Hiking Outlook Ridge

wp-15913695475213382998794198163891.jpgThe great Ansel Adams once said, “Don’t confuse hiking with photography, a good photograph taken from the road is as good as a photograph taken from the trail.”, or something close to that. We had set out to reach Lost Pond from the Outlook Ridge Trail to photograph birds and wildlife that might be gathered at the pond, but unfortunately it was shaping up to be a dismal day for photography.  So this day I guess we were just “hikers”, according to Ansel.

We parked at the Outlook Ridge trailhead and began the short hike downhill along the

Outlook Ridge

trail to the Lost Pond Loop. It wasn’t long before we found the cutoff and descended to the small oasis in the dense pine forest. Unfortunately the shoreline was fairly barren, providing little habitat for birds or small animals to find cover or food. We sat in the shade for a while hoping for some birds to show themselves but all we saw was one water walking bug and a robin hopping around on the far side of the pond.

Eventually we gave up and continued along the Outlook Ridge Trail hoping for a photo op in the tall pines. On the far end of  the Outlook Ridge Trail is an out and back along the ridge to the rocky outcropping known as “Outlook Ridge”.  Again we took a break,

Mule Deer Doe

sitting on the rocks and hoping for the arrival of some animals or birds to photograph. There was one small chipmunk who kept darting into his cave and a hummingbird that blew past at a rate of speed impossible to catch with a long lens. No hawks or eagles soaring above in the intense blue Colorado sky and no deer or elk visible in the valley below. The view from there is fairly spectacular however with the west face of Pikes Peak and a rocky ridge off to the east, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the south and local peaks and the Mosquito Range mountains far to the west.  The image above is the rocky ridge just east of the overlook.

Since it is mostly downhill to the ridge, the trail back is all uphill, and a fairly steep ascent at that 😦 Along the way we did spot a doe mule deer grazing on some newly  bloomed aspen leaves but she was in the shade with the intense Colorado sun shining on the background. Terrible conditions for photography.

Finally we made our way up the mountainside through the heat to the finish line. The photography was disappointing but I suppose at least we got a good workout which will hopefully make some future adventure a bit easier!

Toughest Hike of the Season

wp-15912071674426288490362435577221.jpgRaspberry Mountain turned out to be a bit more rigorous than I expected. The trail profile on Alltrails indicated that it was only going to be about a thousand feet of elevation gain, well within the limits of my training for this hiking season! Well it turns out my app doesn’t really measure the accumulated elevation gain, only the total from the lowest point to the highest point.

The trailhead is located on the Crags Trail Road and is clearly marked just before you get to the Crags Trail parking lot.

Pikes Peak and North Catamount

The trail begins with a pretty good climb of about 500 feet up some well maintained switchbacks for about a quarter of a mile. From there you hike up and down through the beautiful Pike National Forest  for another one and three quarters of a mile to the actual base of Raspberry Mountain where there is a steep climb over slippery scree to a small boulder field at the summit. I have to admit on the way down I did take a nasty spill and I have a couple of spots requiring some aspirin perhaps 😦

I’m not a fan of boulder fields of any kind but this one was pretty small in comparison to say the one on top of Mount Yale. A small amount of looking for a good route resulted in a pretty easy climb to the summit where there is an awesome near 360 degree view from North Catamount reservoir to the summit of Pikes Peak, the Sangre de Cristo Range to the south and the Mosquito Range to the west.

We lingered at the summit for a bit taking in the view and enjoying some Gatorade before picking our way back down the steep boulder and scree fields. All in all I would say it is a hike well worth doing! Unfortunately we didn’t see much to photograph but this one of North Catamount did turn out pretty nice 🙂

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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 🙂 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 🙂 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 🙂

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,  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.  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

 

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!

Hiking the Limber Pines Trail

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

If you want beautiful views of Pikes Peak and a brisk three mile hike in the mountains, the Limber Pines / Ring the Peak loop in Catamount Ranch just west of Woodland Park, Colorado might be just the ticket. If you are planning to go on the weekend I recommend getting there early, probably well before 8:00 a.m. To get there take highway 24 west from Woodland Park and just at the top of the hill past the hospital start looking for Edlowe Road on the south side. From there take Edlowe Road all the way to the end where you will see a small parking lot.

To start the loop just head up the trail and a steep hill to the trail map sign and a fence. Go

North Catamount Reservoir

through the wide gate and you will find yourself on a trail that goes left and right. It is the Limber Pines trail that is the start of the 2.8 mile loop. If you go right you will be on a beautiful forest trail that switchbacks down to the dirt road that is the Ring the Peak trail. Be sure to look towards the east for views of Pikes Peak as you make your descent towards the reservoir. Y

Take a left here and you will walk the road towards and the along North Catamount Reservoir where the road finally leaves the reservoir and begins a

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

long ascent up to the top of the ridge. There are some fantastic views of the peak and a beautiful mix of aspen and pine forest along the way. Finally you will find yourself near the top of the climb at which time you will want to be looking for a trail sign which marks the other end of the Limber Pines Trail. From there it is a short walk back to the gate where your hike began.

