Bucket List Gold Camp Road

Gold Camp Road Scenery

Well I finally did it… I drove the length of Gold Camp Road from Victor to Colorado Springs, something I have always wanted to do but never quite worked up the nerve to actually do! I wasn’t planning on it… The plan was to test out the GPS on the phone by driving in a couple of miles to Almagre Mountain and hike a couple miles to the summit for some exercise. The GPS worked splendidly, taking me not a couple of miles, but five miles to a turn off and then three more on a rugged forest road to an unmarked turnout, at which time it told me I had “arrived at my destination”. There were no trail markings, no real hiking trail, just an ugly jeep road heading right up the side of the mountain 😦

Rugged Gold Camp Road Colorado

Pretty soon another four wheeler pulled up and saw me looking up the mountain and asked me skeptically I might add, if my truck had 4wd. No, I replied… my plan was to hike the short route on foot to the summit. Looking relieved he responded, well it’s about two miles up this jeep road to another jeep road at which time you turn left to another jeep road and it will take you to the summit. Apparently there is another trailhead up yet another jeep road a couple of miles up Gold Camp that is supposed to be shorter but I wasn’t able to locate that route. Having already climbed Grouse Mountain earlier in the day I decided to abandon that plan and head for home…

Gold Camp Road

However once I got back to Gold Camp Road I got to thinking it might be fun to check off that bucket list item and complete the drive down to Colorado Springs. So I turned the old Dodge left and went for broke. Lol… now for my description of Gold Camp Road… It is a stupendously bad washboard riddled, pothole filled, rocky, curvy narrow road traveling through numerous single lane sections between rocky walls that don’t always stay in place and some allegedly haunted tunnels. Several times I had to maneuver around minor cave ins, large rocks in the road and huge holes. My truck was rattling, my teeth were rattling and everything passing by in the other direction was rattling! And that was the good part… when I got closer to the Springs the ride got steeper, rockier, and even more filled with holes!

Gold Camp Road Scenery

That being said though, the scenery was spectacular, especially the steep part near the Springs. There were a few places where it was possible to look back on the rugged mountains of the Pike National Forest and even though it was mid day by then some of my pictures are kind of nice, at least I think so anyway 🙂 Also the road is lined with aspen groves from end to end so I would highly recommend this route to autumn leaf seekers! I think the colors will be spectacular in late September and early October this year!

Finally I arrived at the end of the dirt road and wound the rest of my way down to the city on the paved portion of Old Stage Road, which I think is what Gold Camp used to be called. According to Westside Pioneer Online, the road has a rich old west history with it’s beginnings as a railway to transport gold ore between Cripple Creek and Midland. Now it popular with four wheelers and ATV enthusiasts and I also saw a few mountain bikers negotiating the steep ascent from Colorado Springs.

Don’t think I’ll need to make that trip again, unless maybe I finally get the jeep that I have been wanting my entire life… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story! As always a couple of these images are available for purchase as wall art and gift items on my website! The traffic and the heat down in the city were horrendous so I think I’ll just sit out the rest of the holiday weekend and wait for the tourists to go home. Next week when the mountains aren’t so crowded I may visit Waterton Canyon again and I have hopes of hiking to Continental Falls near Breck 🙂 Stay tuned!

 

Advertisements

Farewell My Friend

He was my best friend… He went with me everywhere, pretty much anything I did, I did it because of the pure joy I received from the great enthusiasm he had for life and nature and all that could be discovered in the great outdoors. I met him full grown in 2016 and it wasn’t long before we became inseparable. He was the smartest dog I have ever known and it wasn’t long before he figured out that our main goal on all of our excursions, whether it was a hike or just a ride in the truck, was to find wildlife. As we drove along the mountain roads his eyes would scan the hillsides and ridge lines looking for deer and elk. When he finally spotted something he would let me know by pointing and woofing. Out on the trail his nose was in constant motion, his ears eventually alerting me to the presence of wildlife long before my human senses had any hope of detecting them. At the end of our treks we would go to the grocery store and get a ham, egg and cheese sandwich that I would bring out to the truck to eat. I would give him a puppy treat while I ate my breakfast and he would wait patiently and expectantly for the last bite of my sandwich. By day he was at my side, by night he slept at the foot of my bed. His snoring put me to sleep at night and his whining to go outside would awake me in the morning. He asked for nothing other than to be at my side wherever I went and when we got home from our travels he would lick me on the cheek to show his gratitude as I reached for his leash to hook him up to his run in the back yard.

Son Boy waiting in the truck

Now, suddenly and without warning he is gone. Struck down in the prime of his life by complications from his Lupus Medicine. Monday began like any other day with a long hike in the woods. Monday afternoon he ate his food and a few hours later he was gone.

