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 šŸ™‚ 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 šŸ™‚

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 šŸ˜¦ 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 šŸ™‚ 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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In the Clouds

I know, it’s May 20th… but this is Colorado at 10,000 feet and we are in a winter storm warning, supposed to snow all day and pretty much all night. It’s already cold, cloudy and windy but I figured I’d better get the big dog out for his exercise before it really gets cranked up!

Clouds Forming in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon šŸ™‚ Once on the summit where I could see all around I noticed a patch of what I first thought was fog. After watching a bit though I determined that it wasn’t fog, there was too much wind and it seemed to be forming right before my eyes! Turns out up on the summit at probably 11,000 feet or so I was watching the storm clouds form all around me. There was also a tremendous updraft so the cloud would form near the mountain and then shoot out of the trees into the sky. It was an amazing thing to behold, I never cease to be amazed at the splendor of these mountains!

Now as I sit here at my computer it is just gloomy and grey and flakes are beginning to fly. Soon I imagine, with this wind they will turn into this winter’s familiar stinging sideways projectiles. No matter, we are back at our cozy little cabin, toasty and warm watching the action outside šŸ™‚

Another Stunner

The clouds at the base of the majestic Sangre de Cristo were an incredible scene this morning and I was looking forward to the vista I was going to behold from the summit of the highest mountain on our morning hike. But as it is many times… what actually greeted me as I cleared the ridge was even better that I had hoped šŸ™‚ This awesome herd of deer happened to be standing in perfect position for me to include them in the image with the mountains and the foggy clouds! These mountains never cease to amaze me šŸ™‚ If you look carefully you can see another deer in the shadows of the pine trees and yet another peeking out from the branches to the right. Those might actually be the Collegiate Peaks in the background of this image. From here you can see both mountain ranges and it isn’t that easy to determine where one ends and the other starts!

Mountain Mule Deer

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 šŸ™‚ 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 šŸ™‚

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!

The Cattle Drive

Free Range Bull

Cows everywhere, cows on the trail, cows in the parking lot and cows in the ditch… And as me and Big Dog got out of the truck, cows on their way to the highway where the local ignoramuses like to drive about 100 mph on the curvy mountain road. Normally I have no interest in helping out the welfare ranchers that let their cows crap up public lands but I really didn’t want the cows to get hurt so it looked like a mini cattle drive was going to be in order. Me and big dog circled around and headed the wayward ungulates off at the pass. A couple hee yahs later and the semi brainless critters were back behind their fence and out of danger šŸ™‚

Not much else to report from today… the mountain view was ordinary and we didn’t see any other photo worthy critters. However it must be spring, the prairie dogs are out of hibernation, which caught the big dog’s attention! Now I just have to figure out how to get my shoulder back in socket šŸ˜¦

One piece of excitement… according to the USPS tracking information, my B+W Circular Polarizer is supposed to be waiting for me at the post office even as we speak, so to speak šŸ™‚

Signs of Spring

Elk Herd in the High Country

Signs of Springtime in the Rockies were everywhere this morning… the sun was shining, the wicked sting of frozen air was absent, the snow is rapidly melting, birds were chirping and there were critters everywhere! We saw two different herds of mule deer, a herd of elk, a ton of those cute little Rocky Mountain Jays, and a coyote! Unfortunately the coyote saw us too and quickly disappeared into the trees before I could even lift up my camera. I’m sure he wanted nothing to do with Big Dog this morning.

Elk Herd in the High Country

It was a good hike, still a few places where there are hard packed snow drifts to negotiate but most of the trail is dry. I have to say, even I am finally tired of winter and content to put away the snowshoes for the season. It was a good long winter and IĀ  got to do more snowshoeing in one season than in the entire previous decade.

My big 400mm lens came in handy today as the critters are pretty wary as they first Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Springtimeventure out from the dense wilderness where they have been hiding all winter. The little jays were too quick for me though, even with the long lens they sensed my presence and would not sit still long enough for a portrait. It didn’t take the elk long to see me and head into wilderness either, but I did manage to get in a few very distant shots before they vanished.

Tomorrow the forecast is calling for snow showers and cold, but for today spring was upon us šŸ™‚

Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain SpringtimeMule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Springtime

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 šŸ™‚ 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 šŸ™‚

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!