If you decide to go the other way, obviously you will be walking down the dirt Ring the Peak road past the reservoir where you will need to be looking for the trail sign and the ascent on the Limber Pines Trail back to the starting point. Be sure to bring plenty of liquids to drink, the trail is only 2.8 miles but the ascents can be strenuous for those not acclimated to the elevation.

Spectacular Pikes Peak View

Distant Herd and Unrelated Rant

Distant Herd of Mule Deer

The sun was shining when I went to take the trash out this morning and warm rays streaming down upon my face tilted the scales towards another hike this morning. I was thinking about just going for a bike ride this afternoon but I know myself too well… If I don’t get moving before about 7:00 I can be pretty sure I’m not going to get going! I’m a morning person, always have been…

Well a few steps down the trail almost had me wishing I had stayed home! It wasn’t nearly as warm on the mountain as it was in my sheltered back yard and the wind was Distant Herd of Mule Deerjust whipping! Fortunately my jacket has a hood or I might have gotten frost bite on my ears. On the other hand, in wind like that I’m pretty sure any ideas of a bike ride would have been abandoned for sure.

Thought it was going to be a photography shut out until just as I was making the final turn to go back to the parking lot. As I scanned the terrain I spotted the mule deer herd in the distance, contentedly grazing on mountain grass. There was no way I was  going to get close to them though, you can see from the pictures that they were well aware of my presence at least 100 yards away!

Now I want to talk about something else that absolutely infuriated me yesterday. Late last light an article by the local online news site Out There Colorado alerted me to a policy enacted by Colorado Fish and Wildlife (CFW) mandating that starting in July a hunting or fishing license will be required to visit wildlife areas. Reasoning provided by CFW states “By policy, state wildlife areas are acquired with hunter and angler dollars, and are intended specifically to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties.”.

The policy alone infuriates me enough, but the comments following the piece were even more maddening, the bulk of which lauded the new policy because basically “hunters fund these areas” and hikers and climbers, photographers and tourists have no right to be there. First of all, how is a nature hike or wildlife photography or birding considered non-wildlife use of the land?

Secondly I am sick and tired of the BS spewed by hunters that they are the only ones who have a right to the land because they are the ones who pay for it. A quick check on the Colorado funding page indicates that only 34% of the state budget comes from passes, fees and permits, a figure which does not indicate how much of that 34% is comprised of hunting and fishing licenses versus entry fees, daily and weekly visitation permits, and commercial license fees paid by professional photography and film companies for special use. A full 34%, equaling the entire portion paid for by fees is funded by the Colorado state lottery and Great Outdoors Colorado. The Federal Government kicks in another 10% of the budget of which of course is funded by the U.S. taxpayer and the remaining 22% is funded by additional non-hunting resources.

If you consider only “wildlife management”, which is not defined by the Colorado funding site, 68% is funded by license fees and permits, which again is not itemized so that we can learn how much exactly hunters are actually paying. Incidentally, the Colorado Department of Education devotes half of it’s site to education about birding, hiking, climbing, camping, and wildlife watching without disturbing the animals. I  guess that half of the site will have to be eliminated in favor of only hunting and fishing if this decision is allowed to stand.

The entire premise that hunters pay for public wild lands stems from the North American Model mostly inspired by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat from over hunting and development. One hundred years ago hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, birding, camping and photography were not really a thing and were of course not given any consideration at the time. This article in the Mountain Lion Foundation  gives an indication of how much things have changed in over a century, stating that “94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public”. Another thoughtful article provided by WyoFile provides a similar figure, indicating that 95% of the funding for wildlife related agencies comes from the non-hunting public. This article from NPR cites a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife that reveals only 5% of Americans 16 and older actually hunt. Other studies, especially in areas like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, show just how much revenue the states and municipalities benefit from wildlife tourism, a figure that far exceeds the paltry sums collected by the states from hunters.

The idea that a miniscule 5% of the American populace should control the nation’s wildlife is a concept that has gone the way of the 19th century. It is well past time that the vast majority of nature loving Americans be given a voice in how our wildlife is preserved. Hopefully this egregious ruling will be quickly overturned in court and millions of Coloradoans and out of state visitors will be able to continue enjoying their land in their own way. If we continue to be denied a voice in decisions about our precious wildlife I urge you to make your voice heard at the ballot box. If our wildlife officials won’t listen, we need to vote in officials who will listen.

