Road Trip Salida

Took Big Dog out to the mountain for our morning hike as usual and got some really nice shots of the fresh snow on the Sangre de Cristo along the way. Completed the relaxing trek through the local mountains and Big Dog jumped back into the cab of the old Dodge. Then I just sat there thinking… I really don’t want to go back home and my thoughts turned to the distant mountain range that I had just been photographing. I have been longing for a closer visit to those mountains, but there is always something… too much to do, not enough gas money, you name it. And today I was thinking… gas will cost too much, the pictures probably won’t sell, I don’t even know if its a nice day there, blah, blah, blah.

And I still couldn’t go home. Got to thinking, sometime someday has to be today! So off we went for some Gatoraid and a breakfast burrito. Once I had made that little move towards leaving town we were off. Headed down High Park Drive towards Canon City. This time though, instead of going on into Canon we turned west on Highway 50.

Autumn Arkansas River

It wasn’t long before I was rewarded with some beautiful views of the Arkansas River lined with beautiful golden trees of the Colorado autumn. I had been rafting on this section of river many years ago in my Leadville 100 running days but it was so long ago. Thirty years had pretty much erased my memory of this section of river and lately I have been wondering where to find it. Well I found it and now I have a river to get some winter ice flow pictures which is also something I have been planning! As we got closer to Salida I came across this wonderful view of the river and autumn trees with the Sangre de Cristo in the background and as luck would have it there was a great little pullout from the road where I could walk Big Dog and get this shot. I think it is my favorite of the day 🙂

Storm Clouds on the SangreCotopaxi is about where I thought I would really start to see some views of the Sangre but unfortunately I discovered why I had not been impressed with the Sangre all those years ago. For one I wasn’t really looking for them then, and two… there is a wretched ugly ridge between the river and the mountains making it all but impossible to get a decent shot of the mountains. Apparently the only way you can get the best view is to take Highway 285 south from Buena Vista or maybe Highway 69 south from Texas Creek to Westcliffe. But today I chose to make the turn back east on Highway 285 back home. Perhaps  the thing to do would be to just make a run down to Westcliffe and then back up to Texas Creek for a return trip back home the way  I came. I was going to look for a nice micro brew in Salida but a stop at the time I went through didn’t feel right, I was still thinking I was going to get some more pictures. I did get a couple  of the Collegiate Peaks from an overlook on Highway 285, nothing to jump up and down about.

Cliffs in the Sangre de Cristo

But on the upside I did get some really nice pictures of the river and of the Sangre in the brief moments that they were visible. Perhaps better planning would have made it a better day but now that I know the lay of the land I am in better position to make a plan. The turnoff to Westcliffe was well marked so I’ll know just what to do next time! As far as camera and equipment go, I used my 70-200 F4L lens today with a polarizer on and it looks like that is a good choice for the winter months as the sun is making its way along it’s most southerly route. The polarizer works best when the sun is close to a 90 degree angle from the direction that the lens is pointing and that worked out well today.  I would like to get a much earlier start though so that the light is more at my back for some of the early shots, giving me a nice warm glow on the mountains and no need for a polarizer.

Well as always, these photographs and more are now available on my website for purchase as prints and wall art. I finally also created a special gallery for the Sangre de Cristo Range that I have been shooting so often these days! Just click on the gallery and then click on an image you like! All available products including wall art, framed art and cool household items and gifts will become visible!

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Fall to Winter

What a whirlwind couple of weeks! Haven’t been online much as I have been shooting like crazy to capture as much of my favorite time of year as possible! Pretty sure I went out every day to document the changing aspen leaves in this beautiful corner of the Pike National Forest of Colorado. Unfortunately the window of opportunity up here at 10,000 feet of elevation is small. Tremendous winds, storms and rapidly changing temperatures make sure our beautiful aspen leaves don’t last long!

Snowy Sangre de Cristo

Yesterday left no doubt that the waning days of autumn are near an end as a snowstorm moved in and temperatures plummeted to single digits on the mercury scale. We were supposed to get up to a foot but only received a couple of inches here in Cripple Creek. I was going to take a day off from shooting and just rest but when I saw that the Sangre were blessed a fresh blanket of heavy snow I was again compelled to get out and shoot!

