Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,Β  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain πŸ™‚ I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet πŸ™‚ Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!Β  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.Β  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I couldΒ  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees 😦 Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.Β  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.Β  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse πŸ™‚ it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years πŸ™‚ I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade πŸ™‚ I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

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!

 

Nature’s Way

Mama Osprey

Many of you know that I have been watching the Bald Eagle and Osprey nests that I discovered in Eleven Mile Canyon since early spring. I saw one eaglet grow up under the careful eye of his mother and father, spread his wings and finally take flight to begin his life as America’s National Bird. He still lives at the nest, gaining strength and learning from his parents how to hunt. Today I saw him take his longest flight yet πŸ™‚

Osprey Chick Learning to Fly

The Osprey family has two chicks, both of which are growing in size and strength. Today I witnessed a new development… the mother osprey made a short flight across the river over to a dead treetop not far from my favorite perch. At first I thought she was going on a fishing trip but then I thought she landed… I couldn’t see very well from my precarious position but I kept looking and eventually I spotted her through the branches of a tall pine tree. I slid over on the pine needles to a better spot which later resulted in the need for tweezers 😦 and got a shot of her watching over the youngsters. Soon she was calling out the the chicks, apparently encouraging them to fly and they did their very best! The older one flapped his wings furiously and for the first time he actually gained some air! It was quite an experience to behold πŸ™‚

Osprey in Flight

In the meantime a couple of turkey vultures were circling overhead, eventually drawing the ire of the father osprey who took flight to confront the intruders. They were apparently not eager for a fight with the fierce predator and promptly fled the scene. I tried my best to photograph the aerial incident but the confrontation was far too high in the sky for me to adequately capture.

Bald Eagle Fledgling

As I sat at my vantage point and watched the action I was struck by the dedication of the osprey and the eagles to the task assigned them by their Maker. The spend their days doing what they are supposed to do, asking nothing more and nothing less out of their lives. There is no question in their minds about what they are, what they are supposed to do or whether there might be something else in life they might pursue. They find a mate, hatch their eggs and tend to their chicks. The mother is content to nurture the young and the father stands guard on a perch high above the nest with a view of any danger that might approach and occasionally bringing a fish to sustain his family. It is Nature’s Way.

I only wish that people were so disciplined, so obedient and dedicated to the purpose given to them by their Maker. Unfortunately it is not so with humans constantly disobeying their Creator, ignoring all restraint in quest of their own will. Unlike the raptors I have been watching humans are never satisfied with their God given reality, aspiring instead to create their own kingdoms to the detriment of themselves and everyone around them. Those who seek that kind of power over others have something terribly wrong in their souls, they are evil and may God Himself destroy their tyrannical aspirations.

As always, the best of these images 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!

The Eagle Show

Baby Eagle in Nest

As the caffeine from my morning coffee began to revive my brain, I began to wonder how the eagles out at Eleven Mile Canyon were doing. The last time I was there I didn’t see them and there were reports that the eaglet had taken flight, so it has been a couple of weeks since I have seen them. By 6:30 I was itching to get outside with my camera so it seemed a good day to pay a visit. When I first arrived I didn’t see any of them in the nest, not with my bare eyes anyway… I needed a closer look so I got out my big lens and zoomed in. Much to my surprise the eaglet was in the nest, or above it I should say… disguised as a tree branch! I steadied the camera on the hood of my truck and just watched for a while.

Eventually I was rewarded with a short flight by the young raptor, probably a couple of

Red Winged Blackbird

feet over the nest. I was surprised that the parent eagles weren’t there, I thought I had a handle on their daily routine, with flight taken at about 10:00. So I thought, well… why don’t I hang around until a little after 10:00 and see if anything happens? In the meantime I whiled away the time by shooting an occasional shot of the red winged blackbirds that were hopping from perch to perch, occasionally dropping down to the clear blue water of the South Platte for a drink.

Bald Eagles in Flight

At 10:15 I was about to give up on the eagles and settle for the images of the eaglet in near flight. While messing around trying to photograph one of the speedy little swallows over the river that like to taunt me, I looked up and spotted one of the adults in the nest! Soon I also saw the other parent swooping in and I whipped my camera up and laid on the back focus button… The huge bird came into view and I started shooting. Only my middle focus point was activated and in precise mode so I did my best to keep that single small point on the eagle as he glided over to the nest and spread his wings for the landing. I was so happy to discover that quite a few of him preparing to land on the nest turned out pretty well πŸ™‚

For a few short minutes both adults and the eaglet were in the nest together but

Bald Eagles in Flight

unfortunately the baby had ducked down and wasn’t really visible from my angle. Shortly thereafter one of the adults suddenly and without warning took flightΒ  again, I imagine for another fishing trip over Eleven Mile Reservoir.

