First Snow 2020

Summer didn’t give up without a fight… some of the hottest weather I’ve seen in the mountains persisted right through the entire labor day weekend.  Almost 80 doesn’t sound very hot to ya’ll flat landers but we aren’t used to that up here! it was much worse in Denver, Sunday I believe hitting 101 degrees. It was so hot and bright just after sunrise that I didn’t even bother leaving the house.

First Colorado Snow

But that all ended on Monday night as a cold front went through and dropped the temperature to 20f and the skies broke with eight inches of snow, wind and fog. The fog and low visibility lasted all day yesterday so I dejectedly continued my four day losing streak by not going out of the house at all, not even to exercise 😦 Today however was better, the sun was kind of out and I could see the fog was breaking up, ideal conditions for pictures! As I looked out the window my spirits were lifted by the spectacular conditions and my mind once again turned to the mountains and photography.

Mines on a Winter Day

So I laced up my winter hiking boots and hit the trail. I was hoping for that magnificent view from the top of the ridge with fog at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range but unfortunately all I could see was fog flowing into the valley from the southwest.  As I strode through the snow and fog on the summit the historic gold mine came into faint view through the fog, so I stopped for a bit to take in the view and capture the scene. The view of the valley below on the northeast side of the mountain was also well worth a couple black and white captures on the return trail.

Red-tailed Hawk

A pair of red-tailed hawks greeted me at the trailhead, each calling to the other through the mist from their own power pole. I was fortunate after a while that one of the great raptors left his pole and flew right at me 🙂 Nothing better than a good hawk in flight picture!

Mines on a Winter Day

After my hike I decided to drive through Victor and check on mine country in Goldfield, hoping for some photogenic fog and a view of the Sangres. Part of my wish came true, there was a nice foggy backdrop behind the mines which made for a nice landscape image despite the Sangre de Cristo being completely fogged over 🙂

I knew I had to make one more stop… Pikes Peak was bound to be amazing with new snow and fog so I drove to the top of Victor Pass for a look. And the great mountain did not disappoint 🙂 The cantankerous old lady always looks better in snow 🙂

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

By this time it was becoming obvious that our short bout with winter was about over. Heat rising from my sweatshirt was fogging over my sunglasses and I was getting really thirsty so I decided to call it a day. The fog never really did subside… I thought I was going to get a break on the way home but as I prepared for pictures  a new layer of fog streamed in from the valley below, totally obscuring my view of the distant mountain range.

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 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!

Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…  when you see that white line pass under your feet.  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else 😦 It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top of  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike 🙂

Suddenly Spring

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

Last week in the high country of Colorado we were contending with blizzard conditions and temperatures that had plummeted well below the zero degree mark. A couple of days ago several inches of snow fell  in the night on top of last week’s melting snow, turning the entire region into a skating rink, I saw the aftermath including cars buried in the deep snow down the embankments on either side of Highway 67 when I had to drive into town for supplies. However, the view of the mountains as the storm clouds were receding was simply spectacular!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

I love it when the storm clouds, wind and blowing snow pour over the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range to the southwest making my job as a photographer so easy! Braving the wind and the cold aren’t so pleasant but having the chance to photograph such splendor sometimes feels like such an incredible honor.

Today however is an entirely different story, the sun is shining, snow and ice are melting and temperatures will soar into the 40’s for the next few days. Such as it is in Colorado, just when it starts to seem like winter is never going to end, suddenly and without warning spring arrives and for a time it is like winter never was. Of course until about the middle of June we have to keep in mind that winter can rudely reappear at any time with a vengeance!

As always  these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website and don’t forget to visit my latest YouTube video to see the elk herd in the deep snows of the high country! Please subscribe to my channel if you like what you see, I still need quite a few subscribers in order to get my custom #swkrullimaging URL that is so important when the time comes to set up my commercial options!

Storm Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo Range

 

Winter Wonderland

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

Awoke to an amazing world of white calling my name 🙂 A foot of fresh powder blanketed the mountains of the Pike National Forest and I was eager to put on my snowshoes and tackle the deep powder. But not before some coffee and pancakes at the Home Cafe of course 🙂

The winding mountain road had been plowed but was still covered in a thin layer of the slippery white stuff requiring a good bit of caution to negotiate before I arrived at the trailhead. Unfortunately the parking lot had not yet been cleared but I decided to take a chance and enter anyway. I didn’t think I’d get stuck but figured even if I did that the lot would be plowed before I was back from my hike. It wasn’t long before I had lost momentum and was indeed stuck in the deep snow. No matter, no one was going to be around to complain about my poor job of parking 🙂

It was a long tough slog up the mountainside in the deep powder, fortunately faint

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

imprints of my previous climbs were still visible or I would have been sinking two feet into the deep mantle of white! As always I was hoping for a glimpse of the elk herd or even some mule deer, but I was well aware that the animals were too smart to risk a cougar attack with unnecessary risk in the deep powder. Indeed there was no sign of wildlife anywhere on the mountain, save for a rabbit or two.

