Where Eagles Dare

Herd of Mule Deer

Well technically hawks in this case ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t set out to do anything special this morning, I just wanted to climb my usual mountain just for the exercise. About halfway up the ridge though I spotted a buck mule deer just off the path standing in the shade staring at me. The sun was about to clear the ridge line on the east so I decided to interrupt my hike and wait a few minutes for the morning light. While I waited the third buck joined the group I like to call the Three Amigos.

Herd of Mule Deer

Once the group was reunited, they began to move towards the top of the ridge and into the sunshine. As they moved I slowly followed and shot various combinations of the three animals until they eventually crossed over the top of the ridge and out of view. I was hoping they would still be there when I circled around the mountain on the trail.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

However as I circled the mountain I had my eye on another mountain… the one directly to the south. I have been looking at it for years, approaching occasionally in vain pursuit of the elk herd, but I have never climbed it. As I pondered the view from the top I began to veer towards what looked like a deer trail angling up the east side. The closer I drew to the steep approach to the summit, the more Iย  wanted to see the top. From there I knew I would have an awesome 360 degree view of the entire area ๐Ÿ™‚

Rough Legged Hawk

I chose a route that crossed the mountain to the south and then angled back, it looked like the easiest approach. As I passed a tall solitary pine tree there was a commotion and a hawk took flight, I believe this to be the Rough Legged Hawk that has been soaring high above the mountains lately, but I’m not sure. I readied my camera as quickly as I could and started shooting. Unfortunately I was on the wrong focus mode for the initial captures so I changed to zone mode and began to shoot. A faster shutter speed would

Rough Legged Hawk

have been better but it looks like a got a couple of good ones ๐Ÿ™‚

When I was almost to the summit I could see the Three Amigos, now miles ahead of me heading for some serious wilderness over the ridge line connecting the local peaks. Even though the distance was great between us, the majestic beasts spotted me and hastened their journey over the ridge and out of sight.

Herd of Mule Deer

The view from the summit was indeed spectacular, obscured only by the smoke and dust from the summer fires to our southwest. The local peaks were in full view along with the Sangre de Cristo range to the south. I’m thinking this will be an excellent vantage point when the colors change in the fall and when the snow flies in the winter.

From the summit I could see the real trail so I followed an old wagon trail down the south side of the mountain and onto the main trail. By now I was wishing I had planned better and brought along some water! Perhaps I’ll make the trip again this week with more supplies and a wide angle lens to better capture the grandeur of these mountains!

As always, the best of these images are available for purchase onย my websiteย 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!ย For my viewers interested inย images for commercial use, please visit myย image licensing portal!

Toughest Hike of the Season

wp-15912071674426288490362435577221.jpgRaspberry Mountain turned out to be a bit more rigorous than I expected. The trail profile on Alltrails indicated that it was only going to be about a thousand feet of elevation gain, well within the limits of my training for this hiking season! Well it turns out my app doesn’t really measure the accumulated elevation gain, only the total from the lowest point to the highest point.

The trailhead is located on the Crags Trail Road and is clearly marked just before you get to the Crags Trail parking lot.

Pikes Peak and North Catamount

The trail begins with a pretty good climb of about 500 feet up some well maintained switchbacks for about a quarter of a mile. From there you hike up and down through the beautiful Pike National Forestย  for another one and three quarters of a mile to the actual base of Raspberry Mountain where there is a steep climb over slippery scree to a small boulder field at the summit. I have to admit on the way down I did take a nasty spill and I have a couple of spots requiring some aspirin perhaps ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I’m not a fan of boulder fields of any kind but this one was pretty small in comparison to say the one on top of Mount Yale. A small amount of looking for a good route resulted in a pretty easy climb to the summit where there is an awesome near 360 degree view from North Catamount reservoir to the summit of Pikes Peak, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the south and the Mosquito Range to the west.

