Hiking the Pony Gulch Trail

I’ve lived here three years, always looking for new trails to hike and I just recently found out about the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail only a couple miles from my house! It’s not well known and if a few people hadn’t commented on it in the Alltrails app I would have never found it.

Pony Gulch Trail

Turns out it’s a fairly difficult four mile trek in the remote mountains southwest of Cripple Creek. I was a bit doubtful of the description at first, calling for almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in such a short hike, especially since I know the area and could not imagine a 1000 foot mountain higher than what I can already see. Well, maybe there is a hidden peak back behind that I can’t see I wondered!

Well it didn’t take long to find out the how the elevation gain was going to be accomplished… the very first thing you do once clearing the first ridge is to descend about 750 feet to the bottom of the gulch! Once there you do a bit more climbing to reach the end of trail at the Pony Gulch Homestead in another mile or so.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

A dirt road leads to the trailhead, I recommend using the Alltrails GPS directions to find it, where you can see a jeep road heading up a hill leading to the southwest. At the top of the hill you will be able to see a couple of cairns, which is all you are going to see… There is no trail through the first part of the rugged BLM land.  Once again, turning on the GPS in your phone to lead you through the first half mile is a good idea. Once into the BLM area about a couple of hundred yards there is a noticeable four wheel drive road which goes the wrong way… don’t take it, veer to the right and look for the gulch. Once you find the gulch there are more cairns and a discernible trail to follow.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

The first three quarters of a mile or so is a steep decline down slippery scree in places, my trekking pole got a workout here! There is some nice scenery along this part of the trail, especially in the fall with beautiful golden aspen backed by rugged pine covered cliffs.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

Finally at the bottom of the incline the forest opens up to a nice view of the bottom where I imagine a creek flows in the spring. The trail winds down to the dry creek and crosses and earthen dam where the descent ends and a climb begins which takes you another mile to the summit and the Pony Gulch Homestead. The end of the trail is marked by an iron gate marking the entrance to a ranch on private property I presume.

Pony Gulch Trail in AutumnFrom there I climbed another hill of mostly big chunks of quartz nearby to get a view of the valley below and also the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see with all the smoke these days. I Found a nice place to sit and have some food and water and to rest up for the return trip. I put on my 24-105 with a polarizer and took a few pictures to mark the far end of the journey :) I also went down to the homestead to investigate and snap a few more pictures.

Pony Gulch Homestead Trail in Autumn

Finally the time came to begin the return trip… I checked my GPS to make sure I was headed the right way and it was a good thing I did since there was a forest service road that was more prominent than the actual trail back! A short adjustment in direction and I was on my way. After about a quarter of a mile I came to the southernmost cairn and strode on by… The GPS map showed me straying from the route again on a dotted line that looked like it should be the trail but more careful observation revealed that the cairn marked a left turn down a more faint forest road. So another slight adjustment in direction and I was making the short climb past the high point on the section south of the dam.

Soon I was back to the dam and the mile long climb back up to Lookout Point loomed before me. I have to admit, I took quite a few rest stops to catch my breath on the nearly 1000 foot climb in one mile! Eventually I made my way to the end of the  gulch and found myself in search of the cairns that lead the way through the bushwhacking section of the route. Once again, the Alltrails GPS directions come in handy 🙂

I highly recommend this trail to more experienced hikers in a little better physical condition than some. This is not an easy trail and should not be underestimated. I also recommend on this one to let someone know where you are going, it is a very lightly trafficked route and phone signal is iffy at best in the gulch. You might have a long wait for help if you were to twist an ankle or something.

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot along the trail. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my  hike plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Alpine Autumn

It was a beautiful morning above the treeline this morning, actually difficult to describe in words… Wonderful cool, calm and colorful experience, the kind  that makes me glad I live in the mountains. The trek

Young Buck and a His Doe

started out with a bang as a young buck and his mate galloped through the mountain grass about a quarter of a mile from me. I grabbed a couple of shots before they disappeared over the ridge and then looked around to see if I could figure out what they were running from.  I’m sure it wasn’t me as I was nowhere near, perhaps it was a coyote down in the valley below.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline in the Pike National Forest of Colorado

I spotted a red-tail hawk in the tree tops about a quarter of a mile away, pretty close to the trail that I would be traversing near there. I set up my camera for a hawk in flight and hoped he wouldn’t take flight before I could get there. No luck there,  I looked up every once in a while to see if he was still there and before I could get anywhere near him he disappeared into the smokey morning mist while my eyes were on the trail.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

After that there were no more animals to be found, just a few colorful aspen trees in their lonely stand against the harsh high country existence. I found the starkness of the moment compelling as I spotted image after image in the distance… some dead aspen in the foreground against a colorful grove below in the valley. Another small aspen stand with the rugged peaks of the Pike National Forest in the background.

