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 🙂 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 🙂 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

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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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂

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 😦

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 🙂

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 I  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 🙂

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 🙂 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 🙂

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!

 

Diamonds in the Sky

It was cold  this morning, near zero I think but not cold enough to keep us from our hike on the high peaks of the Pike National Forest 🙂 Storm clouds were rolling in over the Sangre de Cristo Range but the sky was still a beautiful bright blue overhead. As Big Dog and I strode along through the high meadow I noticed that there were glittering

Diamonds in the Sky

snowflakes drifting down from the frozen sky. By this time we had gone around the summit past the amazing view of the Continental Divide and heading back east toward the rising sun. The snowflakes were glittering in the sunlight and it was like we were walking through diamond dust falling from the cold blue heavens.

We often experience that phenomenon up at this elevation. I guess this high we are actually in thin clouds sometimes and it is so cold that the moisture in the sky is literally frozen and falling out of the sky. If we were lower we would be looking up at a snow cloud but from here there is snow falling on a clear day. Well anyway, it was an amazing scene to see it in the morning light that way!

Gathering Storm on the Sangre

Also today I read a heartbreaking story called the Unnamed Foal. It was a story in my inbox about a foal that had died from shock in one of the cruel and violent BLM wild horse roundups. These beautiful creatures are literally dying from greed. Welfare ranchers in the west grazing their cattle on public land can’t stand the idea of sharing with a few of our wild horses collude with the government to have them rounded up and slaughtered. There is no excuse for it and it is just pure greed driving it. Please consider liking and giving to the American Wild Horse Campaign to try to save our wild horses. If someone doesn’t do something some day all of these magnificent creatures will be gone.

On a more positive note, our Yellowstone wolves hit the big time. High profile exposure on 60 Minutes in a segment called the Wolves of Yellowstone gives me hope that the good people of this country are finally catching on to the value of our wild animals! Doug Smith, researcher and spokesman for the park was asked if the wolves knew to stay in the park to which he explained that these wolves don’t know about hunters and they don’t know where the park boundaries are. Not a lot of people know that hunters wait just outside the park boundary for a wolf to step just a couple of feet over the line where they are then shot dead, robbing from thousands of park visitors the joy of seeing a famous and beloved animal forever. What is worse, the hunters often locate them with the very radio collar placed on them at great expense by the park researchers to study and preserve them. Please write to your congressmen to demand a buffer zone between the park and the selfish miscreants who seek to kill them.

As always, these photographs and more are for sale on my website as wall art and cool household and gift items.

On the Deer Trail

On the deer trail early in the morning today. I was thinking about taking the day off but Big Dog was definitely not in agreement. It was supposed to be snowing by now but I’m seeing nothing but blue sky and it was a beautiful dawn to be out in the high country!

Awesome Buck Mule Deer

Just as we were getting ready to crest the first ridge I noticed a slight bit of movement out of the corner of my eye, as if this magnificent buck mule deer was saying, “Hey, look over here!” After I took notice of him he started to take flight, but for some reason turned around to look and check if he was actually being chased. When he noticed that he wasn’t in immediate danger he stopped and took a few steps toward me out into the clearing. Perfect, I could not have asked for a better situation.  A bigger lens would have been nice but this was as good as it was going to get for today.

On top of the mountain I could see the snow

Beautiful Clouds on the Sangre

building on the western ranges but for us there was nothing but beautiful warm sunshine! Perhaps we will see some of the snow later which would be OK with me.

How fast Colorado can change! As I was writing this piece, 10 minutes ago Big Dog was basking in the sun in the back yard… Now we have wind driven snow pellets and he is looking up into my window all squinty eyed… Lol, guess I’d better go get him! Wonder if we are going to have a white Christmas after all?

As always this picture and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and lots of cool gift items.