Lessons Learned

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

It was quite a summer of photography and I definitely had to up my game this season! For nearly four decades in Colorado I have enjoyed photographing our beautiful mountain landscapes, iconic wildlife including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk and even a few bear! I have been successful shooting all these subjects from the fully manual era to auto focus, early digital, and finally to these times of amazing technology that could barely be imagined when I first began this amazing journey with my Minolta X-700 35mm film camera.

Bald Eagle in Flight

My first digital camera was the original Canon 1D. The camera was so intuitive and amazing that I never even bothered to learn how to use it’s advanced focusing system. The camera was so good at finding the subjects I was interested in that I didn’t even need to learn any more about it beyond it’s most basic settings. Unfortunately that camera had only a 4.5 megapixel sensor and quickly became obsolete as camera technology exploded at light speed.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

By the time the Canon 40D was introduced I was doing a bit of sports photography and was forced to master single focus point selection which involved only one additional button and a joy stickl on the back of the camera. By the time the 70D arrived I was confronted with increasingly difficult situations which required learning “back button focus“. With that skill mastered, I was able to rapidly switch between servo and single shot photography with just a thumb and one button on the back of the camera.

Mother Bald Eagle with Her Eaglet

But this summer was different, starting with the discovery of the eagles nesting in Eleven Mile Canyon. No big deal at first, the mother eagle was just sitting in the nest with her eaglet and my previously acquired skills were perfectly sufficient. Then it happened, the eagles flew! They took flight in some of the most magnificent photographic opportunities I had ever been presented with!

Osprey Gathering

And suddenly I was a complete failure as a photographer 😦 All my pictures were blurry and the opportunity for game changing images was lost. Back to the drawing board… Of course there were some obvious solutions, shutter speed too slow being the first major culprit. A quick trip to the internet provided the necessary information, birds in flight require a shutter speed of at least 1/1250th of a second, preferably 1/1600th and up. I decided upon shutter priority mode with auto ISO to accomplish this task and I began to get some pretty decent eagles in flight captures.

After extensive observation I learned a bit about eagle habit, what time of day they might fly, when they might return and even a couple of indicators for when they might be getting ready to take flight. Eagles are big and tend to soar in steadily making accurate focus a fairly dependable action. I believed I was set, my skills were up to the task of photographing raptors πŸ™‚

Doe and Fawn Crossing River

One day the eagles weren’t there and I decided to venture further into the canyon in search of them. As I scanned the banks of the South Platte River looking for signs of additional subjects I spotted a huge nest on a dead tree high overhead. Closer inspection revealed a bit of motion in the nest so I parked Big Blue and got out with my long lens for a better look.

Sure enough, there was a large bird in the nest with two small bobbing heads… But what was it, a hawk of some kind perhaps? I climbed the opposite bank for a better look and surmised that this beautiful birds must be osprey. I shot for awhile and headed for home with my cache of fascinating images. A quick check on the internet confirmed my original assessment, indeed there was a family of osprey nesting high above the pristine waters of the South Platte River.

Great Blue Heron in Water of Glass

Subsequent trips to the viewing area revealed that further advancement in my birding skills was going to be required… for the first time I was forced to deep dive into the capabilities of my camera. Settings that I had glossed over when I purchased my Canon 90D were now items of interest… First image priority, second image priority, acceleration and deceleration, erratic motion and focus point switching were all in play with the osprey. Flight without any kind of warning, rapidly changing direction, flying through the trees and dipping and diving had rendered my previously learned skills completely inadequate.

Osprey and Hummingbird

Now by the end of summer, many dozens of hours of practice, study and trial and error have elevated my skills to a new level. I have confidence that I have my camera settings dialed in, my skills honed and my patience perfected… as much as humanly possible πŸ™‚ Now for what I have learned …

In a nutshell, I’m not going to try to go into great detail about camera settings since each camera manufacturer and each camera is different… but at least for birds in flight and probably many other additional applications, this is what I have learned:

Osprey in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

For starters, if I am anticipating birds in flight right from the get go, I’ll put my camera on shutter priority at 1/1600th of a secondΒ  with auto ISO. For birds in flight you are going to need at least a 400mm lens if not longer, so I make sure I am using my 100-400 with my 1.4x extension attached. That limits me to F8 and consequently one focus point, but I’ve discovered that unless the bird is flying against a pure backdrop such as the sky I have better luck with the greater magnification and a single point anyway. Tv mode also allows me access to the rear wheel for quick adjustment of exposure compensation which I am going to need if the bird flies high with the bright sky in the background.

