Tunnel Quest

One of my favorite projects was my train tunnel finding adventures. This took all summer a few years ago to locate and photograph with an actual train in the picture! The tracks west of Denver are quite busy though, so it often took only up to an hour of waiting before a train came through, one direction or the other. The real fun was the hiking in, many times on rugged trails or along the railroad bed itself. Don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I wanted to photograph the trains for my stock photo business and finding the tracks and the tunnels was a fun way to do it I guess πŸ™‚ The complete set of print and gift pictures from my adventures can be found here and the commercial stock version of those images can be seen here.

Rollins-Pass

For railroad buffs there is no better place than the Colorado Front Range mountains with tracks winding through the valleys through dozens of tunnels. Union Pacific, BNSF, Amtrack and the Santa Fe lines share the tracks as they haul freight, coal and travelers between Denver’s Union Station and the west coast.

Beautiful Union Station in downtown Denver is the railway hub of Rocky Mountain west. From there the trains head west through Denver towards the Front Range foothills. When train watching always remember to respect the boundaries of the train engineer. The engineers are responsible for the safety of their trains and don’t need the headache of worrying about an over zealous train enthusiast standing on or near the tracks. I recommend a vantage point at least 30 yards from the tracks, safe for the viewer and distant enough to keep the engineer from being nervous about your safety as well.

map_coalcreek

Tunnel #1 is one of the first places to catch a view of the massive steel snakes as they make their journeys to and from the great American West. To reach the the tunnel take Highway 93 north out of Golden to Highway 72 and head west. On the north side of the road look for the first huge knoll which is the formation that the tunnel passes through. Hike through the meadow to the north to see the north side of the tunnel or up the steep embankment to view the south entrance. Generally the wait shouldn’t be more than a half hour to an hour before a train comes through.

Tunnel #2 is on Plainview road, a dirt road that heads north from Highway 72 just east of Tunnel #1. The road is unpaved but easily passable with a passenger car. Proceed along the road and find a place to park when you come to the tracks. The tunnel is north of there and can be approached on foot by hiking north at a safe distance along the tracks. Watch locomotives proceeding in and out of the tunnel against the beautiful backdrop of the Boulder Flatirons.

Divide-Train-5

The tracks then proceed into the foothills through El Dorado Canyon State Park with Tunnel #10 being accessible from the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. El Dorado Canyon is one of the most beautiful places this writer has ever come across. I have done a lot of hiking and climbing there but have never made the climb to Tunnel #10, which remains on my train watching bucket list.

Tunnel #2 Map

Another great place for train viewing is on Gross Reservoir Road near the town of Coal Creek on Highway 72. Follow Gross Dam Road to the tracks and find a suitable parking spot. Tunnel #19 can be found by hiking west along the tracks for a half mile or so, while Tunnel #18 can be viewed by hiking east. Fantastic views of the trains and the peaks of the Colorado Continental Divide to the west can be experienced by climbing to the top of the bluffs east of the road and north of the tracks. Trains can be viewed breaking through the foothills from El Dorado Canyon as you look to the east.

map_crescent

The little mountain town of Pinecliffe further west on Highway 72 is the next good viewing location. From there you can hike east along the tracks across a little bridge to view Tunnel #29 and the massive cliff above. This is a nice place to visit when the aspen trees are clothed in their golden autumn glory.

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Mountain wilderness limits accessibility to the tracks between Pinecliffe and Rollinsville but Rollins Pass offers some of the most spectacular train viewing imaginable with beautiful mountain scenery, trestles, bridges and the crown glory of the Eastern Slopes, the Moffat Tunnel. Completed in February of 1928, the Moffat Tunnel

Moffat-Tunnel

cuts 6.2 miles through the solid rock of the mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the Colorado Continental Divide. The tracks and road leading to the tunnel entrance offer wonderful nostalgic photo opportunities and a journey into American history. Rollins Pass Road is a rough ride but well worth the trouble. The engraved concrete Moffat Tunnel entrance set against the massive mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is quite picturesque and the railroad activity there fascinating to watch. For the more adventurous, a hike to Crater Lakes in the high peaks behind the tunnel is worth the climb.

