Awesome Day on the Crags Trail

wp-15906917194317936377850603572725.jpgIt has been four years since I have hiked the Crags Trail so I was very much looking forward to it! The trail is located on Highway 67 on the west side of magnificent Pikes Peak Colorado about three miles into the Pike National Forest on a rough dirt road. I have to say, the road is a bit longer than I remember but on the upside it is pretty well maintained for a Colorado mountain road!

Crags Trail Scenery

Hiking buddy Kevin and I arrived at the trailhead at about 7:00 this morning… a bit chilly but we were ready to hike! The first half mile or so is up a pretty rigorous hill that definitely got the blood pumping! Once you get over the initial hump the trail levels out to a gently sloping uphill path along Four Mile Creek, which was running gently through the woods this time of year.

I was hoping to see some larger animals feeding and watering along the creek that early

Crags Trail Scenery

in the morning but all we saw were a few birds. The choke cherries aren’t in bloom yet so the birds were all high in the pines eating pine nuts I suppose. At about two miles in, the trail begins a steep ascent to the high point of the hike. We had some fun with a Gray Jay, also known as “camp robber”, about halfway up the climb… snapping a few pictures as the little critter checked us out, no doubt looking for a handout or for something to steal from us! One of those little buggers actually stole a Power Bar right out of one of my running buddy’s hand on one trek up the Barr Trail!

Crags Trail Scenery

Eventually we closed in on the slippery gravely summit area where there was a fabulous view of the three reservoirs, North and South Catamount and Crystal Reservoir to the east and a bird’s eye view of the Crags valley to the west. From there you can see all the way to Mount Evans and maybe even Longs Peak to the north, and the Mosquito Range to the west.

After a rest and a quick lunch we headed back down the steep descent to the long trail

Steller's Jay also know as a camp robber

back to the bottom of the valley. For a while it looked like all we were going to get pictures of was the mountainous area at the top, when all of a sudden we were visited by a couple more Gray Jays who spent enough time with us to get a few nice bird portraits 🙂

I highly recommend this trail if you are in sufficient condition for a five plus mile trek in the mountains. I’d suggest getting there early in the nice weather months as this is a fairly heavily used trail.

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!

The Next Lockdown

Cottonwood Lake Colorado

This Memorial Day weekend I am thankful that I live in a state with relatively few people so there is ample opportunity for me to get out in the Rocky Mountain wilderness, well away from people and the worries of the Covid-19 virus. So far this weekend I was able to have a wonderful visit to the Collegiate Peaks and Mosquito Range mountains near Leadville and Buena Vista with my photo buddy Kevin, a nice hike through the woods in the wp-15903528734408372567264817863598.jpgFlorissant Fossil Beds National Monument and another enjoyable hike on my favorite mountain in the Pike National Forest

The highlight of our 6 mile hike on the Twin Rocks Trail through the Fossil Beds was the pond at the halfway point with a couple of red wing blackbirds, a

Hummingbird in the Reeds by #swkrullimaging

humming bird and a chipmunk. We of course were hoping for elk or a bear but the little critters were all we were blessed with. Good photography practice for sure though! One of the things I finally learned how to do was record and share my hike with my Alltrails app! I’ve been a member for many years, logging over one thousand trails in my profile, but never bothering to learn how to record my progress 😦

Rocky Mountain Whitewater

Our first stop on the Collegiate Peaks trip was at stunningly beautiful Cottonwood Lake on Cottonwood Pass Road where we found mirror like water reflecting the rugged terrain surrounding the lake and the snow capped mountains of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in the background. The cliffs on the north side of the lake are known for their abundance of bighorn sheep and mountain goats which were our intended target of the day but unfortunately the elusive animals decided not to show themselves. We did however have a nice time exploring the lake and photographing the magnificent scenery. On the way back down to

Steve Krull at Denny Creek

the road we saw a cute mule deer and stopped to photograph the rushing water of the stream flowing out of the lake through the dense pines of the San Isabel National Forest.

We had hoped to drive all the way to the top of Cottonwood Pass to see the Continental Divide but unfortunately the road was closed at the Denny Creek Trailhead so we just stopped there for a break and to photograph the creek roaring down to meet Cottonwood Creek. Many thanks to Kevin for shooting this awesome picture of me beside the creek!

