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!

A Perfect Morning

Morning Mule Deer

I know we like our sunshine here in Colorado but sometimes some clouds and humidity are a welcome sight, especially for a photographer! It was a perfect morning, a slight breeze, cool and quiet, and rain clouds overhead providing just enough cover to soften the morning light for photography 🙂

Finch on a Perch

It wasn’t long before I spotted a pair of mule deer, buck and doe enjoying a break from the usual intense sunlight. Usually by this time of morning they would have retreated to shady areas under the tall pines of the Pike National Forest. Today however, the wary couple gave me a few minutes to photograph them before vanishing into the dense wilderness.

I continued my hike along the high meadow at the top of the mountain enjoying the sound of birds happily chirping out their approval of such a pleasant morning. I stopped and sat for a while on a flat rock hoping for an opportunity to capture a couple images of the furtive little creatures and fortunately they obliged 🙂 Not the best pictures, but I did manage to get a couple shots of what appear to be a couple of the finch variety.

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

Eleven Mile in Springtime

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

I’ve been wondering for a while if Eleven Mile Canyon was closed for the Corona Virus and today I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was a beautiful sunny morning in southern Colorado and it would be a splendid morning to spend along the pristine headwaters of the South Platte River if I were fortunate to find it open. As I neared the entrance my optimism was growing… no big nasty CLOSED signs in sight! I arrived before the attendant unfortunately because I only had a ten dollar bill to pay the seven dollar entrance fee. Oh well… an extra three dollar donation for the park is a small price to pay for such splendor.

Along with me were my heavy tripod and four stop ND filter, but the water wasn’t

Springtime in Eleven Mile Canyon

roaring as I expected so no long exposures with smooth water. There were some rapids, but not really anything worth getting out the four stop for. I drove slowly along the banks of the river looking for the most scenic spots but some of the best places were still in the shade and I was thinking that I would catch them on the return trip when the light was better. I explored some new locations and some new trails along with some fairly sketchy river bank access points. Saw some deer, some ducks a few geese and finally just as I was about to leave the park I spotted an eagles nest in the distance.

Bald eagle and her chick

This was  going to be worth a closer look so I parked Big Blue and attached the long lens to the camera to get a birds eye view… so to speak. Much to my surprise, there was a bald eagle on the nest with one chick occasionally popping his little head up to look around.  The nest was a long way away though so I knew I was going to have to exercise some extraordinary care if I was going to get any kind of a usable picture. First I attached the 1.4 lens extender and the 100-400 lens to the camera and placed them on the tripod. Once I had that equipment set up it became clear that I was also going to need my shutter release cable in order to avoid camera shake when pushing the shutter button.

I also decided to use Live View with the extra zoom capability to accomplish the best Bald Eagle Nestingpossible manual focus and to lock up the mirror to avoid even the slightest vibration from mirror slap. The mama eagle moved around in the nest a bit, looking in every direction, something I would not have really been able to see at the extreme distance I had to settle for. There was no way to get closer with the river flowing in front of me so this is the best I could do! I was hoping mama would take flight so I watched the action for about an hour before giving up. Obviously I do not have the patience of a successful birder 😦

As always, these images and more will be available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Also available with one of  the many pictures available on my site are tons of cool gift items including coffee mugs, t-shirts, stationary, blankets and pillows, tech gadgets including battery chargers and phone cases and much much more!

 

Distant Herd and Unrelated Rant

Distant Herd of Mule Deer

The sun was shining when I went to take the trash out this morning and warm rays streaming down upon my face tilted the scales towards another hike this morning. I was thinking about just going for a bike ride this afternoon but I know myself too well… If I don’t get moving before about 7:00 I can be pretty sure I’m not going to get going! I’m a morning person, always have been…

Well a few steps down the trail almost had me wishing I had stayed home! It wasn’t nearly as warm on the mountain as it was in my sheltered back yard and the wind was Distant Herd of Mule Deerjust whipping! Fortunately my jacket has a hood or I might have gotten frost bite on my ears. On the other hand, in wind like that I’m pretty sure any ideas of a bike ride would have been abandoned for sure.

Thought it was going to be a photography shut out until just as I was making the final turn to go back to the parking lot. As I scanned the terrain I spotted the mule deer herd in the distance, contentedly grazing on mountain grass. There was no way I was  going to get close to them though, you can see from the pictures that they were well aware of my presence at least 100 yards away!

Now I want to talk about something else that absolutely infuriated me yesterday. Late last light an article by the local online news site Out There Colorado alerted me to a policy enacted by Colorado Fish and Wildlife (CFW) mandating that starting in July a hunting or fishing license will be required to visit wildlife areas. Reasoning provided by CFW states “By policy, state wildlife areas are acquired with hunter and angler dollars, and are intended specifically to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties.”.

