A Tough Slog

We’ve had a lot of snow lately and a lot of cold to go with it! I’ve been waiting out the worst of the cold before attempting any treks into the back country. Must be getting soft in my old age, but deep snow and sub zero temperatures seemed like a good excuse to stay home and get caught up on my stock photo uploads.

Snow in the Colorado RockiesWell, today was the day, no more excuses. It was 18 degrees and sunny this morning, a perfect morning for a hike. So off we went, me and the big dog. upon arrival it looked like the trail had been packed down by more intrepid hikers than myself so up the mountainside we went. Unfortunately the trail was cut for only about a half mile by what appears to be kids and their toboggans. Following that was a deep snowdrift covering the trail all the way to the top :(

The backside of the mountain was no better. The wind has done an awesome job of piling deep drifts on the entire trail, making for a long tough slog. Apparently the short respite has not hurt my cardio conditioning much as we were able to continue through the beautiful fresh powder without gasping too badly for air 🙂 looking forward at the top of the ridge though, the snow looked pretty deep and we decided to abort this attempt about a half mile early.

There is yet another storm headed our way for this weekend and I’m pretty sure that will about do it for hiking up there without snowshoes. So the first thing I did upon returning home was to dig out my winter gear. Found the snowshoes and the ice trekkers. I haven’t quite located my gators yet but I have a pretty good idea where they can be found. Looking forward to my next report on snowshoe hiking in the high country around Cripple Creek! We haven’t had enough decent snow for snowshoeing in quite a few years! This is just awesome 🙂

There are tons of new winter pictures on my website now available for purchase as wall art and cool gift items plus household items and handy tech gadgets with an #swkrullimaging picture on them! Please visit my site if you like pictures of the Rockies in snow!

 

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On the Deer Trail

On the deer trail early in the morning today. I was thinking about taking the day off but Big Dog was definitely not in agreement. It was supposed to be snowing by now but I’m seeing nothing but blue sky and it was a beautiful dawn to be out in the high country!

Awesome Buck Mule Deer

Just as we were getting ready to crest the first ridge I noticed a slight bit of movement out of the corner of my eye, as if this magnificent buck mule deer was saying, “Hey, look over here!” After I took notice of him he started to take flight, but for some reason turned around to look and check if he was actually being chased. When he noticed that he wasn’t in immediate danger he stopped and took a few steps toward me out into the clearing. Perfect, I could not have asked for a better situation.  A bigger lens would have been nice but this was as good as it was going to get for today.

On top of the mountain I could see the snow

Beautiful Clouds on the Sangre

building on the western ranges but for us there was nothing but beautiful warm sunshine! Perhaps we will see some of the snow later which would be OK with me.

How fast Colorado can change! As I was writing this piece, 10 minutes ago Big Dog was basking in the sun in the back yard… Now we have wind driven snow pellets and he is looking up into my window all squinty eyed… Lol, guess I’d better go get him! Wonder if we are going to have a white Christmas after all?

As always this picture and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and lots of cool gift items.

 

Time for Some Hot Chocolate

Massive Bighorn Sheep

Another cold windy day and I spent a good part of it out in the elements! Now I’m cold to the bone and I can’t seem to get warm. The furnace keeps coming on but it doesn’t seem to help so maybe some hot chocolate will help boost my core body temperature 🙂 Have to say though, looking back it was a pretty good day except for the 45  minutes or so on top of Tenderfoot Pass with no coat on trying to unlock my truck with a stick through a partially open window. Yup, in my excitement to jump out and get a picture I managed to lock myself out. Big Dog was just sitting there looking at me like I was nuts 😦

Bighorns frolicking in the Colorado Rockies

Got in a good hike on this beautiful Colorado winter day and I also got to shoot these awesome bighorn sheep! I’ve been waiting a long time to get a shot of the big dude… I have had occasion to photograph the younger smaller ones but not the big guy. I’ve seen him a few times but never in position to be able to get a good picture.

