Brown’s Canyon National Monument

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is another one of Colorado’s hidden gems… almost too well hidden! I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, ever since I missed the day of hiking with the Sierra Club. Well I finally did it πŸ™‚ I was in the area photographing rafters on the Arkansas until finally I found myself in Salida. What the heck, the park is just on the other side of Salida so I consulted my phone for directions and headed up 291 in search of the entrance… piece of cake πŸ™‚

Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon National Monument

Not a piece of cake. You would think that being a national monument there would be huge signs everywhere. But no… no signs anywhere 😦 Totally passed it by, drove all the way up 291 until I finally hit Johnson Village and had to turn back around. At that point I decided to let my GPS guide me in and managed to find the place, County Road 191 to the east from 291 will take you right in… after a couple of miles on a curvy dirt road over a ridge. When you finally do get there you will be greeted by a big sign with some of those fee envelopes and a $8.00 per day use fee. So I paid my fee, dropped the envelope in the box and went on in.

There is a large parking area and a campground along the Arkansas River where the

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rafting companies were all ready to pick up rafters. I grabbed my camera and trusty trekking pole and headed down a trail along the river towards the south. The original plan was to mountain bike back in but it didn’t take long to ascertain that the trail was above my meager riding skill level so I just hoofed it in a ways. The trail and the river are amazing and the area is vast. I imagine you could easily hike for days and not see it all.

 

By this time it was really hot and dry and I was not at all prepared for a long hike so I just turned around and vowed to hike up the other direction for a while but quickly abandoned that idea too and chalked the whole visit up to a successful scouting mission for a longer visit on another more prepared day.

On my way back through Salida the Soulcraft Brewery looked like the perfect answer to my parched throat and worthy of a stop πŸ™‚ Tried the Dopple Bock brew and it was delicious. Being short of time I didn’t try any food, and didn’t really see anyone else eating either. I assume they have food there, but would have to be something for another day as well.

Cute Doe Mule DeerWas hoping to photograph some more rafters along the Arkansas on my return trip, but by the time I was passing by again the rafting was all over for the day. Nothing but the long drive home to look forward to at this point.

If you are a fly fisherman the trail along the river is an awesome place to visit! For hiking though, I’m not so sure. There are no high peaks to scale and except for along the river it appears that there are a lot of miles of parched land to explore. It appears to me that the Continental Divide Trail passes through there on it’s way to the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista and there are miles of fun to be had for moderately skilled mountain bikers and a lot of rocky cliffs for rock climbers to hone their skills on! And I didn’t see many in the heat of the day, but I imagine there would be a ton of wildlife to photograph early in the morning.

 

 

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Whitewater and a 10 Stop ND Filter

Borrowed a 10 stop ND filter from a buddy for the weekend to shoot the whitewater of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon again. Set out early in hopes of finding a bounty of wildlife in the canyon before all the people arrived, but came up empty with that effort 😦 The plan was to drive all the way to the end of the canyon in search of wildlife and then try out the ND on the way back down.

Eleven Mile Canyon and the South Platte River

On the way up the canyon I scouted out a few good spots where I thought an ND would work well and hit each one along the return trip. I will say this, using a 10 stop requires a lot of concentration! Fortunately I downloaded a neat little app for my phone the night before called simply “Exposure Calculator”.Β  To use it I just set my camera to A mode at f8 and ISO 100 to get an exposure readingΒ  and plugged that info into the app as theΒ  base exposure. Then for the new exposure I plugged in the same data and selected 10 as the ND factor and wala, the app gives me my new shutter speed πŸ™‚

I forgot my cable release so in order to successfully execute a long exposure I set my drive mode to two second timer, camera to maunal exposure mode and lens to manual focus at the same focal length and focus as the shot prior to installing the 10 stop. I also switched over to live view mode to lock up the mirror and then took the shots. Playback showed that I indeed got the correct exposure and I could see that the water was smoothed out as expected πŸ™‚

Satisfied that I had captured the scene,Β  I returned the camera to all the normal modes and continued down the river. Then of course I

Eleven Mile Canyon

repeated this entire process at each location, getting both motion blur and regular images of each spot. Very time consuming and the big dog didn’t appreciate all the standing around the tripod one bit 😦 Don’t think I would have the patience to do this all the time like I see some photographers on YouTube doing. But I do really like these two images and may actually get myself a 10 stop someday!

Of course these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.Β  Tons of cool gift, household and tech items are also available with a picture, including, apparel, coffee mugs, phone battery chargers, phone cases,Β  blankets and more! Just click the link to visit the site!

Adventure at the Royal Gorge

This was supposed to be a mountain bike adventure along the River Walk Trail in Canon City… and it was for a while, at least until the trail soon became Ditch Walk Trail. I was intending to ride up the river until I found something interesting, but the ride only lasted about a mile before it turned away from the river and up a drainage ditch before dead ending at the college. So I just turned around and rode back to the truck. Tried to think of other things I could do, but already too much time had been wasted so I just headed for home.

Royal Gorge Colorado

As I climbed the hill out of Canon I saw the sign for the Royal Gorge… What the heck, might as well drive back in there and see what I could see was my thought. So I turned left and took the windey paved road back to the gorge. Noticed a small parking lot at a trailhead for some mountain bike trails but pressed on. I wanted to see the gorge, have been in Colorado over 30 years and have never been. Also noticed an interesting dirt road to the left, something about a picnic area and overlook. But again I pressed on to the visitor center figuring that’s where the best experience might be.