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

 

Getting Easier

Climbing the big hill to the top of the ridge seems to be getting easier every day now. In fact its getting to the point where I’m actually looking forward to it again 🙂 I have to admit for a while there it was a major undertaking to get out of my chair to get dressed in the morning! Sitting in my chair again this morning… my mind turned to the woods and I began to imagine the wildlife I might be missing out on, and that’s all it took.

Bunny Rabbit

Soon I was dressed and on my way to the trailhead with high hopes of catching a glimpse of my deer friends. Of course there is always the hope of seeing a black bear, but I’ve not seen a bear in the area in the three years I’ve been frequenting this trail. haven’t seen the elk in a while either and unfortunately all I did see was a glimpse of the Three Amigos, my three favorite buck mule deer that always travel together. They were moving fast down the mountainside ahead of me on their way to the watering hole I assume, and I had no chance of photographing them moving through the forest.

I took note of where I saw them cross the trail hoping that maybe they didn’t run too far past that point, but they were nowhere to be found when I finally arrived at that location. Much to my surprise though was the presence of this little cottontail casting a sideways look at me while I was scanning the hillsides for deer and bear. He was backlit and not in position for a detailed photo but I thought I’d give it a try, cute animals of all sizes are not a thing to pass up!

 

Window to Pikes Peak

Siamese Twins at Garden of the Gods

I’ve been wanting to do this short hike for a long time, for the sole purpose of photographing Pikes Peak through the little window in the Siamese Twins Rock Formation in Garden of the Gods Park. My family from the midwest was in Colorado for a visit, so going on so a hike with my brother Jim was the perfect reason to take the trek!

You could make the climb to the famous formation by parking close by and making a short climb just to see the red spires but we decided to make a longer journey and see the rest of the park by beginning our hike at the visitor center. GPS later informed us that it is about a four mile round trip journey from that starting point.

And it was a perfect clear sunny Colorado autumn day to photograph the Great Peak through the Siamese Twins window through the sandstone rock.

Siamese Twins at Garden of the Gods

Changing aspen leaves are visible on the foothills and the sky was that famous Colorado signature blazing blue color!

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 materials. Many cool gift, household and tech items are also available, just click to explore!

 

Flying by Instruments

Day three of my “Getting Back in Shape” campaign… no discernible physical progress, but at least the effort is helping to clear my head of a lot of unwanted clutter. Funny how a goal and some physical exertion can do that. I was thinking about a road trip and a major hike or bike ride today but after remembering that it is Labor Day weekend and the last chance for the summer tourists to invade the mountains I thought better of it. Decided to avoid all the traffic and check AllTrails to see if I might be able to find something closer by to explore.

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Well it turns out that a ton of trails have been added since I last used my favorite hiking app! I found a bunch of new local trails to explore, now just to find them… Well, the Almagre Mountain Trail looks good, and close by too! Let me see… there is a directions button, so I click it and a Google Map comes up with a blue line on it pointing in the general direction based on my stated location. And that’s it. Last time I was on the directions actually would tell you where to go, what roads to take, where to turn 😦 Of course I am a little behind the times, my GPS turned off… because you know, the government might find me. Which begs the question… why would the government want to find me? When putting some rational thought to it… if the government is really looking for me we must have a lot of government employees without shit to do 😐 Of course that probably is actually the case, but they would have to be really bored to be looking for me!!!!

So I turn on my GPS, but still just a map and a blue line. How the heck am I supposed to find a trail head with just this stupid fat blue line to go by? Hmmm… a start button… that might be a good place to start 🙂 So I pushed the button and almost fell out of my chair! A voice from God or something telling me to turn right on Eaton Avenue! Holy Crap, all I have to do is push start and my phone is going to guide me right to the trailhead! Who knew? Lol, eventually I decided to just follow my normal routine today while vowing to explore some more of the tools now available to me in this amazing app! For starters I recorded my hike today, complete with a map and elevation gain statistics. Cool, so I saved it, not sure what for or what good it is going to do me. Noticed that for some reason that I still have no stats available to the stats button.

So now a whole new world is open to me, numerous new trails to explore right off of Gold Camp road only a few miles from home plus gps to guide me into more remote locations. Also will make the trailhead for Mount Quandary easier to find for later in the month when I hope to be ready for the Class 1 peak. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the Almagre Mountain Trail as I learn to “trust my instruments” and use the new tools available to me via this amazing piece of technology called a “smart phone”! Man… what I could have done with one of these things back in the day!

For now though, a little weight lifting, a few pushups and sit ups and maybe even a ride on my mountain bike. Which reminds me… I need to investigate similar capabilities in my other favorite sports apps, Singletracks and 14ers.com 🙂