Bird & Wildflower Alpine Hike

A local hike through the alpine woods of Grouse Mountain seemed like the right medicine for a beautiful Colorado Sunday morning so I loaded up my camera and headed for the hills. Much to my satisfaction, when I arrived there was no one at the trailhead. I would have the mountain to myself.  Unfortunately as I hiked the steep access trail a carload of tourists roared up the hated road to the summit. When I arrived they were already out of their huge SUV tearing around with their loose dogs, scaring away any chance I might have had with the local wildlife 😦

Mountain Bluebird

No matter, a quick hike through the woods to the second summit, Big Grouse Mountain, would do the trick. No one ever makes that hike, and up there I would have the chance of spotting the elusive dusky grouse that I so enjoy photographing! Soon I popped through the forest into the solitude that often accompanies 11,000 feet of elevation 😉 There I stopped for rest and some nourishment before continuing on. I opened my energy bar and took a bite. Something didn’t taste right so I took a closer look and it appeared that perhaps some mold had formed on the surface… a closer look revealed what appeared to be a couple of worms 😦 They weren’t moving and could have possibly been some kind of grain or herb, but in my mind they were worms, so much for nourishment.

I decided at that point to shoot a video so I got my microphone out of my bag and explained my intentions for the day. The wildflowers are magnificent today so I shot a bit of footage of the color spreading out before me in the high clearing. Eventually I was back on my way along the faint trail at the top of the ridge. Soon I noticed that my new microphone was no longer in the hot shoe where it belonged so I was forced to retrace my steps in search of it 😦 Thankfully I was able to recover it near the location where I shot the video. This time I returned it safely to it’s home in my backpack.

I never did see the dusky grouse but I got some nice wildflower pictures, a couple with huge bumblebees and a few nice shots of an accommodating mountain bluebird 🙂 Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and if you enjoy the content I hope you will subscribe to my channel!

Amazing Alpine Hike with the Elk Herd

Funny how things work out… As I sat sipping my coffee this morning I decided I didn’t want to do any driving today. For one thing gas prices are insane, and for another… I really don’t like spending time on the road. So the plan I worked out included a short drive to my favorite trailhead and a good hard hike.

When I reached the first summit it was so pretty and quiet out that I decided to stop and capture a few seconds of video and post it as a greeting on Facebook. I sat and enjoyed the ambiance for a few minutes while the video clip uploaded and then I headed back down the trail. But then I began to hear the birds singing over in the woods, some song that I didn’t recognize. So I decided to take the hike to the next summit and hoped I might catch a glimpse of the new birds.

Herd of elk in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

As I neared that summit I could see over to the next high peak, and on it was a beautiful herd of elk. I knew if I cleared the summit they would see me and take off, so I quietly got my camera ready and began to film and photograph. As I watched through my long lens I wondered what the cows were looking at so I moved up a bit further and saw that  they were watching over their crop of new calves! It was then that I knew for sure I was going to have to make a real video 🙂

I filmed for awhile and then decided not to disturb them by walking toward them so I just went back down through the forest the way I came. As I neared forest edge a grouse startled me by jumping out of the grass right at my feet and flying into a nearby tree. I got a few seconds of footage of that guy and took a few stills before he grew annoyed with me and flew away for good. But I was glad to see the little fellows have returned to my mountain. They normally like to run along the ground on the high ridges so perhaps I’ll get some better pictures of him another time.

Dusky Grouse in the Morning Light

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and if you wouldn’t mind and you like the content, please like and subscribe!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.

Boot Review – Salomon Quest 4 3 GTX

I’ve been wearing these hiking boots for about a month now… Got them in Alamosa when we were down visiting the Sand Dunes and the Sandhill Crane refuges during an unexpected car maintenance break. Turns out they have a pretty nice Kristi Mountain Sports sporting goods store there right on Highway 160 close to the repair shop, so we decided to go in and kill a little time. I’m always in the market for a good pair of hiking boots so that’s the first place I went and the Salomon Quest 4 3 GTX caught my eye right away. And as you can see from the link, GearLab liked them too!

IMG_20210425_105038457Right off I discovered that the sizing was spot on. Usually I have to get a boot that’s a half to a full size larger in order to keep the toe box from squishing my toes together so I had the very helpful salesman bring me a size 11. I wanted to try a 10.5 but they didn’t happen to have that size in stock. So I gave the 11’s a try and after a short bit of walking in the store I could tell that they were just way too long. The salesman offered to bring me a size 10 so I thought what the heck, can’t hurt to try. Much to my surprise the size 10 fit like a glove. They fit my size 10 feet precisely and the generous toe box was wide at exactly the right point to avoid squishing my toes.

After a short walk I noticed that the sole was a bit stiffer than I’m used to but after a month of wearing them in the mountains I can attest to the fact that the extra support is a real blessing on rocky trails. These boots were comfortable with no hot spots right out of the box requiring no breaking in. That’s saying something since my left foot is fairly jacked up from a bad accident as a kid that causes no end of problems for my feet in a lot of hiking boot models.