Autumn Gold Above Treeline

Eventually my hike came to an end and I had to decide whether to continue my drive in search of more color, or to just call it a morning. It occurred to me that I still needed to scout out the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail on the other side of Cripple Creek so I drove on over there while scanning the tree tops and hillsides for hawks and deer. The GPS took me on a dirt road that I have not yet explored and up a steep hill that I’m not sure will be passable in the wintertime without a 4×4…

Autumn Gold Above TreelineI located the trail head and hiked back in about a quarter of a mile to assure that the Alltrails GPS route matched the path that appeared before me. As I strode along the unfamiliar route, the welcome sight of a series of cairns appeared before me. Others have mapped out the path and left the trail guides for those who would follow 🙂

Anyway, it was a great morning and these pictures turned out even better than I had hoped!

These were my  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of 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 my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

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!

Where I’m Most at Home

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

The alpine tundra, high above the treeline… that’s my favorite place to be. Never have been a big fan of hiking in valleys or dense forest. I like to be up high, above the treeline where I can see stunning peaks and valleys! It’s not always the most hospitable place to be, the winds and weather can be ferocious here and this day was one of the worst! It was a nice toasty warm day down in Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, but up here, at the summit of Trail Ridge Road, the winds must have been blowing at least 50 mph. And it was cold too, can’t imagine what the wind chill was!

These were also difficult conditions for photography, the wind was blowing so hard I could barely open my eyes which were watering profusely from the horrendous draft. It was difficult to steady the camera and it was too uncomfortable to be messing with the tripod which would have probably blown over anyway. I tried to steady the camera on boulders where possible, guard rails when present, anything I could find. From the

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

look of some of my images I was not always successful, even though I was using my 18-55 wide angle lens with image stabilization turned on.

But it was so beautiful up here, rugged peaks, aspen and tundra turning to gold before the onslaught of the harsh Rocky Mountain winter. There was no question about it, weather notwithstanding, I was going to get the pictures of this magnificent place!

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of these images, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, battery chargers, stationary, greeting cards, blankets and pillows and much more!

Autumn on Trail Ridge Road

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.  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 🙂

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!

 

What Falls in Your Lap

I guess the message of this post is to focus on what falls in your lap.  Woke up early this morning and as usual I opened the curtains on my way to the coffee pot. 16 degrees and socked in with fog… couldn’t see a thing. No matter, I was wretched tired anyway and a cup of coffee and a nap on the couch sounded like a pretty good plan 🙂

Frosty Colorado Forest

Drank my coffee, let Big Dog back in and shut my eyes… that was going to be the end of it. I suppose it was about an hour later and Big Dog was starting to complain so I kind of opened one eye and noticed that the sun was starting to shine through on the distant aspen trees which were magnificently covered with a heavy layer of frost. Now this is a scene I have long wanted to capture but there just isn’t any way to get in position for the shot. But wait I thought… Now I have the 400mm… twice the reach I used  to have!

So I went back in, grabbed the camera and headed off to try once again to capture the beautiful grove of trees. This time I had a little better luck. 400mm seems like just the trick! Hope ya’ll like the image 🙂 As always it is available as wall art on my website, this one is in the Rocky Mountain Winter gallery.

Bighorn Fortune

I always take my Canon DSLR with me… usually to no avail. Sometimes I tell people that I carry it as protection from wildlife… as long as I have it with me there is no chance that I will encounter any wild animals 😦 Fortunately this day was different, I encountered a herd of bighorn sheep on the side of the mountain posing in a grove  of beautiful autumn colored aspen 🙂

Leaping Bighorn

I quick snapped off a few pictures and then noticed that the nimble beasts were intent upon crossing over a large crevice by jumping from one large boulder to the next. So I quick set my camera to ISO 400 in hopes of getting a sharp action picture. One by one the critters deftly leapt from one boulder to the next over to a rock clearing where they could rest. As fortune would have it, they decided to take their afternoon break right in a grove of aspen trees that were some of the few that have already taken on their autumn colors.

It was a bit bright by that time in the afternoon and I noticed that my highlight warning was indicating quite a bit of  clipping on the light end of the scale so I decided to reach into my pack for the polarizer. One quick turn of the dark filter and the leaves took on the expected amazing deep saturated coloring that I was envisioning.

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

The sheep, safe on their high precarious perch were completely unconcerned by the activities of any humans far below and I was able to shoot for as long as I wanted. When the entire herd had made it across the boulders to the clearing the leader began another short migration to the next vantage point but I knew I had the shot I wanted and departed the scene as well.

