snowshoes and the ice trekkers. I haven’t quite located my gators yet but I have a pretty good idea where they can be found. Looking forward to my next report on snowshoe hiking in the high country around Cripple Creek! We haven’t had enough decent snow for snowshoeing in quite a few years! This is just awesome πŸ™‚

There are tons of new winter pictures on my website now available for purchase as wall art and cool gift items plus household items and handy tech gadgets with an #swkrullimaging picture on them! Please visit my site if you like pictures of the Rockies in snow!

 

The Sunny Side Trail

Sunnyside Trail

Been slightly interested for some time now in a trail I hadn’t yet explored… but not really interested enough to actually follow it. Today was the same, thought about it but decided to climb to the summit instead, hoping for the occasional elk or deer sighting in the high meadow. However as we got a few yards down the trail, Big Dog and I were met by a sweet looking free range cow followed closely by another one. Big Dog is pretty curious about cows and I knew it would be an ordeal to get past them but we pressed on anyway. Until of course we encountered the bull. Now I’m pretty sure he’s a friendly bull and Big Dog really wanted to meet him but I was thinking otherwise. So we stood still a second to see if maybe Mr. Bull would like to get off the trail and let us by, but soon he was striding toward us so the big dog and I hightailed it for the trailhead gate. I’m sure he was a friendly bull but you don’t want to wait until it’s too late to find out otherwise! And as you can see, Mr. Bull followed us all the way to the gate!

Free Range Bull

So with no way past Mr. Bull on my usual trail, the decision was made to try the Sunny Side Trail. It’s an easy trail that doesn’t particularly go anywhere interesting, but there were some nice views of the Sangre and Big Grouse Mountain from a couple of the overlook points. Also I have been noticing a curious aspect of my views of the Sangre de Cristo Range lately. From a point on the way to my overlooks the mountain range looks huge, then from the overlook it doesn’t look quite as huge. So on one of my trips over to Victor I watched the mountain range carefully and I noticed that there are two parts to it. There is a section of higher mountains to the south, a notch thingy in the middle and then a smaller section of mountains to the north side of the range. Unfortunately from all my favorite overlooks the big side of the range is blocked by the mountains surrounding me. The place where I can see the big ones is a crappy view with houses and power lines, not worth trying to get a picture.

Mystical Sangre de CristoThe good news is that from the Sunny Side Trail there is an awesome view past the east side of the Big Grouse Mountain and down to the big half of the mountain range. So on this day I was finally able to finally get a decent shot of the bigger Sangre de Cristo peaks :) However I still need to get down to Westcliffe for a closer look!

Today however I’m just really tired and seem to be more tired every day. Think maybe until the New Year turns over I will spend some time at the computer screen. There is no point uploading prints at this point with Christmas so close. However once the new year begins there will be a wave of stock image buying and I can use this time to get caught up on my uploads there. It’s been a long time since I really put any effort into Alamy, my highest paying stock agency but they have recently been making a push to add some photographer friendly features that I have been really enjoying the last few weeks. For example they have created this awesome portfolio page that we can customize and use for promotion πŸ™‚ Some of my oldest images are in this agency which is not necessarily a profitable thing, but it is kind of fun to go back and see the origins of my stock photo business!

I know everyone has already blown their budget on Christmas but just in case, these images and more are now for sale as wall art and cool gift and household items on my website! If you like these images and are a fan of mountains and wildlife, please give it a look! Also I have recently created a new gallery called “Deer in Snow” which I have made quite a bit of progress with lately.

The Clearing

My favorite part of the day comes after I have made the long steep climb to the summit and break through the trees into the high clearing where there is the anticipation… I never know what I am going to get to see. There might be a herd of elk, some mule deer bucks, a coyote hunting for his meal or even a hawk or eagle. One thing I can be sure of is that I will get to see the Continental Divide marked by the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. They may be obscured by a fog bank or blowing snow but they will be there, towering above all else with imposing jagged peaks of such beauty I never get tired of looking at them.

