Between Storms

Fresh powder is the best but it’s also great to go snowshoeing after a few days of melting and freezing. It’s a blast to effortlessly walk along the surface of the deep snow like it isn’t even there. Of course when you do fall through it’s not so much fun to get out but today was a great day on the snow just the same. We had a couple really nice days after the last cold snap and tonight another winter storm is already rolling in over the Sangre de Cristo Range which makes for a stunning photo op!

Between Storms on the Sangre

I was awake at sunrise and I could tell by my first glance through the front window that the Sangre were going to be putting on a real show this morning. It was tough to turn off the coffee pot and head out into the cold but it was well worth it! The individual peaks were stunning enough but the beauty of all of them together in a panorama are hard to even find words to describe!

Between Storms on the Sangre

It was cold and windy on the summit so I was glad that I had my camera settings for a panorama already programmed into the C1 custom button. It takes a minute to get all the settings ready from auto ISO to complete manual. To do a pano requires manual exposure mode and a static ISO to make sure that each frame matches the previous one. So now all I have to do is dial in C1 and adjust the shutter speed to get the exposure correct and then I’m ready for the entire series. One other trick I use is a blank frame before and after the series so that I know exactly which ones to include once I get into Photoshop.

There is a good chance it will be snowing hard in the morning so I’ll probably just stay inside.  When I lived near the wildlife refuge up in Parker, snowstorms were the best time to get out. The deer would let me just wander right into their herd but now the range is so big I never see any animals in the storms.

Between Storms 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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

The Snow is Getting Deep

Deep snow on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

I was surprised when I arrived at the trailhead this morning to find nothing but pristine unbroken snow for me to plow through with my snowshoes. It didn’t take long to discover why I was the first in a while to attempt the steep climb. Most people hiking in the area don’t use snowshoes or cross country skis and today the snow was far too deep for hiking boots. It looked like a few deer had been walking around on the mountain but for the most part it appears that any sensible creatures have abandoned the local peaks for more hospitable territory.

Deep snow on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

All signs indicate the elk herd has returned to the mountain as there were a lot of elk sized hoof prints leading from the grassy south side of the mountain where all the snow has blow away, around the mountain and into the forest. Hopefully I’ll get there early enough one day to see them and get pictures. I’ve seen them from a distance but haven’t been able to get any pictures since last fall when they departed the high ground for their winter shelter below.

The trip up the mountainside was tough but the trip back down the other side was even tougher! The snow was a good foot and a half deep on the backside of the mountain and at one point I managed to slip off the packed trail beneath the new snow, landing me face down in a deep drift… camera first. Eventually I struggled back to my feet where I was able to brush the snow off the camera and lens before any moisture was able to make it’s way past the weather seals to the inner workings. Now that I’m back home the camera is drying out with the batteries out and doors open just to make sure that there won’t be any moisture damage.

I was captivated by the ripples in the wind blown drifts so I tried a couple of shots to see if I could capture the texture. I think a wide angle from a very low perspective would have done a better job of capturing the scene, but unfortunately I didn’t have one along with me. Perhaps next time I’ll take my 24-105mm lens along instead of the long lens. Of course that will be the time I  see the elk herd! I don’t think I want to carry my whole pack, it was hard enough to keep my balance in the deep snow and to extricate myself from the depths after the fall!

Well anyway, I eventually made it to the bottom of the mountain and around to the south side where the snow isn’t as deep and other hikers have packed a trail. I have plans of snowshoeing the trail to the higher peaks this season, but for now my legs were really happy to be back at the truck! Next week we are due to add significantly to the snow pack, perhaps I’ll try that then!

 

Deep snow on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Storm clouds following a big Colorado winter snowstorm.

Jimmy the Bull, Star of the Rodeo

So I finally got the full 15 minute video of Jimmy the Bull fighting back uploaded! Watch from the start as he decides to go his own way and ends up exacting some serious punishment on his tormentors… In excruciating slow motion footage! The video also includes my favorite imagery of the day including bull fighting, calf roping, steer wrestling and more!

Highlights from Top of the World Rodeo

Just wanted to get a few of my favorite pictures of the day out before my eyes close! It was a great day in the high country, clear and warm but not too hot. Although I noticed quite a bit of awfully red skin… You have to be careful, at 9600 feet there is very little to stop the blazing Colorado sun and you will cook in a hurry without proper skin protection!

 

Six Seconds of Terror

Went to the Top of the World Rodeo in Cripple Creek today… not much of an effort as the event is about two blocks from my house…

I have hundreds of images to process and a fair amount of video, but I had to get this clip out right away! Jimmy the bull didn’t want to go back into the pen after his ride… When they finally got him back behind the gate he decided he didn’t want to stay… six seconds of terror ensued, watch to the end!

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Boot Review – Salomon Quest 4 3 GTX

I’ve been wearing these hiking boots for about a month now… Got them in Alamosa when we were down visiting the Sand Dunes and the Sandhill Crane refuges during an unexpected car maintenance break. Turns out they have a pretty nice Kristi Mountain Sports sporting goods store there right on Highway 160 close to the repair shop, so we decided to go in and kill a little time. I’m always in the market for a good pair of hiking boots so that’s the first place I went and the Salomon Quest 4 3 GTX caught my eye right away. And as you can see from the link, GearLab liked them too!