Mosquito Range and Turquois Lake

Kevin had never been, so once we had seen enough of Cottonwood Pass we turned north to see the sights in the historic mining town of Leadville. From my Leadville 100 running days I remembered the Golden Burro Cafe so we drove through town hoping it was still open. We were in luck, the place was still there and even though the lockdown was ongoing for restaurants in Colorado they were open for takeout. As we waited we discussed the fate of the town during the virus with the hostess and she informed us everything was cancelled, the 100 mile race, Boom Days, everything that makes summer fun in Leadville. The Burro has a great breakfast takeout deal going on if you happen to journey to Leadville, five dollars for several awesome breakfast dishes, and I enjoyed immensely the green chili breakfast burrito 🙂

Stilted Sandpiper on Twin Lakes

Next stop was the Twin Lakes recreation area where we photographed some more mountains reflecting in the water and a cute sandpiper trotting along the shoreline looking for food. Our last highlight of the day was a few pronghorn antelope in the high prairie near Spinney Reservoir. In addition to the still images I also have some footage of the roaring whitewater and I have created a YouTube video of this adventure set to inspiring music! Visit and subscribe if you like for a few minutes of blessed relaxation during these stressful times!

Yesterday and today I spent alone, hiking my regular trails in the Pike National Forest near Woodland Park and Cripple Creek. I saw my favorite little deer herd just as  they were  preparing to settle down for their morning nap, so of

Sleepy Deer Herd

course I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that process. They were some distance away, but that didn’t stop them from casting a few wary stares in my direction! Later I spotted a prairie dog so I sat down on a log for a few minutes and sure enough after a while he stuck his head out of his den to yell something at me in prairie dog language before scampering back to safety… but not before I was able to capture a couple of frames though 🙂

All the years I have been hiking there I have been eyeing a hollow stump… wondering if I

Prairie Dog

could frame a landscape of the distant Sangre de Cristo Mountains through it. However, the first time I went there this spring after my long recovery from surgery I noticed it was no longer there. Just my luck… three years of wanting to photograph it and the minute I’m ready it’s gone!  Well I  got to thinking, maybe the heavy snow this year had rolled it down the hill? So as I walked past I looked in vain for an upended tree stump. Finally, just as I thought I was too far I noticed a real tree stump sticking up out of the ground and I thought, could it be? I hiked on down to take a look and I’ll be darned if it hadn’t righted itself and was now disguised as a bonafide tree stump instead of a picture frame! Unfortunately I didn’t have the right lens along so I wasn’t able to get the stump in focus with my long lens, but I am now determined to make my way back up there with my wide angle and capture that long anticipated shot.

Mule Deer in the Woods

On the remainder of my trek my thoughts turned to the terrible events of this year and for some reason the wicked grin on the face of that Michigan governor, Witless or whatever her name is stuck in my head as she gleefully announced that the lockdown would continue, as if she were getting a kick out of punishing naughty children. First the lockdown was to be a month or so to flatten the curve, then weeks turned into months as the goalposts were moved by politicians and unelected medical professionals to include new objectives, and now we are hearing in some places that the lockdown may continue until there is a vaccine, which may never come.

Pronghorn Antelope on the High PrairieOn the weekend that we celebrate the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have fought and died to preserve our God given freedom, I thought… how easily we gave it all up and dutifully retreated to our own private little prisons, and how easily we were tricked into believing that our leaders would keep their word and end our incarceration when we had “flattened the curve”. How easy it was for the politicians to virtually suspend the constitution and discard our “inalienable rights” without even a vote from congress. I know we did it for good reason and we have no idea how many lives may have been saved as a result, but I also know we have not even begun to understand the cost. I am disturbed by how much some officials seem to be enjoying their newly found power and I can’t help but think all this is not lost upon those who value power over freedom and would love for this to become permanent.

Tranquil Pond

How long will it be before the AOC’s and the Newsome’s of the world decide that there needs to be a climate change lockdown until the “temperature emergency” is resolved… if ever. I have heard of quarantine facilities where the Covid-19 victims can go to wait out their illness… “all voluntary” of course. In the next lockdown will climate deniers be sent to re-education facilities? Will they take away our cars, shut down the airlines and dismantle the oil refineries? They don’t seem to care that they are destroying the livelihood and businesses of millions of citizens now, I’m sure there are those who won’t mind enslaving us in the future.