It was also entertaining to watch the youngsters running around on the side of the cliff. They seemed to be having fun, kind of reminded me of when I was a kid doing some stupid thing like building a huge jump at Baby Bighorn Playing on the Rocksthe bottom of the lake bank for our toboggan jump! We knew we were going to have a spectacular crash… the worse the better! We would play in zero degree weather on our Christmas break until we were absolutely frozen at which time we would adjourn to our friend’s grandmother’s house for hot chocolate and Yahtzee until we were warm enough to go back at it again!

I was amazed that the elusive beasts didn’t run away today, they just kept playing while the head sheep kept a wary eye on me. Up and down the mountainside they went… and I just stood there and filled my memory card until I was sure I had “the shot”.

I was on the west side of the mountainside as the sun was rising in the east so I could have used better lighting, but I’m still happy with what I was able to capture. As always, these images and more are for sale as wall art and cool gift and household items on my website! You can find these in my new “Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat” gallery!

Free Range Cattle

Free Range Cattle in the Rockies

Not a fan of free range cattle. They make a mess out of public land and get our wolves killed and I think if the ranchers want to have cattle they should have their own land to put them on. But… on this day the cattle made a pretty nice picture. My bull was back but today he paid no attention to me and the big dog at all.

Also saw a nice herd of deer up on the top of the mountain and I thought this one was especially cute 🙂 Christmas is closing in fast, but up here in the mountains life goes on unchanged. The animals don’t seem to know there is holiday coming and I imagine the day will pretty much come and go without my notice as well.

Cute Mule Deer Doe

No Bull

Lol, yup… No bull today, the surly beast has moved off the trail and on to another part of the forest. The coast was clear and we hiked to the summit and the high meadow where I always hope to see some wildlife. I don’t always see wildlife there, but today was a good day. As we crested the summit I scanned the edge of the wilderness for any animals that might be enjoying the clearing and the sun. Today there were two

Twin Bucks in the Snow

beautiful buck mule deer just standing there looking at me and the big dog trying to ascertain our intentions. I snapped a couple right away, my strategy for making sure I at least get some record of the sighting. Then we moved in behind a grove of trees hoping the big males wouldn’t notice. Turned out to be a good strategy, when I looked around a big aspen tree trunk I saw that the stags had not moved an inch. Using the tree to steady my camera I snapped a few more using various shutter and focus settings before calling it good. By the time we got back around the trees the pair of bucks had disappeared into the wilderness to the west.

We also saw a herd of elk, but they were in a terrible location right at the top of a ridge in shade with bright sunlight behind them. I took a few pictures anyway but I’m sure they didn’t turn out. I’ll take a look at them later to see if they can be salvaged with some creative cropping or something.

Good Photo Fortune Today

Didn’t know if this was going to happen at all today as it looked pretty bleak prior to sunrise. The temperature was only 10 degrees and the weather page called for clouds. Seriously considered just taking Big Dog for a walk around the fairgrounds and calling it a day, at least as far as a photo shoot was concerned!

Beautiful Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

But the sun finally came up and the sky was pretty so off we went, me and Big Dog to the trailhead. The cloud show going on over the Sangre de Cristo was amazing and I was eager to clear the ridge so I could get the full view and some cool pictures. So we were double timing it up the mountainside when all of a sudden a couple of large critters meandered into a clearing where I could get a pretty clear view. At first I thought, based on their gate that they were wolves, but of course I know that is nearly impossible here in Colorado. So I took a better look and ascertained that it was just a couple of bull elk. Their senses must be amazing because me and Big Dog were being as quiet and stealthy as possible, peeking out from a grove of trees, hopefully well out of

Beautiful Bull Elk in Snow

the sight of my subjects… But as soon as they had a visual angle in my direction they stopped to stare and soon they became nervous and headed up the hill. I figured there would be more animals around somewhere so I waited a bit to see if any were following. None came into view so we sneaked up the hill behind another tree for a view of the top of the ridge to discover a whole herd of the huge beasts.