The policy alone infuriates me enough, but the comments following the piece were even more maddening, the bulk of which lauded the new policy because basically “hunters fund these areas” and hikers and climbers, photographers and tourists have no right to be there. First of all, how is a nature hike or wildlife photography or birding considered non-wildlife use of the land?

Secondly I am sick and tired of the BS spewed by hunters that they are the only ones who have a right to the land because they are the ones who pay for it. A quick check on the Colorado funding page indicates that only 34% of the state budget comes from passes, fees and permits, a figure which does not indicate how much of that 34% is comprised of hunting and fishing licenses versus entry fees, daily and weekly visitation permits, and commercial license fees paid by professional photography and film companies for special use. A full 34%, equaling the entire portion paid for by fees is funded by the Colorado state lottery and Great Outdoors Colorado. The Federal Government kicks in another 10% of the budget of which of course is funded by the U.S. taxpayer and the remaining 22% is funded by additional non-hunting resources.

If you consider only “wildlife management”, which is not defined by the Colorado funding site, 68% is funded by license fees and permits, which again is not itemized so that we can learn how much exactly hunters are actually paying. Incidentally, the Colorado Department of Education devotes half of it’s site to education about birding, hiking, climbing, camping, and wildlife watching without disturbing the animals. I  guess that half of the site will have to be eliminated in favor of only hunting and fishing if this decision is allowed to stand.

The entire premise that hunters pay for public wild lands stems from the North American Model mostly inspired by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from over hunting and development. One hundred years ago hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, camping and photography were not really a thing and were of course not given any consideration at the time. This article in the Mountain Lion Foundation  gives an indication of how much things have changed in over a century, stating that “94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public”. Another thoughtful article provided by WyoFile provides a similar figure, indicating that 95% of the funding for wildlife related agencies comes from the non-hunting public. This article from NPR cites a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife that reveals only 5% of Americans 16 and older actually hunt. Other studies, especially in areas like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, show just how much revenue the states and municipalities benefit from wildlife tourism, a figure that far exceeds the paltry sums collected by the states from hunters.

The idea that a miniscule 5% of the American populace should control the nation’s wildlife is a concept that has gone the way of the 19th century. It is well past time that the vast majority of nature loving Americans be given a voice in how our wildlife is preserved. Hopefully this egregious ruling will be quickly overturned in court and millions of Coloradoans and out of state visitors will be able to continue enjoying their land in their own way. If we continue to be denied a voice in decisions about our precious wildlife I urge you to make your voice heard at the ballot box. If our wildlife officials won’t listen, we need to vote in officials who will listen.

Wild Morning

Pair of cute mule deer

One of those mornings… I was up and ready to go by 6:00. After a couple of cups of coffee and some breakfast I tried to go back to sleep in my easy chair, my eyes certainly felt tired enough but it was not meant to be. I glanced out the window and I could see it was already getting light and that was it. Grabbed my camera bag and was off to the trailhead.

It was a cold foggy morning with ice freezing on the foliage and the sky spitting snow as I made my way up the steep mountainside to the summit. My mind wandered in the solitude of the cold and dense fog and I found myself thinking how cool it would be to see the deer or elk herd in this fog! Well as luck would have it I glanced back and there they were, my favorite little herd of deer grazing on the mountainside behind me as I was descending from the summit. And now after visiting them a few times over the last couple of weeks they just looked at me with some curiosity and went on with their eating. As they moved around I watched for them to from little groups so I could  get some nice portraits.

Herd of Mule Deer

Soon I was back to the trailhead and getting ready for the trip home when it came to me to go check the mines at Goldfield. Sometimes they can look quite mystical in a dense fog. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as I had hoped but I still got some nice pictures.

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal  or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items are also available including t-shirts, coffee mugs, blankets and pillows and much much more! Also be sure to visit and subscribe to my YouTube Channel!

Foggy Mines

Curious Herd

Cute Mule Deer Herd

The minute my eyes popped open this morning I knew that it was going to be a good day to go hiking. Cool crisp mountain air, clear skies and lots of sleep 🙂 It was barely light by the time I cleared the ridge but I could see the tell tale movement of their perpetually alert ears, my furry friends were on the mountain 🙂 They were a bit spread out and were on their way to greener pastures I suppose but fortunately I was able to snap off a few shots before they meandered deeper into the woods.

Today was going to be a test of my new custom functions setup so I was really happy to have seen the furtive critters. I have C1 set to aperture f8, auto ISO, +1 exposure compensation to limit noise causing low light… and a couple other things that slip my mind at the moment.  A quick check of the playback

Cute Mule Deer Herd

indicated that the camera had selected ISO 3200 but there was only enough light for a shutter speed of 360 so I was a bit concerned about camera shake at the 400mm of focal length I was using to bring the beasties in close. The images looked pretty good on the playback screen though so I completed my hike in high spirits eager to get back to the computer and view them on the big monitor!