Crater-Lakes

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

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The Mountains Decide

One of the rules of landscape photography is that you shoot right before sunrise or right after sunset or don’t even bother, the lighting won’t be interesting enough to make a decent image. However that rule, along with many others does not apply in the mountains. The mountains alone decide when they want to be photographed, climbed or just plain left alone.

Stormy Sangre De Cristo

Storm clouds on the Sangre De Cristo

Today was just such a day as sunrise was met with several inches of fresh snow and a layer of dense fog covering the entire area. I was thinking of an early hike with the camera but decided otherwise when I saw the conditions. Some biscuits and gravy at Bronco Billy’s seemed like a much better idea πŸ™‚ However when I came out from breakfast everything was changed… The sun was trying to come out and I could make out some interesting cloud formations in the direction of the Sangre De Cristos so me and Big Dog headed for the trailhead.

The view from the trail summit was amazing, the clearest view I have seen of the mountains yet this winter! And to add to the scene, the storm clouds from the night before were still lingering, floating lazily just below the tops of the magnificent mountain range.

Sangre De Cristo Snow

Fresh snow on the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado

So for about an hour I had a window of opportunity to get some of the coolest shots of the season… not at sunrise or sunset, but on mountain timing. On my way home I noticed that the window was closing fast, the Arkansas Valley was rapidly filling with clouds and the mountain range was becoming invisible once again. By the time I got home it was snowing in earnest and the mountains were but a fond memory.Β  I thank the Almighty for the window of opportunity and for making me available to witness it in full glory.

Super Sunday

I love Super Sunday, the day gives me a great opportunity to have the mountains to myself πŸ™‚ As the years have gone by I find myself caring less and less about professional sports, and the antics of the overpaid children this year have pretty much plummeted my interest to zero. So this year instead of watching the game today I intend to spend my day outdoors in the company of the mountains and the wildlife.

Misty Sangre De Cristo Mountains

Misty Sangre De Cristo Mountains

So far the day has been a great one… a beautiful quiet hike to the top of the Little Grouse Mountain Trail and a nice stroll at the base of beautiful Pikes Peak. Interesting the difference in the two views though! If you look towards the southwest there was nothing but clouds and mist and the appearance of a very gloomy and wintry day. However, the view to the north was entirely different… a lovely sun drenched morning on the 14,115 foot summit of magnificent Pikes Peak!

Pikes Peak Summit

Summit of Pikes Peak in Winter

I’m thinking though, all the clouds and mist may make for an interesting sunset and me and big dog will be heading back out again into the hills south of Cripple Creek to take a gander. I will be bringing my tripod along this time as I’m thinking last time I shot the sunset I didn’t have it and consequently was not able to get the depth of field that I should have. This time I think I’ll set the camera on Aperture Priority with a lens opening of about f11. That might slow my shutter speed down to a second or slower, so I may have to use the remote shutter release as well.Β  But then again, who knows, it might be an ugly sunset and I might not get anything at all!

Pikes Peak Winter

Rugged Summit of Pikes Peak Colorado in Winter

As always, these images are available for purchase on my website as wall art and gift items. Please click on the links to the left or if you are on a smart phone click the menu button and choose your favorite subject! In addition to prints I have FB pagesΒ  devoted to wildlife advocacy and another page devoted to mountain sports!

Further Exploration

The day started out in a tizzy when Photoshop informed I had one day to log into the Creative Cloud or my subscription was going to be closed. I had no idea, I am used to Photoshop managing the subscription and updates automatically. So I checked and sure enough, no updates have been applied and I had to go in to help, manage subscriptions and was prompted to log in and download the updates. Mental note to continue checking for updates.

