My Happy Place

Decided to take the long route on my trail today… the one that takes me up to “my happy place”, the high ridge where there are no vestiges of civilization, no other people, no sound, just nature in all her glory 🙂 It’s not an easy climb… first there is the straight up the mountain trail from the parking lot to the top of the first

Pike National Forest Scenery

ridge, then a steep trek through the snow and dense forest to the top of what I call the Mount of Broken Dreams and finally another steep ascent to the top of Grouse Mountain. There are abandoned gold mines at the top which make nice wind breaks so I like to take a break there and just enjoy the spectacular scenery.

I had hoped to see some wildlife to photograph along the way, but today there was nothing. A couple of sparrows hiding from me to avoid having their pictures taken, but that was it! I haven’t seen the dusky grouse in a long time, I wonder if they migrate or hibernate? Maybe they have moved to a more friendly elevation. I have high hopes of someday finding an owl in the forest but so far I have no sign that there might actually be one there… just the hope. With no wildlife to photograph, I decided on these two landscapes to at least show the  beauty and ruggedness of the Pike National Forest. Visible is the rugged terrain in this part of the Pike National Forest with the stunning beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background.

Pike National Forest Scenery

Even though I didn’t see any wildlife I always enjoy the time of solitude and connection with my Maker, and a bit of exercise can never be a bad thing!

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!

Simply Spectacular

My main goal this morning was to be the first one at the trailhead. Others have been arriving before me to frighten away all the wildlife with their loose dogs before I even get a chance to get my camera out of the bag 😦 I saw the elk herd on my way but unfortunately it was too dark to get a picture of them, but at least now I now know where they are!

Sunrise on the Sangre

As I cleared the ridge the scene before me was truly spectacular… the sun reflecting off the clouds above me was lighting the distant Sangre de Cristo Range with beautiful pink light glowing brightly on fresh fallen snow. The majestic peaks are now buried in their winter mantle of snow and are just amazing to behold.

Sunrise on the Sangre

First to come in to view is what I believe to be Galena Peak. According to the little direction finder gizmo that the parks dept. has placed at the summit, the major feature close to that direction is Hayden Pass, which is also close to Galena Peak.  Even though I was in a hurry to get past all the trees to capture a pano of the entire scene, I didn’t want to take a chance of losing the light so I stopped here to capture the one peak in the beautiful glow of the rapidly approaching sunrise.

Satisfied that I had captured that peak properly, I continued my trek through the snow on the summit of Grouse Mountain to the edge of the clearing. From there you can see the entire Sangre de Cristo Range and the light was still showing the effects of today’s Rocky Mountain sunrise. The conditions lingered long enough for me to capture both a close and a wide pano before the sun was too high in the sky to be able to capture the detail I was hoping for with this scene.

Cute little dark eyed junco

Eventually I continued my trek around the other side of the mountain and back to the trailhead. Along the way I encountered a flock of these curious little “dark eyed junco”, according to my phone app Merlin anyway. I was trying to get closer to them but every time I took a step the flock flew another 10 feet in front of me. I managed to snap a couple of images of these cute little fellows, this being my favorite one 🙂

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!

Sunrise on the Sangre

Sunrise on the Sangre

A Good Omen

Whenever I see a fox in the wild I think of it as a good omen 🙂 Not sure why but it just seems like life is a little better when I have an awesome wildlife encounter like this! We had a pretty good snowstorm yesterday so I was ready to jump in the truck at sunrise in the hope that I would experience a great opportunity for one of those magnificent “after the storm” panoramas on the Sangre de Cristo Range to my southwest.  As I rounded a couple of sharp curves on highway 67 it was becoming apparent that my trip out into the cold early morning sunlight was going to be richly rewarded!

Snowstorm on the Sangre

I was going to have to hustle though, already another storm was moving in and the scene was changing rapidly. I leapt out of the truck at the overlook, switched my camera to custom mode 2 which I had set up for rapid access to my favorite motion blur and panorama settings. C2 takes me directly to full manual, shutter speed at 160th of a second, aperture f8, and the ISO set to 100 in order to get a uniformly exposed series of images with good depth of field and low noise to work with in the automate function of Adobe Photoshop. I snapped off about 15 images to cover the entire range followed by a blank frame to mark the end of the series. Then I turned my attention to a few more intimate images of the individual peaks as I watched the storm clouds roll in over the picturesque range of towering mountains.

