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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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Elk on the Run

Sangre de Cristo Sunset

Not a huge morning for photography… But it was a fabulous morning for a hike with the big dog. I chose to tackle the high ridge again today because I know there is a herd of buck mule deer up there that have been eluding me for some time now. Unfortunately, today was no different. I was looking hard for the animals when we cleared the top of the ridge but didn’t see any sign that the beasties where there today. All of a sudden from behind a grove of trees I saw the backs of the deer as they high tailed it for the safety of the dense woods with no chance whatsoever of a picture.

It was a beautiful sunrise though, the distant mountains were obscured a bit by smokeMountain Wildflowers and haze but the effect on the nearer mountains created a nice effect. There was also a good crop of wildflowers blooming everywhere, probably what is tempting the mule deer herd so.

Finally as we neared the end ofย  our trek I noticed a herd of elk in the distance. I had hoped that they would stop and look at me, but they were definitely in a hurry to go somewhere! Seems every time I see elk these days they are on the run. I thought I was being quite stealthy and I don’t think they knew we were there but they were in a hurry

Elk Running in the Colorado High Country

anyway. I suppose they feel quite nervous out in the open and they were just trying to get to the safety of the wilderness as quickly as possible! I did get this shot of three of them going the other way and I’m thinking it has a good chance of being successful in the stock photograph world!

Perhaps I will outsmart the deer tomorrow… in the meantime I’m going to get a good meal in my belly!

Brown’s Canyon National Monument

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is another one of Colorado’s hidden gems… almost too well hidden! I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, ever since I missed the day of hiking with the Sierra Club. Well I finally did it ๐Ÿ™‚ I was in the area photographing rafters on the Arkansas until finally I found myself in Salida. What the heck, the park is just on the other side of Salida so I consulted my phone for directions and headed up 291 in search of the entrance… piece of cake ๐Ÿ™‚

Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon National Monument

Not a piece of cake. You would think that being a national monument there would be huge signs everywhere. But no… no signs anywhere ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Totally passed it by, drove all the way up 291 until I finally hit Johnson Village and had to turn back around. At that point I decided to let my GPS guide me in and managed to find the place, County Road 191 to the east from 291 will take you right in… after a couple of miles on a curvy dirt road over a ridge. When you finally do get there you will be greeted by a big sign with some of those fee envelopes and a $8.00 per day use fee. So I paid my fee, dropped the envelope in the box and went on in.

There is a large parking area and a campground along the Arkansas River where the

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rafting companies were all ready to pick up rafters. I grabbed my camera and trusty trekking pole and headed down a trail along the river towards the south. The original plan was to mountain bike back in but it didn’t take long to ascertain that the trail was above my meager riding skill level so I just hoofed it in a ways. The trail and the river are amazing and the area is vast. I imagine you could easily hike for days and not see it all.

 

By this time it was really hot and dry and I was not at all prepared for a long hike so I just turned around and vowed to hike up the other direction for a while but quickly abandoned that idea too and chalked the whole visit up to a successful scouting mission for a longer visit on another more prepared day.

On my way back through Salida the Soulcraft Brewery looked like the perfect answer to my parched throat and worthy of a stop ๐Ÿ™‚ Tried the Dopple Bock brew and it was delicious. Being short of time I didn’t try any food, and didn’t really see anyone else eating either. I assume they have food there, but would have to be something for another day as well.

Cute Doe Mule DeerWas hoping to photograph some more rafters along the Arkansas on my return trip, but by the time I was passing by again the rafting was all over for the day. Nothing but the long drive home to look forward to at this point.

If you are a fly fisherman the trail along the river is an awesome place to visit! For hiking though, I’m not so sure. There are no high peaks to scale and except for along the river it appears that there are a lot of miles of parched land to explore. It appears to me that the Continental Divide Trail passes through there on it’s way to the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista and there are miles of fun to be had for moderately skilled mountain bikers and a lot of rocky cliffs for rock climbers to hone their skills on! And I didn’t see many in the heat of the day, but I imagine there would be a ton of wildlife to photograph early in the morning.

 

 

In the Clouds

I know, it’s May 20th… but this is Colorado at 10,000 feet and we are in a winter storm warning, supposed to snow all day and pretty much all night. It’s already cold, cloudy and windy but I figured I’d better get the big dog out for his exercise before it really gets cranked up!

Clouds Forming in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon ๐Ÿ™‚ Once on the summit where I could see all around I noticed a patch of what I first thought was fog. After watching a bit though I determined that it wasn’t fog, there was too much wind and it seemed to be forming right before my eyes! Turns out up on the summit at probably 11,000 feet or so I was watching the storm clouds form all around me. There was also a tremendous updraft so the cloud would form near the mountain and then shoot out of the trees into the sky. It was an amazing thing to behold, I never cease to be amazed at the splendor of these mountains!

Now as I sit here at my computer it is just gloomy and grey and flakes are beginning to fly. Soon I imagine, with this wind they will turn into this winter’s familiar stinging sideways projectiles. No matter, we are back at our cozy little cabin, toasty and warm watching the action outside ๐Ÿ™‚

Exploring Tunnel Drive in Canon City

I finally visited the Royal Gorge this spring for the first time and did some hiking along the Canyon Rim Trail. It was nice way up on the top of the canyon, but what I really want to do is explore the canyon from the bottom! On another failed attempt to do so on mountain bike I discovered a road called Tunnel Road which I was tempted to explore that day but instead opted for the visit to the main park on the canyon rim.

