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.  It took a lot less time  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 🙂

Bucks in Grouse Meadow

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A Day Off and Random Musings

Checked Accuweather when I awoke this morning… -11f with a real feel of -35f was the report. A quick trip outdoors for Big Dog’s morning duties also revealed another inch or so of fresh powder. Off in the distance I could hear the sound of snowplows out cleaning up the mess. Forgot to bring in the trash can from yesterday, finally found it a block away in a snowbank, I thought I could hear the wind howling last night through the fog of sleep.

Considering all that and also how dang tired I am from all the physical activity these days, the decision was made… a day off. Well almost off, Big Dog still needed his morning walk down the street to the open space to finish all his morning duties. My instinct was to grab the camera but I didn’t feel like it and off we went. Well the Sangre de Cristo Range was on fire from the sunrise on the new storm clouds heading this way and I was just sick… I knew by the time I got home and back with the camera the show would all be over. Oh well, I captured some the other day that were probably about the same and just as good.

Herd of Deer on a Winter MorningFortunately I did get out yesterday for some snowshoeing and shooting. Thought our hike was going to come up dry, but as we started our descent I saw three bucks headed the other way in a hurry, so fast in fact that I almost missed them! I didn’t have my camera on the right focus selection and I couldn’t bet my snowshoes turned around fast enough to catch them all, but I finally did get composed for one shot of the last buck making his way through the deep snow :) I wasn’t satisfied with the pictures from on our hike so we headed up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns might be out. Unfortunately they weren’t so I headed for home to start adding up the books so I can do my taxes. But as I neared my home I thought, “I wonder if I should drive up Teller 1 to look for the elk?”. Naa… probably won’t see any, it will be a wasted trip.

Used to be my only criteria for hopping in the truck and going somewhere was whether

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak

or not I wanted to go. Now there is always this voice in the back of my mind haunting me… asking, will it be profitable? Back in the day in school they made us study the Great Depression and one thing about it has always stuck in my mind… the people that went through that terrible time were changed forever, their whole way of thinking about the future permanently scarred. I didn’t really understand that then, but now after the Great Recession I get it. I was a software engineer in the aerospace industry at the time and we had seen many ups and downs. I had somehow managed to survive all the down times but I had plenty of friends who didn’t, but they all found other jobs some in completely different fields. And with contracts constantly won and lost we all knew that one day the axe would fall for the final time and we would all have to find something else to do.

Herd of Deer on a Winter Morning

There were plenty of jobs that I thought I would like, the camera stores for example,  we had a brand new Circuit City and they had techies there…  I loved book stores, maybe that would be a fun place to be. Our mobile disc jockey service had always done well and I was still picking up some wedding photography, perhaps more if I put my mind to it. Well that was until the Great Recession. Suddenly it was all gone… our brand new Circuit City went out of business, the book stores that I loved closed their doors, the computer stores were all boarded up, and 50 percent of Denver’s camera stores bit the dust. Every backup plan gone in an instant it seemed like. I still remember my wife asking me, “So what’s Plan B?”, my reply, “there is no Plan B.”. I still don’t know how we survived it, one day at a time, one miracle at a time I guess.

But like the survivors of the Great Depression, my thinking is changed, my confidence in the future diminished. So I guess that is why the usage of each dollar is prefaced with the question, “Is this going to be profitable, or is there a more thrifty option?”. So I almost didn’t go yesterday, the voice in the back of my mind was saying, “There aren’t going to be any elk.”.  But I decided there was enough of a chance that it would be worth such a small effort. Maybe 30 miles of driving for a good payoff?

Herd of Deer on a Winter Morning

Well as it turns out I didn’t see any elk, but I did see these deer out of the corner of my eye. Had to turn around and drive back to get the shots and I thought the freezing wind was going to blow me into the next county! But it was well worth the effort, the picture of the doe with the two bucks is one of my favorite of all time so I’m glad I made the trip 🙂 And maybe that is a lesson to be learned about taking chances. Those terrible years are behind us now, maybe it is time for a new mindset. Maybe I don’t want to be like the survivors of the Great Depression, maybe it’s time to leave fear and despair behind and take on a mindset of optimism and hope and winning again!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framing and matting and tons of cool household, tech, and gift items!

Dust in the Wind

Tremendous wind howling up from the Arkansas River Valley last night. Big Dog was startled out of a sound sleep at 5:00 a.m., leaping to his feet and letting out a massive woof that woke up the entire town I think. I looked around with the flashlight and didn’t see anything so I was going to just go back to sleep, but instead got to thinking I would like to see the sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo. Sunrise would not be until 6:30 though, so there was time for one of my favorite activities… morning coffee 🙂

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

The wind overnight had created a dust bowl out of the valley making the mountains barely visible, but it was still an inspiring sight when the alpenglow band settled down over the peaks. The effect was only good for a few minutes and we were headed back home for some more coffee.