Finally there… parked and walked to the visitor center hoping there would be some kind of observation deck, but no… just a bunch of souvenirs that I can’t afford. Looked all around there for a view but there wasn’t much. All I could see was the other side of the canyon wall, no way to look down without paying for the gondola ride or a trip across the bridge.

Well there was still the overlook and picnic area so I got back in the truck and headed for

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

the dirt road. The road wasn’t bad, a few bumps and twists and turns but nothing that couldn’t be handled by any passenger car. Some of the picnic areas were full so I didn’t find a parking place until almost the end, which as luck would have it is where the overlook actually is located. Not only was there an overlook, but a whole trail system surrounded the area. Some visitors were getting out mountain bikes to ride on a trail that would at times come uncomfortably close to the 1000 foot or more drop off the edge into the river. Not for me! In fact after a short distance I went back for my trekking pole! The area is filled with cactus and I had no desire to face plant one one of those devils, plus I was feeling extra clumsy today 😦

I was expecting to see only canyon and river on this outing, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some excellent views of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo across the canyon in the distance πŸ™‚ Storm clouds were already forming over the majestic peaks and it was an amazing scene to be sure πŸ™‚ Finally, satisfied that I had seen all there was to see I loaded up the camera and headed for home. Thought of going back into town for a micro brew at a new place called the Worlds End Brewing Company but already too much time had been spent. I was tired and ready for the drive home.

Probably won’t go back there, although maybe sometime the train ride might be fun… but not on one of my usual solo adventures. That doesn’t seem like a solo activity. Well as always these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets plus tons of cool gift, household and tech items! My site has been redesigned and might bear some explaining. There is a row of buttons near the top of the landing screen where you can choose the type of product you are interested in. This then brings up a page with all of my collections, or galleries. These two images can be found by clicking “more collections” and then the “Colorado Rocky Mountains”. Or you can just look below the collections on the landing page where my most recent images are displayed.

Signs of Spring

Elk Herd in the High Country

Signs of Springtime in the Rockies were everywhere this morning… the sun was shining, the wicked sting of frozen air was absent, the snow is rapidly melting, birds were chirping and there were critters everywhere! We saw two different herds of mule deer, a herd of elk, a ton of those cute little Rocky Mountain Jays, and a coyote! Unfortunately the coyote saw us too and quickly disappeared into the trees before I could even lift up my camera. I’m sure he wanted nothing to do with Big Dog this morning.

Elk Herd in the High Country

It was a good hike, still a few places where there are hard packed snow drifts to negotiate but most of the trail is dry. I have to say, even I am finally tired of winter and content to put away the snowshoes for the season. It was a good long winter and IΒ  got to do more snowshoeing in one season than in the entire previous decade.

My big 400mm lens came in handy today as the critters are pretty wary as they first Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Springtimeventure out from the dense wilderness where they have been hiding all winter. The little jays were too quick for me though, even with the long lens they sensed my presence and would not sit still long enough for a portrait. It didn’t take the elk long to see me and head into wilderness either, but I did manage to get in a few very distant shots before they vanished.

Tomorrow the forecast is calling for snow showers and cold, but for today spring was upon us πŸ™‚

Mule Deer in the Rocky Mountain SpringtimeMule Deer in the Rocky Mountain Springtime

Splendor in the Gloom

Just a plain gloomy day from the start, not to say that is going to deter Big Dog from wanting a romp in the mountains! Wasn’t optimistic about getting any images this morning, but you never know when you are going to see an elk or a bear or mountain lion or something worthy of another shutter actuation. On the way to the trailhead I always glance over at the peaks to see what I am likely to encounter and it didn’t look promising on this day, just clouds and gray as far as the eye could see. If nothing else, I know I am going to have a great time just enjoying the solitude of the Colorado wilderness πŸ™‚

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

We have been getting a lot of melting these days so I took a chance and left the snowshoes behind. There are still a lot of deep drifts up in the higher elevations but there is enough bare ground to just walk around the drifts at this point. Better than putting on and taking off the shoes every five minutes.

Well, in the time it took us to scale the ridge the sun had poked through from somewhere. The sky was still gray overhead but the beautiful morning light shown on the Sangre de Cristo creating the magnificent splendor that this image conveys πŸ™‚ The Sangre de Cristo never disappoint!

This image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and cool gift items so check it out if you like! The Sangre de Cristo mountains have their own gallery if that is specifically what you are interested in!

Another Glimpse

Elk on the RidgeAnother glimpse… and that’s about all! The elk were back on top of the ridge but with all the racket my snowshoes were making on the crusty snow it didn’t take them long to notice I was there. So A couple of quick snaps of the camera were all I was able to capture before they drifted out of site into the dense Pike National Forest wilderness.

However all the recent heavy snow has left a beautiful mantle of white on the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountain range, well worth a stop for a couple more pictures. Spring is nearly upon us and there are 40 degree days ahead… I don’t think I’ll be snowshoeing much longer on this mountain, but it was a good winter. I got more of the exhilarating snowy treks in this year than I have in the last ten years put together!

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

 

After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!