Royal Gorge Passenger Train

Had some stuff to do in Canon City yesterday so I decided to see where Tunnel Drive would take me. At first it didn’t seem very far, I took a wrong turn and wound up at the gate of the public works plant on the upper road. A quick turnaround and right turn back onto Tunnel Drive had me once again headed in the right direction ๐Ÿ™‚ I was concerned that the tunnels would be too small to drive my big truck through, or too rough, or too busy… But none of that happened. After a short drive of no more than a mile or two I arrived at a nice little parking lot at the base of a trail called Tunnel Drive Trail… imagine that ๐Ÿ™‚

So it turns out that the Tunnel Drive Trail is a nice developed trail head with a restroom

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

providing access to the canyon for families, mountain bikers and hikers. I grabbed my camera backpack and headed up the trail with no idea what I would find. After about a quarter of a mile up a steep concrete path I encountered a series of tunnels and a flat and wide dirt path heading through them and into the canyon high above the ugly brown water of the Arkansas River below. The tunnels were interesting enough for me to do a little research on the history of this trail and I discovered that the tunnels were originally blasted out by convicts as part of a water project. Apparently it was open to auto traffic for a while but now it is for recreation only.

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

The trail now runs about two miles out and back for a total of four miles with mileage markers and numerous benches and picnic tables along the way. There are great views of the Arkansas, canyon walls and the canyon visitor train and tracks snaking their way along the river below. Had I done a little research I would have discovered that this is a nice bike trail and I could have saved myself an hour and a half of walking by just getting my bike out of the back of my truck! If there is a next time I will definitely do this trail on wheels!

My real reason for wanting to get back into the canyon is so that I can do some whitewater rafting photography and I don’t think this trail is going to help me. It is way too far and high above the water for that but from there I did spot some kind of access path along the river bed on the other side. When I get some time I’ll try to figure out how to get on it with my mountain bike, a subject for another blog post!

Sometimes I Impress Myself!

Now I was not impressed at all later on in my hike when I discovered that at some point I had inadvertently turned off the Image Stabilization (IS) on my big Canon lens, which sent me from a point of elation to the depths of despair just like that. I really wanted that shot! We had cleared the ridge to find ourselves about 50 yards from a curious trio of deer peering at us from the brush near the summit in perfect morning light. I could not believe my eyes! I fired off a few shots, but as you might imagine the sight of Big Dog was causing quite a bit of consternation in the herd. No matter, I was pretty sure I had nailed the shot and we walked around the other side of the mountain from where the deer had gone in order not to disturb them any further.

Trio of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer

As we strode along I was looking forward to getting on the computer and processing those images and creating a good seller! That is until I noticed that the IS was off. Then I figured it was all over, the likelihood of getting that shot without the IS with a 400mm lens was about as good as threading a needle with a climbing rope. But I consoled myself with the idea that I would probably get a good enough shot to show on my Instagram account.

It was a beautiful morning… there is nothing like a trek through the high country at first light, before anyone else is up, before the wind starts blowing, when the mountain air is still cool and crisp with bright sunshine to warm my old shoulders. It was very quiet this morning too, only the sound of the birds happily chirping, my own breath and the clanking of Big Dog’s harness to break the silence of a perfect mountain morning.

Now back at home in front of the computer is where I am quite impressed with myself ๐Ÿ™‚ I did get a salable capture from the set, hand held at 400mm, no IS, 60 years old, heart pounding from the climb, and all while holding on to a very exuberant 90 pound dog who very badly wanted to go play with the deer! I think maybe the shot could have been a little better with the IS turned on, but I am truly amazed that I was able to get this capture ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course now in front of the computer, after I have done all my titling and keywording, I see that there is a fourth deer in the image, peeking out from behind one of the others, oh well, the more the merrier!

As always, this shot and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and tons of cool gift, household and tech items!

Beautiful Mule Deer Herd

Beautiful Snow Capped Sangre de Cristo Range

The Sangre de Cristo are always amazing… but sometimes they are more amazing and today was one of those days! Tons of new snow now graces these majestic peaks and there was almost no haze today to block the view. The pristine white snow against the stunning intense blue Colorado sky was just amazing this morning.

When the mountain landscape photography was done we began our descent and I

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

noticed a small herd of mule deer basking in the morning sunlight on the hillside. There are very few trees on the summit so I knew there was no way we were going to get close, but a deer herd in the mountains is going to make a great picture no matter what! My first shots were directly into the rising sun so I knew silhouettes were going to be the result of that situation,ย  but I snapped a few anyway for a record of the day in case they decided to bolt.

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

Once I was sure I had some captures the big dog and I began to circle around the hillside hoping that my non direct approach wouldn’t startle them into a run. They kept a wary eye on us as we descended and curved back but they didn’t run! I snapped a few more along the way as the lighting got better and then finally when we were completely on the other side they began walking to the summit. I was about to head for the truck when I noticed they were going to traverse the top ridge with the blue sky as a backdrop so we just waited a few minutes for them to reach the top. Nothing wrong with hanging out in the warm Colorado mountain sun for a while! Eventually they did reach the top of the ridge and I rounded out the days shooting with a line of them heading for cover in the dense wilderness to the south.

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.