Red Fox HuntingThen off to a hike on my favorite trail to hopefully capture some elk or deer in the beautiful fresh fallen snow. As I cleared the top of the ridge much to my surprise I came almost face to face with this beautiful red fox happily chowing down on a freshly caught rodent of some sort, probably a mouse I imagine. Even more to my surprise the little fellow didn’t immediately run off! He just looked at me like he recognized me and kept on with his business. Eventually he strode toward me and walked right past me not four feet away! Too close to even get a shot, with my long lens and 1.4x teleconverter attached for long distance wildlife photography! He just slowly made his way over the ridge, back to his den with a full belly I suppose 🙂 I just stood there in disbelief at what I had just experienced. Most fox encounters I’ve had have been long range sightings, barely close enough to get an image large enough to display in my blog… much less a print quality closeup!

Red Fox Hunting

Eventually I resumed my trek through the winter wonderland on the summit of the mountain. I have to say I love the snowstorms, the times when I have the mountain completely to myself 🙂 Not much was stirring on the mountaintop this morning. Perhaps the wild creatures are all aware of the oncoming weather on the heels of the first storm, snug and warm in their nests and dens.

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!

Snowstorm on the Sangre

Disclaimer – This post is not sponsored and I have not received compensation from any of the products or equipment used in the creation of this post.

Alpenglow on the Sangre

Something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time… a panorama of the Sangre de Cristo at first light in the alpenglow. My original plan was a quick hike up Grouse Mountain to look for deer and elk, but as I drove past the overlook I noticed the amazing pink glow on the beautiful range named for the “Blood of Christ”.  I took several images in three sets to capture the entire range and I find myself happiest with the first set.

Alpenglow on the Sangre de Cristo

In blending the images to pano in Adobe Photoshop I noticed that the “auto” option doesn’t always work right. For this one the “perspective” option produced the best rendition.  I also noticed an odd effect prior to “flattening” the image, there was the appearance of the images looking like puzzle pieces.  At first I thought I had made a mistake in the shooting that might cause them not to stitch properly, but after a bit of research it appears that the effect was just an artifact of the many layers not displaying correctly. Once I flattened the image the stitching was perfect.

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!

Fools Errand

Snowstorm on the Sangre

One glance out my front window this morning was all it took to convince me that today was a day that was not to be experienced from indoors! The storm clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range were stunning and and the cold crisp mountain air needed to be experienced from the heights of alpine glory!

Coyote on the MountainI had just gotten started when I spotted a coyote hunting on the mountainside, too distant for a really good picture… So I determined that I should pursue him in an effort to get a better shot! He already knew of my presence so a direct approach was not going to work. It looked like the best idea was the long way around the mountain, out of the sight of the wary canine with a stealthy approach back down from the summit. A stiff icy wind was blowing in my face so I had high hopes that he would neither hear nor smell my approach.

Coyote on the Mountain

Sounded good on paper… until I went into oxygen debt trying to scale the steep mountain in overdrive 😦 Finally at the top I stood gasping for air looking around for the stealthy beast. For a brief moment it appeared my plan was successful, there he was no more than 30 yards away, staring out at me from the safety of the tall grass. I had cleared the summit ready to snap a picture… or so I thought 😦 The wily coyote had spotted me the instant I spotted him and as soon as I raised the camera he disappeared into the mountain grass like a ghost 😦

I knew in my heart he was gone, but I wandered over to the hillside anyway to see if I might catch a glimpse of him on his way back to the thick brush he calls home. Of course I was fully aware I was on a fools errand at that point, once a coyote decides to vanish there is little hope of seeing him again.

Snowstorm on the Sangre de Cristo

So I continued my trek over the summit to the edge of the west side where there would be a spectacular view of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range with it’s brand new mantle of white. I can only imagine the horrendous winds that were propelling these amazing clouds and blowing snow.

I didn’t get the hero shot of the coyote but I am happy to have at least a small prize to commemorate the sighting. Also got some great exercise, fresh air and some great shots of the mountains after our latest winter storm 🙂

Snowstorm on the Sangre de Cristo

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!

Coyote on the Mountain

Panorama of a Storm

The skies have cleared and the warm Colorado sun is shining on the freshly snow capped mountains once again. I decided to try and get out for pictures and a nice snow shoe trek… which turned out to be no easy task. I quickly discovered that my windshield scraper had met a cruel fate sometime in the last couple of days so I was reduced to trying to scrape with only a piece of the blade 😦 Eventually the defroster kicked in and I was able to get out of the driveway.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre

The roads in town weren’t too bad and I was quickly on my way to the trailhead. However the highway was extremely icy and even though I spotted an amazing looking herd of elk I dared not stop for fear of being unable to get going up the hill again 😦 As I passed by the overlook I noted that it had been plowed and was easily accessible if I were so inclined.