Golden Aspen of Autumn in ColoradoIt was a beautiful autumn here in the mountains around the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District. One of the prettiest I have seen in years and I definitely made the best of it! So far I have only had time to post a couple out of the hundreds of images I was able to capture over the last few weeks, but I’m sure that I will be getting many more done in the cold and darkness of the winter months when even my trusty Dodge Ram won’t be able to get me into the high mountain passes.

Florence Brewing Company

In the midst of all the shooting I had a great visit with my family who drove out from Iowa and Missouri to see me and my new home here high in the Colorado Rockies. Have to say my favorite part of that visit was our little road trip to Florence to visit the Florence Brewing Company 🙂 I had always wanted to go to Florence but our original destination was Canon City to visit a micro brew there. Unfortunately micro brews do not appear to be a big thing in that town and by the time we got done searching we were not very far from Florence where we knew for sure we were going to be rewarded with a tasty libation. Florence is a beautiful little town and the Florence Brewing Company is truly the crown jewel for micro brew in southern Colorado. The brewery is located in an amazing historical building that was at one time a sheriffs office and more recently a printing company. The building was

Florence Brewing Bar

relocated from another town brick by brick by the original owner who so prized his building that he couldn’t part with it when he moved to Florence. There are many flavorful choices of brew to suit the beer palate of all enthusiasts and the atmosphere is friendly and cheery. I heartily recommend a visit to the Florence Brewing Company!

For now I’ll be working on these pictures, but am going to try to get a road trip to Cottonwood Pass and maybe the mountain goat viewing area. Hopefully I can get there before the pass is buried under snow for the winter.

The holidays are on the way and I need to make plug for Christmas cards with one of my winter images! The prices are pretty reasonable and the quality is great! So be sure to visit the Rocky Mountain Winter and Wildlife galleries on my site for your favorite snowy mountain picture! Just click on the gallery and on the pictures you like and the products and prices will become available!

Phantom Canyon

Funny the twists and turns my days make… I had fully planned to take Big Dog for a short hike followed by a road trip up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns were still there this morning. However on my way through Victor I glanced down towards the south and thought, “Hey, it looks like the trees are changing down there too! I wonder what the road is like?”. I’ve been wanting to explore Phantom Canyon Road along the Gold Belt Tour series of day trips since the day I first saw it on the map! Surprisingly the road is listed on the “Dangerous Roads” website, but I didn’t think it was that bad… although it could be in  bad weather! So… I turned the old Dodge south and headed down the dirt road toward the canyon. After a couple of miles I was thinking it really wasn’t too bad. The last time I even attempted that route, the ice and snow of the Colorado winter had made a complete mess of it. Now it was a little rough but not a brain rattling washboard like Rampart Range Road the other day… So I just kept going 🙂

According to my brief study of the road’s history, the road actually began as a narrow gauge railroad bed providing access to the gold fields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The name of the canyon is also steeped in history as well according to the website Colorado.com, which attributes to a ghostly inmate who was executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in the 1880’s. I saw no ghosts on my trek through the haunted canyon 🙂

Entrance to Phantom Canyon

The northern part of the canyon really isn’t too much of a canyon. Just a nice dirt mountain road past a lot of golden aspen leaves with a nice view of the Sangre de Cristo range in the background. Stopped a few times for pictures of the mountains and even the road winding it’s way back into the trees while making my way ever further south. Soon I was way too far down the 30 mile road to consider turning back and I’m glad I didn’t! The canyon is magnificent, beautiful high walls along the sides between really pretty aspen groves and meadows.

There are a couple of places where the road gets slightly dicey, pieces of it somewhat Phantom Canyon Drive in Autumnwashed out and other places are quite narrow due to rock walls on both sides. No big deal today, but I could see where it would be a pain in the butt on a busy weekend day, especially during leaf season. It is possible somebody would have to back up if two cars met in just the wrong place. There were even a couple of one lane tunnels through the rock that I tried to get shots of with my phone but the bright light at the other end of the tunnel coupled with the dark canyon turned out to be an unrecognizable photographic disaster! Oh well… And there was a very cool old wooden bridge that I really liked but was on it before I realized it and so I didn’t get a shot of that either. Come to think of it, a canyon in general is quite difficult to get pictures of. The high walls look very impressive to the three dimensional capabilities of the human eye, but not so much to a two dimensional camera view. So mostly I just cruised along in second gear, enjoying the tight turns, the dense forest, cool rock formations and high cliffs along the sides.

