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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 😦 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 πŸ™‚ 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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Sangre Mountain Sunrise

Sangre de Cristo mountain sunrise

There is nothing like watching the alpenglow at sunrise in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado!

Moonset in the Rockies

Followed by the setting of the moon πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

Sometimes I Impress Myself!

Now I was not impressed at all later on in my hike when I discovered that at some point I had inadvertently turned off the Image Stabilization (IS) on my big Canon lens, which sent me from a point of elation to the depths of despair just like that. I really wanted that shot! We had cleared the ridge to find ourselves about 50 yards from a curious trio of deer peering at us from the brush near the summit in perfect morning light. I could not believe my eyes! I fired off a few shots, but as you might imagine the sight of Big Dog was causing quite a bit of consternation in the herd. No matter, I was pretty sure I had nailed the shot and we walked around the other side of the mountain from where the deer had gone in order not to disturb them any further.

Trio of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer

As we strode along I was looking forward to getting on the computer and processing those images and creating a good seller! That is until I noticed that the IS was off. Then I figured it was all over, the likelihood of getting that shot without the IS with a 400mm lens was about as good as threading a needle with a climbing rope. But I consoled myself with the idea that I would probably get a good enough shot to show on my Instagram account.

It was a beautiful morning… there is nothing like a trek through the high country at first light, before anyone else is up, before the wind starts blowing, when the mountain air is still cool and crisp with bright sunshine to warm my old shoulders. It was very quiet this morning too, only the sound of the birds happily chirping, my own breath and the clanking of Big Dog’s harness to break the silence of a perfect mountain morning.

Now back at home in front of the computer is where I am quite impressed with myself πŸ™‚ I did get a salable capture from the set, hand held at 400mm, no IS, 60 years old, heart pounding from the climb, and all while holding on to a very exuberant 90 pound dog who very badly wanted to go play with the deer! I think maybe the shot could have been a little better with the IS turned on, but I am truly amazed that I was able to get this capture πŸ™‚ Of course now in front of the computer, after I have done all my titling and keywording, I see that there is a fourth deer in the image, peeking out from behind one of the others, oh well, the more the merrier!

As always, this shot and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and tons of cool gift, household and tech items!

Deer on the Summit

Fog on the Summit

After a few nice days we were due for some crappy weather and today is it! Fog, rain, snow, cold, you name it we are having it! Bad weather never deters the big dog though so off we went into the soup for our morning hike to the summit. I really didn’t expect to see anything but fog today but I was in for a pleasant surprise! A small deer herd foraging for food on the grassy summit above tree line πŸ™‚ And for some reason perhaps the poor visibility from the fog, the deer weren’t that alarmed to see me. Or maybe they are just getting used to me, I’ve been climbing that mountain almost every day for two years!

I set the camera to ISO 400 and allowed auto shutter and aperture, knowing that my

Mule Deer Herd in the Fog

equipment would make a good decision in these conditions. I took a couple of test shots and noticed that the bright fog was going to require some additional exposure compensation and finally settled on +1.5. As I worked my way through the settings and watched them through the lens the deer looked on curiously for a while before meandering off into the cover of the dense wilderness. Finally me and the big dog trekked back down the mountain and back to the truck. Another great day in the mountains πŸ™‚

Mule Deer Herd in the Fog

 

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

Wilderness at First Light

Last night I knew that there was a very good chance today was going to be a great day! The snow had stopped last evening and the storm had moved out into Kansas and Oklahoma. The temperature wasn’t going to be in the below zero or single digit range, and the mountains are always awesome after a big snow. So, tired as I was I dragged my butt out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get in a cup of coffee before the short journey to the trailhead πŸ™‚

Frozen Gold Mine

Early fog and mist created this beautiful ghostly scene of one of the many abandoned mines in the Cripple Creek area and was well worth the stop for a capture. It turned out even better than I expected, which I’m pretty happy about. So many of these mine pictures just turn out to be so ordinary that I have almost given up shooting them! Glad to finally have one I am proud of πŸ™‚

A deer was at the trailhead to greet me, although the lighting wasn’t too spectacular with the sun yet to clear the ridge on the east side. She showed some slight interest and gazed at me for a few moments while chewing some mountain grass. Cute mule deer

I was hoping to see a big buck mule deer on top of the ridge, but was excited to see that the elk herd was right out in the morning sun, well on their way to their hiding place in the dense pine wilderness. I don’t think they ever really saw me as they didn’t break out into a gallop likeΒ  they so often do, but just continued a leisurely stroll along the edge of the forest. They did stop and look my way, which is always good for pictures but I really am surprised they didn’t run.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

With my 100-400mm glass I was able to isolate groups of them on their way as well as capture the overall scene with my favorite tree in the background. I also had time to snap a few to make sure I at least got something on my sensor before switching to aperture priority mode and f8 to make sure I got a sharp rendering of all the elk, not just the ones closest to me, which was where I chose to focus.

Eventually all the huge beasts disappeared into the woods and the moment was gone. I saw a couple of deer along the road on the way home but nothing spectacular enough to include in this blog post.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and on many cool household, tech and gift items!

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

 

Winter Morning Elk Herd