Unfortunately the parking lot at the trailhead was not plowed and as I pulled in I could feel my tires slipping and spinning on the icy snowy mess so I just kept going so I wouldn’t get stuck. I barely made it back out to the entrance so I ran the stop sign and continued back towards town.

The conditions weren’t that great for photography, lots of haze lingering in the air obscuring the complete bright white mantle of fresh snow on the Sangre de Cristo, but I decided to try my luck at the overlook anyway. I snapped a few of the magnificent range when it occurred to me that this might be a good day for a panorama 🙂 I set up the shots in manual mode, iso 100 with 160th of a second and f11 for good depth of field. The image combines 15 vertical exposures into a 120×20 inch full size image using thephotomerge feature in Adobe Photoshop. The sky wasn’t an even blue all the way across due to the bright sunlight on the middle of the scene, but I think it turned out halfway decent… What do you think?

Fresh Snow on the Sangre

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!

Hiking the Pony Gulch Trail

I’ve lived here three years, always looking for new trails to hike and I just recently found out about the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail only a couple miles from my house! It’s not well known and if a few people hadn’t commented on it in the Alltrails app I would have never found it.

Pony Gulch Trail

Turns out it’s a fairly difficult four mile trek in the remote mountains southwest of Cripple Creek. I was a bit doubtful of the description at first, calling for almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in such a short hike, especially since I know the area and could not imagine a 1000 foot mountain higher than what I can already see. Well, maybe there is a hidden peak back behind that I can’t see I wondered!

Well it didn’t take long to find out the how the elevation gain was going to be accomplished… the very first thing you do once clearing the first ridge is to descend about 750 feet to the bottom of the gulch! Once there you do a bit more climbing to reach the end of trail at the Pony Gulch Homestead in another mile or so.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

A dirt road leads to the trailhead, I recommend using the Alltrails GPS directions to find it, where you can see a jeep road heading up a hill leading to the southwest. At the top of the hill you will be able to see a couple of cairns, which is all you are going to see… There is no trail through the first part of the rugged BLM land.  Once again, turning on the GPS in your phone to lead you through the first half mile is a good idea. Once into the BLM area about a couple of hundred yards there is a noticeable four wheel drive road which goes the wrong way… don’t take it, veer to the right and look for the gulch. Once you find the gulch there are more cairns and a discernible trail to follow.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

The first three quarters of a mile or so is a steep decline down slippery scree in places, my trekking pole got a workout here! There is some nice scenery along this part of the trail, especially in the fall with beautiful golden aspen backed by rugged pine covered cliffs.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

Finally at the bottom of the incline the forest opens up to a nice view of the bottom where I imagine a creek flows in the spring. The trail winds down to the dry creek and crosses and earthen dam where the descent ends and a climb begins which takes you another mile to the summit and the Pony Gulch Homestead. The end of the trail is marked by an iron gate marking the entrance to a ranch on private property I presume.

Pony Gulch Trail in AutumnFrom there I climbed another hill of mostly big chunks of quartz nearby to get a view of the valley below and also the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see with all the smoke these days. I Found a nice place to sit and have some food and water and to rest up for the return trip. I put on my 24-105 with a polarizer and took a few pictures to mark the far end of the journey :) I also went down to the homestead to investigate and snap a few more pictures.

Pony Gulch Homestead Trail in Autumn

Finally the time came to begin the return trip… I checked my GPS to make sure I was headed the right way and it was a good thing I did since there was a forest service road that was more prominent than the actual trail back! A short adjustment in direction and I was on my way. After about a quarter of a mile I came to the southernmost cairn and strode on by… The GPS map showed me straying from the route again on a dotted line that looked like it should be the trail but more careful observation revealed that the cairn marked a left turn down a more faint forest road. So another slight adjustment in direction and I was making the short climb past the high point on the section south of the dam.

Soon I was back to the dam and the mile long climb back up to Lookout Point loomed before me. I have to admit, I took quite a few rest stops to catch my breath on the nearly 1000 foot climb in one mile! Eventually I made my way to the end of the  gulch and found myself in search of the cairns that lead the way through the bushwhacking section of the route. Once again, the Alltrails GPS directions come in handy 🙂

I highly recommend this trail to more experienced hikers in a little better physical condition than some. This is not an easy trail and should not be underestimated. I also recommend on this one to let someone know where you are going, it is a very lightly trafficked route and phone signal is iffy at best in the gulch. You might have a long wait for help if you were to twist an ankle or something.