We lingered at the summit for a bit taking in the view and enjoying some Gatorade before picking our way back down the steep boulder and scree fields. All in all I would say it is a hike well worth doing! Unfortunately we didn’t see much to photograph but this one of North Catamount did turn out pretty nice ๐Ÿ™‚

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Hiking Ann-Marie Falls Colorado

wp-15909461786523841634482648751622.jpgThe most difficult part of hiking the beautiful Anne-Marie Falls Trail on Pikes Peak Colorado may be finding it in the first place! I have long wanted to experience this trail and finally today I was able to fulfill that wish ๐Ÿ™‚ Today is a Sunday so photo buddy Kevin and I met at 7:00 a.m. so we could beat the weekend crowds sure to gather on the Colorado Front Range Trails. Even after diligently studying the trail maps we weren’t too sure of the exact location of the trailhead so I loaded the trail into my Alltrails app and turned on the direction finder. We journeyed down the four mile dirt road on the west side of the peak marked as the turnoff to the

Beaver Ponds on the Anne-Marie Trail

famous Crags Trail. As we passed a blocked gate on the road about a mile past the Crags Trail parking lot, the magic electronic GPS finder announced the trail on the left which didn’t jive with the narrative so we just kept driving.

Finally at the end of the Crags road there was a small parking lot and a well marked trailhead with a large map on a sign. We donned our backpacks loaded with camera gear and headed down the trail. The first mile or so was a pretty tough ascent on well maintained trail, but with a couple of breaks and a little Gatorade the climb wasn’t too difficult. The beautiful trail wound it’s way through majestic old pine forest amidst birds chirping happily from the tall pines overhead.

Wilson's Warbler

Finally we began a long descent which culminated in a clearing featuring a picturesque beaver pond which of course we had to check out extensively! We walked most of the way around, occasionally having to take some care not to sink too deeply in the marsh surrounding the pond ๐Ÿ™‚ After capturing the scenery with our wide angle lenses and shooting a couple portraits we came across a colorful cheery Wilson’s Warbler that flitted around us striking all manner of nice poses for a photographer to appreciate ๐Ÿ™‚

Eventually we decided to continue on in search of the falls, for which we had not seen a single directional sign. We walked back to the trail where we debated returning the way we came,ย  continuing on or exploring a totally unmarked poorly maintained trail leading towards the southwest and

Wilson's Warbler

Sentinel Point in the distance. It was here that my practice of recording the hikes onto my Alltrails profile proved to be quite advantageous! A quick check of my phone screen revealed our location at the beaver pond and a stretch of unfinished trail leading in the direction of the faint trail along the creek flowing out of the south end of the placid water of the dammed pond.

We opted to continue down in search of the falls where soon we heard the babbling of rushing water.ย  With some indication of success, we were inspired to continue in the direction of the encouraging sound where before long we found the tiniest of waterfalls. Perhaps during the snow melt this might be an impressive falls but in the early summer it is just the pleasant trickle of a beautiful pristine mountain stream. Here I snapped a few pictures of the falls and the tranquil calm spot at the base of the diminutive waterfall.

Anne-Marie Falls

After a nice break we headed back up the trail to the junction where the GPS indicated the possibility of a loop that might cut some distance and a long climb up the steep ridge! We began walking up the alternate route where I checked our location occasionally and indeed we did find ourselves successfully closing in on our final destination without having to climb the ridge again! Eventually we found ourselves on Forest Road 383 which ended at a blocked gate, the place where the direction finder first indicated a trailhead about a half mile down from the parking lot and the main trail marker.

Speaking of GPS, I highly recommend hikers on obscure trails in the Pike National Forest have some kind of direction finder. There are unmarked trails and jeep roads going everywhere and without some high tech assistance it would be quite easy to head off in the wrong direction and turn a beautiful day into a trying experience.

As always, these pictures and 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 tech gifts are also available including the newly added Covid masks! You can also purchase apparel, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Anne-Marie Falls

 

Awesome Day on the Crags Trail

wp-15906917194317936377850603572725.jpgIt has been four years since I have hiked the Crags Trail so I was very much looking forward to it! The trail is located on Highway 67 on the west side of magnificent Pikes Peak Colorado about three miles into the Pike National Forest on a rough dirt road. I have to say, the road is a bit longer than I remember but on the upside it is pretty well maintained for a Colorado mountain road!

