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

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

 

 

Young Buck Mule Deer

Young Buck in the Colorado Rockies

Pretty uneventful trek this morning, unfortunately I awoke far too late to see much wildlife action. There was this one young buck at the summit though ๐Ÿ™‚ Got a few captures before Big Dog noticed him… of course he was on his leash, but one good huff at the sight of the big buck and that was the end of it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Don’t think I’ll bother to make a print of this one… his face was in the shade with the sun shining way too brightly on the background.

Beautiful Colorado Mountain Buck Deer

Interesting hike this morning… as we passed over the summit of the little mountain I could hear the livestock bellowing. As they came into view I discovered that it wasn’t just the cows talking, there was a bull as well, none to happy to see me and the big dog. I expect he was just warning his herd of the possibility of danger but I was not in the mood for a confrontation with a big bull so we just turned back around the other side of the mountain about a quarter mile short of the normal turnaround.ย  Soonย  the bull and his harem settled down and we were safely on our way back down the mountain.

Beautiful Buck Deer Sprouting Antlers

It wasn’t long before Big Dog was sniffing the air and dancing… like he does when he has detected a wild animal in the distance. You never know whether the animal might still be around or if he has just left behind a scent for the dog to smell,ย  so I got my camera ready in case of a deer or elk sighting. Soon I spotted him, this beautiful buck mule deer back in the trees at the edge of a nice field of grass and wildflowers. He was already well aware of our presence as well so I knew I wasn’t going to get any closer. I snapped a couple against the rising sun that I knew weren’t optimal shots but I wanted to make sure I at least had a rough record of the sighting. What I was hoping for though was that we might be able to ease around the mountainside to the east so that I could get better lighting on his face and today fate was kind. He didn’t move and just kept staring at us to see what our intentions might be.

Fortunately I was able to make a few captures with him standing perfectly still in the sun for me so that I would have something to upload to stock and this blog post ๐Ÿ™‚ Due to the nice soft early morning light I selected ISO 400 in hopes of a fast enough shutter speed to get this hand held image with my big 400mm lens. As I take a close look here on the big computer screen it appears as though I earned my money today ๐Ÿ™‚ You can see he is well on his way to a huge rack of antlers for the coming rut. You can even see the velvet still covering the new growth if you look closely ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ But finally after two unintentional scouting runs I actually figured out the intricacies on finding the right road ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 earlierย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 seeingย  ๐Ÿ™‚

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, butย  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!

The Fawns

Mama Deer and Fawns

Today’s trek turned out to be extra special due to a rare fawn sighting ๐Ÿ™‚ As I neared the turnaround point in the out and back part of the trail I saw movement in the mountain grass. At first I thought it was going to be a fox or maybe a coyote but as I looked through my long glass I discovered that it was a little fawn mule deer. Soon a second baby appeared followed by the mama who immediately spotted me and stopped for a long suspicious stare. The babies soon gatheredย  close to their mother for protection and joined the vigil. Eventually they decided that I was not threatย  and continued along their way as I hid behind a tree using a branch to steady the camera. I stayed until they were out of sight, capturing this cute scene of the two little ones in tow ๐Ÿ™‚

Mama Deer and Fawns

I love springtime in the mountains with all the new life and it is my sincere hope that through my pictures others will come to appreciate life in all it’s precious beauty and fragility and gain an understanding of the importance of preserving it for future generations to enjoy.

 

Eleven Mile Canyon Fiasco V2

Go to Eleven Mile Canyon they say… “It will be fun!” ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So I’ve been thinking about Eleven Mile Canyon for six years now. Tried to go one other time on a whim, went past a sign near Florissant that said Eleven Mile Reservoir. After a few miles of horrendous washboard dirt road and ugly Pike National Forest desert wilderness I finally gave up. Came to a sign pointing back to Florissant so I just took that turn for a few more miles of teeth rattling, shock absorber busting washboard road ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Today’s plan was much better. Using Google Maps I located the correct turn off of highway 24, which was actually in Lake George. Sure enough, Forest Service signs pointing to Eleven Mile Canyon on CR 96 and the promise of miles of pristine flowing water of the South Platte Headwaters. Unfortunately if you stay on CR 96 it just becomes CR 244 which leads to the same butt busting washboard roads that the one from Florissant leads to with no pristine flowing river in sight anywhere ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Herd of Mule Deer Bucks

Eventually I did see a sign at a turnoff that said “Eleven Mile Canyon” 5 miles. Took the turn and saw another sign with little pictures of a dirt bike, an ATV and a Jeep. Stopped short and looked over the single lane Jeep road and decided to call it a day. I knew I had to be getting close to Guffy though so I just kept going on the road I was on hoping for imminent delivery onto the paved 112.

A couple of miles later I came to a T in the road, one way to the reservoir and the other to Guffy.ย  I did actually drive the two miles west to make it to the reservoir this time and managed to get this picture without having to pay to get into the state park, which by this time I was in no mood for ๐Ÿ˜

Eleven Mile Reservoir in Summer

As a bonus I saw the above nice looking buck mule deer hanging out in the wilderness of the Pike National Forest. He had a couple buddies but they quickly talked it over and decided I wasn’t a welcome addition to their little club and took off. I got a few shots of them running away but nothing worth bothering to process in Photoshop.

Now that I’m home looking at the map more closely I can see the error of my ways and may give it another shot some day.