Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain 🙂 I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet 🙂 Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I could  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees 😦 Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse 🙂 it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years 🙂 I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade 🙂 I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

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!

 

Birds Eye View

I promised this bird’s eye view with the wide angle… and today was the day 🙂 I had other reasons for making this climb too… I wanted to see if I could find Mr. Hawk, the rough legged hawk I found up there the other day. There was a beautiful fog bank today so I was also thinking I might be able to get a neat wide angle of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

This time I was smart, in addition to packing the wide angle I also had the forethought to bring some fluids and energy bars 🙂 The initial climb to the top of the first ridge is pretty invigorating to say the least, but is often rewarded with a few shots of deer or elk at the top. Nothing today and no sign of Mr. Hawk either.

Beyond the high meadow is a patch of forest that I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years, the place where the elk go to vanish when I try to follow them. I’ve always wondered what it was like in there, I don’t see any sign of a real trail of any kind. I decided against going directly in there and chose a path around the edge as I climbed higher with the summit in mind.

Eventually I had two choices, the long way around the south end of the summit, or a short cut directly through part of the forest, I chose the short cut and finally after all these years I got to see inside the apparently impenetrable woods. It seems as though this forest has been untouched for a long time, many fallen trees lying all over the place making a direct path impossible. Don’t think I would want to be there in a windstorm, you might be the unlucky recipient of a large pine tree on top of your head 😦 I found a deer trail of sorts and followed it in and around all the dead foliage to the final approach to the summit.

From there it was just a short walk to my favorite vantage point, one that I had first

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

scouted out with my dog years ago. I found a good spot to take off my pack and sit in full view of the beauty before me. The dense fog of early morning had given way to a picturesque layer just beneath the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance. I just sat there for a while taking in the view, but mostly just feeling heartbroken that my four legged buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge some time back and wasn’t there to enjoy the conquest with me.

Eventually I summoned the strength and attached my 24-105 lens with a circular polarizer to cut through the residual morning haze. As it turned out the images looked the best with about a 50mm focal length, any wider and the Sangre were too insignificant to do the scene justice.

Rough Legged Hawk in the Rockies

I continued to look for Mr Hawk on the trek down the other side of the mountain, but he was nowhere to be seen on this day. In fact the landscapes that I shot at the summit are the only record of today’s hike.

As always, the best of these images 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!

Picture of the Day

Snowy Sangre de Cristo

While hiking the mountain on this cold gloomy morning I was inspired to try a new Facebook and LinkedIn advertising campaign, Picture of the Day. The campaign will be focused on my “Artist Choice” collection of images where I have placed my favorite pictures of all time 🙂 There are of course collections for every category of images I frequently shoot, for example wildlife, autumn and the Rocky Mountain Winter collections. So, each day I will be placing a link to the picture of the day on each of my social media sites! Hope you will stop in for a look, a like and a follow 🙂

As always, the best of these images 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 Limber Pines Trail

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

If you want beautiful views of Pikes Peak and a brisk three mile hike in the mountains, the Limber Pines / Ring the Peak loop in Catamount Ranch just west of Woodland Park, Colorado might be just the ticket. If you are planning to go on the weekend I recommend getting there early, probably well before 8:00 a.m. To get there take highway 24 west from Woodland Park and just at the top of the hill past the hospital start looking for Edlowe Road on the south side. From there take Edlowe Road all the way to the end where you will see a small parking lot.

To start the loop just head up the trail and a steep hill to the trail map sign and a fence. Go

North Catamount Reservoir

through the wide gate and you will find yourself on a trail that goes left and right. It is the Limber Pines trail that is the start of the 2.8 mile loop. If you go right you will be on a beautiful forest trail that switchbacks down to the dirt road that is the Ring the Peak trail. Be sure to look towards the east for views of Pikes Peak as you make your descent towards the reservoir. Y

Take a left here and you will walk the road towards and the along North Catamount Reservoir where the road finally leaves the reservoir and begins a

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

long ascent up to the top of the ridge. There are some fantastic views of the peak and a beautiful mix of aspen and pine forest along the way. Finally you will find yourself near the top of the climb at which time you will want to be looking for a trail sign which marks the other end of the Limber Pines Trail. From there it is a short walk back to the gate where your hike began.

If you decide to go the other way, obviously you will be walking down the dirt Ring the Peak road past the reservoir where you will need to be looking for the trail sign and the ascent on the Limber Pines Trail back to the starting point. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to drink, the trail is only 2.8 miles but the ascents can be strenuous for those not acclimated to the elevation.

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…  when you see that white line pass under your feet.  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else 😦 It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top of  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike 🙂

Suddenly Spring

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

Last week in the high country of Colorado we were contending with blizzard conditions and temperatures that had plummeted well below the zero degree mark. A couple of days ago several inches of snow fell  in the night on top of last week’s melting snow, turning the entire region into a skating rink, I saw the aftermath including cars buried in the deep snow down the embankments on either side of Highway 67 when I had to drive into town for supplies. However, the view of the mountains as the storm clouds were receding was simply spectacular!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

I love it when the storm clouds, wind and blowing snow pour over the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range to the southwest making my job as a photographer so easy! Braving the wind and the cold aren’t so pleasant but having the chance to photograph such splendor sometimes feels like such an incredible honor.