Double-crested Cormorant in Flight

If IΒ  get on scene and the birds are in the nest I may want to dial back my shutter speed to 640 which is going to bring the ISO down quite a bit for a cleaner picture. If a beaver is swimming downstream or I see some deer walking across the stream I may bump the shutter speed up to 1/800th or so to freeze the motion. But if nothing else is going on and I am going to just watch a nest for action I’ll bump the shutter speed back up to at least 1250 or 1600 depending on the light.

Wilson's Warbler

Also if I find myself in a low light situation anticipating action I may go to manual on the mode dial and use the widest aperture available, which is going to be F8 with the 1.4 attached, or F5.6 for my lens at its widest focal length without the 1.4x, and the lens fully extended to 400mm. In Tv mode, the camera may select a stop down from the widest aperture which may bump you into a higher and less clear ISO range. And of course always be paying attention to your background. If it is brighter than the light on your subject you may need to bump up your exposure compensation. A bright sky may require at least +1. As in the case of the osprey and bald eagles with their bright white heads, you are probably going to want to dial that back to -1/3 or -2/3 to avoid blowing out the brilliant white feathers.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Well I guess that’s about it for now… I have to say though, I’m looking forward to autumn and prime season for the majestic large mammals that mostly stand and pose for me.Β  Even with all the learning and practice a lot of birds in flight don’t turn out and I am going to enjoy the much higher success rate on the big animals πŸ™‚

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelΒ  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!

Juvenile osprey in flight

My Best Day with the Osprey

It was without a doubt my best day ever with the osprey since finding their nest in Eleven Mile Canyon earlier this summer. The two little ones were already hatched by the time I learned of them and it was pretty special to get to watch them grow, learn to fly and now learn to catch fish for themselves.

One other time when I was set up along the river further downstream I spotted one of them trying to fish in the calm waters where the river widens, but I wasn’t able to capture a very good picture… it was just too far away. My buddy and I have been regularly camped out at the nest trying to capture all the action, including the daily feedings as the parents bring fish to the nest. It’s quite an exciting event forΒ  little ones, they begin squawking loudly and flapping their wings when they see the parents approaching and it is a blast to photograph the delivery of the fish. It doesn’t take long and if you can get high enough on the other bank you can see them ripping off strips of meat with their powerful hooked beaks.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

But since the little ones have learned to fish for themselves the feedings are few and far between and there is little action at the nest. I have been noticing that they are flying downstream and I surmised they were probably fishing in the calm water on the south side of the dam. So yesterday I decided to take a chance on hanging out at the dam, the risk being that none of them ever show up and I get no reward for my efforts.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

I arrived at sunrise and went directly to the dam, biding my time photographing the peregrine falcons that frequently fly over the river to attend to some kind of falcon business on the other side of the river. Then I heard it, the loud call of an osprey. It was one of the juveniles and I grabbed a few images of him as he flew a few laps around the calm water. Eventually he landed on top of a dead tree overlooking the glass like early morning water of the South Platte River. He probably perched for about a half hour, looking all around and occasionally letting out a squawk, I assume to let his sister know of his whereabouts. Osprey can turn their heads completely around so you have to be careful if you are photographing them in the tree to make sure they aren’t looking backwards!

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

Then all of a sudden he took flight, making another lap and then descending toward the water. I desperately tried to follow him with my long lens but I lost him as he neared the water. I just kept moving my camera and shooting until I found the water and there was the majestic bird in a great struggle to catch is breakfast. At one point he was almost completely submerged, which caused me a bit of concern. If he were unable to escape the water he would be carried over the dam where he would surely perish 😦

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

But as it turns out the young bird had everything under control and soon burst out of the water in triumphant flight. Unfortunately it appears that he only managed to capture some seaweed so breakfast would have to wait. He returned to his perch in the tree and soon his sister arrived and took up a perch in their other favorite tree. One more unsuccessful attempt was made before the pair flew together downstream where I know they have had success in the past.

