Snow on the Sangre

It has been a long time since I have seen the Sangre de Cristo, the fires of summer have left them totally obscured for months. Finally cooler weather, some snow and rain and calmer winds have helped with progress on

Mountain Blue Bird

putting out the fires. The air isn’t completely clear yet but I was able to see the majestic mountain range well enough to see the new mantle of white snow 🙂

Apparently it isn’t cool enough yet to attract the elk or deer herds, but there are plenty of birds! The high meadow on top of the mountain was filled with mountain blue birds and vesper sparrows this morning 🙂 It remains a mystery to me however, how do these birds know to get between me and the sun so that I can’t get a picture in this beautiful early morning light??? Looks like the fall colors are coming early this year! Not sure what the reason is for that, probably just because it is 2020…

Red-tailed Hawk

Both of my favorite red-tail hawks were waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain. Unfortunately they flew away from me in the wrong direction so I couldn’t get a nice picture of them in flight. This one on the light post will have to do for today. I’ll be back tomorrow though, hoping for a better angle!

Snow on the SangreFor your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds 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 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! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Snow on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado by #swkrullimaging

First Snow 2020

Summer didn’t give up without a fight… some of the hottest weather I’ve seen in the mountains persisted right through the entire labor day weekend.  Almost 80 doesn’t sound very hot to ya’ll flat landers but we aren’t used to that up here! it was much worse in Denver, Sunday I believe hitting 101 degrees. It was so hot and bright just after sunrise that I didn’t even bother leaving the house.

First Colorado Snow

But that all ended on Monday night as a cold front went through and dropped the temperature to 20f and the skies broke with eight inches of snow, wind and fog. The fog and low visibility lasted all day yesterday so I dejectedly continued my four day losing streak by not going out of the house at all, not even to exercise 😦 Today however was better, the sun was kind of out and I could see the fog was breaking up, ideal conditions for pictures! As I looked out the window my spirits were lifted by the spectacular conditions and my mind once again turned to the mountains and photography.

Mines on a Winter Day

So I laced up my winter hiking boots and hit the trail. I was hoping for that magnificent view from the top of the ridge with fog at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range but unfortunately all I could see was fog flowing into the valley from the southwest.  As I strode through the snow and fog on the summit the historic gold mine came into faint view through the fog, so I stopped for a bit to take in the view and capture the scene. The view of the valley below on the northeast side of the mountain was also well worth a couple black and white captures on the return trail.

Red-tailed Hawk

A pair of red-tailed hawks greeted me at the trailhead, each calling to the other through the mist from their own power pole. I was fortunate after a while that one of the great raptors left his pole and flew right at me 🙂 Nothing better than a good hawk in flight picture!

Mines on a Winter Day

After my hike I decided to drive through Victor and check on mine country in Goldfield, hoping for some photogenic fog and a view of the Sangres. Part of my wish came true, there was a nice foggy backdrop behind the mines which made for a nice landscape image despite the Sangre de Cristo being completely fogged over 🙂

I knew I had to make one more stop… Pikes Peak was bound to be amazing with new snow and fog so I drove to the top of Victor Pass for a look. And the great mountain did not disappoint 🙂 The cantankerous old lady always looks better in snow 🙂

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

By this time it was becoming obvious that our short bout with winter was about over. Heat rising from my sweatshirt was fogging over my sunglasses and I was getting really thirsty so I decided to call it a day. The fog never really did subside… I thought I was going to get a break on the way home but as I prepared for pictures  a new layer of fog streamed in from the valley below, totally obscuring my view of the distant mountain range.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds 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 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! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain 🙂 I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet 🙂 Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I could  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees 😦 Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse 🙂 it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years 🙂 I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade 🙂 I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds 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 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! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

 

Birds Eye View

I promised this bird’s eye view with the wide angle… and today was the day 🙂 I had other reasons for making this climb too… I wanted to see if I could find Mr. Hawk, the rough legged hawk I found up there the other day. There was a beautiful fog bank today so I was also thinking I might be able to get a neat wide angle of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

This time I was smart, in addition to packing the wide angle I also had the forethought to bring some fluids and energy bars 🙂 The initial climb to the top of the first ridge is pretty invigorating to say the least, but is often rewarded with a few shots of deer or elk at the top. Nothing today and no sign of Mr. Hawk either.

Beyond the high meadow is a patch of forest that I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years, the place where the elk go to vanish when I try to follow them. I’ve always wondered what it was like in there, I don’t see any sign of a real trail of any kind. I decided against going directly in there and chose a path around the edge as I climbed higher with the summit in mind.

Eventually I had two choices, the long way around the south end of the summit, or a short cut directly through part of the forest, I chose the short cut and finally after all these years I got to see inside the apparently impenetrable woods. It seems as though this forest has been untouched for a long time, many fallen trees lying all over the place making a direct path impossible. Don’t think I would want to be there in a windstorm, you might be the unlucky recipient of a large pine tree on top of your head 😦 I found a deer trail of sorts and followed it in and around all the dead foliage to the final approach to the summit.