Once past that crisis, a nice breakfast at Broncos killed enough time for the sun to come out and make a trek into the woods tempting. Been meaning to get a bit further down the trail towards Little Grouse Mountain and this was looking like just the right day for it. 

It was pretty windy at the trailhead but Big Dog didn’t seem to care so we forged ahead. Not far around the first bend the mountains began to block the wind and it turned into an amazing beautiful Colorado winter morning!

So onward we went, through the beautiful historic countryside of the Cripple Creek Victor mining district past the many failed dreams of the area’s earliest pioneers. I imagine we made it well past where there have been any people recently as the trail was getting pretty rugged. 

Finally we emerged one valley from what I believe to be Grouse Mountain and the view was amazing! It looks like the trail will take me to the base and hopefully right on up the mountain. I’ll have to pack some more supplies for that journey though, including some water for the dog. 

In the picture you can see the rugged valley, the mountain and the magnificent Sangre De Cristo range in the background. Please be sure to click the links in the menu to bring up my image galleries where you can purchase wall art and many cool household items with my mountain art!

Signs of Winter

Once the colorful leaves of autumn hit the ground the mountains look kind of drab… kind of just like big jagged rocks. Lol… hence the name Rocky Mountains I guess. However we have been getting some snow here and there and a couple of days ago walking the dogs in the morning I noticed that the high peaks of the Collegiate Peaks and the Sangre Range have been putting on their winter mantle of snow. As the air cools and the fires of summer the distant peaks can be seen with greater clarity.

Snow Capped Sangre De CristoWinter is my favorite time of year to photograph… you could say I specialize in snow, which is probably a good thing given life at 10,000 feet of elevation! So the sight of the new snow got me motivated to get the camera ready and plan a hike to the good views as soon as possible! Well the day came and I eagerly ventured out in the morning to take the puppies for a short walk before hitting the trails with Big Dog. As I ventured out I was hit with disappointment though, gloomy looking clouds and mist 😦

But what the heck, the camera was ready and so was the dog, so off we went. Thought I might get lucky and see some wildlife that might save the day. However as I climbed higher the scene that came into view was magnificent. I couldn’t wait to get to the top before the rising sun had a chance to wash out the scene. Luckily I encountered no problems on the trail and the summit came in time for some great shots. The sun was hitting the distant peaks with just enough light for a beautiful early morning glow and there wasn’t too much haze from the foggy night before.Beautiful Sangre B&W

As I fiddled with the image in Photoshop I finally decided that the one image looked better in black and white. I really like the layers of mountains, the color wasn’t that great to start with and it just all looked more dramatic with a little more contrast that just works better in monochrome.

The hike was great and I had an idea that I wanted to see Phantom Canyon over by Victor so we stopped off at the grocery store in Victor and picked up some water and some Gator Aid for an extended trip. A couple of miles of the washboard dirt road convinced me otherwise though… I don’t need any loose teeth! Maybe another time… maybe another vehicle. Have been wanting a rag top jeep my entire life, maybe now is the time πŸ™‚

Well enough rattling on… these images are now available for sale on my website. Glossy metal and acrylic wall art is available, along with clothing and lots of gift and household items including greeting cards, t-shirts, yoga mats and much much more! Be sure to keep an eye on the website as I get more of these images processed!

Top of the Ridge

Winter was supposed to come early to southern Colorado and Cripple Creek last night… we got a little snow and some cold but the worst of the storm came in the form of some very dense and treacherous fog for anyone trying to drive through the darkness. It did make for a beautiful night in downtown Cripple Creek though with the lights of the casino district glowing softly through the snowflakes drifting lazily down from the frozen mountain air.

Sangre De CristoOften after one of these storms the action in the mountains the next day can be breathtaking. I awoke early and the doggy was ready for a hike so I decided to see if I could make the top of the ridge behind Little Grouse Mountain where there might be a good view of both the Sangre and the Collegiates. It has been awhile since I have hiked that far but I thought it would be well worth the effort in pictures if I was right.