Snowy Clearing

On this day dark gray clouds, tremendous wind and blowing snow greeted me as I crested the ridge. The trail was completely obscured byΒ  the drifting snow that had covered a layer of ice on the mountaintop making for some arduous progress. Softball sized rocks were also hidden under the snow making for some painful ankle twists as I searched the drifting snow for the trail with each step through the fresh powder. Blowing snow swirled like a tornado in places and the steady wind made the barren clearing on top of the mountain look like waves on a lake. I imagined what it must have been like 100 years ago for the miners searching for their fortunes in gold in this rugged terrain and fierce weather without the benefits of all the high tech winter gear available to us now.

I was hoping that the fresh snow would attract the elk herd but the wind probably caused them to remain in hiding under cover of the dense pine forest to the south. There were no deer willing to brave the blowing snow either but the amazing view of the Sangre de Cristo Range was even more magnificent than usual! Although there was a dark cloud above me the light from the early morning sun was able to break through and illuminate the beautiful snow capped peaks, creating a perfect Colorado winter scene worthy of a postcard πŸ™‚ Big Dog was eager to continue with his exploration but I had to stop and make sure that scene was adequetely captured!

Winter Sangre Range

Eventually we made our way over the top of the mountain and around the other side where the snow and wind subsided and the trail was easier to negotiate. I was hoping the lower forest would yield some wildlife but no such luck. There was no view of the mountains through the fog and snow to the south so we just enjoyed the walk back to the car as I continued to scan the woods for animals to photograph.

These pictures and more are now available for purchase on my website as wall art and a lot of cool gift and household items. This of course is a great time for an annual plug for my Christmas Card products. I have reduced the price this year and a box of ten cards can be ordered for only $25! Also available are coffee mugs, apparel, towels, blankets, pillows, phone chargers and much more! For those needing some new wall art, my pictures can be ordered on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framing and matting and much more! Just click an image on the website and the products and pricing will become available for selection!

Do Over

Well, for whatever reason, yesterday’s fall picture trip was a bust. I failed to notice power lines in a lot of the images and those things are really time consuming to remove with Photoshop. Also it was too windy so the blowing leaves just made the images look blurry. And the wasted time… yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to drive up Rampart Range RoadΒ  which I just noticed has made the most dangerous roads list, and photograph the Peak behind the golden aspen of autumn. However, the golden aspen are still green up there, the road is absolutely wretched and the Peak just looks like a big brown rock. Outside of Kansas, it was just about the ugliest scene ever.

Historic Gold Mine Colorado

So as I was pondering what adventure today might bring I was thinking a do over was probably the most profitable remedy possible. The autumn leaves around Cripple Creek seem to be the most magnificent that I have seen anywhere and the loop is an easy one to complete. So I arose early this morning and loaded up Big Dog for a hike. Fortunately we were able to beat the wind this morning so the leaves were behaving nicely on the trees and as luck would have it there were the coolest cirrus clouds hanging around high in the bright blue Colorado sky. They reminded me of angels… perhaps there were angels helping me today πŸ™‚

After our little hike we headed south to Victor in hopes of getting some images of the mines and the north face of the Peak… without power lines :-|I was thinking that maybe the polarizer was to blame for some of yesterday’s failure but I could see the colors were so much more saturated with my sunglasses on that it was going to be necessary to use the dark blue glass again. Today the effect was amazing… it really brought out the blue sky and the angel clouds! To account for the one stop of light loss I was just extra careful to steady the camera on the hood of the old Dodge or on handy fence posts. Now that I’m back home in front of the computer I can say I am extremely happy with the results. The images are clear and sharp, the blue sky magnificent, and the colors deeply saturated just as I had hoped.Pikes Peak in Auutmn Aspen

Now I’m ready for tomorrow… truck all gassed up and maintained, pictures backed up, memory chips cleared, camera equipment ready to go… and with a clear head from our nice hike today I think tomorrow’s destination is going to be Twin Lakes. I have seen some images from there lately that make me confident that the leaves have achievedΒ  peak color, the water should be awesome, the sky clear and the temperature amazing! I made that trip a decade ago and ruined the day with a bad choice. When I rolled into Leadville I went out to Turquoise Lake first only to discover that there really isn’t any autumn color there, only pine trees. By the time I got to Twin Lakes it was an ugly cloudy gray day… the trees up Independence Pass were beautiful, but the gray skies and wind made the water choppy and murky and with no light on the color it was a total bust. It has been a long wait for my return to that location, but it should be worth it!

These images and more are now for sale as wall art on my website, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and with traditional framing and matting!