From there it was just a short walk to my favorite vantage point, one that I had first

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

scouted out with my dog years ago. I found a good spot to take off my pack and sit in full view of the beauty before me. The dense fog of early morning had given way to a picturesque layer just beneath the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance. I just sat there for a while taking in the view, but mostly just feeling heartbroken that my four legged buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge some time back and wasn’t there to enjoy the conquest with me.

Eventually I summoned the strength and attached my 24-105 lens with a circular polarizer to cut through the residual morning haze. As it turned out the images looked the best with about a 50mm focal length, any wider and the Sangre were too insignificant to do the scene justice.

Rough Legged Hawk in the Rockies

I continued to look for Mr Hawk on the trek down the other side of the mountain, but he was nowhere to be seen on this day. In fact the landscapes that I shot at the summit are the only record of today’s hike.

As always, the best of these images 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 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! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Where Eagles Dare

Herd of Mule Deer

Well technically hawks in this case 🙂 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 I  wanted to see the top. From there I knew I would have an awesome 360 degree view of the entire area 🙂

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 🙂

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 on my website 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! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Winter in May

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

It was definitely winter when I was loading my camera equipment into the truck for my hike on the mountain today! Yesterday afternoon a cold front came through and we got snow, hail, thunder, lightning and wind! This morning the ice was all still present and it took me about 15 minutes just to scrape out a place to see through the windshield!

It was also winter when I started my hike through the fresh snow at 11,000 feet. The

Baby Prairie Dog

wind was blowing and I was glad I had a hood on my jacket, which I quickly pulled over my frozen and aching ears. Eventually I cleared the ridge and thankfully the wind subsided. The Sangre de Cristo range soon came into view in all it’s glory, still sporting storm clouds from yesterdays weather. I stopped there for a while to take in the sound of the wind blowing in the tall pines and the chirping of happy song birds, and of course to capture a few images of the magnificent snow capped peaks.

By now the it was warming up quickly and spring had returned to the Rocky Mountains. The prairie dogs were chirping out their happiness to see the sunshine and luckily for me this one little fellow stuck around long enough for me to get his picture. I moved around to the sunny side while he warily kept a little black eye on my movement. I was able to get two captures before the diminutive creature retreated back into his den.

 

Unsocial Distancing

Elk Herd on the Mountain

Hit the trail for the first time since my surgery, observing my usual “unsocial distancing” practice. My rule of thumb for that is six miles rather than six feet, basically I’m annoyed if I see anyone at all 🙂

The climb up the ridge was not any easier than it was before I got all out of shape sitting around the house recovering, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath for sure! I thought for a minute I was going to have to turn around when I saw a giant snowdrift ahead but fortunately with all the freezing and thawing the snow was hard packed and easy to cross.

Elk Herd on the Mountain

The climb turned out to  be worth it though when I saw the elk herd 🙂 The lighting was horrible so I didn’t get the glory shot, but it sure was nice to be back in the great outdoors! And the frosting on the cake were my coyote friends who cut loose with a good coyote song for me while I hiked on past 🙂 you can hear the beautiful song in this short video on my YouTube channel! Please subscribe to my channel if you like, I need a few more to get my custom URL!

The hike started out in snow and fog but by the time I reached the summit the beautiful snow capped Sangre de Cristo were beginning to shine through 🙂

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…  when you see that white line pass under your feet.  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else 😦 It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top of  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike 🙂

Suddenly Spring

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

Last week in the high country of Colorado we were contending with blizzard conditions and temperatures that had plummeted well below the zero degree mark. A couple of days ago several inches of snow fell  in the night on top of last week’s melting snow, turning the entire region into a skating rink, I saw the aftermath including cars buried in the deep snow down the embankments on either side of Highway 67 when I had to drive into town for supplies. However, the view of the mountains as the storm clouds were receding was simply spectacular!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

I love it when the storm clouds, wind and blowing snow pour over the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range to the southwest making my job as a photographer so easy! Braving the wind and the cold aren’t so pleasant but having the chance to photograph such splendor sometimes feels like such an incredible honor.

Today however is an entirely different story, the sun is shining, snow and ice are melting and temperatures will soar into the 40’s for the next few days. Such as it is in Colorado, just when it starts to seem like winter is never going to end, suddenly and without warning spring arrives and for a time it is like winter never was. Of course until about the middle of June we have to keep in mind that winter can rudely reappear at any time with a vengeance!

As always  these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website and don’t forget to visit my latest YouTube video to see the elk herd in the deep snows of the high country! Please subscribe to my channel if you like what you see, I still need quite a few subscribers in order to get my custom #swkrullimaging URL that is so important when the time comes to set up my commercial options!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

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 🙂 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 the  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 🙂 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