Well anyway, I think they do look pretty good for ISO 3200! One image I felt was good enough to put on my website so that one is now available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.  Tons of cool gift items and handy household goods are also available including Covid masks, coffee mugs, stationary, beach towels, blankets and pillows and much much more! I didn’t catch this on video, but be sure to visit the bighorn sheep and elk from past hikes on my YouTube Channel! Don’t forget to subscribe if you like!

Cute Mule Deer Herd

 

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!

 

Unsocial Distancing

Elk Herd on the Mountain

Hit the trail for the first time since my surgery, observing my usual “unsocial distancing” practice. My rule of thumb for that is six miles rather than six feet, basically I’m annoyed if I see anyone at all 🙂

The climb up the ridge was not any easier than it was before I got all out of shape sitting around the house recovering, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath for sure! I thought for a minute I was going to have to turn around when I saw a giant snowdrift ahead but fortunately with all the freezing and thawing the snow was hard packed and easy to cross.

Elk Herd on the Mountain

The climb turned out to  be worth it though when I saw the elk herd 🙂 The lighting was horrible so I didn’t get the glory shot, but it sure was nice to be back in the great outdoors! And the frosting on the cake were my coyote friends who cut loose with a good coyote song for me while I hiked on past 🙂 you can hear the beautiful song in this short video on my YouTube channel! Please subscribe to my channel if you like, I need a few more to get my custom URL!

The hike started out in snow and fog but by the time I reached the summit the beautiful snow capped Sangre de Cristo were beginning to shine through 🙂

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

Chaos in the Canyon

Cold and dreary today, my bones ache so I can be pretty sure winter is returning to the high country tomorrow. That was definitely not the story yesterday though, it was nice enough in the mountains but it felt like summer in Waterton Canyon. Beautiful day for a mountain bike ride so even though I was running behind from my trip to Englewood Camera, there was no way I was going to miss out on that!

Beautiful Blue Water of the South Platte in the Rockies

On the mountain bike ride up the canyon I saw evidence of the bighorns, mainly in the form of rocks strewn all over the trail in a couple of prime spots but unfortunately I didn’t see any animals. Stopped on my way back down to try out my 4 stop ND filter on a particularly beautiful spot on the river. Got some nice pictures but the water is really not running fast enough at the moment to warrant a motion blur picture. The canyon walls were dark and would remain so until late afternoon, long after I intended to be on my way home.

Sometimes I like to ride hard on the way down but this day I just took up a leisurely pace

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

hoping to give the sheep time to come down from the mountaintops for a photo op. As I rounded a bend about three miles in I saw a small group of ewes and perhaps one young ram gathered by the river. I rode in just close enough to get set up without disturbing them and readied my gear. It was looking like my 28-105 would be the right lens for the situation, the big 400 mm was not going to be necessary with the critters right on the road and I was hoping to get a wide angle video of them at the stream getting their daily drink of water from the South Platte.

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

It all started out well, the sheep ventured down the riverbank to the beautiful pristine blue water of the headwaters of the Platte for their drinks and I moved over to a rocky outcropping in the stream for a good view. All was going well until some other hikers and a couple of horses appeared on the scene. The little herd ran back up the embankment onto the dirt road at the edge of the cliffs and began to feed on the grass and make their way to their

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

trail back up the mountainside. Finally they were out of range for the wide angle so I switched to the big 400mm lens.

As they were meandering up the hillside they dislodged a couple rocks which made quite a noise, scaring the horses who took off running in the other direction. The thundering hooves scared the sheep who then high tailed it to the top of the ledge, knocking a bunch more rocks down, which of course dislodged even more rocks in my direction. I wisely scampered to the opposite side of the road keeping a close eye on a few hefty threats rolling toward me in case I needed to dive out of the way!

Fly Fisherman in the South Platte River

Finally the chaos subsided, the horses stopped running and the sheep went back to eating. But they hadn’t forgotten… every animals was keeping a wary eye on those horses as their riders coaxed them back into their trek up the canyon. it did make for some interesting pictures, all the sheep lined up in a row at the top of the ledge 🙂

Eventually I packed up and headed back down the canyon. I knew there would be no more sheep so I pedaled hard to the trailhead for my long drive back to the mountains.

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items are also available with a beautiful mountain scene, including apparel, bedding and pillows, shower curtains, coffee mugs and tech gadgets including  battery chargers and phone cases!

I have also created a YouTube video on my channel for some HD footage of the action! Please subscribe if you like! I have a long way to go to get my first 100 subscribers so I can get my own custom URL!

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.