Doe and Fawn Crossing River

The osprey weren’t my only success on the day, I was astonished as a doe mule deer and her fawn crossed the river in the beautiful light of a Rocky Mountain sunrise. Fortunately both of them in the light at the same time, as I set my exposure and focused on the pair for a perfect capture πŸ™‚ Then to top it off on my way out of the canyon I spotted the Great Blue Heron walking in the calm water as if he were striding through a mirror. And much to my surprise there was a purpose to his slow stroll through the water. Apparently the huge birds slowly walk along until they find a fish which they quickly grab and eat with their powerful beaks.

Great Blue Heron in Water of Glass

With over 600 images to process I will be working on this adventure for a while! But these are a few of my favorite ones, many of which I have uploaded to my website for purchase.

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!

Sunrise on the South Platte River

Houston We Have Lift Off


Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

Well that’s it… all the osprey we have been watching all summer are officially in the air πŸ™‚ About a week ago the older chick took his first tentative flight from the nest over to the top of a nearby cliff, after which he took the leap and soared high into the clear blue Colorado sky. Today the younger fledgling hopped up and down, wings flapping furiously in a sustained test flight above the nest.Β  Papa osprey took up his usual perch overlooking the area as he kept a watchful eye out for any danger to his family while mama left the nestΒ  for a nearby perch to give the young one space to take the plunge out of the nest. The older offspring soared high overhead as if to give the nest bound chick the confidence to take the leap.

Osprey Chick First Flight

Anticipation was high as the entire valley knew something big was up… Then it happened, the nest was left behind with a flight that swooped low at first and then gained altitude as the exuberant raptor flapped his wings and soared high above the pristine waters of the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. After a couple of triumphant fly by’s the young bird found a landing spot and took up a perch in a tall dead tree high on the canyon walls.

Osprey Chick First Flight

We watched for a long time, the young aviators joyfully taking turns soaring over the canyon to practice and show off their new skills. For a while the siblings actually flew simultaneously and perched side by side on a tree limb to celebrate the moment together.

Not much attention was paid to the nest on this day, it appears that the summer home as a social gathering point has become secondary as the new flyers learn to soar and hunt for themselves. It is with a twinge of sadness that I realize our task as photographers to document this momentous occasion may be complete for this breeding season, although I may journey further into the canyon to see if I can discover the best fishing spot in hopes that I may capture the victorious moment a meal is snatched out of the water.

Osprey Chick First Flight

I also wonder what next summer will bring, will the young ones find a mate and return to the canyon to nest and raise a family of their own? Or from their vantage point high above the bonds of earth will they spot a better location to continue the circle of life? Time will tell…Β  as my thoughts turn to autumn, changing colors and cooling temperatures, and the rut season for the big mammals… the bighorn sheep, elk and deer.

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!

Morning Sunshine

With a terrible ache in my heart I set out on my morning routine without my four legged friend. It was hard but there isn’t really anything else to do, I need the exercise, I need the pictures, and I need to eat breakfast. The other choice is to sit at home and do nothing which is no choice at all for me… I have to go, that’s just the way it is.

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

It’s been a long time since I have seen my deer friends on the ridge but today I looked up and there she was, peering out from the forest at me. She paused long enough for me to attach my camera to the monopod and get a couple of shots off in the beautiful morning sunshine of a late Colorado summer day.

As I proceeded further along the trail I heard the thundering of hooves as a couple of bucks just below the summit detected my presence and made a run for it. I was

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

hoping they would not run too far before turning around to see what I was up to. The good news is they did stop, but the bad news was they stopped part way into the shade of a tall pine tree at the edge of the wilderness. I took the shot anyway hoping that I would be able to make a decent picture in post with Photoshop. I’m not totally thrilled with it but at least there is a record of the sighting πŸ˜‰

From that point I just descended the mountain and headed off to breakfast. With tears in my eyes I swallowed the last bite, the one I always saved for my exuberant friend. Anyway, it’s done… I made it all the way through the morning. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

The picture of the doe is available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas or traditional framing and matting. All kinds of cool gift and household items are also available with a picture including apparel, tech items, stationary and more.