Snapped a few captures of the distant animals, but they were so far away that I don’t think any will be salable. Still… nice pictures and a visual record for reminiscing 🙂

Elk Herd in the Rocky Mountain Snow

After that we just took a long leisurely walk in the snow during which I was thinking how wonderful today’s high tech hiking gear is. Back when I was a kid, clothing and boots were just dismal… If I had been wearing what I had to wear then my hands and feet would have been frozen and the whole experience would have been miserable. Today I just had my summer light hikers on, Gortex Asolo model of some kind and my feet were toasty warm. A pair of polypropylene glove liners was plenty to keep my hands warm. Nice 🙂

Oh and by the way, I thought I would try out a new framing method on my pictures… The above version is an emboss effect in Photoshop. It makes my work flow a lot faster and I think it still looks nice. I might try just a black border as well. The drop shadow just requires too many steps and it takes forever to prepare a picture for publishing. What do you all think?

These pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art and cool gift items on my website! Just give a click on the gallery you like and then click on an image! The prices and product availability will then appear! Well, that’s about it for today… time for some lunch!

Rocky Mountain Morning

I have to say, there is something very special about being in the woods high in the Rocky Mountains when the sun clears the ridges. The air is fresh and cool, the mist hovers in the dense pine trees, and the woods are still teeming with wildlife yet undisturbed in the predawn stillness.

This morning was one of those days, I awoke early for my morning coffee and quickly headed out the door hoping to arrive at the trailhead by first light. My efforts were rewarded by a particularly amazing morning in the high country, clear skies, cool air and just enough mist to create a solitude that can only be experienced alone in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Pair of Mule Deer Bucks

The first mile of the trail is the steepest here and I quickly climbed a thousand feet or so  in hopes of seeing some deer or elk just over the ridge. As luck would have it though, I glanced up and noticed a herd of four magnificent buck mule deer grazing just on this side of the summit. The deer were already well aware of my presence so I proceeded slowly, avoiding eye contact and not approaching directly at them so as not to disturb them into flight. As I neared they got a little nervous and trotted a few yards down the mountain to keep a wary eye on me and my camera. Unfortunately there was a border fence directly behind them which was going to spoil my background so I just kept moving, hoping to get past them and beyond the fence where I could get a much nicer image. The animals never took their eyes off of me until I was beyond their comfort zone but they didn’t run! Once past, the trail dipped behind a small hill and curved towards the small herd and I was able to get into position for the shot without them seeing me. The sun wasn’t in the greatest position for the first set of images, but I felt fortunate to be a part of the action at first light high on a mountaintop.

Once I cleared the ridge, the plateau at the summit came into view along with a few smaller creatures that quickly scattered at the sight of me on the rocky trail. None of the larger animals were in sight as I had hoped so I just continued my hike, keeping an eye peeled for any movement along the forest edge. However it wasn’t long before I heard the thunder of footsteps as a huge bull elk ran past towards the safety of the dense pine forest. The massive beast was moving fast and I didn’t have time to squeeze off a shot as he ran by, but much to my surprise I noticed that he had stopped and was peeking over the ridge at me, something I had never seen an elk do before! Deer will stop and check to see if you are actually chasing them, but elk usually just keep right on going and you never see them again. Got one shot of just his head as he peered out from the safety of distance and a steep hill but his head seemed tiny in the distance against the expanse of the wilderness in the image frame.

I continued on to the overlook where I could see nothing but mist and headed on back down the other side of the mountain. Off in the distance I could see another herd of deer much too far away for me to get a good image. I assumed those were the mule deer bucks that I had seen on the other side of the mountain as my trek began. However as it turns out the ones I had originally photographed were still grazing near the same location and were now in much better position for an awesome photo op! I was rewarded by the best photography of the day as the bucks moved into a beautiful misty meadow and stopped to pose for me. The image shown here is one of the ones I captured right at the end of the hike, and is my favorite one of the day 🙂

This image and a couple others from my hike in the clouds the other day are now available for purchase on my website as wall art, including acrylic and metal glossies, framed prints, cool gift and household items and Royalty Free Stock.