My heart is broken, I can’t seem to do anything because everything I try to do just reminds me of him and without him there is no joy in anything. I’m sure in time I will find the strength to go on, I always do. But for now I mourn with no desire to do anything so you all will probably not be hearing much from me for a while. My camera lies dormant in the corner along with my hiking boots, out of sight so that they cannot remind me of him. Without his hopeful eager eyes to spur me to action I have little incentive to reach for them.

Sooner or later my heart will once again yearn for the snap of the camera shutter, the sight of God’s creatures peering out from the woods at me and the smell of pine in the crisp Colorado mountain air. Eventually I will answer the call of the wild, but for now it just doesn’t seem worth going on.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he is running free in the tall trees on the other side of Rainbow Bridge where he will meet me some day and we can resume our adventures in eternity.

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

 

 

 

 

Storm Chasing Debut

Tornado watch in parts of the state, flash flood advisories, hail and torrential rain… all in the forecast. I had the day off on Thursday and I could already see the storm clouds billowing into the sky to the west. Looked like it was going to be a great day to get some storm pictures so I consulted the weather charts to find the most likely viewing opportunities. I was hoping the storms would come right up from the Arkansas River Valley where I would get a good view from all my favorite overlooks… but no such luck. Pikes Peak is so massive that it often creates it’s own weather, and even more often it shapes the weather as it pleases. On this day it appeared that the big mountain would split the storm with the worst of the activity streaming towards the north over Woodland Park and on into Colorado Springs.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds

There have been reports of bighorn sheep activity along highway 67 so what the heck, I might be able to get some wildlife pictures and storm pictures on one trip.. so I loaded up my gear and headed over the pass. Unfortunately there were no sheep but it wasn’t long before I was in a major downpour! Obviously being in the midst of the storm is not the optimal photographic scenario so I pressed on to Divide thinking that the park on top of the hill might be a great place to see the storm development in all directions. Well I could definitely see in all directions but the best part of the storm was still right over me with no good views of the thunderheads in any direction. Bummer… well I thought, maybe Pikes Peak will have some interesting activity to view from the mountainsides in Woodland Park. Needed to stop there for supplies anyway so off to Woodland Park we went.

The big peak was putting on a pretty good show so me and the big dog climbed the ridge on the north side of Ute Pass and we got a few nice shots from there. We also saw some deer but were not able to get into position for any decent pictures, the underbrush is just so thick and lush due to all the rain this year. It almost looks like a rain forest like Oregon or Washington! So a few shots of clouds streaming over the massive mountain were all that we were going to get on this day.

On the return trip I could see storm activity all around but no matter where I went… there were trees in the way, or a hill or a mountain or the edge of a cliff with no place to park.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds Finally I thought I might be able to see from the top of the gold mine… but there was still the rest of the mountain to the north in the way of the best view. A quick trip down to Victor Pass from there provided a somewhat anticlimactic view of the remnants of the days storm on the south face of Pikes Peak, but overall the whole day  was a major disappointment.

I guess the lesson learned from this story is that storm chasing in the mountains might be a losing proposition… Colorado is not like Kansas where there is a uniform network of farm roads that allow you to get anywhere you want to go in a hurry. We have long winding roads with mountains in the way everywhere! I did get a tip though that might prove useful in the future. Apparently there was a good view from the one place I didn’t go, the high plateau traversed by Teller County Road 1. I’ll give that a shot next time.

As always these pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, tech gadgets, apparel and household items are also available with a beautiful mountain scenery by S.W. Krull Imaging.

Over the Hump

Read an interesting factoid the other day… Apparently August 2nd is a significant day in Colorado, it is the day that marks the beginning of the rapid falloff in temperatures in the slide towards fall and winter. The chart below from the U.S. Climate Data site shows in dramatic visual form the steep curve of change in temperature and precipitation as the heat of summer loses it’s edge to the receding light of the sun.

And to me that means I am over the hump of my most Screenshot_2019-08-04 Climate Colorado - temperature, rainfall and averagedifficult time of year 🙂 For a landscape photographer, the harsh direct overhead light of the summer sun is death to an image. The bright sun drains out all the color and shadow that can make an image compelling. For a Colorado wildlife photographer, stifling heat by 8:00 a.m. means all the animals are lying down in the shade in the dense pine forest well out of view. Sunrise at 5:00 a.m. means a 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. start to the day if you want to catch the best light, a difficult goal when you are up until 12:30 trying to make a living the night before. For Big Dog, the heat of the summer sun shining through the truck window means he has to stay home a lot more often, and without my hiking buddy along my weekend excursions a lot less enjoyable.