 

Summer Doe

Cute Doe Mule DeerNot finding much wildlife these days, the sun comes up so early and it is already hot by 8:00 a.m. By this time most of the wildlife has retreated to the cool of the dense forest… and out of view for this photographer! There was one doe today, pausing to enjoy the lush mountain grass which has grown tall and green from all of the rain and snow we’ve had this year. She cast a wary eye in our direction but continued to feed between furtive glances. Each time I waited for her to look up before snapping a picture… pictures of an animal with it’s head in the grass make for a pretty boring subject. I was hoping a few more of the beautiful wildflowers would show brightly, but it is what it is.

Cute Doe Mule Deer

Eleven Mile Canyon

Eleven Mile Canyon

The headwaters of the South Platte River, Eleven Mile Canyon, truly one of Colorado’s hidden gems. Finally made it after 10 years of effort πŸ™‚ Almost made it last week but for one wrong turn that led me out onto the road from hell down to Eleven Mile Reservoir State Park 😦 But finally after two unintentional scouting runs I actually figured out the intricacies on finding the right road πŸ™‚ The secret is to stay on Road 96 through Lake George which appears to go straight but actually veers to the right across the river.

Probably for the best to keep the ubiquitous Colorado riff raff and homeless pot heads out, the canyon is a fee area with a ranger station at the entrance to the park. After 8 a.m. there is a ranger there, but if you need to get in earlier there earlierΒ  you can pull an envelope out of the self help dispenser and insert your $7 before continuing your journey.

Eleven Mile Canyon Deer

The dirt road along the river is fairly well maintained although the washboards did rattle my old Dodge truck pretty good in places! The trip is well worth it though with stunningly beautiful scenery, wildlife, campgrounds, picnic areas and some wildlife. Shortly after my journey began I spotted these beautiful mule deer heading back into the wilderness following a nice drink at the river. Had to quick put my big white lens back on and sneak past an embankment to get a decent shot of these ladies, but I thin it was well worth the effort πŸ™‚ I need to get back at sunrise someday, I’m sure there must be a ton of wildlife that I didn’t have the opportunity to view due to being there in the middle of the heat of a Colorado summer day.

I didn’t check to see exactly how long the road is back to the dead end at the dam, but I would estimate about 7 miles of roaring whitewater, beaver dams, placid trout fishing pools and massive rock cliffs made of gigantic boulders the size of houses! About half way in I encountered the road to Wagon Tongue that I didn’t want to take my truck on last week, along with trails and short roads leading to campgrounds and picnic areas all along the way.

The road is quite narrow but there are plenty of pull outs where you can stop to take pictures, hike down to the riverbed and get out your trout fishing gear if that is your thing. I must have stopped a dozen times to take pictures of the magnificent roaring water and cliffs.

At one point I knew that a still photograph wasn’t going to do the trick so I did something I have never done before. I have owned this camera for over four years and I have never shot a video with it… And this was the time to try it out! The video lever on the back of my Canon 70D was a bit sticky having never been switched a single time in the entire years I have owned it, but I finally got it wrangled into the video position and was ready to go. A look through the view finder yielded nothing but darkness and panic 😦 Until I remembered that in order to shoot video the camera has to lock up the mirror to make the sensor available for uninterrupted video streaming. So I quickly flipped open the LCD viewfinder on the back and there it was… video on my still camera! Obviously this is not the most professional video you have ever seen, but at least you can experience the roaring whitewater that I was hearing and seeingΒ  πŸ™‚

Eleven Mile Canyon

Finally I reached the end of the road at the dam entrance and turned around. I saw a couple of scenes on the return trip worth additional stops before finally reaching the end of the canyon. There was a photographer there with a big lens, so of course I had to get out and see what the interest was and there was an eagle nesting across the river. I may try to process that image with some hefty cropping, butΒ  at first glance the bird was way to far away for a decent photograph, even with my 400mm zoom.

I highly recommend this day trip to Lake George. The scenery is stunning and there is nothing like a day spent in the beauty of God’s Creation! As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of gift items, apparel, tech gear and more area also available with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture!

Happy Herd

It has been a long time coming but we finally have leaves on the aspen trees in the high country. Of course it was only last week that I was still scraping snow and ice off of my windshield before the trip to the trailhead! Well, it was a beautiful sunny morning on the trail today and the wildlife certainly seemed to be enjoying it. The deer have been living off of the parched dry mountain grass all winter and now they have aspen leaves and dandelions to make life a little better for them.Β  I wasn’t able to get very close today but this distant shot of them at the edge of the wilderness should give you the idea of the joy that summer’s annual sojourn is delivering πŸ™‚

Deer on the Rocky Mountain HillsideAs always this picture and more are available on my website as wall art and cool gift items! Click the link if you like!

