Exploring Skagway Reservoir

Another day with no definite plan… Not that that is anything unusual, I rarely have a plan other than to wake up and have coffee. One of the ideas that has been rattling around in the background of my mind for a while has been to make the jaunt from Victor over to Skagway Reservoir.ย  As the coffee soaked in andย consciousness slowly began to percolate it occurred to me that today could be that day!

Foggy Mount Pisgah

First of all though, a stop at Grouse Mountain for my first climb to the overlook with Big Dog since my clutch bit the dust last January. I knew it was way too foggy to see the Sangre but I took the camera along in hopes that we might see some elk or deer. No luck with that, but the fog turned the nearby mountains into mystical ghostly shapes that created a completely different scene than usual. After a nice walk through the woods we climbed back into Old Faithful and headed for Victor. I was hoping that the fog had extended to the old mines there for some more cool photo ops but the sky was clear and bright and the mines were the same as always. I didn’t make any effort to get more of the same old photographs there.

Off to Phantom Canyon Road to the Skagway turnoff. Can’t say I was too impressed with the long washboard gravel road… Very annoying. No wildlife and no good views to photograph anywhere along the road either. Perhaps had we gotten an earlier start there would have been some mist and wildlife but 9:00 a.m. must be nap time for the local critters. The drive was so long and rough that I was about to give up when I saw what appeared to be a few cars parked in the distance. Must be it I thought, so I persevered, finally… success! Placid water and a dam came into view along with a few fishermen who had also braved the dirt road.

Skagway Reservoir

As we pulled in I could barely see the water through the glare of the morning sun… I noticed that I could see much better with sunglasses on so I figured this might be a good time for my B&W circular polarizer. It didn’t take long to discover the best vantage point for a shot… water like glass with the south Face of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak in the background. Big Dog was of course way more interested in the plethora of prairie dogs that were scurrying about the place foraging for food ๐Ÿ™‚

Wild Turkeys

I still held out hope that I would spot some wildlife on the return trip and it wasn’t long before I spotted a rafter of turkeys… Why a “rafter”? Well apparently according to this entertaining website, in the days of old the word raft used to mean collection ๐Ÿ™‚ Well anyway a few shots of the large birds and we were on our way home to review the day’s photographic bounty. Unfortunately on this day the images looked better on the camera than they do on the computer, but it was still a nice day and now I have seen the reservoir which by the way has quite an interesting history!

The reservoir itself was constructed in 1899 followed in 1901 by an electrical power station a few miles down Beaver Creek. At one time there was a tramway to the power station but after a major flood the station and apparently the tram were destroyed. According to the Mountain Jackpot there was a massive rainfall on Woodland Park and Cripple Creek that overwhelmed the Skagway dam burying the reservoir in 15 feet of debris and destroying the power pipeline which was never repaired. The power station survived but is now on accessible by hiking down the rugged terrain through Beaver Creek.

These images and more are now available on my website for purchase as wall art and commercial stock! Stay tuned, my next adventure is still in the planning stage but I hope to get out to Cottonwood Pass where I will explore the trail to the mountain goat viewing area ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Further Exploration

The day started out in a tizzy when Photoshop informed I had one day to log into the Creative Cloud or my subscription was going to be closed. I had no idea, I am used to Photoshop managing the subscription and updates automatically. So I checked and sure enough, no updates have been applied and I had to go in to help, manage subscriptions and was prompted to log in and download the updates. Mental note to continue checking for updates.

Once past that crisis, a nice breakfast at Broncos killed enough time for the sun to come out and make a trek into the woods tempting. Been meaning to get a bit further down the trail towards Little Grouse Mountain and this was looking like just the right day for it. 

It was pretty windy at the trailhead but Big Dog didn’t seem to care so we forged ahead. Not far around the first bend the mountains began to block the wind and it turned into an amazing beautiful Colorado winter morning!

So onward we went, through the beautiful historic countryside of the Cripple Creek Victor mining district past the many failed dreams of the area’s earliest pioneers. I imagine we made it well past where there have been any people recently as the trail was getting pretty rugged. 