My plan for today was to head over towards Breck in hopes of scouting out the trailhead to Quandary Peak. I’m not too confident about completing a 14er in style this year, but the thought of spending another entire winter thinking, “maybe next year” is too disheartening to contemplate. I have to see 14,000 feet this year, that’s all there is to it and 14,265 foot Quandary looks doable even in my less that optimal physical conditioning. According to 14ers.com the East Ridge route is only a little over six miles with a difficulty rating of Class 1 all the way. Since I already live at nearly 10,000 feet and regularly climb to over 11,000 feet extra elevation training is not that big of a concern.

So next week I will make the drive to scout out a camp site on Hoosier Pass and have a lookat trailhead parking. Don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark looking for a place to park when I should be getting a jump start on the climb!

These pictures and more are now available on my website as wall art, including glossy and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framed and matted prints. Many cool household and gift items are available as well including, gift cards, t-shirts, beach towels, battery chargers, phone cases and more! Once you are in the site, choose gallery mode to find your favorite category, or image mode to see the latest additions. Click on each image you like to view product options and pricing!

Futility

I have to admit, today’s project seems like an exercise in futility. Without a running vehicle I see the same scenery and the same photo subjects day after day with little hope of shooting anything original or new. And even if I did the odds in this saturated marketplace that anyone will even see my work is becoming more and more remote. Last week I wrote of alpenglow, the cool celestial effect from which the Sangre de Cristo mountain range got it’s name. I don’t know, maybe everyone but me already knew about alpenglow or maybe I’m just more easily entertained than others, but the fact is virtually no one saw the article. Or maybe I am the victim of the new Facebook algorithm that picks out for people what Mark Zuckerburg thinks they should be looking at. I have noticed recently that I am only seeing the posts of a couple of people, over and over and over. Funny, I eliminated 90% of my most annoying liberal friends and now all I see are the annoying posts of my few remaining liberal friends. Not sure what that means, maybe liberals make the most posts or maybe FB thinks I am in need of reindoctrination, lol. The fact remains however, virtually no one is seeing my posts and Facebook has become a nearly irrelevant tool for marketing my work. On every post I make, I am reminded that others are “boosting” their posts by purchasing ad space. And true enough, my side space is filled with ads by other photographers that I have no interest whatsoever in making a purchase from and am quite sure that they have no interest in my work either, a waste of money for all involved.

Springtime Aspen and Fence

Barren springtime Colorado aspen trees

Fortunately for me, the business models of my stock agencies are more business oriented in their search methodologies, favoring those who work hard and consistently produce new material without making judgements on the political correctness of the producer. Shooting for stock is quite a bit different than shooting for art, in fact too much artistic manipulation will only get your work rejected by the stock editors. Subjects of great beauty are of course helpful in stock photography but not necessary. Advertisers are often not looking for magnificent scenery for their ad campaigns, but are looking for a concept that matches their vision. A suitable backdrop for their vision often includes a copious amount of open space for text or imagery of the product they are marketing.

So today, the mountains looked pretty much the same as they do every morning at sunrise, amazingly beautiful and worthy of a few shots even though I don’t see any difference since the last time I photographed them. But today with the despair of the failure of my more artistic work to sell I turned my sights back to stock. I have been eyeing these aspen trees for some time and today I noticed that the sun was casting an interesting light upon them and the parched mountain grass. Knowing that sharp focus is important to stock editors, I set my camera to Av and f8 in hopes of a razor sharp image and tried to capture a vision of solitude or loneliness in the simplicity of barren late winter aspen trees. These I uploaded to my stock agencies along with some of the morning Sangre de Cristo, however only this one have I added to my own website where it will be sold as royalty free stock.

Facebook posts of my work require a lot of extra time, and my return on investment of this effort does not appear to be worthwhile so I won’t be putting in any extra effort making my images available for viewing there. Until I see some effort in fairness by Facebook I consider it to be an irrelevant tool as far as business marketing is concerned. On the upside, I have recently noticed that I have made “All Star” at LinkedIn as interest in my portfolio is growing there 🙂 Any of my readers who want to continue to see daily updates are welcome to add me as a LinkedIn contact! You are also welcome of course to subscribe to my blog  by clicking the follow button and you will receive an email each time I publish a new article!

Pikes Peak Autumn

Autumn and golden aspen leaves grace the slopes of magnificent Pikes Peak Colorado this time of year, but with all the chaos from the move I was starting to think I was going to miss the whole show. Finally though, my truck is finally roadworthy and a day off of work coincided with a sunny morning. I decided it was now or never and readied my equipment for a morning shoot.