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot along the trail. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my  hike plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Alpine Autumn

It was a beautiful morning above the treeline this morning, actually difficult to describe in words… Wonderful cool, calm and colorful experience, the kind  that makes me glad I live in the mountains. The trek

Young Buck and a His Doe

started out with a bang as a young buck and his mate galloped through the mountain grass about a quarter of a mile from me. I grabbed a couple of shots before they disappeared over the ridge and then looked around to see if I could figure out what they were running from.  I’m sure it wasn’t me as I was nowhere near, perhaps it was a coyote down in the valley below.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

I spotted a red-tail hawk in the tree tops about a quarter of a mile away, pretty close to the trail that I would be traversing near there. I set up my camera for a hawk in flight and hoped he wouldn’t take flight before I could get there. No luck there,  I looked up every once in a while to see if he was still there and before I could get anywhere near him he disappeared into the smokey morning mist while my eyes were on the trail.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

After that there were no more animals to be found, just a few colorful aspen trees in their lonely stand against the harsh high country existence. I found the starkness of the moment compelling as I spotted image after image in the distance… some dead aspen in the foreground against a colorful grove below in the valley. Another small aspen stand with the rugged peaks of the Pike National Forest in the background.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

Eventually my hike came to an end and I had to decide whether to continue my drive in search of more color, or to just call it a morning. It occurred to me that I still needed to scout out the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail on the other side of Cripple Creek so I drove on over there while scanning the tree tops and hillsides for hawks and deer. The GPS took me on a dirt road that I have not yet explored and up a steep hill that I’m not sure will be passable in the wintertime without a 4×4…

Autumn Gold Above TreelineI located the trail head and hiked back in about a quarter of a mile to assure that the Alltrails GPS route matched the path that appeared before me. As I strode along the unfamiliar route, the welcome sight of a series of cairns appeared before me. Others have mapped out the path and left the trail guides for those who would follow 🙂

Anyway, it was a great morning and these pictures turned out even better than I had hoped!

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Smokey Autumn

A quick check of the weather forecast this morning dictated what I might be able to accomplish. Smoke from all the fires is everywhere but today the report particularly called out the valleys for air quality concerns. I was

Fall Colors in the Rockies

thinking of making my first outing since my return from Rocky a trip to Eleven Mile but with all the smoke I decided I’d be better off visiting a peak rather than a valley.

So I decided upon my usual trailhead in hopes of spotting a few deer and maybe even some elk. In the absence of those I figured I’d see some nice aspen trees changing color and maybe even the hawk or some other birds. Unfortunately a guy with a Vesper Sparrow in the Morningdog beat me to the trailhead so there were no big animals to be found and the hawks were in hiding as well.

But the trees were pretty and I was visited by a couple of cute little vesper sparrows at trail’s end. I took a drive up to Victor Pass to see if the colors have changed on Pikes Peak, but there was too much smoke in the sky to see the state of colors on the peak.

These were my  favorite pictures of the half dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Fall Colors in the Rockies

Emerald Lake Bucket List

First day back from my three day photography trip to Rocky Mountain National Park… I scarcely know where to begin, three days, two parks on the journey up to Rocky plus two mornings and two evenings with the elk, a long beautiful hike, a drive over Trail Ridge Road and another evening with some elk on the west side of the park and over 1,600 pictures. There is just no way to cover it all in one blog post!

Portrrait at Emerald Lake

So I guess I’ll just start with my favorite part… the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Many times I have visited Bear Lake through the years, and each time I have stared longingly at the rugged peaks to the south of the lake. I always try to get a decent picture of them from Bear Lake, but when you use a wide angle to get the beautiful lake in, the peaks in the background are unacceptably diminished.

But on this trip we decided to take the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes, about a four mile round trip trek. The 1.1 mile hike to Dream Lake was pretty easy, except for the relentless incline. My hopes were high as we approached the lake that I would finally have an unimpeded view of the rugged peaks that I could see

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

from the parking lot. But it was not to be… however this lake with it’s placid water and lily pads was a dream just as the name indicates! We took a break there to shoot some pictures and rest up for the even steeper and rockier eight tenths of a mile remaining to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As we neared our next destination the magnificent peaks came into view and my hopes were rising that we were going to see something special! Finally we drew near to the beautiful alpine lake and it was then that I realized that my long time dream was about to be realized 🙂 From the lake there is an incredible view of the rugged terrain above the lake. We of course had to stop there and make sure the amazing scene was adequately captured and we also decided to shoot a couple portraits of each other to mark the occasion 🙂

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I highly recommend this hike which begins at the Bear Lake trailhead… I may decide to return at a different time of day other than high noon to see if I can get a more dramatic image of this amazing alpine lake in better light, but for now, this is truly a bucket list item checked!

In the coming days I will be publishing more blog posts, pictures and at least one video for my YouTube Channel! Be sure to follow my blog and subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss anything!

For your enjoyment I have created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!