Hiking Outlook Ridge

wp-15913695475213382998794198163891.jpgThe great Ansel Adams once said, “Don’t confuse hiking with photography, a good photograph taken from the road is as good as a photograph taken from the trail.”, or something close to that. We had set out to reach Lost Pond from the Outlook Ridge Trail to photograph birds and wildlife that might be gathered at the pond, but unfortunately it was shaping up to be a dismal day for photography.  So this day I guess we were just “hikers”, according to Ansel.

We parked at the Outlook Ridge trailhead and began the short hike downhill along the

Outlook Ridge

trail to the Lost Pond Loop. It wasn’t long before we found the cutoff and descended to the small oasis in the dense pine forest. Unfortunately the shoreline was fairly barren, providing little habitat for birds or small animals to find cover or food. We sat in the shade for a while hoping for some birds to show themselves but all we saw was one water walking bug and a robin hopping around on the far side of the pond.

Eventually we gave up and continued along the Outlook Ridge Trail hoping for a photo op in the tall pines. On the far end of  the Outlook Ridge Trail is an out and back along the ridge to the rocky outcropping known as “Outlook Ridge”.  Again we took a break,

Mule Deer Doe

sitting on the rocks and hoping for the arrival of some animals or birds to photograph. There was one small chipmunk who kept darting into his cave and a hummingbird that blew past at a rate of speed impossible to catch with a long lens. No hawks or eagles soaring above in the intense blue Colorado sky and no deer or elk visible in the valley below. The view from there is fairly spectacular however with the west face of Pikes Peak and a rocky ridge off to the east, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the south and local peaks and the Mosquito Range mountains far to the west.  The image above is the rocky ridge just east of the overlook.

Since it is mostly downhill to the ridge, the trail back is all uphill, and a fairly steep ascent at that 😦 Along the way we did spot a doe mule deer grazing on some newly  bloomed aspen leaves but she was in the shade with the intense Colorado sun shining on the background. Terrible conditions for photography.

Finally we made our way up the mountainside through the heat to the finish line. The photography was disappointing but I suppose at least we got a good workout which will hopefully make some future adventure a bit easier!

Venturing Out

It was unavoidable, had to pick up a prescription at Walgreen’s down in Woodland Park. I rarely look forward to going down there, today even less. In addition to Walgreen’s I had to brave Walmart and Tractor Supply as well, mask on face avoiding all contact with people. Of course there is no place to have lunch, no place to stop for a micro brew, nothing to do but get my supplies and  get out. Thankfully the panic in the mountains appears to be pretty much over with and supplies were plentiful. Walmart is monitoring how many people are in the store, but it wasn’t busy and fortunately I didn’t have to wait in any lines.

Springtime Deer in the Colorado Rockies

I did decide to drive up to Paradise Open Space Park to see if I might be able to take a little hike in the woods on the mountainsides of Ute Pass. Saw quite a few deer on the way,  looks like we’ve added significantly to the herd! Sadly it looks like the pine beetle have laid waste to quite a bit of acreage with a lot of trees cut down, ugly stumps left in their place… victims of the drought that is thankfully over with. The trail was steeper than I remember, or perhaps the gravitational pull of the earth has increased significantly. I suppose the month that I’ve been sitting on my butt recovering from surgery may have contributed to me sucking wind on the inclines… but I’m going with the gravitational disruption story, it has a better ring to it 🙂

Cloudy Pikes Peak

I usually write with some joy about the arrival of the spring equinox and the glorious light of the sun on the north face of Pikes Peak, but I was in the hospital on that day with the north face of the Great Mountain far out of view and out of mind. And I have to say, there isn’t a whole lot of joy going around this year and even the beautiful light of spring shining on fresh snow did little to lift my spirits. I am thankful though to live in such a beautiful sparsely populated place where a person can still go hiking without getting arrested.

There are rumblings of a loosening of the stay at home order coming next week, but I also saw a warning to go with it to “Stay out of the mountain towns.”. Can’t blame them I guess,  I don’t really want the city people bringing the virus up to my little mountain town either.

All in all I would have to say it was a pretty good day, assuming I managed to avoid contracting the virus. Speaking of which, stylish face masks printed with one of the many images on my website are now available for purchase! I’m going to get one or two for myself, as soon as I can figure out which picture to use!

 

Morning Sunshine

With a terrible ache in my heart I set out on my morning routine without my four legged friend. It was hard but there isn’t really anything else to do, I need the exercise, I need the pictures, and I need to eat breakfast. The other choice is to sit at home and do nothing which is no choice at all for me… I have to go, that’s just the way it is.

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

It’s been a long time since I have seen my deer friends on the ridge but today I looked up and there she was, peering out from the forest at me. She paused long enough for me to attach my camera to the monopod and get a couple of shots off in the beautiful morning sunshine of a late Colorado summer day.