Here in Cripple Creek it was a beautiful cool morning, the birds are chirping happily and

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

the Teller County Fair is over, the legion of trucks and campers are pulling out and making their way home. I’m tired today, the sun is already shining brightly and I think I’ll take a day off from hiking and shooting to just sit here and enjoy the peace that the end of the hustle and bustle of summer brings with my favorite time of year just around the corner. Autumn… and I have wisely scheduled two weeks off so that I can make the most of it 🙂 Teller County has some of the best aspen color viewing in the state and this year I will be able to enjoy the Fall Color Festival, something I bitterly missed last year because I was working through the entire thing.

By autumn the sun has traveled significantly to the south, it’s low profile in the sky creating a much more friendly lighting scenario for photography. The leaves of the great aspen stands will be in full glory and the crisp clear mountain air sets an inviting stage for hiking and mountain biking in the back country.  The animals will emerge from the dark of the forest, the elk, deer and bighorn sheep in full glory for the autumn rut and the bears all out in their determined search for enough calories to nourish them throughout the long Rocky Mountain winter.

So today I rest in the knowledge that I am over the summer hump, my mind turning toward the joy of autumn, my laptop trained on topo maps of the great Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Ahhhh….

Crystal Creek Autumn

 

Dumb Mistake

Whitewater in Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River

Me and the big dog went out again this morning in search of the beautiful buck mule deer that we’ve been seeing on the trail… We didn’t see the bucks but there was a nice looking elk cow meandering across the meadow that was visible when we reached the summit of our little mountain. My camera was ready to go… or so I thought, so I zoomed in and snapped the shutter. The usual satisfying mirror slap and shutter click sounded a bit off but I paid it no mind and captured a few more before she disappeared into the dense wilderness of the Pike National Forest.

Eventually our trek was complete and we found ourselves back at the parking lot where Whitewater on the South Plattte in Eleven Mile CanyonI gave Big Dog his drink and loaded ourselves back in the vehicle. As usual I made a quick check on the LCD screen of the day’s captures… First picture I looked at didn’t look too good, out of focus maybe? I always refocus a few times to make sure I get the shot so I checked another hoping to find at least one usable picture… no such luck, I stupidly didn’t check the mode wheel on the top of the camera and it was still set to Aperture Priority, which was still set for a long exposure of the river a couple of days before. Absolutely no chance of getting a sharp image of a moving elk at dawn with a 30th of a second shutter speed 😦 Nothing else to do but hit the reformat button on the memory chip and vow to do better next time.

That means I have nothing to work on today except the trip to Eleven Mile Canyon earlier this week. No wildlife to share today, but I do have a few more of the South Platte River whitewater for this blog!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift items, apparel and handy tech gadgets are also available… just click an image to see the options!

Whitewater in the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon

Eleven Mile Canyon Redux

Whitewater in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

Needed a close place to photograph today… Buddy Kevin had a day off coinciding with my day off but unfortunately I had a 1:00 dentist appointment which was going to cut our day short 😦 Kevin had never been to Eleven Mile and I was thinking I was not done shooting that place yet, so the Headwaters of the South Platte River it was! The idea was going to be another attempt with the 10 stop ND filter for motion blur whitewater.

We didn’t get in on the best pre0sunrise lighting but we had some pretty good success with a couple of very scenic sections of the river with

Pristine Blue Water of Eleven Mile Canyonwild whitewater scenes, along with some more traditional shots with a polarizer.  Not much more to say about the trip, but here are three of my favorites :) Funny though, the one shot through the trees was an afterthought, almost didn’t even bother to shoot it, which might be the lesson of the day… go with your first instinct when you see a scene! Over analyze it and you might miss a great photo op!

As always, these images and more are available as wall art on my website on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Tons of cool gift items are also available, including household, tech and apparel! Just click the images to bring up the options!

Whitewater in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Wildflowers

Once again the wildlife was all snoozing in the warm morning sun by the time the big dog and I hit the trail and I was kind of bummed that there was nothing to photograph. Lots to see of course, the smoky Sangre in the distance, a few cumulus clouds drifting past in the blazing blue sky… and a ton of wildflowers, all beautiful things to see but not so easy to make a compelling picture out of! Now I’m not a flower photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but they were really amazing this morning! I don’t have the right equipment for good flower photography, and I certainly don’t have the patience to set up light boxes and tie back stems so that they don’t blow in the wind.

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers

I tried just shooting the entire meadow which was carpeted in a huge variety of color, purple from the mountain bluebell, blue from the columbine, pink, yellow, white daisy looking plants…  I don’t even know what most of them are. The wide area view just didn’t do the scene justice, the flower petals are all so small that they just get lost in the green of the mountain grass in a photograph.

Finally I decided to just put the big lens back on and lay on my stomach in a particularly highly decorated area and just shoot into the flowers while focusing on the ones in front. This one is the closest I could get to conveying the beauty of the scene, hope you enjoy!. I only regret that I don’t see our state flower represented here… I’ll try to get the columbines on my next visit!