I really like the extra long lacing system that smoothly cinches up comfortably with a single pull of the laces. The Gortex membrane holds up perfectly even when submerged in water. I recently had a chance to wade out into a shallow section of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and even though the uppers were completely submerged, not one drop of water leaked through. Now of course if you wade into the deep water there is nothing to stop the boots from filling from the ankle opening.

The rugged outsole has excellent traction, carrying me up a steep and somewhat icy embankment where I like to observe my favorite osprey family. You can confidently feel the new Contagrip tread grabbing onto the terrain as you stride up even the most treacherous mountain conditions. I also find these hikers to be quite airy for such a formidable waterproof boot, providing comfort on even the warmest hikes.

I took these out for my longest hike of the season yesterday on the warmest day of the year, walking through rocky fields, snow, mud and even some ice. After several miles of these harsh conditions, plus steep ascents and descents my feet remained comfortable and blister free. Excellent stability prevented fatigue and exquisite construction provided uniform comfort over the entirety of my foot anatomy. All in all, I have to say… these are the best summer hikers I have ever owned, they are pure joy to wear! Salomon has certainly earned Gearlab’s highest honors for this shoe!

This blog post was not sponsored by Salomon or any other company. All gear used in the production of this post were purchase by me on my own volition.

Deer on the Mountain

My expectations for photography were low on this morning, I was late and people and dogs had already been through the park. Generally in this situation I don’t see so much as a rabbit on the trail. But no matter, I need the exercise and this is the only trail nearby on which I can count on a good workout.

Herd of Mule Deer

But much to my surprise, right in their favorite grazing location was the entire herd. The wind was in my face and I was being extra quiet so I spotted them before they spotted me 🙂 I readied my camera and slowing crested the hill. The deer herd eventually saw me but they didn’t appear to be very alarmed, so I just began taking pictures.  I was able to capture some good closeups before they began to meander towards the edge of the mountain and the dense forest.

Once they were out of range for intimate imagery I decided to take some video I was narrating while I was shooting but for some reason, probably having something to do with my new cheapie selfie stick, I recorded no audio. However I put my mind to it and finally learned how to do voice over with my desktop software and was still able to make a nice video 🙂

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and if you don’t mind I would really appreciate a thumbs up and a subscribe. It

Herd of Mule Deer

would really help my channel to grow!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

The Road to Quandary

The plan today was a mile and a half hike on my usual trail… but when I got up the hill I felt great and decided to press on. Before I was done I had hiked all the way to the end where I filmed a break and decided that I felt so strong that I made the announcement that a 14er was in my future!

The last time I climbed a 14, 000 foot peak was Mount Columbia back in 2016 I think. I have been wanting to scale a 14er in my 60’s since that birthday in 2018.

Well any I managed to put together a pretty cool video to go with this post and I hope you enjoy the scenery!!!

Weathering the Storm

New YouTube video of my snowshoe hike in the howling wind and driving snow on top of Grouse Mountain Colorado. Wasn’t able to record audio on the mountain due to the tremendous winds but I hope you enjoy the beauty of such harsh conditions! My Ruggard rain cover performed admirably on my camera, very easy to use and provided excellent protection for the camera, especially for such a great price! Looks like my minor repair on my MSR snowshoes is holding after accidentally running over them with my truck last year 😦

Ground Blizzard

Neither the video nor this blog post was sponsored, all equipment used in the production were purchased on my own volition.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Watch “Spectacular Mountain Sunrise” on YouTube

New YouTube video of my adventure at sunrise with the Sangre de Cristo range and breakfast in historic Victor Colorado!

If you enjoy my videos and want to see more, please hit the subscribe button!

Hiking the Pony Gulch Trail

I’ve lived here three years, always looking for new trails to hike and I just recently found out about the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail only a couple miles from my house! It’s not well known and if a few people hadn’t commented on it in the Alltrails app I would have never found it.

Pony Gulch Trail

Turns out it’s a fairly difficult four mile trek in the remote mountains southwest of Cripple Creek. I was a bit doubtful of the description at first, calling for almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in such a short hike, especially since I know the area and could not imagine a 1000 foot mountain higher than what I can already see. Well, maybe there is a hidden peak back behind that I can’t see I wondered!