On this memorial day I fear that we are only one vote away from the end of this glorious republic. I hope our experience with this virus has taught us how fragile our freedom really is. We may pass the point of no return if we ever allow this to happen again. We can never let this happen again.

Chipmunk on a Rock

 

 

 

Curious Herd

Cute Mule Deer Herd

The minute my eyes popped open this morning I knew that it was going to be a good day to go hiking. Cool crisp mountain air, clear skies and lots of sleep 🙂 It was barely light by the time I cleared the ridge but I could see the tell tale movement of their perpetually alert ears, my furry friends were on the mountain 🙂 They were a bit spread out and were on their way to greener pastures I suppose but fortunately I was able to snap off a few shots before they meandered deeper into the woods.

Today was going to be a test of my new custom functions setup so I was really happy to have seen the furtive critters. I have C1 set to aperture f8, auto ISO, +1 exposure compensation to limit noise causing low light… and a couple other things that slip my mind at the moment.  A quick check of the playback

Cute Mule Deer Herd

indicated that the camera had selected ISO 3200 but there was only enough light for a shutter speed of 360 so I was a bit concerned about camera shake at the 400mm of focal length I was using to bring the beasties in close. The images looked pretty good on the playback screen though so I completed my hike in high spirits eager to get back to the computer and view them on the big monitor!

Well anyway, I think they do look pretty good for ISO 3200! One image I felt was good enough to put on my website so that one is now available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.  Tons of cool gift items and handy household goods are also available including Covid masks, coffee mugs, stationary, beach towels, blankets and pillows and much much more! I didn’t catch this on video, but be sure to visit the bighorn sheep and elk from past hikes on my YouTube Channel! Don’t forget to subscribe if you like!

Cute Mule Deer Herd

 

Venturing Out

It was unavoidable, had to pick up a prescription at Walgreen’s down in Woodland Park. I rarely look forward to going down there, today even less. In addition to Walgreen’s I had to brave Walmart and Tractor Supply as well, mask on face avoiding all contact with people. Of course there is no place to have lunch, no place to stop for a micro brew, nothing to do but get my supplies and  get out. Thankfully the panic in the mountains appears to be pretty much over with and supplies were plentiful. Walmart is monitoring how many people are in the store, but it wasn’t busy and fortunately I didn’t have to wait in any lines.

Springtime Deer in the Colorado Rockies

I did decide to drive up to Paradise Open Space Park to see if I might be able to take a little hike in the woods on the mountainsides of Ute Pass. Saw quite a few deer on the way,  looks like we’ve added significantly to the herd! Sadly it looks like the pine beetle have laid waste to quite a bit of acreage with a lot of trees cut down, ugly stumps left in their place… victims of the drought that is thankfully over with. The trail was steeper than I remember, or perhaps the gravitational pull of the earth has increased significantly. I suppose the month that I’ve been sitting on my butt recovering from surgery may have contributed to me sucking wind on the inclines… but I’m going with the gravitational disruption story, it has a better ring to it 🙂

Cloudy Pikes Peak

I usually write with some joy about the arrival of the spring equinox and the glorious light of the sun on the north face of Pikes Peak, but I was in the hospital on that day with the north face of the Great Mountain far out of view and out of mind. And I have to say, there isn’t a whole lot of joy going around this year and even the beautiful light of spring shining on fresh snow did little to lift my spirits. I am thankful though to live in such a beautiful sparsely populated place where a person can still go hiking without getting arrested.

There are rumblings of a loosening of the stay at home order coming next week, but I also saw a warning to go with it to “Stay out of the mountain towns.”. Can’t blame them I guess,  I don’t really want the city people bringing the virus up to my little mountain town either.

All in all I would have to say it was a pretty good day, assuming I managed to avoid contracting the virus. Speaking of which, stylish face masks printed with one of the many images on my website are now available for purchase! I’m going to get one or two for myself, as soon as I can figure out which picture to use!