Victor Gold MiningI wanted to catch the beauty at first light so I set my alarm for an early morning, which proved to be unnecessary… I was awake long before dawn, which to me was a fortuitous excuse for a trip to Bronco Billy’s for some biscuits and gravy 🙂 After some coffee and breakfast I was on my way around the gold mine and headed toward Victor. Didn’t see much color yet by that time so I continued my journey.

As I neared the ghost town of Goldfield an amazing scene appeared in rear view mirror…  The silhouette of one of the historic mines from the old west boom days was highlighted by a beautiful cloud bank filling in the valley below. A few deer grazing in the mountain grass also graced the scene and can be viewed on my website by clicking the buttons on the left or in the menu if you are on a smartphone.

Pikes Peak Autumn

Fall and golden aspen trees come to the southwest face of Pikes Peak Colorado

From there I continued north for a great view of Pikes Peak and the vista that spread before me was breathtaking! Clouds and mist were spilling over the mountain and filling the golden valley and mountainside with a mystical mantle that was begging for a camera! 

Several stops were needed along my way to Gillette Flats before I took the turn south on highway 67 and back to Cripple Creek. By this time the sun was burning brightly, creating a blaze of glory in the golden aspen leaves lining the route. One grove was particularly inviting, requiring a little hike to capture.

Be sure to visit my print site to see all the images from this outing as I get them posted.

Hiding in My Cave

The weekend before the big Fourth of July holiday week, also the time for the mass migration of city people to the mountains… Lol, the tourists are like, “where are all the fireworks booths”? Mountain people… there aren’t any, we kind of frown upon burning down the mountains for entertainment. My  town is on a major artery to the Continental Divide and there is now a steady stream of trucks pulling trailers with ATV vehicles aboard, camper trailers, RVs and cars by the thousands. As for me, I will not be participating in the festivities… not a fan of crowds and noise. I’m taking a break from summer and shooting, doing some cleaning, some chores and catching up on my computer work.

Stock photography is purchased ahead of time in preparation for the next season’s advertising campaigns so I am going through my fall and winter images to see what I may have missed uploading at the time I did the shoots. Earlier this year I finally upgraded to a modern version of Adobe Photoshop and I am exploring all the new capabilities. One particular tool I have fallen in love with is the Fx tool in Camera Raw. The dehaze tool has assisted me with cutting through the whiteness of snowfall and bringing out detail in the hazy mountains and trees of on a couple of shoots I did in snowstorms.

Frosty Aspen TreesI remember this particular image well… I was hoping that by snowshoeing to the top of Bald Mountain I would be able to climb above the snow and clouds in order to get some unique shots of Pikes Peak across the valley. However I was not able to get above the snow this day and the images with snow and fog in them were quite white with little detail. As you can see by the small patch of blue sky however, I was nearly successful in climbing above it… Maybe a couple hours later would have done it. Too long to hang out chillin’ on a frozen mountain top though, I had to shoot what I could and get back down! The screen on the camera appeared to show that I had had captured sufficient detail, but Photoshop was just too confused by the snowflakes and fog for me to be able to bring it out. However with the new Fx dehaze tool which operates on the linear digital data file, new detail is a piece of cake 🙂

So, there it is, the plan is to just hang out in my cave relaxing with the puppies and kitties while the city people ravage the high country with their four wheel drives and terrorize the wildlife with their explosives.

 

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

Autumnal Equinox

Autumn, my favorite time of year in the mountains. Today is the day that the sun passes the equator on it’s journey south for the winter, officially know as the autumnal equinox. In Colorado it’s the time of year that the rainstorms decrease in frequency and the leaves begin to take on autumn gold. In the high country the leaves have often achieved their peak color by this time and this year is no different. As I look at the high mountainsides on Pikes Peak I can see gold and hope that I get a chance to climb up there before the wind and the snow spoil the show.

Autumn

Pikes Peak autumn

So far it has been a busy fall in Woodland Park with a bike race, an ultra marathon, the Cruise Above the Clouds car show, and finally this weekend the pinnacle of autumn, Oktoberfest. I am thankful that for the first time since I took up residence in this beautiful town all the forces converged to allow me to attend. There were a few wrinkles in my morning that threatened to overcome my plans, but the storm clouds held back and I had a great time enjoying some German cuisine.

Today I am basking in the satisfaction of having my fifth “Newsworthy” article published on the Examiner and sorting through a pot full of images from the bounty of events this season. According to the weatherman clouds and rain will remain with us all day, giving me plenty of time to sort through the pictures. I am looking forward to fleshing out my “Festivals” album on the S. W. Krull Imaging facebook page and hopefully sending a few up to my stock agencies.

Tomorrow will be sunny and with any luck the day will find me with my hiking boots on in the midst of Rocky Mountain autumn color.