I hung around a few more minutes hoping that the youngster would join mama for a couple of poses but I was thinking the little one was probably tired from all his pre flight practice earlier in the day. I really hope I have the good fortune to be there when he eventually takes flight for real and joins his parents in the fishing. I wonder how long the eaglet remains with his parents before departing to make his own life? I’ll have to look that up I guess πŸ™‚

As always, the best of these images 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!

Bald Eagles in the Nest

 

Hiking Ann-Marie Falls Colorado

wp-15909461786523841634482648751622.jpgThe most difficult part of hiking the beautiful Anne-Marie Falls Trail on Pikes Peak Colorado may be finding it in the first place! I have long wanted to experience this trail and finally today I was able to fulfill that wish πŸ™‚ Today is a Sunday so photo buddy Kevin and I met at 7:00 a.m. so we could beat the weekend crowds sure to gather on the Colorado Front Range Trails. Even after diligently studying the trail maps we weren’t too sure of the exact location of the trailhead so I loaded the trail into my Alltrails app and turned on the direction finder. We journeyed down the four mile dirt road on the west side of the peak marked as the turnoff to the

Beaver Ponds on the Anne-Marie Trail

famous Crags Trail. As we passed a blocked gate on the road about a mile past the Crags Trail parking lot, the magic electronic GPS finder announced the trail on the left which didn’t jive with the narrative so we just kept driving.

Finally at the end of the Crags road there was a small parking lot and a well marked trailhead with a large map on a sign. We donned our backpacks loaded with camera gear and headed down the trail. The first mile or so was a pretty tough ascent on well maintained trail, but with a couple of breaks and a little Gatorade the climb wasn’t too difficult. The beautiful trail wound it’s way through majestic old pine forest amidst birds chirping happily from the tall pines overhead.

Wilson's Warbler

Finally we began a long descent which culminated in a clearing featuring a picturesque beaver pond which of course we had to check out extensively! We walked most of the way around, occasionally having to take some care not to sink too deeply in the marsh surrounding the pond πŸ™‚ After capturing the scenery with our wide angle lenses and shooting a couple portraits we came across a colorful cheery Wilson’s Warbler that flitted around us striking all manner of nice poses for a photographer to appreciate πŸ™‚

Eventually we decided to continue on in search of the falls, for which we had not seen a single directional sign. We walked back to the trail where we debated returning the way we came,Β  continuing on or exploring a totally unmarked poorly maintained trail leading towards the southwest and

Wilson's Warbler

Sentinel Point in the distance. It was here that my practice of recording the hikes onto my Alltrails profile proved to be quite advantageous! A quick check of my phone screen revealed our location at the beaver pond and a stretch of unfinished trail leading in the direction of the faint trail along the creek flowing out of the south end of the placid water of the dammed pond.

We opted to continue down in search of the falls where soon we heard the babbling of rushing water.Β  With some indication of success, we were inspired to continue in the direction of the encouraging sound where before long we found the tiniest of waterfalls. Perhaps during the snow melt this might be an impressive falls but in the early summer it is just the pleasant trickle of a beautiful pristine mountain stream. Here I snapped a few pictures of the falls and the tranquil calm spot at the base of the diminutive waterfall.

Anne-Marie Falls

After a nice break we headed back up the trail to the junction where the GPS indicated the possibility of a loop that might cut some distance and a long climb up the steep ridge! We began walking up the alternate route where I checked our location occasionally and indeed we did find ourselves successfully closing in on our final destination without having to climb the ridge again! Eventually we found ourselves on Forest Road 383 which ended at a blocked gate, the place where the direction finder first indicated a trailhead about a half mile down from the parking lot and the main trail marker.

Speaking of GPS, I highly recommend hikers on obscure trails in the Pike National Forest have some kind of direction finder. There are unmarked trails and jeep roads going everywhere and without some high tech assistance it would be quite easy to head off in the wrong direction and turn a beautiful day into a trying experience.

As always, these pictures and 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 tech gifts are also available including the newly added Covid masks! You can also purchase apparel, coffee mugs, battery chargers, phone cases, blankets and pillows and much more!

Anne-Marie Falls