The storm was over but as it does many times at this elevation on the mountain, snow continued to drift lazily out of the haze enveloping the entire world, reflecting light like a million tiny prisms. I tried capturing the phenomenon but it does not appear that I was successful. I had packed my 100-400mm lens in hope of capturing some wildlife and it was not the best choice for the expansive scene before me, but I did enjoy shooting a few of the snow covered trees with it. Eventually I was relieved to arrive at the summit and catch my breath. The snow was still deep but at least the steep climb was done with!

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

The aspen and pine trees were covered in frost and snow, looking like ghosts in the distance against the white snow and grey skies in the background. More snow is on the way today so if all goes right maybe I’ll get another chance tomorrow to visit my favorite winter wonderland!

Finally back at the parking lot I was faced with the unpleasant reality that my two wheel drive truck was deeply embedded in the slippery white stuff 😦 I cleared a bit of snow with the snow shovel that I had wisely packed but it did little good other than to get me a couple more feet along my way. Eventually it became clear that I was not going to get out of putting on the chains, which proved to be the right weapon to get me back on the road 🙂

Tired and sore now, but still happy that it was a good day in the Colorado high country. As always some of these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift and household items are also available with a beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain scene from S.W. Krull Imaging!

Snowshoe trail

Snowshoe trail in deep Colorado snow

Snow Shoes Required

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Today there were no questions about whether the snow shoes were going to be required. One look at the trail and the question was answered, deep snow all the way to the summit and beyond. There was a cold wind out of the west this morning and as I strode up the mountainside and it wasn’t long before my ears began to tingle in pain from the searing cold. I shivered a little and pulled my sweatshirt hood over my head and then for good measure I cinched up the hood from my windbreaker as well.

My hopeful eyes scanned the ridge line as the dense pine trees drew closer, but there

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

was no wildlife in sight on this frigid morning. Finally I cleared the summit hoping to be greeted by the Three Amigos as I call them, the three bucks that seem to so thoroughly enjoy that mountaintop but they were not there. In fact there was no sign of life in the high clearing at all, no tracks, no droppings, nothing at all to indicate that I was going to have any wildlife photography success.

So I resigned myself to the idea that I was just going to have a nice snowshoe workout and maybe some good views of the mountains. And as always, the view from the summit never disappoints. The Sangre de Cristo were spectacular today under their heavy coat of

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

fresh snow with what appears to be another winter storm gathering on the high peaks of the beautiful block fault range.

On my way down I encountered the tracks of a lone coyote and I wondered how he would survive the long hard Rocky Mountain winter. How could any animal survive the wicked cold and winds at this elevation? As I listened to the whoosh, whoosh of fresh powder beneath my snowshoes I found myself hoping he would, hoping I would hear the howls of his pack in the spring warning me not to get too close to a new litter of pups.

And as I thought upon the beauty of these small feisty predators it also came to mind that

Coyote

I should  write some letters to the politicians to demand an end to the indiscriminate and cruel murder so many of these tenacious animals face, and I hope you will write some letters and make some calls too. And please make special mention of halting the inhumane and unnecessary medieval practice of trapping that has been banned in over 70 civilized countries all over the world. Also please do all you can to bring an end to “yoting”, the vile so called sport practiced in Wyoming and Montana described in this excellent article from High Country News,  of running these animals over with snowmobiles, leaving them wounded and maimed, left to suffer a horrible painful death, alone in the snow. What kind of people are they who think of this as fun?

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift and handy household items are also available, including coffee mugs, phone chargers, blankets and pillows, apparel, all with a beautiful Rocky Mountain image from SW Krull Imaging

Eleven Mile Winter

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

Something I’ve always wanted to do… See the headwaters of the South Platte River flowing through Eleven Mile Canyon in wintertime. Shouldn’t be that hard to do but I never seemed to have the right tires or brakes or time or whatever… But yesterday it finally all came together and I made the journey! I was kind of thinking about leaving my truck at the entrance but that idea was quickly abandoned when I got out to pay. Dang it’s cold in that canyon! Apparently the canyon walls are quite good at holding in the cold!

The road was snow packed and icy in places as I entered the canyon but as the road

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

turned to the west bare dirt greeted me and it looked like the journey should be doable even in a two wheel drive truck. As I drove past the roughest part of the river, a place where I usually climb down to the riverside for some shots and video of the roaring whitewater it became apparent that climbing on the banks was going to be out of the question in winter. Oh well I thought, I was sure the riverside would be accessible in other places.

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

And it was in a few places but mostly a riverside visit in the Rocky Mountain winter is a pretty treacherous endeavor 😦 In some places there was just deep snow to go through, but in others it was ice so solid that my Ice Trekkers were not even enough for traction. And in other places there was an icy shelf over the river bank so that it wasn’t possible to tell where the bank ended and the river began. One wrong step and one might find himself on an unpleasant winter swim in the icy waters of a raging Colorado river!

So getting pictures turned out to be a very difficult proposition. In summer you can pick

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

yourself right down to the waters edge to get past the vegetation that lines the entire bank for an unobstructed view of the river. But in winter so many good views are ruined by a bush or a tree or just bramble sticking up from the riverside. Getting just the right angle on the view is so important but I was simply not able to do that yesterday.