Well it didn’t take long to find out the how the elevation gain was going to be accomplished… the very first thing you do once clearing the first ridge is to descend about 750 feet to the bottom of the gulch! Once there you do a bit more climbing to reach the end of trail at the Pony Gulch Homestead in another mile or so.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

A dirt road leads to the trailhead, I recommend using the Alltrails GPS directions to find it, where you can see a jeep road heading up a hill leading to the southwest. At the top of the hill you will be able to see a couple of cairns, which is all you are going to see… There is no trail through the first part of the rugged BLM land.  Once again, turning on the GPS in your phone to lead you through the first half mile is a good idea. Once into the BLM area about a couple of hundred yards there is a noticeable four wheel drive road which goes the wrong way… don’t take it, veer to the right and look for the gulch. Once you find the gulch there are more cairns and a discernible trail to follow.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

The first three quarters of a mile or so is a steep decline down slippery scree in places, my trekking pole got a workout here! There is some nice scenery along this part of the trail, especially in the fall with beautiful golden aspen backed by rugged pine covered cliffs.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

Finally at the bottom of the incline the forest opens up to a nice view of the bottom where I imagine a creek flows in the spring. The trail winds down to the dry creek and crosses and earthen dam where the descent ends and a climb begins which takes you another mile to the summit and the Pony Gulch Homestead. The end of the trail is marked by an iron gate marking the entrance to a ranch on private property I presume.

Pony Gulch Trail in AutumnFrom there I climbed another hill of mostly big chunks of quartz nearby to get a view of the valley below and also the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see with all the smoke these days. I Found a nice place to sit and have some food and water and to rest up for the return trip. I put on my 24-105 with a polarizer and took a few pictures to mark the far end of the journey :) I also went down to the homestead to investigate and snap a few more pictures.

Pony Gulch Homestead Trail in Autumn

Finally the time came to begin the return trip… I checked my GPS to make sure I was headed the right way and it was a good thing I did since there was a forest service road that was more prominent than the actual trail back! A short adjustment in direction and I was on my way. After about a quarter of a mile I came to the southernmost cairn and strode on by… The GPS map showed me straying from the route again on a dotted line that looked like it should be the trail but more careful observation revealed that the cairn marked a left turn down a more faint forest road. So another slight adjustment in direction and I was making the short climb past the high point on the section south of the dam.

Soon I was back to the dam and the mile long climb back up to Lookout Point loomed before me. I have to admit, I took quite a few rest stops to catch my breath on the nearly 1000 foot climb in one mile! Eventually I made my way to the end of the  gulch and found myself in search of the cairns that lead the way through the bushwhacking section of the route. Once again, the Alltrails GPS directions come in handy 🙂

I highly recommend this trail to more experienced hikers in a little better physical condition than some. This is not an easy trail and should not be underestimated. I also recommend on this one to let someone know where you are going, it is a very lightly trafficked route and phone signal is iffy at best in the gulch. You might have a long wait for help if you were to twist an ankle or something.

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot along the trail. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my  hike plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Hiking to Hartenstein Lake

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As summer marches along and the much anticipated autumn season in the high country of Colorado draws near, I decided to take my 14er preparation to the next step. I’ve been hiking to the summit of Grouse Mountain this summer in my effort to achieve the physical conditioning required to climb a 14,000 plus foot mountain to add to my 14ers.com profile, but unfortunately this little mountain doesn’t come close to the rigors of climbing a 14er!

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A few years ago I took the Mount Yale fork from the Denny Creek Trail and checked off another 14er on my quest to complete as many of Colorado’s giant mountains as possible. On that climb I noticed another trail, labeled Brown’s Pass and Hartenstein Lake on the signage. In subsequent research I found a lot of people really enjoyed that hike and raved about the scenery and wildlife that they saw along the trail.  Since then I have wanted to return and hike that trail but one thing or another was always in the way and I have never been able to make it back.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Finally yesterday was the day, all the stars aligned and I returned to the trail head with fellow photographer and hiker Kevin. We arrived at the trailhead at sunrise and began the long steep ascent to the first stream crossing. Along the way we took the opportunity to take a couple of breaks to photograph the little waterfalls on Denny Creek along the way.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A couple of miles of rough rocky trail and several stream crossings later we arrived at the fork in the trail where the sign shows the lake and Brown’s Pass to the left. From there the trail steepened and we persevered westward towards the lake. The trail climbed higher and higher as Turner Peak to the right became smaller and smaller. Just when it looked like we were going to be required to climb Turner  the trail descended into a much more heavily wooded section and after about a half mile a bit of water came into view. Kevin remarked, “Is that the lake?”.  “I hope not!” I replied… We kept going and eventually a more significant body of water came into view.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Indeed we had found the lake, but by this time of year the water was quite low and surrounded by a marshy muddy shoreline. We made a couple of attempts to access water’s edge but it was just too soggy. Finally we decided to stay on the main trail which wound around to the west side of the lake where we were able to get down to the water with mighty Mount Yale in the background.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Although disappointed that there was no wildlife at the lake at this time, we stuck around to take a few pictures, Kevin shot some video footage of me coming up from the lake and we took a break to eat a granola bar and recover from the 1600 foot climb.

I highly recommend the trail for hikers in fairly good physical condition. Plan on three to five hours to complete the trail and bring plenty of liquids and nourishment for that length of time. There is a fairly big parking lot at the trailhead on the north side of the Cottonwood Pass road, you can’t miss it. However on a weekend you might want to arrive plenty early to assure a parking place. Bring rain gear as rainstorms occur on most afternoons in the mountains.

For your enjoyment I have created a short multimedia video for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!