Crags Trail Scenery

Hiking buddy Kevin and I arrived at the trailhead at about 7:00 this morning… a bit chilly but we were ready to hike! The first half mile or so is up a pretty rigorous hill that definitely got the blood pumping! Once you get over the initial hump the trail levels out to a gently sloping uphill path along Four Mile Creek, which was running gently through the woods this time of year.

I was hoping to see some larger animals feeding and watering along the creek that early

Crags Trail Scenery

in the morning but all we saw were a few birds. The choke cherries aren’t in bloom yet so the birds were all high in the pines eating pine nuts I suppose. At about two miles in, the trail begins a steep ascent to the high point of the hike. We had some fun with a Gray Jay, also known as “camp robber”, about halfway up the climb… snapping a few pictures as the little critter checked us out, no doubt looking for a handout or for something to steal from us! One of those little buggers actually stole a Power Bar right out of one of my running buddy’s hand on one trek up the Barr Trail!

Crags Trail Scenery

Eventually we closed in on the slippery gravely summit area where there was a fabulous view of the three reservoirs, North and South Catamount and Crystal Reservoir to the east and a bird’s eye view of the Crags valley to the west. From there you can see all the way to Mount Evans and maybe even Longs Peak to the north, and the Mosquito Range to the west.

After a rest and a quick lunch we headed back down the steep descent to the long trail

Steller's Jay also know as a camp robber

back to the bottom of the valley. For a while it looked like all we were going to get pictures of was the mountainous area at the top, when all of a sudden we were visited by a couple more Gray Jays who spent enough time with us to get a few nice bird portraits ๐Ÿ™‚

I highly recommend this trail if you are in sufficient condition for a five plus mile trek in the mountains. I’d suggest getting there early in the nice weather months as this is a fairly heavily used trail.

As always, these pictures and 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 tech gifts are also available including the newly added Covid masks! You can also purchase apparel, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Hiking the Limber Pines Trail

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

If you want beautiful views of Pikes Peak and a brisk three mile hike in the mountains, the Limber Pines / Ring the Peak loop in Catamount Ranch just west of Woodland Park, Colorado might be just the ticket. If you are planning to go on the weekend I recommend getting there early, probably well before 8:00 a.m. To get there take highway 24 west from Woodland Park and just at the top of the hill past the hospital start looking for Edlowe Road on the south side. From there take Edlowe Road all the way to the end where you will see a small parking lot.

To start the loop just head up the trail and a steep hill to the trail map sign and a fence. Go

North Catamount Reservoir

through the wide gate and you will find yourself on a trail that goes left and right. It is the Limber Pines trail that is the start of the 2.8 mile loop. If you go right you will be on a beautiful forest trail that switchbacks down to the dirt road that is the Ring the Peak trail. Be sure to look towards the east for views of Pikes Peak as you make your descent towards the reservoir. Y

Take a left here and you will walk the road towards and the along North Catamount Reservoir where the road finally leaves the reservoir and begins a

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

long ascent up to the top of the ridge. There are some fantastic views of the peak and a beautiful mix of aspen and pine forest along the way. Finally you will find yourself near the top of the climb at which time you will want to be looking for a trail sign which marks the other end of the Limber Pines Trail. From there it is a short walk back to the gate where your hike began.

If you decide to go the other way, obviously you will be walking down the dirt Ring the Peak road past the reservoir where you will need to be looking for the trail sign and the ascent on the Limber Pines Trail back to the starting point. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to drink, the trail is only 2.8 miles but the ascents can be strenuous for those not acclimated to the elevation.

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

A World of White

It is truly a World of White on the mountain these days. It has been snowing every couple of days for months and it is just white as far as the eye can see and although there isn’t much color to photograph I was hoping that the day after a big snow would be a good day to try some photographs! If not, it was still going to be an awesome day for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

I was also wanting to try out my new Keen Revel III winter hikers that I got with an awesome end of season closeout deal at REI ๐Ÿ™‚ They are light, waterproof and insulated with patented Keen Dry breathable membrane and insulated using a special charcoal bamboo material to keep warmth in and moisture out. Also handy to me is that this is one of the only boots I’ve seen that has a gaiter hook for attaching the front of your gaiters.