Today however is an entirely different story, the sun is shining, snow and ice are melting and temperatures will soar into the 40’s for the next few days. Such as it is in Colorado, just when it starts to seem like winter is never going to end, suddenly and without warning spring arrives and for a time it is like winter never was. Of course until about the middle of June we have to keep in mind that winter can rudely reappear at any time with a vengeance!

As always  these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website and don’t forget to visit my latest YouTube video to see the elk herd in the deep snows of the high country! Please subscribe to my channel if you like what you see, I still need quite a few subscribers in order to get my custom #swkrullimaging URL that is so important when the time comes to set up my commercial options!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

Gathering Storm

Approaching Storm on the Sangre de Cristo

As I looked out the window down the valley this morning it quickly became apparent that a change in the weather is afoot. The first evidence of an approaching storm often shows itself on the high peaks of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountain range to the southwest.

So of course I grabbed my camera and headed for higher ground in hopes of capturing the show before the mountains were completely obscured. My efforts paid off as I caught the action at it’s most dramatic point 🙂 The days ahead will tell whether the storm works it’s way north or if the massive block fault range stops it in it’s tracks.

As always these pictures and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift items including coffee mugs, t-shirts, phone cases and much much more are also available!

Approaching Storm on the Sangre de Cristo

Plan B or Maybe C for 2020

Things definitely not going to plan for 2020 so far. Took vacation from work for the first couple of weeks of the year to get a head start on winter photography, maybe a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, a couple excursions to Waterton Canyon for mountain bike rides to see the bighorn sheep and perhaps a snowshoe trek at the Denny Creek Trail, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. And my local trail into the mountain back country is supposed to be reopening as well. Unfortunately on my first day off my truck has decided to start acting up and is in the truck hospital as of this morning. Hopefully it won’t be anything too serious and I will quickly be back in action!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

Not wanting to completely waste a day yesterday, I decided that since I might be without wheels for a few days maybe I’d  better give my mountain bike a little tune up to coincide with my New Year’s Resolution to get  back in shape! My last ride up Waterton Canyon was a struggle at  best, far more difficult than I thought it should be, worrying me that I have spent far too much time watching Youtube videos about mountain biking instead of actually mountain biking 😦 However the tune up proved to be quite successful especially the saddle adjustment that I completed. Turns out the seat was way too far back making it extremely uncomfortable in addition to placing my legs completely out of the power leverage angle. A short test ride with the new placement proved two things, one, I’m not in as poor of physical shape as I feared… and two, I’m going to need to be in a lot better shape than I am in order to do the things I have planned for this year!

So plan B today was going to be a mountain bike ride to my local trailhead for a ride up the new road they have built to the summit. At first I wasn’t too pleased to see the improvements, knowing that all the more people will be invading my sanctuary but now I’m thinking that with mountain biking as my new preferred form of exercise, the road may come in handy 🙂

But it only took one step out the door this morning to see a problem with plan B… it is unexpectedly frigid out today! It’s cold and grey and there is a wicked wind blowing out of the north 😦 Perhaps it will warm up a bit later today making for better riding conditions… or perhaps plan C will be enacted to spend just one more day working out with my weights inside and a little bit of time at the computer before beginning in earnest the work towards my New Year’s Resolution!

Another Stellar Mountain Morning

Not much to say other than stunning… I feel so blessed to live in view of the jaw dropping

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Rangesplendor of the  Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. One time I drove all the way down to Westcliffe to try to get a better view but it turns out that in this case, closer is not better! Of course many days the view is obscured by smoke and haze but most of the time the rugged range is putting on a pretty good show. For this image I used my my Canon 100-400L glass with circular polarizer on full effect to achieve this crystal clear scene. I love the clouds hanging over the range like a halo and almost a mirror image of the snow on the foothills below!

Now the view is gone as our next winter storm moves in, I can’t see the mountains at all. But there is a silver lining, there will be another amazing show after the snow is done falling 🙂

Anyway, this is my favorite one of the day, hope you enjoy it! Feel free to follow my #swkrull instagram page to see the rest of the ones I got processed today, along with a few more of the bighorn sheep from Christmas Day 🙂

As always, this image is available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing, just click the link to explore!

Merry Christmas from Colorado

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range

Every morning I look down the valley at the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Range to see how my day in photography is going to shape up. Most days there is enough haze to pretty much obscure the view and prevent any decent mountain photography. Today however, the view was stunning! So I grabbed my camera and headed to my favorite vantage point 🙂

So anyway not much else to say about it,  I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas from this beautiful Christmas Eve Day with a stunning view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

As always, these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing!

Stunning Sangre de Cristo Range