The old 1970’s song by Kansas, “Dust in the Wind” was going through my mind as the wind whipped the dirt up into a veritable cloud around us. Got me to thinking about the truth of the song, “Everything is dust in the wind”. Everything in this life is truly temporary, jobs, houses, relationships… I was thinking back on my computer career realizing that all the software I had been paid to write is now gone, along with the very computers that it was meant to operate. Even the company I worked for is gone, like it was never there. The job seemed so important at the time, deadlines, overtime, status meetings to explain how it was all going to get done on time, weekends misspent at the office, and now that it is all gone it seems so silly to have been so stressed out, so stupid to have spent so much time away from family, to have lost so much sleep.

Even life itself is temporary. For some people, life is long and fulfilling. For others like my wife, life itself can be unexpectedly swept away far too soon. We never know when we are going to be struck down by illness, accidents or natural disaster. Cancer took my wife along with all the things she dreamed of, collected and worked so hard for. Everything we had together is now like the song, just dust in the wind. Her life itself is a faded memory in the minds of few, the fruit she and I measured our lives with now remembered by no one.

In the end it all comes down to the words spoken at the final judgement, “Well done good and faithful servant.” If we have lived our lives in friendship with Him we will never have to hear the bitter words, “Depart from Me, I do not know you.”, our legacy will live on in the afterlife and all we have done in this life will not be blown away forever, like dust in the wind.

Morning Reflection

Slept a bit later than I anticipated this morning… although I do like the rest I am always a little disappointed if it is already light when my eyes first open because it means I have missed a potentially amazing sunrise, oh well. Sat up and checked the weather on my phone and discovered that it was already a balmy 38 degrees with no wind. Turned on the coffee pot and took Big Dog out for his morning duties. As I wandered around with him looking for just the right spot, I looked down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo. It was a beautiful morning and there was a layer of clouds behind the rugged mountain range that helped paint an amazing pastel colored picture that I knew I was going to have to capture.

One cup of coffee later my four legged buddy figured out that today is not a work day and began his victory dance at the front door, which is a bit difficult to ignore! Grabbed the camera and filters and loaded up the pockets of my military field jacket with all the things I might need and we hit the road. It was such a pretty morning I really didn’t care if I got any pictures or not. We just strolled down the trail casually looking for any critters that might be out doing the same.

Turning 60 last month has changed my entire perspective… I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not but the two year countdown to early retirement has really brought the finish line into focus. I just read an article that people who retire too soon don’t live as long as people who work longer, probably because of the loss of sense of purpose and connection with society. Don’t think that will be a big deal for me as I have tried my best for most of my life to avoid connection with society anyway 🙂 For me it just means I will have more time to spend out in the mountain landscape doing what I love. Although the money that a regular job provides is nice, I have always been resentful of being cooped up inside a building I don’t necessarily want to be cooped up in.

As I was strolling down the trail thinking about the finish line my mind reflected back upon the starting line. I still remember opening the box and exploring my first real camera, my Minolta X-700. Up until that point I had been using one of those ridiculous c-110 cameras which left me perpetually disappointed in the results. I remember the amazing little red LED lights informing me of my shutter speed and aperture settings, important things I had never been able to control before. This of course was pre auto focus and I was fascinated with the little prism that would even out when focus had been achieved, and with the little digits on the lens that would inform me what was in focus and what was not. It was 1984 and I had no idea of the life long journey I was beginning with the love affair between man and gadget.

My mind drifted further back as I realized how long I had been fascinated with cameras, and upon my regret that I had not participated in the photography class in high school. I remember feeling the urging to check the box on the classes list, but something held me back… don’t remember what, perhaps the fear of the unknown. I had never used a real camera before, only the 110 with the flash stick. Perhaps the dial and button laden 35mm cameras of that era looked intimidating. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have taken an entirely different road had I taken that course? I would have discovered that a my love for the gadget and it would not have seemed like something so out of reach that it was not worth pursuing. I wonder if I could have avoided thirty years in a cubicle inside a windowless building, glued to a computer screen and strangled with a tie around my neck? Plus I have always regretted not having a good camera during my four year stint working in northern California after the Air Force. I saw so many magnificent landscapes from the Pacific to the Sierra, and my pictures from then simply do not do the beauty of that place justice 😦