The instant I arrived at the trailhead I knew it was going to be a good day. The elk herd was grazing in the thick pine and aspen trees on top of the hill, so I did my best to pull in quietly and ready my camera. Unfortunately there were some power lines in the way and I couldn’t use my truck for a hide. I quietly began to move along the fence in hopes of getting a better angle, but the wary beasts spotted me right away and quickly moved to the other side of the mountain.

There was still hope though, if I could stealthily snowshoe around the other side of the mountain I hoped I would find them lingering in the high meadow on the other side of the summit. So I made my way though the deep snow up the steep trail on the east side of the mountain hoping I would arrive at the summit before they had completed their trek to the cover of the forest. Enough snow had fallen since my last visit that I could barely make out my trail, but faint tracks showed me the way along the partially packed route. I would have been struggling through a couple of feet of powder otherwise!

Eventually I neared the summit aware that the crunching of snow under my shoes was

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains in winter

probably alerting the great beasts to my presence. Unfortunately that was the case and as I sneaked around the other side of the mountain I could already see them looking in my direction. By theย  time I came into view for a shot they were already moving towards the dense forest on the edge of the high clearing. I managed to snap off a few shots and then switch to video mode for a few seconds of footage which I was able to cobble into a YouTube movie for my channel ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way, please subscribe to my channel, I am needing a few more subscribers in order to obtain the custom #swkrullimaging URL that I need step up to the next level of success there!

Finally the elk had all moved over the other side of the ridge into the pine trees of the Pike National Forest and out of view so I made my way along the ridge admiring the beauty of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range before heading back down the other side of the mountain.

My feet remained warm and dry in my new Keen’s and were so comfortable that no break in is even going to be required. By the way, this article is not sponsored by Keen or any other firm in any way. I purchased the boots and all equipment used in this hike with my own funds on my own volition.

As always the elk images and much more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items, apparel, tech gadgets and household items are also available for purchase all with a beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain image from #swkrullimaging! Once again, please visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel to experience the beautiful Rocky Mountains in High Def Video!

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

 

Tough Day in the Canyon

The week began with bitter cold and snow, a lot of snow… but as luck would have it there would be a break in the winter weather just in time for our planned adventure in Waterton Canyon. The forecast was calling for sunshine and 40’s on Thursday and the plan was, the sheep would be ready for a break and would come down into the canyon to pose for us ๐Ÿ™‚

Red-taile Hawk in Waterton Canyon

Previous experience told meย  that the road into the canyon was going to be a muddy mess from the melting snow, terrible conditions for a mountain bike ride so the decision was made to attempt the journey on foot. Spirits were high as we began the trek into the wilderness wonderland along the cascading South Platte River, looking forward to another awesome bighorn sheep encounter. Soon we rounded the bend by the water pipe where we often see the herd of bighorn… no sheep in sight. No matter, there are other likely locations further in. Second likely location, no sheep…

After a break for some Gatorade at the picnic area we decided to press on to the old dam by the house… also no good. Finally we decided to continue past the halfway point dam to the highest point in the park where we have seen the elusive creatures this year. Again, no luck and we decided to head back down in hopes that the animals had come down from the upper reaches behind us on their daily visit to the river for water.

Once again, nothing but a long walk back to the bottom of the canyon. Finally we spotted a bike riding photographer stopped near the water tube looking up into the high peaks north of theย  canyon… sure enough, there were a couple of rams way up near the summit, pretty much out of range for decent photography. In the end we decided that at least one snap of the majestic beasts would be better than none, but while we were preparing for the shot they disappeared into the brush. it looked like a climb up the slippery slope might provide a better view so we began the ill advised ascent to the service road, which proved as treacherous as it appeared.

With a couple of slight mishaps and lenses covered with a good scoop of snow, we arrived safely at the plateau where the search for the better view began. Unfortunately all the climb accomplished was to increase the angle of view to the point where we could not see at all over the dry brush covering the mountainside ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Wintry Manitou Springs Colorado

On the way down the service road I spotted a white object on a cliff above us, so when we arrived at the closest point and best view we took a look through the long lens to ascertain it’s identity. Turns out it was a majestic looking Red-tailed hawk gazing fiercely over the canyon, I assume in search of prey that might become a good lunch. This would become my only wildlife photograph of the day ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The day wasn’t a complete bust though, we did get the benefit of a seven mile hike ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Plusย  on the way through the Colorado Springs area, there was an amazing view of Manitou Springs from the highway that I have been wanting to acquire for years. Sometimes I don’t have my camera, often I’m in a hurry and don’t have the time… But yesterday I hadย  the camera and the view was extra fantastic, no excuse not to stop!

These pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also on my website is a new gallery just for birds, raptors, birds of prey, song birds, waterfowl, you name it! I finally feel that I have enough images of birds to warrant the new collection!

Window to Pikes Peak

Siamese Twins at Garden of the Gods

I’ve been wanting to do this short hike for a long time, for the sole purpose of photographing Pikes Peak through the little window in the Siamese Twins Rock Formation in Garden of the Gods Park. My family from the midwest was in Colorado for a visit, so going on so a hike with my brother Jim was the perfect reason to take the trek!

You could make the climb to the famous formation by parking close by and making a short climb just to see the red spires but we decided to make a longer journey and see the rest of the park by beginning our hike at the visitor center. GPS later informed us that it is about a four mile round trip journey from that starting point.

And it was a perfect clear sunny Colorado autumn day to photograph the Great Peak through the Siamese Twins window through the sandstone rock.

Siamese Twins at Garden of the Gods

Changing aspen leaves are visible on the foothills and the sky was that famous Colorado signature blazing blue color!

As always these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting materials. Many cool gift, household and tech items are also available, just click to explore!

 

Flying by Instruments

Day three of my “Getting Back in Shape” campaign… no discernible physical progress, but at least the effort is helping to clear my head of a lot of unwanted clutter. Funny how a goal and some physical exertion can do that. I was thinking about a road trip and a major hike or bike ride today but after remembering that it is Labor Day weekend and the last chance for the summer tourists to invade the mountains I thought better of it. Decided to avoid all the traffic and check AllTrails to see if I might be able to find something closer by to explore.

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Well it turns out that a ton of trails have been added since I last used my favorite hiking app! I found a bunch of new local trails to explore, now just to find them… Well, the Almagre Mountain Trail looks good, and close by too! Let me see… there is a directions button, so I click it and a Google Map comes up with a blue line on it pointing in the general direction based on my stated location. And that’s it. Last time I was on the directions actually would tell you where to go, what roads to take, where to turn ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Of course I am a little behind the times, my GPS turned off… because you know, the government might find me. Which begs the question… why would the government want to find me? When putting some rational thought to it… if the government is really looking for me we must have a lot of government employees without shit to do ๐Ÿ˜ Of course that probably is actually the case, but they would have to be really bored to be looking for me!!!!

So I turn on my GPS, but still just a map and a blue line. How the heck am I supposed to find a trail head with just this stupid fat blue line to go by? Hmmm… a start button… that might be a good place to start ๐Ÿ™‚ So I pushed the button and almost fell out of my chair! A voice from God or something telling me to turn right on Eaton Avenue! Holy Crap, all I have to do is push start and my phone is going to guide me right to the trailhead! Who knew? Lol, eventually I decided to just follow my normal routine today while vowing to explore some more of the tools now available to me in this amazing app! For starters I recorded my hike today, complete with a map and elevation gain statistics. Cool, so I saved it, not sure what for or what good it is going to do me. Noticed that for some reason that I still have no stats available to the stats button.

So now a whole new world is open to me, numerous new trails to explore right off of Gold Camp road only a few miles from home plus gps to guide me into more remote locations. Also will make the trailhead for Mount Quandary easier to find for later in the month when I hope to be ready for the Class 1 peak. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the Almagre Mountain Trail as I learn to “trust my instruments” and use the new tools available to me via this amazing piece of technology called a “smart phone”! Man… what I could have done with one of these things back in the day!

For now though, a little weight lifting, a few pushups and sit ups and maybe even a ride on my mountain bike. Which reminds me… I need to investigate similar capabilities in my other favorite sports apps, Singletracks and 14ers.com ๐Ÿ™‚

My Go To Move

One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.

Bucks in Grouse MeadowBut today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead.ย  It took a lot less timeย  to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.

But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.

I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows ๐Ÿ™‚

Bucks in Grouse Meadow