Phantom Canyon Wall

I did get one shot of the road behind along the canyon wall with my phone camera, but as far as capturing the canyon as I saw it with my eyes, it was pretty much a photographic bust. Even the shot I did get is much less impressive than the view that my mind was enjoying! You can kind of make out the path along the cliff that the road is taking but it seemed much steeper when I was driving! I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out and spent a little time in the dense forest, but didn’t have all day… I mainly just wanted to drive the road so I could check the bucket list box in the sky 🙂 Actually I’m much more of a high peaks person than I am a canyon person anyway… I like to get up where I can see! I was also surprised that I didn’t see any wildlife at all on the entire trip… I don’t know maybe deer and elk aren’t big fans of canyons either?

I have to confess, by the time I was about two thirds of the way through, I was just wishing that I was all the way through. Finally with about five miles remaining, the road widened out and the bumps relented allowing me to finish quickly in the 30-40 mph range, followed by some black top road where full speed was possible and I was in Canyon City in no time.

Pondered going on through to Salida to see the Sangres, but as I thought about that I realized I had actually been to Salida before and don’t really remember the Sangres being all that impressive from right beside them. So I opted for the Highway 9 and High Park Drive turnoff for a quick trip back to Cripple Creek. I had read somewhere that there are supposed to be great views of the Sangre range from High Park but I didn’t see it. I’ll go visit the Sangre de Cristo range when that is all that I have planned for the day. Maybe in the winter when the peaks have snow and aren’t just big brown rocks!

These pictures and more are now for sale on my website as wall art, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framing and matting. You can also purchase a good variety of cool household items and gift items such as phone chargers and hard cases, t-shirts, beach and yoga mats, shower curtains, greeting cards and much more!

Do Over

Well, for whatever reason, yesterday’s fall picture trip was a bust. I failed to notice power lines in a lot of the images and those things are really time consuming to remove with Photoshop. Also it was too windy so the blowing leaves just made the images look blurry. And the wasted time… yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to drive up Rampart Range Road  which I just noticed has made the most dangerous roads list, and photograph the Peak behind the golden aspen of autumn. However, the golden aspen are still green up there, the road is absolutely wretched and the Peak just looks like a big brown rock. Outside of Kansas, it was just about the ugliest scene ever.

Historic Gold Mine Colorado

So as I was pondering what adventure today might bring I was thinking a do over was probably the most profitable remedy possible. The autumn leaves around Cripple Creek seem to be the most magnificent that I have seen anywhere and the loop is an easy one to complete. So I arose early this morning and loaded up Big Dog for a hike. Fortunately we were able to beat the wind this morning so the leaves were behaving nicely on the trees and as luck would have it there were the coolest cirrus clouds hanging around high in the bright blue Colorado sky. They reminded me of angels… perhaps there were angels helping me today 🙂

After our little hike we headed south to Victor in hopes of getting some images of the mines and the north face of the Peak… without power lines :-|I was thinking that maybe the polarizer was to blame for some of yesterday’s failure but I could see the colors were so much more saturated with my sunglasses on that it was going to be necessary to use the dark blue glass again. Today the effect was amazing… it really brought out the blue sky and the angel clouds! To account for the one stop of light loss I was just extra careful to steady the camera on the hood of the old Dodge or on handy fence posts. Now that I’m back home in front of the computer I can say I am extremely happy with the results. The images are clear and sharp, the blue sky magnificent, and the colors deeply saturated just as I had hoped.Pikes Peak in Auutmn Aspen

Now I’m ready for tomorrow… truck all gassed up and maintained, pictures backed up, memory chips cleared, camera equipment ready to go… and with a clear head from our nice hike today I think tomorrow’s destination is going to be Twin Lakes. I have seen some images from there lately that make me confident that the leaves have achieved  peak color, the water should be awesome, the sky clear and the temperature amazing! I made that trip a decade ago and ruined the day with a bad choice. When I rolled into Leadville I went out to Turquoise Lake first only to discover that there really isn’t any autumn color there, only pine trees. By the time I got to Twin Lakes it was an ugly cloudy gray day… the trees up Independence Pass were beautiful, but the gray skies and wind made the water choppy and murky and with no light on the color it was a total bust. It has been a long wait for my return to that location, but it should be worth it!