Finally we emerged one valley from what I believe to be Grouse Mountain and the view was amazing! It looks like the trail will take me to the base and hopefully right on up the mountain. I’ll have to pack some more supplies for that journey though, including some water for the dog. 

In the picture you can see the rugged valley, the mountain and the magnificent Sangre De Cristo range in the background. Please be sure to click the links in the menu to bring up my image galleries where you can purchase wall art and many cool household items with my mountain art!

Hiking Weather

After what seems like forever, the weather, a running vehicle and a day off have aligned for a magnificent hike in the mountains. Amazing how fast things change around here, two days ago it was snowing and near zero degrees. Today started out pretty chilly but by the time I was done with breakfast and coffee at Broncos the sun was shining and the wind fairly calm for 10,000 feet of elevation. There was just enough breeze to make the pine trees sing to us along the way ๐Ÿ™‚


It wasn’t a really long trek for me and Son Boy but the fresh snow on the Sangres made for an awesome photo op and I made the best of it! Plus it seems I may actually have the dog trained to stand still while I shoot! It was clear in all directions without too much smoke or moisture so I was even able to see the distant Collgiates ๐Ÿ™‚

It was such a pretty day that I also decided to go up to the mine walk at Goldfield and try for a shot I’ve been thinking about for awhile now, the Vindicator mine with the snowy Sangres in the background. Took a bit but I finally found the right spot and found a place to park where I wouldn’t get stuck in the new snow. 

The mine is a ways from there and I wanted to bring in the mountains so I decided on my 200mm lens zoomed in all the way. Pretty sure I got what I was after ๐Ÿ™‚ There was also a nice view of the west face of Pikes Peak from there so I grabbed that too. 


As always, these images are available on my website as stock images, wall art and tons of gift and household items, including my newest product, fleece blankets with a cool picture!

Footsteps of the Prospectors

Nice ending to a lazy Sunday… Thanks to my ever energetic canine explorer I was not destined to have a full day of rest on this Lord’s Day ๐Ÿ™‚ Son Boy was getting restless late in the afternoon so I decided to take him on a good hike to the Grouse Mountain overlook near Victor, where gold was discovered in 1891 by William Scott Stratton. Being late afternoon I was thinking we might see some wildlife so I brought the camera and my F4L 70-200, my go to lens for wildlife hiking.

Abandoned Victor MineSure enough, about a quarter of a mile up the trail we spotted a huge bull elk but unfortunately he spotted us first… and quickly left the scene. The hike to the top is only about a three quarters of a mile where there is a beautiful vantage point overlooking the Sangre De Cristo Mountains to the south and the Collegiate Peaks to the west. It was pretty hazy today but I stopped for a few captures anyway before heading back down to the trailhead. The Sangre and Collegiate Peaks are just too beautiful to pass by without a picture!

Prospector TrailI’ve been feeling the call to explore a bit south of there on a higher mountain but haven’t seen a trail and the worry of unmarked mine cavities has held me back. Today however I noticed some sort of marker, a cairn with a flag… So we wandered over to take a look and discovered that it said โ€œTrailโ€. Sure enough there was a faint trail and it looked like another cairn about 50 to 75 yards ahead. We had a bit of extra time and Son Boy looked game so we headed down for a better look. Soon a more obvious trail appeared which gave way to what appeared to be a turn of the 20th century wagon trail that headed off into the distance towards the south and the Sangre De Cristo. As I strode along the rugged dirt path it occurred to me that the ground I was on was probably exactly the same as it was over a hundred years ago when the original prospectors walked it hoping to strike it rich.

Grouse MineFinally… a trail in the Cripple Creek area that doesn’t just end in a turnaround! Now this was going to require some investigating! I followed the trail around the mountain towards the taller mountain and was determined to reach a point ahead where I could see that there might be a good view to the west. Didn’t get my view today, but the trail continues into the countryside as far as the eye can see. Now I am eager to take this trail further, perhaps there will be some abandoned mines off the beaten path, some that haven’t had their view obstructed by the barbed wire and fences of modern civilization. Also I am inspired to try new roads in hopes of finding new trails where I can follow in the footsteps of 19th century explorers and gold prospectors… I doubt I will find any gold nuggets, but perhaps my blog accounts and pictures will produce some digital gold ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned to S. W. Krull Imaging for the results of my next hike into the Cripple Creek back country! Also be sure to click the links at the left or in the menu section if you are on a smart phone, to view images for sale on my website… Wall art, clothing and a wealth of gift items are available there!