As I proceeded further along the trail I heard the thundering of hooves as a couple of bucks just below the summit detected my presence and made a run for it. I was

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

hoping they would not run too far before turning around to see what I was up to. The good news is they did stop, but the bad news was they stopped part way into the shade of a tall pine tree at the edge of the wilderness. I took the shot anyway hoping that I would be able to make a decent picture in post with Photoshop. I’m not totally thrilled with it but at least there is a record of the sighting 😉

From that point I just descended the mountain and headed off to breakfast. With tears in my eyes I swallowed the last bite, the one I always saved for my exuberant friend. Anyway, it’s done… I made it all the way through the morning. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

The picture of the doe is available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas or traditional framing and matting. All kinds of cool gift and household items are also available with a picture including apparel, tech items, stationary and more.

 

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

Summer Doe

Cute Doe Mule DeerNot finding much wildlife these days, the sun comes up so early and it is already hot by 8:00 a.m. By this time most of the wildlife has retreated to the cool of the dense forest… and out of view for this photographer! There was one doe today, pausing to enjoy the lush mountain grass which has grown tall and green from all of the rain and snow we’ve had this year. She cast a wary eye in our direction but continued to feed between furtive glances. Each time I waited for her to look up before snapping a picture… pictures of an animal with it’s head in the grass make for a pretty boring subject. I was hoping a few more of the beautiful wildflowers would show brightly, but it is what it is.

Cute Doe Mule Deer

Beautiful Colorado Mountain Buck Deer

Interesting hike this morning… as we passed over the summit of the little mountain I could hear the livestock bellowing. As they came into view I discovered that it wasn’t just the cows talking, there was a bull as well, none to happy to see me and the big dog. I expect he was just warning his herd of the possibility of danger but I was not in the mood for a confrontation with a big bull so we just turned back around the other side of the mountain about a quarter mile short of the normal turnaround.  Soon  the bull and his harem settled down and we were safely on our way back down the mountain.

Beautiful Buck Deer Sprouting Antlers

It wasn’t long before Big Dog was sniffing the air and dancing… like he does when he has detected a wild animal in the distance. You never know whether the animal might still be around or if he has just left behind a scent for the dog to smell,  so I got my camera ready in case of a deer or elk sighting. Soon I spotted him, this beautiful buck mule deer back in the trees at the edge of a nice field of grass and wildflowers. He was already well aware of our presence as well so I knew I wasn’t going to get any closer. I snapped a couple against the rising sun that I knew weren’t optimal shots but I wanted to make sure I at least had a rough record of the sighting. What I was hoping for though was that we might be able to ease around the mountainside to the east so that I could get better lighting on his face and today fate was kind. He didn’t move and just kept staring at us to see what our intentions might be.

Fortunately I was able to make a few captures with him standing perfectly still in the sun for me so that I would have something to upload to stock and this blog post 🙂 Due to the nice soft early morning light I selected ISO 400 in hopes of a fast enough shutter speed to get this hand held image with my big 400mm lens. As I take a close look here on the big computer screen it appears as though I earned my money today 🙂 You can see he is well on his way to a huge rack of antlers for the coming rut. You can even see the velvet still covering the new growth if you look closely 🙂

Eleven Mile Canyon

Eleven Mile Canyon

The headwaters of the South Platte River, Eleven Mile Canyon, truly one of Colorado’s hidden gems. Finally made it after 10 years of effort 🙂 Almost made it last week but for one wrong turn that led me out onto the road from hell down to Eleven Mile Reservoir State Park 😦 But finally after two unintentional scouting runs I actually figured out the intricacies on finding the right road 🙂 The secret is to stay on Road 96 through Lake George which appears to go straight but actually veers to the right across the river.

Probably for the best to keep the ubiquitous Colorado riff raff and homeless pot heads out, the canyon is a fee area with a ranger station at the entrance to the park. After 8 a.m. there is a ranger there, but if you need to get in earlier there earlier  you can pull an envelope out of the self help dispenser and insert your $7 before continuing your journey.

Eleven Mile Canyon Deer

The dirt road along the river is fairly well maintained although the washboards did rattle my old Dodge truck pretty good in places! The trip is well worth it though with stunningly beautiful scenery, wildlife, campgrounds, picnic areas and some wildlife. Shortly after my journey began I spotted these beautiful mule deer heading back into the wilderness following a nice drink at the river. Had to quick put my big white lens back on and sneak past an embankment to get a decent shot of these ladies, but I thin it was well worth the effort 🙂 I need to get back at sunrise someday, I’m sure there must be a ton of wildlife that I didn’t have the opportunity to view due to being there in the middle of the heat of a Colorado summer day.

I didn’t check to see exactly how long the road is back to the dead end at the dam, but I would estimate about 7 miles of roaring whitewater, beaver dams, placid trout fishing pools and massive rock cliffs made of gigantic boulders the size of houses! About half way in I encountered the road to Wagon Tongue that I didn’t want to take my truck on last week, along with trails and short roads leading to campgrounds and picnic areas all along the way.

The road is quite narrow but there are plenty of pull outs where you can stop to take pictures, hike down to the riverbed and get out your trout fishing gear if that is your thing. I must have stopped a dozen times to take pictures of the magnificent roaring water and cliffs.