 

A Dog’s Life

It was a long day, glad it’s over. Don’t know if I’m any further ahead for having suffered through it, seems the line of those desiring to separate me from my money grew ever longer than the line of those wanting to contribute to my bottom line. Thought about doing great things after work perhaps even solving the immigrant kid crisis, but in the end cracking a beer and hanging out with the dog seemed like a better use of my time.Β  Plus the little bald liberal dude in the suit that gets to hang out with the hot Fox News chicks appears to be sufficiently agitated about the subjectΒ  for the both of us. Either that or he just needs a pee break, not sure which it is.

Big DogNow the wife used to rail at me for doing nothing after work but I contend that hanging out in the back yard drinking a beer with the dog IS doing something. Or perhaps the dog was just better company… as time passes I’m leaning towards the latter. Come to think of it, looking back at my life I can’t think of a single moment that I regret hanging out with the dog… Plus now that I have moved to Cripple Creek, this is gold country and Big Dog loves to dig in the yard. I like to think of myself as prospecting, not wasting time πŸ™‚

In other matters, stock photography sales this year are on pace to continue last years trend, which is 50% of the year before, which was 50% of the year before that and so on. The good news is as near as I can figure, if the trend continues my revenue will never reach zero… Still trying to come up with a sales formula that incorporates pi or maybe even pi squared. That would seem so much more awesome and make me sound so much more intelligent than just the boring 50% thing. In any case it has become difficult to justify even getting my camera bag out of the closet. However Donkey Derby Days are coming soon and I will surely want to have some memories of that epic event πŸ™‚

Or maybe it’s just summer, maybe in the summer a dog’s life is more attractive than life as a human?

Top of the World Rodeo

Bull Riders at the Top of the World Rodeo

Different kind of blog post for me… mostly pictures, not many words. Mainly because that was my entire reason for attending! Except for checking out the beer tent at the town dance last night. Can’t say that went too well… For 27 years I enjoyed going to those kind of things with Tricia, who enjoyed dancing so much… mostly I just like an excuse to have a few beers πŸ™‚ As I arrived at the beer / band tent I realized I really didn’t want to be there… no interest in people, crowds, dancing, pretty much the entire scene. Kind of like Charley Brown, I immediately just started missing my dog… had one beer and hightailed it for home to drink beer with Big Dog. He’s not much of a drinker, but at least he likes my sorry company πŸ™‚

Other than that, I had no plans to go to the rodeo, always feel kind of sorry for the animals, especially the little steers who really don’t want to be roped and thrown to the ground 😦 But due to the smoke from all the fires and some clouds, I can’t even see the mountains, and the wildlife is pretty spooked from all the unusual activity around the

Synchronized Riders

fairgrounds so there is nothing to shoot this weekend plus the whole thing was going on only about a block from my house! The deer have all fled and the poor foxes are running around in the daytime wondering what to do since they can’t get to their dens or their normal hunting grounds. This is the first time in the entire year that I have lived here that anyone has used the fairgrounds so me and all the wild critters are quite used to having it all to ourselves in peace.

Bull Riders at the Top of the World Rodeo in Cripple Creek, Colorado

And all the activity was also driving Big Dog crazy so I couldn’t leave him outside, making the whole weekend an entire uproar. Plus I don’t seem to have anything to eat or drink here at the house today and a brat and a beer on a hot day at an outdoor event sounded pretty darn good πŸ™‚

Bull Riders

So I thought, what the heck I might as well go over and try a different kind of photography. Fortunately I got in for half price since I am an Air Force Veteran, which I thought was pretty cool πŸ™‚ In addition, one of the food vendors was also buying lunch for all the Fort Carson guys who were in attendance, which I also thought was pretty cool πŸ™‚

Steer roping was the first event that I was able to see, and it turned out pretty well for the steers.