Waterfall in the Black Hills

It was then I realized that was not the beginning… my fascination with cameras began further back in time to when I was about 12 years old with an old Brownie box camera. I didn’t get a lot of practice in those days, I was on a tight film budget… one roll of black and white film per year! Well I tried to get the most bang for my parents buck, shooting my one roll of film on our yearly camping trip in some amazing mountain location. So this is one of my very first pictures, a shot of a waterfall somewhere, maybe in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By now me and Big Dog were nearing our wilderness destination and the Sangre came into view. A bit hazy today but the beautiful pastel colors had persisted through the long walk to the vista point and I brought my Canon up to my eye for a look see. I usually zoom all the way in with my 70-200 to get in close to the mountains but today I could see I needed to get some sky in the image. I wanted to get all the beautiful pastel clouds in the picture, all the way to the brilliant blue Colorado sky above the layer of cloud cover. Big Dog was passing the time trying to dig to China, or maybe just unearth some subterranean critter that his extraordinary senses were detecting.

Sangre de Cristo Spring Morning

I worked the scene for awhile, trying various focal lengths in an attempt to fully explore the beautiful vista before me. Finally the rising sun was lighting the haze so much that the mountains were beginning to fade and my job for today was done. We began the long trek back home, looking in vain for some elk or deer along the way.

These pictures and more will be available on my website as usual in the form of wall art and many nifty household and gift items, including apparel, coffee mugs, pillows and blankets and more. If you like my articles, please be sure to click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish.

Dead Gods

I have to admit… I have been fuming since hearing the most ignorant comment on TV a couple of weeks ago about God that I have ever heard. You know the one, the comment comparing hearing from Jesus to mental illness. Speaking to God is OK according to the talk show, but hearing from God is a mental illness.

Sangre De Cristo Sunset

Beautiful Colorado Sunset

First of all, God is in no need of hearing from us. Our words and prayers He has already known from eternity and the Painter of Sunsets and the Creator of Everything is never unprepared. It is we who are in need of hearing from Him, Who was and is and is to come. He is our God, our King, our Teacher and also the Great Father to whom we cry out Abba Father. What good would earthly fathers be who only listen to their children without answering, without teaching, without providing guidance and earthly sustenance ?

In fact though, the Hollywood elites do not want to hear from God. They use their high places in society to pile up monuments to ignorance with their flapping gums at the feet of their dead gods whom they know can neither see nor hear, and are especially unable to respond to their foolish words and evil deeds.

People of true spiritual knowledge know that God does not often cross the Divide to speak to us directly. He has provided in advance all we need to know in the Bible, which we refer to as the Word of God. It is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”. And also, And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” . We know that God, Jesus and the Word are all one, inseparable and invaluable to the success of a society.

Those with wisdom and understanding know to diligently study that Word so that when we pray for His will, His words that are already inscribed in our hearts can be called upon at the right moment to give us answers about the right thing to do and say. I submit that there would be far less mental illness if people would turn to the Word of God and away from the incessant chatter of the ignorant.

A Culture of Cruelty

That a young man would carry a rifle into a school and gun down his classmates should come as no surprise to anyone living in this century. We live in a culture that celebrates disrespect, violence and cruelty. Unfortunately we are once again witness to the end result of this culture of cruelty with yet another school shooting.

One of the common threads in the many modern trails of death is an early start in a life of violence with cruelty to animals. We read that Nikolas Cruz entertained himself by shooting squirrels with BB guns, and trying to kill or maim rabbits by ramming a stick down holes where he knew rabbits were nesting. Unfortunately there are few protections for wildlife. If his early fascination with animal cruelty had involved cats or dogs, perhaps he might have been flagged sooner as a mentally deranged individual in need of counseling or incarceration.

Which of course begs the question… what makes people who have fun hurting wildlife better than people who enjoy hurting cats and dogs? Wildlife feel pain and are intelligent sentient beings just as domestic animals are, yet there are entire industries developed around the maiming and killing of wild animals. Every day I see pictures of some fool proudly grinning for the camera while some poor creature has spent hours, maybe even days, pacing around a blood soaked perimeter in terror because it is legal to set snares for predators. Why should we believe the person who does this is any more sane than the one who sets kittens on fire for the fun of it? Both are enjoying the suffering of a helpless animal, yet one is locked up for animal cruelty while the other is celebrated and may even get his own cable TV show one day. We are pretty sure the crimes of the one are going to escalate into worse acts of violence, yet how are we so sure that the one who tortures wildlife won’t graduate into worse violence?