It didn’t take long before I got a taste of what I was going to see if I could make it to theCollegiate View top of the ridge. I didn’t even know if there was going to be a trail up there but pressed on anyway, ghostly trees in the shaded valley below created an amazing wintry scene. About a half hour in I was at the base of the ridge and there was a faint wagon trail calling my name, leading up and around to the top. Have to say it was a tough climb after a month or two of taking it easy, a fourteener in the immediate future may not be in the cards! Looks like there might have been some gold there at one time, it appears quite a few of the original explorers decided to stake mining claims there. Only the ghostly remains of their hopeful efforts are visible now, a few rocks and some caved in digs.

Sangre ViewFinally we reached the summit and the view was indeed magnificent, the Sangre to the south and the Collegiate Peaks to the west. Looks like the Collegiate Peaks have been getting a bit of snow already, not so much further south. The remnants of last night’s fog filled the high plains between Victor and the Sangres, exactly the panorama I was hoping for πŸ™‚

My legs are tired and sore and the dog is contently sleeping as I process the pictures and recall the beautiful morning. These images are but a couple of the pretty good sized batch I was able to capture this morning. Please be sure to visit swkrullimaging often so you don’t miss out on the wealth of imagery I have been able to acquire this fall!

Footsteps of the Prospectors

Nice ending to a lazy Sunday… Thanks to my ever energetic canine explorer I was not destined to have a full day of rest on this Lord’s Day πŸ™‚ Son Boy was getting restless late in the afternoon so I decided to take him on a good hike to the Grouse Mountain overlook near Victor, where gold was discovered in 1891 by William Scott Stratton. Being late afternoon I was thinking we might see some wildlife so I brought the camera and my F4L 70-200, my go to lens for wildlife hiking.

Abandoned Victor MineSure enough, about a quarter of a mile up the trail we spotted a huge bull elk but unfortunately he spotted us first… and quickly left the scene. The hike to the top is only about a three quarters of a mile where there is a beautiful vantage point overlooking the Sangre De Cristo Mountains to the south and the Collegiate Peaks to the west. It was pretty hazy today but I stopped for a few captures anyway before heading back down to the trailhead. The Sangre and Collegiate Peaks are just too beautiful to pass by without a picture!

Prospector TrailI’ve been feeling the call to explore a bit south of there on a higher mountain but haven’t seen a trail and the worry of unmarked mine cavities has held me back. Today however I noticed some sort of marker, a cairn with a flag… So we wandered over to take a look and discovered that it said β€œTrail”. Sure enough there was a faint trail and it looked like another cairn about 50 to 75 yards ahead. We had a bit of extra time and Son Boy looked game so we headed down for a better look. Soon a more obvious trail appeared which gave way to what appeared to be a turn of the 20th century wagon trail that headed off into the distance towards the south and the Sangre De Cristo. As I strode along the rugged dirt path it occurred to me that the ground I was on was probably exactly the same as it was over a hundred years ago when the original prospectors walked it hoping to strike it rich.

Grouse MineFinally… a trail in the Cripple Creek area that doesn’t just end in a turnaround! Now this was going to require some investigating! I followed the trail around the mountain towards the taller mountain and was determined to reach a point ahead where I could see that there might be a good view to the west. Didn’t get my view today, but the trail continues into the countryside as far as the eye can see. Now I am eager to take this trail further, perhaps there will be some abandoned mines off the beaten path, some that haven’t had their view obstructed by the barbed wire and fences of modern civilization. Also I am inspired to try new roads in hopes of finding new trails where I can follow in the footsteps of 19th century explorers and gold prospectors… I doubt I will find any gold nuggets, but perhaps my blog accounts and pictures will produce some digital gold πŸ™‚

Stay tuned to S. W. Krull Imaging for the results of my next hike into the Cripple Creek back country! Also be sure to click the links at the left or in the menu section if you are on a smart phone, to view images for sale on my website… Wall art, clothing and a wealth of gift items are available there!