Steer Roping at the Top of the World Rodeo

A couple of them were too fast for the horses and one just refused to cooperate all together. When the horses bolted out of the gate the steer ran a few feet and slammed on the brakes. The riders were half way into the arena before they even had time to think about it πŸ™‚

Pretty Barrel Racer

There were only a couple of bucking bronc riders for some reason and my shots of that didn’t turn out to be very dramatic so I didn’t bother to process any as of yet. The synchronized riders were fun as were the barrel racers, and I got a couple of nice shots of them. Would have to say the bulls were the stars of the show as they went undefeated. Not one rider was able to complete an eight second ride and I got some pretty cool shots of that event, at least I think so πŸ™‚

It’s all over now, the livestock trucks have all hit the road and Big Dog is back outside enjoying the sunshine while I enjoy the peace and quiet that I am accustomed to πŸ™‚ Hope you all enjoy the pictures of our little rodeo here at 10,000 feet of elevation, high in the Colorado Rockies πŸ™‚

Pretty Rider

Bull Riders at the Top of the World Rodeo in Cripple Creek, Colorado

A Little Exploring

My original plan for the day was to just stay home and give these tired old legs some rest… Lol, in my case, the flesh is willing but the spirit isn’t, I’mΒ  just not good at resting it would seem! So once again I decided to load up my backpack, get on my bike and see where the day would lead me. First off I noticed that I could still get down to Bronco Billy’s in time for the cheap breakfast, so down the hill I coasted for some French Toast while I pondered my next move.

I thought about seeing if I could ride clear to Victor but the sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor train whistle reminded me that I had yet to explore the abandoned mines on the mountainside visible from my bedroom window. There aren’t any obvious roads going up there and I have been wondering for almost a year now if I could get up there for some images. Well… today was the day as I began my journey by pedaling east through town towards the dirt road that leads up to the narrow gauge train tracks. I always figured that it was private property beyond the train tracks because there is a sign posted beyond there along the dirt trail. However as it turns out the sign is just a notice of the Cripple Creek mine reclamation project boundary, so the area is fair game.

Cripple Creek Train

The first hill was wicked and I was not able to pedal up it, but I didn’t mind pushing the old 21 speed for a few feet to the top. As I neared the top of the first ridge I could hear the train whistle getting louder and also saw the most beautiful view of the tracks that I have ever seen. The train tracks can be seen winding out of the forest against a backdrop of a magnificent valley with the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background. Only today you have to look very close to see the mountains, unfortunately it appears the Arkansas River Valley is filling with smoke from the distant fires in the southwest corner of the state. Took a few shots of the train and some abandoned buildings located in the vicinity before looking around to see if the trail would continue.

Abandoned Gold Mine

There did appear to be some sort of access road leading along the ridge toward the big mine so I thought I might give that a try on the bike. It was nice road for mountain biking, but it only went about a half a mile back into the woods before coming to an end at another mine reclamation sign. At that point I got off the bike to look around for a possible composition or maybe a foot trail, neither of which seemed to be available. There was a steep berm created for the reclamation project leading up to the top of the next ridge, not something that looked like it was wanting to be climbed but I was curious what kind of view might be possible from the summit. So I found a climbing stick for myself and headed up the steep hillside. Unfortunately the top was a false summit and proved to only be the bottom of another even worse climb that I was not in the mood to tackle. However there did appear to be a trail leading around to the south that looked well worth checking out but only ended up at the base of the big mine in view of the massive trucks hauling ore.

On the way back down the hillside I hoped I would spot a two pound gold nugget just laying out in the open… No such luck but I did find a giant rusty iron spike weighing about five pounds. Although I would have liked to add it to my collection of useless junk it was far to heavy for me to want to carry on my bike all the way back to town! It appears that gold and riches will have to wait for another day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangre_de_Cristo_Range

The ride back down was much easier than the ride up, although there was once place where the downhill on rocky gravel was so steep that I thought better of it and got off and walked. I have never forgotten the harsh lesson of an endo that I experienced on the White Ranch Trail system over 20 years ago! Riding a bike is something you never forget, so they say… but flying off a bike upside down onto a rocky mountain trail is something you never forget too!

So… calling the day a success, I got a little exercise that I really didn’t need or want and a few nice images of the failed mining endeavors attempted by my Cripple Creek predecessors for my website if you would like to take a look πŸ™‚ Wall art on metal and acrylic is available as is more traditional framed and matted prints. Cool household and gift items are also available, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, yoga mats, blankets, beach towels and more! Just above the images on the site there is a button for galleries, which are how I divide my work up into categories if you would like to explore my site a little more thoroughly πŸ˜‰