These images and more are now for sale as wall art on my website, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and with traditional framing and matting!

Autumn Blitz Day 1

Do or Die… my most lucrative time of the year, autumn in the Rockies. Today was my first full day off in the midst of peak aspen leaf season and so far I have made the best of it.  Woke up early and took off for the trailhead with Big Dog. After a short analysis of the situation I decided on the polarizer to add some drama to the bright clouds and sky. Not too much of great autumn interest along the trail today, was kind of hoping for a deer or elk as a subject, or maybe a neat shot of the mining equipment against some golden aspen, but no such luck. There were a few trees changing in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo so I tried a couple of captures in that direction, time will tell if it was worth the effort.

Autumn Color on Historic Mines

After the hike we were off to the Goldfield mine fields where there was one nice view of a series of abandoned mines in the midst of a colorful aspen grove. That turned out to be one of my favorites of the day 🙂

Then it was off to an unofficial overlook at the top of Victor Pass for a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Upon arrival there I was surprised to see a lineup of ladies in lawn chairs and umbrellas… looked like a picnic might be in the making! Turns out they were the local Cripple Creek painting club on scene to paint the magnificent view on such a beautiful morning. Lol, I needed to get in front of them to get the shot I needed but was hesitating… the ladies assured me that I would not be accidentally painted into their pictures if I quick jumped in for my photographs… Which cracked me up because for a second that exact thought crossed my mind! Guess I’m not used to seeing painters at my scenes 🙂

Autumn on Pikes Peak Colorado

After that I decided on the loop behind the Newmont mine to see if maybe the aspen were in peak form at the top of that pass. Looks like the trees in Cripple Creek are going to need another week or so to reach their full color so I didn’t bother to stop, deciding to hurry home to process the ones I already had.

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day… planning to leave the house by 4 a.m. to make Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise. I will hit Bear Lake first I think to capture the sunrise on the lake, followed by an attempt at seeing some wildlife in Morraine Park. From there I hope to drive Trail Ridge Road followed by some more wildlife viewing on the west side of the park at dusk. Also hoping for my first visit to Fontenot’s Restaurant for some blackened catfish… back in the day the wife and I used to make a special trip up to Winter Park just for the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite places 🙂

After that, who knows? I still have my sights on Quandary Peak in hopes of bagging at least one 14er this season! I would also like to make it up to Twin Lakes and maybe some fall colors along the river along the bottom of Independence Pass. Anyway, stay tuned, I’m just  getting started 🙂

These pictures and more are available on my image website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and matting and as art on many cool and handy household and gift items, including battery chargers, apparel, beach towels, greeting cards and more!

Autumn 2018

My favorite and most lucrative time of year for photography is getting off to a slow start… The flu, a lot of clouds and gloom, more truck trouble and too much working for a living are definitely a drag so far this season. Fortunately the truck is still running, just making a very annoying noise, perhaps a worn fan belt so at least I have been able to get around a bit, including the short drive over to my favorite trail where there are a few trees and sometimes even some elk and deer to shoot… Not going to rat out the location of my deer to hunters though! And finally after months of complete black out of the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peaks, the smoke has cleared enough to actually see them through the low hanging haze.

This herd of mule deer bucks have been hanging around the trail head and seem to be getting warmed up to me a bit so that I can get a few shots off before they run off into the wilderness. Looks like they are quite healthy going into autumn so they should have no trouble surviving the long rocky mountain winter.

Today I noticed the clouds moving into the Arkansas Valley between me and the Sangre de Cristo so I was thinking this might be the perfect time of year for a shot of the  Victor / Goldfield mines with the Sangre in the background. Well worth the short drive up there, this is one of the best images I have ever captured of these mines and the Sangre.Victor Gold Mining District

Some new snow on the distant Collegiate Peaks got me to thinking that there might be a new dusting of snow on Pikes Peak as well, so a short drive to the top of Victor Pass was in order. Indeed there was a light layer of fresh snow to behold along with a nice view of the massive grove of aspen trees that have barely begun to show off their autumn glory.