At one point I knew that a still photograph wasn’t going to do the trick so I did something I have never done before. I have owned this camera for over four years and I have never shot a video with it… And this was the time to try it out! The video lever on the back of my Canon 70D was a bit sticky having never been switched a single time in the entire years I have owned it, but I finally got it wrangled into the video position and was ready to go. A look through the view finder yielded nothing but darkness and panic 😦 Until I remembered that in order to shoot video the camera has to lock up the mirror to make the sensor available for uninterrupted video streaming. So I quickly flipped open the LCD viewfinder on the back and there it was… video on my still camera! Obviously this is not the most professional video you have ever seen, but at least you can experience the roaring whitewater that I was hearing and seeing  🙂

Eleven Mile Canyon

Finally I reached the end of the road at the dam entrance and turned around. I saw a couple of scenes on the return trip worth additional stops before finally reaching the end of the canyon. There was a photographer there with a big lens, so of course I had to get out and see what the interest was and there was an eagle nesting across the river. I may try to process that image with some hefty cropping, but  at first glance the bird was way to far away for a decent photograph, even with my 400mm zoom.

I highly recommend this day trip to Lake George. The scenery is stunning and there is nothing like a day spent in the beauty of God’s Creation! As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of gift items, apparel, tech gear and more area also available with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture!

The Fawns

Mama Deer and Fawns

Today’s trek turned out to be extra special due to a rare fawn sighting 🙂 As I neared the turnaround point in the out and back part of the trail I saw movement in the mountain grass. At first I thought it was going to be a fox or maybe a coyote but as I looked through my long glass I discovered that it was a little fawn mule deer. Soon a second baby appeared followed by the mama who immediately spotted me and stopped for a long suspicious stare. The babies soon gathered  close to their mother for protection and joined the vigil. Eventually they decided that I was not threat  and continued along their way as I hid behind a tree using a branch to steady the camera. I stayed until they were out of sight, capturing this cute scene of the two little ones in tow 🙂

Mama Deer and Fawns

I love springtime in the mountains with all the new life and it is my sincere hope that through my pictures others will come to appreciate life in all it’s precious beauty and fragility and gain an understanding of the importance of preserving it for future generations to enjoy.

 

Magnificent Mountain Morning

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

Sun shining, wildlife leisurely strolling through the Pike National Forest, fresh clean air… it doesn’t get any better than this 🙂 I couldn’t get very close to this beautiful deer herd, but maybe this distant shot is better anyway! And the blue sky and cloud mix over the snow capped Sangre de Cristo was simply sublime.

As always, these pictures and more are available as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, handy household goods and tech items like battery chargers are also available!

Beautiful Snow Capped Sangre de Cristo Range

Between Storms in the Rockies

Staying inside today… a grim looking ice storm in progress outside. I will go out in most weather to get the picture but for me an ice storm is over the line 😦 I was out… long enough for me to discover that my truck is encased in a quarter inch of ice. Not going to deal with that in late May.

Herd of Colorado Springtime Mule Deer

Yesterday before the storm was awesome though, for a while anyway. Had to take Big Dog into town for a teeth cleaning so I had to make our hike a solo event 😦 Probably just as well though,  the snow and ice from the week’s series of storms was pretty slippery. Skiing down a steep embankment in tow behind an exuberant Big Dog is not my idea of fun!

Once past the semi dangerous embankment, the rest of the hike was awesome, sky a brilliant blue, aspen trees blooming and warm sun shining down into the dense forest of the north side of Ute Pass. It wasn’t long before I spotted a small herd of deer making their way around the mountainside, tasting the green forest grass along the way. Unfortunately they quickly spotted me as well so the closest I was going to get to them was the other side of a large ravine at a range of probably 75 yards. These distant captures were the best I could do, even with my  Canon 400mm lens. Fortunately I had the foresight to bring along my monopod / trekking pole so I was able to steady the camera pretty well and was able to capture some pretty good detail despite the expanse between me and the critters.

By the time my trek was near it’s end the weather was changing rapidly. The wind had

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

picked up and an icy cold fog was beginning to roll in.  Clouds were also beginning to form on the summit of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak as well, including some misty thin clouds spreading across the north face at about tree line. The clouds on the peak were a bit blown out so I stopped to put on my  B+W circular polarizer which brought out the detail in this majestic scene.

Springtime Buck Mule Deer

Later on I encountered this big fellow who was obviously aware of my presence, and completely unconcerned! I snapped away and he just kept chewing his food. He is a beaut of a buck though, I’ll bet those are going to be some pretty formidable antlers when they reach full growth for the autumn rut!

By this time I was hungry and could not resist a brat and a Dunkel at Bierwerks, my favorite watering hole in the Pikes Peak high country region 🙂 By this time Woodland Park was completely socked in with clouds, cold, wind and fog and even a few snowflakes… so I was perfectly content to wait out Big Dog’s procedure indoors sipping my favorite beverage 🙂

And as always, these images and more are available on my website or purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting plus tons of cool gift, tech, apparel and household items with an S.W. Krull Imaging picture on them!