IMG_20210425_105038457Right off I discovered that the sizing was spot on. Usually I have to get a boot that’s a half to a full size larger in order to keep the toe box from squishing my toes together so I had the very helpful salesman bring me a size 11. I wanted to try a 10.5 but they didn’t happen to have that size in stock. So I gave the 11’s a try and after a short bit of walking in the store I could tell that they were just way too long. The salesman offered to bring me a size 10 so I thought what the heck, can’t hurt to try. Much to my surprise the size 10 fit like a glove. They fit my size 10 feet precisely and the generous toe box was wide at exactly the right point to avoid squishing my toes.

After a short walk I noticed that the sole was a bit stiffer than I’m used to but after a month of wearing them in the mountains I can attest to the fact that the extra support is a real blessing on rocky trails. These boots were comfortable with no hot spots right out of the box requiring no breaking in. That’s saying something since my left foot is fairly jacked up from a bad accident as a kid that causes no end of problems for my feet in a lot of hiking boot models.

I really like the extra long lacing system that smoothly cinches up comfortably with a single pull of the laces. The Gortex membrane holds up perfectly even when submerged in water. I recently had a chance to wade out into a shallow section of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon and even though the uppers were completely submerged, not one drop of water leaked through. Now of course if you wade into the deep water there is nothing to stop the boots from filling from the ankle opening.

The rugged outsole has excellent traction, carrying me up a steep and somewhat icy embankment where I like to observe my favorite osprey family. You can confidently feel the new Contagrip tread grabbing onto the terrain as you stride up even the most treacherous mountain conditions. I also find these hikers to be quite airy for such a formidable waterproof boot, providing comfort on even the warmest hikes.

I took these out for my longest hike of the season yesterday on the warmest day of the year, walking through rocky fields, snow, mud and even some ice. After several miles of these harsh conditions, plus steep ascents and descents my feet remained comfortable and blister free. Excellent stability prevented fatigue and exquisite construction provided uniform comfort over the entirety of my foot anatomy. All in all, I have to say… these are the best summer hikers I have ever owned, they are pure joy to wear! Salomon has certainly earned Gearlab’s highest honors for this shoe!

This blog post was not sponsored by Salomon or any other company. All gear used in the production of this post were purchase by me on my own volition.

Weathering the Storm

New YouTube video of my snowshoe hike in the howling wind and driving snow on top of Grouse Mountain Colorado. Wasn’t able to record audio on the mountain due to the tremendous winds but I hope you enjoy the beauty of such harsh conditions! My Ruggard rain cover performed admirably on my camera, very easy to use and provided excellent protection for the camera, especially for such a great price! Looks like my minor repair on my MSR snowshoes is holding after accidentally running over them with my truck last year 😦

Ground Blizzard

Neither the video nor this blog post was sponsored, all equipment used in the production were purchased on my own volition.

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!

Hiking to Hartenstein Lake

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As summer marches along and the much anticipated autumn season in the high country of Colorado draws near, I decided to take my 14er preparation to the next step. I’ve been hiking to the summit of Grouse Mountain this summer in my effort to achieve the physical conditioning required to climb a 14,000 plus foot mountain to add to my 14ers.com profile, but unfortunately this little mountain doesn’t come close to the rigors of climbing a 14er!

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A few years ago I took the Mount Yale fork from the Denny Creek Trail and checked off another 14er on my quest to complete as many of Colorado’s giant mountains as possible. On that climb I noticed another trail, labeled Brown’s Pass and Hartenstein Lake on the signage. In subsequent research I found a lot of people really enjoyed that hike and raved about the scenery and wildlife that they saw along the trail.  Since then I have wanted to return and hike that trail but one thing or another was always in the way and I have never been able to make it back.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Finally yesterday was the day, all the stars aligned and I returned to the trail head with fellow photographer and hiker Kevin. We arrived at the trailhead at sunrise and began the long steep ascent to the first stream crossing. Along the way we took the opportunity to take a couple of breaks to photograph the little waterfalls on Denny Creek along the way.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A couple of miles of rough rocky trail and several stream crossings later we arrived at the fork in the trail where the sign shows the lake and Brown’s Pass to the left. From there the trail steepened and we persevered westward towards the lake. The trail climbed higher and higher as Turner Peak to the right became smaller and smaller. Just when it looked like we were going to be required to climb Turner  the trail descended into a much more heavily wooded section and after about a half mile a bit of water came into view. Kevin remarked, “Is that the lake?”.  “I hope not!” I replied… We kept going and eventually a more significant body of water came into view.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Indeed we had found the lake, but by this time of year the water was quite low and surrounded by a marshy muddy shoreline. We made a couple of attempts to access water’s edge but it was just too soggy. Finally we decided to stay on the main trail which wound around to the west side of the lake where we were able to get down to the water with mighty Mount Yale in the background.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Although disappointed that there was no wildlife at the lake at this time, we stuck around to take a few pictures, Kevin shot some video footage of me coming up from the lake and we took a break to eat a granola bar and recover from the 1600 foot climb.

I highly recommend the trail for hikers in fairly good physical condition. Plan on three to five hours to complete the trail and bring plenty of liquids and nourishment for that length of time. There is a fairly big parking lot at the trailhead on the north side of the Cottonwood Pass road, you can’t miss it. However on a weekend you might want to arrive plenty early to assure a parking place. Bring rain gear as rainstorms occur on most afternoons in the mountains.

For your enjoyment I have created a short multimedia video for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!