Pikes Peak AutumnLater today I am going to drive over to the repair garage and see if I can schedule an oil change and have them take a listen to the terrible squealing I have had to endure for the last couple of weeks… hope it isn’t anything too serious, thinking maybe the power steering pump might be going out but we shall see. Hoping to have all this done before late September, I’m getting my first vacation in three years to go shoot some fall color. Wouldn’t it be nice if I was so successful that I didn’t have to even go back to work! Lol, highly unlikely but it is hopes and dreams that do keep us going!

These images and more are now available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and prints rolled in tubes. Also available are many cool gift and household items including t-shirts, battery chargers, shower curtains, towels, yoga mats, greeting cards and much more! Please visit my website for a complete catalog of images! Choose gallery mode to quickly identify your favorite categories of pictures!

A Little Exploring

My original plan for the day was to just stay home and give these tired old legs some rest… Lol, in my case, the flesh is willing but the spirit isn’t, I’m  just not good at resting it would seem! So once again I decided to load up my backpack, get on my bike and see where the day would lead me. First off I noticed that I could still get down to Bronco Billy’s in time for the cheap breakfast, so down the hill I coasted for some French Toast while I pondered my next move.

I thought about seeing if I could ride clear to Victor but the sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor train whistle reminded me that I had yet to explore the abandoned mines on the mountainside visible from my bedroom window. There aren’t any obvious roads going up there and I have been wondering for almost a year now if I could get up there for some images. Well… today was the day as I began my journey by pedaling east through town towards the dirt road that leads up to the narrow gauge train tracks. I always figured that it was private property beyond the train tracks because there is a sign posted beyond there along the dirt trail. However as it turns out the sign is just a notice of the Cripple Creek mine reclamation project boundary, so the area is fair game.

Cripple Creek Train

The first hill was wicked and I was not able to pedal up it, but I didn’t mind pushing the old 21 speed for a few feet to the top. As I neared the top of the first ridge I could hear the train whistle getting louder and also saw the most beautiful view of the tracks that I have ever seen. The train tracks can be seen winding out of the forest against a backdrop of a magnificent valley with the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background. Only today you have to look very close to see the mountains, unfortunately it appears the Arkansas River Valley is filling with smoke from the distant fires in the southwest corner of the state. Took a few shots of the train and some abandoned buildings located in the vicinity before looking around to see if the trail would continue.

Abandoned Gold Mine

There did appear to be some sort of access road leading along the ridge toward the big mine so I thought I might give that a try on the bike. It was nice road for mountain biking, but it only went about a half a mile back into the woods before coming to an end at another mine reclamation sign. At that point I got off the bike to look around for a possible composition or maybe a foot trail, neither of which seemed to be available. There was a steep berm created for the reclamation project leading up to the top of the next ridge, not something that looked like it was wanting to be climbed but I was curious what kind of view might be possible from the summit. So I found a climbing stick for myself and headed up the steep hillside. Unfortunately the top was a false summit and proved to only be the bottom of another even worse climb that I was not in the mood to tackle. However there did appear to be a trail leading around to the south that looked well worth checking out but only ended up at the base of the big mine in view of the massive trucks hauling ore.

On the way back down the hillside I hoped I would spot a two pound gold nugget just laying out in the open… No such luck but I did find a giant rusty iron spike weighing about five pounds. Although I would have liked to add it to my collection of useless junk it was far to heavy for me to want to carry on my bike all the way back to town! It appears that gold and riches will have to wait for another day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangre_de_Cristo_Range

The ride back down was much easier than the ride up, although there was once place where the downhill on rocky gravel was so steep that I thought better of it and got off and walked. I have never forgotten the harsh lesson of an endo that I experienced on the White Ranch Trail system over 20 years ago! Riding a bike is something you never forget, so they say… but flying off a bike upside down onto a rocky mountain trail is something you never forget too!

So… calling the day a success, I got a little exercise that I really didn’t need or want and a few nice images of the failed mining endeavors attempted by my Cripple Creek predecessors for my website if you would like to take a look 🙂 Wall art on metal and acrylic is available as is more traditional framed and matted prints. Cool household and gift items are also available, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, yoga mats, blankets, beach towels and more! Just above the images on the site there is a button for galleries, which are how I divide my work up into categories if you would like to explore my site a little more thoroughly 😉