Happy Autumnal Equinox

Misty Mine Country

The sun has officially crossed the equator on it’s annual journey to the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. The first day of autumn in the Colorado high country has greeted us with fog, rain and a morning of stunning beauty. The fog rolled in last night so I made sure to be up early before the sun would have a chance to burn off the fog in the Arkansas Valley, one of my favorite subjects to photograph! I caught glimpses of what I was about to see as I drove through town and around the first bend in the highway on my way to Victor, a sea of fog completely filling the low spots.

Small Herd of Mule Deer

As I proceeded toward my intended overlook I spotted a small herd of mule deer making their way through the deep mountain grass on their way to cover in the pine forest above, and as luck would have it I was also near a spot to pull the truck off the road. The deer weren’t too worried about my presence but they were also not about to take a break from their journey into the woods either! I quickly snapped off a few shots with my 100-400mm lens and then they were gone… out of sight.

I made several stops along the way wherever I could see the amazing weather phenomenon unfolding in the valley below and ended up with quite a few nice ones… if I do say so myself! I wasn’t sure how far up the pass the fog would reach so I decided to check on the mines and the south face of Pikes Peak at the summit of Victor Pass. The mines weren’t much to see today, the sky is dark and there really wasn’t any interesting fog there and I already have much better shots of the mines than anything I would have gotten today.

The Peak is showing signs of fall though, a good patch of aspen are already turning to gold! A few more days and they will be at peak gold. Hopefully I’ll get some really nice ones before my annual trip to Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut!

Anyway, have a happy Autumnal Equinox!

 

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies” and this year’s wildlife calendar “Colorado Wildlife 2023“!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Coyote on the Hunt
 
 

Hawks, Hunting and Gold

I fully expected to go out to another flat tire this morning so I was pretty happy to discover that the tire had held air overnight. Ran back in the house, grabbed my camera and headed for the Victor / Cripple Creek gold mining district where the leaves are changing around the old historic gold mines of a past era.

Gold Mine in Autumn

The leaves up on Victor and Tenderfoot Passes are in peak color, but a few  feet lower down in Victor there is still quite a bit of green so I was not expecting any photography there until later in the season. However there was a view of one of the mines with some gold in the background so I stopped to capture an image. I had to shoot with the long lens and crop pretty tight to get the leaves in the image, hopefully on another day I’ll have a wider field to work with. I also need to get back out in the morning and find the names of these mines for the metadata!

Red-tailed Hawk Hunting

I worked my way north up Victor Pass hoping for some more cool images when I spotted a red-tailed hawk hunting in the prairie dog town. I followed him around a bit until I finally saw him take a dive and snatch up a rodent, I assume a prairie dog. I would think the little creatures would be more mindful of the “death from the sky”, but maybe the young ones aren’t too smart yet. The great bird must have killed the rodent instantly because I never saw it so much as wiggle once he was in the grasp of the razor sharp talons of the powerful raptor.

Red-tailed Hawk Hunting

The hawk carried his prey high into the sky and then headed out across the open field, perhaps to bring to a young one or to a more private place to enjoy his breakfast. I was ready for some breakfast myself by this time so I headed back down the hill when I spotted a good view of this mine (below), the Vindicator I believe… with some golden leaves in the background. I stopped and readjusted my camera for a still shot of the mine and snapped a few pictures.

Unfortunately there was a large crowd at the Gold Camp Bakery so I decided to just go home for breakfast. Not a fan of the large crowds of leaf lookers up here in the mountains at this time of year.

 

Gold Mine in Autumn

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Autumn, My Favorite Time of Year

Gold in Mine Country

I absolutely love this time of year… the clear fresh mountain air, the brisk mornings, the active wildlife and the beautiful colors as aspen trees turn to gold. Sort of a utopia for nature photographers! As soon as it was light this morning I headed out into prime leaf country. Victor, Colorado is one of the finest places for aspen leaf looking in the state. There is an awesome view of the south face of Pikes Peak from Victor Pass covered with aspen trees and I wanted to capture it before we lost the moisture in the air leftover from yesterday’s rains.

Gold in Mine Country

And today it was magnificent probably within a couple of days of peak color. I set the camera to manual with a 320th of a second and an aperture of F8 for good depth of field, and checked a couple of exposures before making my way around to all the best vantage points. It was early morning with the sun nearly at my back so I knew there would be no need for a polarizer. Eventually I knew I had captured the scene so it was off to the Gold Camp Bakery for some biscuits and gravy 🙂 There were quite a few leaf seeking customers there today so my order took a bit longer, but I never get tired of looking out the window at historic Victor while I contemplate my the rest of the day.

Mule Deer in the Rockies

I decided to take a short jaunt down the hill to see if the deer might be stirring on such a beautiful morning, and I was not disappointed! I found a herd of four beautiful bucks, which I assume is probably the Three Amigos + One. Don’t know why but each fall the three inseparable friends pick up a fourth prior to the rut season, which is soon to come. Once they get interested in the ladies you won’t see them together until later in the winter.

Mule Deer in the Rockies

Eventually the two herds meandered into the trees and I headed back up the mountain to see what the brighter light may have done for my autumn scene. Indeed it was a bit different so I retraced my earlier steps to recapture all the best angles in the more intense light.

Satisfied that I had sufficiently captured the scene I was ready to call it a day. There was still hope that I might see a few more deer or perhaps even some elk but it was not to be. They don’t like to stay out in the bright sunshine and retreat to the dark depths of the pine forest to while away the days hidden in the shadows.

My one last stop was to check on my pieces at the Victor Gold Camp Artist’s Coop and hopefully chat with a few of the potential customers trickling through. If you get up to Victor this season be sure to stop in and check on the mountain art! It’s well worth the effort 🙂 I have a few pieces scattered around the place and a notebook of prints on a table right in front of the cash register. Be sure to pick up one of my picture business cards!

 

 

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

Finally Some Snow

Snow and Fall Colors on Pikes Peak

Didn’t know what to expect when I rounded the corner and climbed up over Victor Pass, 10,200 feet this morning. I was hoping for some lingering fog or storm clouds from yesterday’s precipitation but I was delighted to be greeted by the season’s first significant snow on the south face of Pikes Peak 🙂 The colors are nearing their peak intensity and the white of the snow really set the scene off!

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take it all in with the 400mm lens on so I switched to my trusty 24-105L with the polarizer attached. Once I took off my sunglasses I knew the polarizer was the right choice, it’s immediately apparent in the clouds the dramatic effect that polarization has in just the right light. I dialed the ISO down to 100 and selected a 320th of a second for the shutter speed. The camera chose F5.6

Snow and Fall Colors on Pikes Peak

which seemed good enough for the mountain which was miles in the distance. However in retrospect I should have probably gone with F8 and ISO 200. Now I know some photographers will think I should have used a slower shutter speed but in my experience up here on these high passes, the wind is always blowing. I don’t like blurry clouds and the leaves fluttering in the wind also just look blurry if your shutter speed is too low. Regardless of the aperture I chose, I’m happy with the pictures anyway!

I had to hike around a bit to get all the good angles while avoiding power lines and other obstructions but by the time storm clouds had completely obliterated the scene I was sure I had what I wanted. And I see more blue on the radar for this afternoon so tomorrow morning I should get another good opportunity to photograph another layer of our signature Colorado snow 🙂

Snow and Fall Colors on Pikes Peak

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! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.

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!