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!

Smokey Autumn

A quick check of the weather forecast this morning dictated what I might be able to accomplish. Smoke from all the fires is everywhere but today the report particularly called out the valleys for air quality concerns. I was

Fall Colors in the Rockies

thinking of making my first outing since my return from Rocky a trip to Eleven Mile but with all the smoke I decided I’d be better off visiting a peak rather than a valley.

So I decided upon my usual trailhead in hopes of spotting a few deer and maybe even some elk. In the absence of those I figured I’d see some nice aspen trees changing color and maybe even the hawk or some other birds. Unfortunately a guy with a Vesper Sparrow in the Morningdog beat me to the trailhead so there were no big animals to be found and the hawks were in hiding as well.

But the trees were pretty and I was visited by a couple of cute little vesper sparrows at trail’s end. I took a drive up to Victor Pass to see if the colors have changed on Pikes Peak, but there was too much smoke in the sky to see the state of colors on the peak.

These were my  favorite pictures of the half 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!

Fall Colors in the Rockies

Emerald Lake Bucket List

First day back from my three day photography trip to Rocky Mountain National Park… I scarcely know where to begin, three days, two parks on the journey up to Rocky plus two mornings and two evenings with the elk, a long beautiful hike, a drive over Trail Ridge Road and another evening with some elk on the west side of the park and over 1,600 pictures. There is just no way to cover it all in one blog post!

Portrrait at Emerald Lake

So I guess I’ll just start with my favorite part… the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Many times I have visited Bear Lake through the years, and each time I have stared longingly at the rugged peaks to the south of the lake. I always try to get a decent picture of them from Bear Lake, but when you use a wide angle to get the beautiful lake in, the peaks in the background are unacceptably diminished.

But on this trip we decided to take the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes, about a four mile round trip trek. The 1.1 mile hike to Dream Lake was pretty easy, except for the relentless incline. My hopes were high as we approached the lake that I would finally have an unimpeded view of the rugged peaks that I could see

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

from the parking lot. But it was not to be… however this lake with it’s placid water and lily pads was a dream just as the name indicates! We took a break there to shoot some pictures and rest up for the even steeper and rockier eight tenths of a mile remaining to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As we neared our next destination the magnificent peaks came into view and my hopes were rising that we were going to see something special! Finally we drew near to the beautiful alpine lake and it was then that I realized that my long time dream was about to be realized 🙂 From the lake there is an incredible view of the rugged terrain above the lake. We of course had to stop there and make sure the amazing scene was adequately captured and we also decided to shoot a couple portraits of each other to mark the occasion 🙂

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I highly recommend this hike which begins at the Bear Lake trailhead… I may decide to return at a different time of day other than high noon to see if I can get a more dramatic image of this amazing alpine lake in better light, but for now, this is truly a bucket list item checked!

In the coming days I will be publishing more blog posts, pictures and at least one video for my YouTube Channel! Be sure to follow my blog and subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss anything!

For your enjoyment I have 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!

A Glorious Fall Day

Photographer Profile Autumn WorkingIt was a glorious day for an amazing autumn hike in the Pike National Forest of Colorado. The hard part was figuring out just exactly which hike to take! Eventually photo associate and I decided upon the Anne-Marie Falls hike on the western slopes of Pikes Peak which we had done in the spring and discovered the home of a friendly and colorful Wilson’s Warbler. Many Thanks to Kevin for shooting this picture of me hard at work in the midst of the icy water!

Autumn on Anne-Marie Falls Trail

Well the warbler appears to have made the flight to more temperate climates for the winter but there was still plenty of color to be found! The aspen groves on this particular hike are in peak color right now 🙂 It was a bit chilly to start with, the pond was actually frozen over in spots and there was still frost on the foliage when we arrived. I’m sure I lost track of time as we moved around the pond to different vantage points, but I imagine we were there a couple hours for sure! The frost was soon replaced by the heat of the day as we worked the scene and I was glad that I had dressed for a warm day and not the cold.

Autumn on Anne-Marie Falls Trail

The entire trail was surrounded by golden aspen and I photographed various locations all the way back to the trailhead. I also tried a few more images using the HDR setting on my camera which takes three images at different exposures and merges them in camera. Looks like I used a bit too much intensity today so I am going to need some more practice before I have that method down.

I have uploaded a few of today’s images to my website and a bunch more to my Instagram page if you would like to see more! Please feel free to follow my page there if you don’t want to miss future projects!

Autumn on Anne-Marie Falls Trail

For your enjoyment I have created many short 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 our adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons 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!

Autumn on Anne-Marie Falls Trail

Hiking to Hartenstein Lake

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As summer marches along and the much anticipated autumn season in the high country of Colorado draws near, I decided to take my 14er preparation to the next step. I’ve been hiking to the summit of Grouse Mountain this summer in my effort to achieve the physical conditioning required to climb a 14,000 plus foot mountain to add to my 14ers.com profile, but unfortunately this little mountain doesn’t come close to the rigors of climbing a 14er!