But I certainly enjoyed myself and had a great morning along the beautiful river. The canyon is always a beautiful sight to behold with it’s magnificent cliffs and eagles soaring overhead. Unfortunately the times I saw an eagle I was equipped with a wide angle for shooting the river. When I put on my long lens I could not find an eagle anywhere!

Well anyway, I did manage to get a few pictures I like, some of which are up on my website for purchase as wall art on  glossy metal or acrylic sheets and I also was able to put together a nice movie called Eleven Mile Winter on my YouTube site 🙂 Don’t forget to subscribe if you like the video and want to be notified each time a video is published!

Also note that I was not sponsored by Ice Trekkers, I purchased them with my own funds because I think they are a good product and frequently find them useful on my winter adventures! I also recommend using a trekking pole or cross country ski poles for safety as you climb the banks of the river in snow!

Eleven Mile Canyon in Winter

Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold 🙂

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel 🙂

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day 🙂

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

Tough Day in the Canyon

The week began with bitter cold and snow, a lot of snow… but as luck would have it there would be a break in the winter weather just in time for our planned adventure in Waterton Canyon. The forecast was calling for sunshine and 40’s on Thursday and the plan was, the sheep would be ready for a break and would come down into the canyon to pose for us 🙂

Red-taile Hawk in Waterton Canyon

Previous experience told me  that the road into the canyon was going to be a muddy mess from the melting snow, terrible conditions for a mountain bike ride so the decision was made to attempt the journey on foot. Spirits were high as we began the trek into the wilderness wonderland along the cascading South Platte River, looking forward to another awesome bighorn sheep encounter. Soon we rounded the bend by the water pipe where we often see the herd of bighorn… no sheep in sight. No matter, there are other likely locations further in. Second likely location, no sheep…

After a break for some Gatorade at the picnic area we decided to press on to the old dam by the house… also no good. Finally we decided to continue past the halfway point dam to the highest point in the park where we have seen the elusive creatures this year. Again, no luck and we decided to head back down in hopes that the animals had come down from the upper reaches behind us on their daily visit to the river for water.

Once again, nothing but a long walk back to the bottom of the canyon. Finally we spotted a bike riding photographer stopped near the water tube looking up into the high peaks north of the  canyon… sure enough, there were a couple of rams way up near the summit, pretty much out of range for decent photography. In the end we decided that at least one snap of the majestic beasts would be better than none, but while we were preparing for the shot they disappeared into the brush. it looked like a climb up the slippery slope might provide a better view so we began the ill advised ascent to the service road, which proved as treacherous as it appeared.

With a couple of slight mishaps and lenses covered with a good scoop of snow, we arrived safely at the plateau where the search for the better view began. Unfortunately all the climb accomplished was to increase the angle of view to the point where we could not see at all over the dry brush covering the mountainside 😦

Wintry Manitou Springs Colorado

On the way down the service road I spotted a white object on a cliff above us, so when we arrived at the closest point and best view we took a look through the long lens to ascertain it’s identity. Turns out it was a majestic looking Red-tailed hawk gazing fiercely over the canyon, I assume in search of prey that might become a good lunch. This would become my only wildlife photograph of the day 😦

The day wasn’t a complete bust though, we did get the benefit of a seven mile hike 😦 Plus  on the way through the Colorado Springs area, there was an amazing view of Manitou Springs from the highway that I have been wanting to acquire for years. Sometimes I don’t have my camera, often I’m in a hurry and don’t have the time… But yesterday I had  the camera and the view was extra fantastic, no excuse not to stop!

These pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also on my website is a new gallery just for birds, raptors, birds of prey, song birds, waterfowl, you name it! I finally feel that I have enough images of birds to warrant the new collection!

A Sight for Sore Eyes

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

The big storm is over and the high country is covered in a new mantle of pure white. I poked my head out the door at sunrise to see what kind of of morning it was going to be and I was elated to be able to see down the valley all the way to the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range for this first time in months. Dust, haze and smoke from the Decker fire have all but made the mountains invisible until the big snowstorm cleaned it all up.

Hope you enjoy the view as much as I do, via pixels on the computer screen! As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

First Major Snow

Today definitely feels like winter! The wind is howling, snow is blowing around and Pikes Peak is turning white! There is this brief period of time for good photography of this angle of the peak where the snow has begun

Winter Storm on Pikes Peak

to decorate the massive mountain and there is still some light on the north face. After the solstice the peak will not see the light of sun until spring and pictures of the peak are pretty uninspiring.

For now though, it looked like a pretty wild day on the peak! I’ve been up there in that weather and the forces of nature are stunning at 14,000 feet!  I was up on the top of the ridge a few winters ago attempting a winter summit on the west face with climbing buddy Ralph when we suddenly found ourselves in a life threatening situation in that howling wind! Fortunately we found the strength to literally run down the trail to a safer elevation and lived to climb another day 🙂

This image is now available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.