It all boils down to one thing, there are too many in our time who do not understand the difference between right and wrong. And the problem is not limited to the minuscule numbers who commit the school murders, evil is pervasive in all segments of society from children in schools to the highest echelons in our government. Those in charge pass and defend laws that make it legal for hunters to send hounds in to tear coyotes to pieces and be torn to pieces by wolves while at the same time banning dog fighting. And they even have the gall to force the taxpayers to cover the financial losses if the so called hunter’s dogs are killed. We have leaders of entire popular movements jumping up and down and screaming about gun control while at the same time advocating for the right to stab a baby in the head on his or her way out of the birth canal, hypocrites.

In these modern progressive times, those who are qualified to teach right from wrong are mocked and shouted down, kicked out of office or sued for their faith which is ridiculed on popular television shows by the revered talking heads who are devoid of any wisdom or understanding. God, right and wrong, the Ten Commandments and prayer are banned from the schools while our children are taught to decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong. Why should we be surprised when children choose evil over good when evil is celebrated over good in the media or the video games that they are glued to every day of their lives? It’s time for us to get a grip on the evil that is overcoming this nation. It’s time to start rooting out evil where ever it can be found, no matter how high the perch from which it is preached. In order to do so however, we cannot forget the Source of the Good and also the source of the evil.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

On Comebacks

Big step today in my return to civilized life… It wasn’t easy up in this little mountain town but I finally found an internet provider that could hook me up with 10mbps. This is a huge step in restoring my ability to conduct my photography and writing enterprises! I still remember sitting in my camper after the wife had passed from cancer, life completely decimated… no home, no family, no job, no savings left, camera broken and laptop on it’s last leg. Wondering, how does one come back from this?

Steve & Dad Leadville (wordpress)Today I received and notice in the email that it is once again time to register for the Leadville 100 “Race Across the Sky” and I am reminded of my most memorable comeback, my first Leadville 100 finish. I was relatively inexperienced at running that distance and by the time I had reached the Halfmoon aid station on the return trip about 70 miles into the race, I was physically and mentally trashed. If you want to drop out, you can ask  the aid  station and they will remove your medical stats wrist band, effectively eliminating you from the race. I was the first person I had encountered who looked so bad that the aid station people were asking me for my medical band. But for some reason I said no and managed to down some food and eventually stumble out of the aid station and continue the race.

I was moving so slowly though that race personnel were continuing to drive by and ask me for my medical band. But I continued to put one foot in front of the other while my mind argued with my body… With more than a marathon in distance to go there is no earthly reason to believe that it is possible to finish. In preparation for a marathon distance run most people get some extra rest, do some carbo loading and take steps to prepare their minds and body for such a distance. No one starts a marathon completely exhausted, sleep deprived and sick from not being able to eat a proper meal, cold and wet and in the dark of night in the mountains with an 11,200 foot pass to climb.

But even then, in complete denial of reality, I continued to put one foot in front of the other… why? Because I could. Because it is what I expected of myself, because it is what my crew who had worked so hard all summer with me expected of me. Because you can’t just drop out for being tired and sick, because you knew when you signed up for such insanity that you were going to be cold and tired and sick for over 24 hours. Cold and tired and sick is not a valid excuse for giving up, it is part of the race. Such as it is in real life, even in your darkest hour you continue on because that is what everyone does, because that is what is expected of you by your friends and family and people who are counting on you, because giving up is unthinkable.

Well as it turns out by the time I arrived at the Fish Hatchery aid station I was feeling a bit better and was able to down some more food. By the time I got to Hagerman Pass the food was kicking in and I could smell the finish line. There was still nearly 20 miles to go but some strength had returned and my body had warmed somewhat. I knew I was pushing the limit on cutoff times and I dug deep and hit the afterburner. Later my pacer told me if I had gone any faster over the pass he would not have been able to keep up with me. By the time I had gotten around Turquoise Lake I had made up considerable time against the cutoff limits and a finish was guaranteed if I could just continue to put one foot in front of the other.  I could no longer hold down any food or ERG but I just kept walking up the long four mile hill to the finish line. Finally, after 29 hours the old west mining town of Leadville was once again in sight. And at 29:15 my feet crossed the finish line and I received the coveted hug and finisher’s medallion from Merilee.

I have been involved with sports my entire life and am definitely a fan of great comebacks. I believe that sports can train people for success in life and this experience was no different. I was able to draw on the hardship and perseverance involved in finishing a 100 mile race in the mountains against impossible odds to carry on with life even after the terrible circumstances surrounding such a devastating illness and death in the family. I know others are at this time facing their darkest hour and I hope these words can in some small way encourage them to make their comeback in life.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items