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A few years ago I took the Mount Yale fork from the Denny Creek Trail and checked off another 14er on my quest to complete as many of Colorado’s giant mountains as possible. On that climb I noticed another trail, labeled Brown’s Pass and Hartenstein Lake on the signage. In subsequent research I found a lot of people really enjoyed that hike and raved about the scenery and wildlife that they saw along the trail.  Since then I have wanted to return and hike that trail but one thing or another was always in the way and I have never been able to make it back.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Finally yesterday was the day, all the stars aligned and I returned to the trail head with fellow photographer and hiker Kevin. We arrived at the trailhead at sunrise and began the long steep ascent to the first stream crossing. Along the way we took the opportunity to take a couple of breaks to photograph the little waterfalls on Denny Creek along the way.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A couple of miles of rough rocky trail and several stream crossings later we arrived at the fork in the trail where the sign shows the lake and Brown’s Pass to the left. From there the trail steepened and we persevered westward towards the lake. The trail climbed higher and higher as Turner Peak to the right became smaller and smaller. Just when it looked like we were going to be required to climb Turner  the trail descended into a much more heavily wooded section and after about a half mile a bit of water came into view. Kevin remarked, “Is that the lake?”.  “I hope not!” I replied… We kept going and eventually a more significant body of water came into view.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Indeed we had found the lake, but by this time of year the water was quite low and surrounded by a marshy muddy shoreline. We made a couple of attempts to access water’s edge but it was just too soggy. Finally we decided to stay on the main trail which wound around to the west side of the lake where we were able to get down to the water with mighty Mount Yale in the background.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Although disappointed that there was no wildlife at the lake at this time, we stuck around to take a few pictures, Kevin shot some video footage of me coming up from the lake and we took a break to eat a granola bar and recover from the 1600 foot climb.

I highly recommend the trail for hikers in fairly good physical condition. Plan on three to five hours to complete the trail and bring plenty of liquids and nourishment for that length of time. There is a fairly big parking lot at the trailhead on the north side of the Cottonwood Pass road, you can’t miss it. However on a weekend you might want to arrive plenty early to assure a parking place. Bring rain gear as rainstorms occur on most afternoons in the mountains.

For your enjoyment I have created a short multimedia video for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channel  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

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!

Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain 🙂 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 🙂 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!  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.  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I could  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.  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.  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse 🙂 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 🙂 I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade 🙂 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!

 

Birds Eye View

I promised this bird’s eye view with the wide angle… and today was the day 🙂 I had other reasons for making this climb too… I wanted to see if I could find Mr. Hawk, the rough legged hawk I found up there the other day. There was a beautiful fog bank today so I was also thinking I might be able to get a neat wide angle of the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

This time I was smart, in addition to packing the wide angle I also had the forethought to bring some fluids and energy bars 🙂 The initial climb to the top of the first ridge is pretty invigorating to say the least, but is often rewarded with a few shots of deer or elk at the top. Nothing today and no sign of Mr. Hawk either.

Beyond the high meadow is a patch of forest that I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years, the place where the elk go to vanish when I try to follow them. I’ve always wondered what it was like in there, I don’t see any sign of a real trail of any kind. I decided against going directly in there and chose a path around the edge as I climbed higher with the summit in mind.

Eventually I had two choices, the long way around the south end of the summit, or a short cut directly through part of the forest, I chose the short cut and finally after all these years I got to see inside the apparently impenetrable woods. It seems as though this forest has been untouched for a long time, many fallen trees lying all over the place making a direct path impossible. Don’t think I would want to be there in a windstorm, you might be the unlucky recipient of a large pine tree on top of your head 😦 I found a deer trail of sorts and followed it in and around all the dead foliage to the final approach to the summit.

From there it was just a short walk to my favorite vantage point, one that I had first

Fog bank on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado

scouted out with my dog years ago. I found a good spot to take off my pack and sit in full view of the beauty before me. The dense fog of early morning had given way to a picturesque layer just beneath the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance. I just sat there for a while taking in the view, but mostly just feeling heartbroken that my four legged buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge some time back and wasn’t there to enjoy the conquest with me.

Eventually I summoned the strength and attached my 24-105 lens with a circular polarizer to cut through the residual morning haze. As it turned out the images looked the best with about a 50mm focal length, any wider and the Sangre were too insignificant to do the scene justice.

Rough Legged Hawk in the Rockies

I continued to look for Mr Hawk on the trek down the other side of the mountain, but he was nowhere to be seen on this day. In fact the landscapes that I shot at the summit are the only record of today’s hike.

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!

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