First Snow

It was a beautiful crisp morning… the hint of fall definitely in the air here at almost 9,000 feet high in the Rocky Mountains. After a long week of drudgery and stress I knew I was in need of a road trip and the puppies needed their hike so I decided to take care of both in the same trip! I love taking the doggies to Little Grouse Mountain near Victor, beautiful scenery and almost zero chance of coming into contact with another person or dog up there, and the doggies love it too. Thought of going to church but when I’m stressed out, being around a bunch of married people and feeling alone is even more stressful. If I’m going to feel alone I’d rather just be alone, and the solitude of the mountains there is perfect therapy… Just me, the doggies and the amazing cool mountain breeze blowing in the pines.

Spring Water.jpgNoticed three empty drinking water jugs in the backseat and I have always wanted to stop at the spring for water. Almost at the split in the highway to Victor or Cripple Creek there is a big tank to catch the spring water coming out of the ground. A rubber tube funnels the water into the tank and anyone can fill water jugs from the spout for free. Animals, including elk, deer, and all sorts of big critters can also benefit from the big tank, and of course there is water spilling from the constant flow onto the ground for the little ones. Got my three jugs filled and headed on into Bronco Billy’s for some 50 cent biscuits and gravy.

stormy Collegiate PeaksThen me and the doggies were off to Little Grouse Mountain for a hike to the spectacular vista of the Sangre De Cristo and Collegiate Peak mountain ranges. Storm clouds were building over the Collegiate Peaks and a heavy haze made the Sangre Peaks almost invisible against the cloudy sky, not worth stopping for pictures but the billowing clouds off to the west were kind of neat. I felt this one looked much more dramatic in black and white, the elimination of color seems to have cut through the haze better. By the time we got back to the bottom the doggies were satisfied and ready for a nap.

Went in to Cripple to the Double Eagle and made some nickel bets, long enough to get a Untitled-1.jpgcouple of free brews to wet my parched whistle before heading back over the pass to Woodland. As I cruised through Gillette Flats I thought I could make out some snow up high on Pikes Peak through the storm clouds… the first sign that the fleeting summer in the high country is nearing an end. Figured I’d take a better look when I got to Woodland with it’s good views of the north face. Sure enough, from the excellent vantage point in Woodland it was apparent that the first snow of the year had fallen down to about 11,000 feet on the peak. But when I went to my usual vantage point the best view of the snow wasn’t visible so I took a swing up Paradise and on up into Paradise Pines for a better view which paid off… it was the perfect spot. The north face of the big peak shows a little dusting but the most snow can be seen on the little peak, which might be Cheyenne Mountain, towards the middle left of the frame.

Pair of Buck Mule DeerThen on my way down I could not believe my good fortune… two beautiful buck mule deer grazing in a meadow of wildflowers. Once again, extremely happy I had set my camera up for back button focus. For some reason once the bucks noticed me they took quite a few steps towards me, so I just held the button down which activates AI Servo focus (continuous) mode as long as I hold the button.ย  Normally a camera is set to one shot mode which activates when the shutter button is depressed. Then what happens is only the first shot is in focus and the subject becomes blurry as it moves closer to the camera. As a result I got quite a good bounty of the two deer in the beautiful meadow. What a way to finish a great day in the mountains ๐Ÿ™‚

These pictures and more from the day are available on my website as wall prints on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, or matted and framed with your choice of frame. Gift items including coffee mugs, t-shirts, greeting cards, pillows, towels and other handy household items are also available. Commercial stock versions can be purchased from the image licensing portal of my website.

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Little Grouse Mountain

Woke up early this morning with no real plan for the day, but as always I threw my camera in the truck… just in case. The doggies both did their business quickly, which is a good thing, and a big time saver! So instead of my usual trip to the gym I decided to head for the high country in hopes of seeing some wildlife, especially perhaps some bighorn sheep. I have heard rumors of sightings along the route to Cripple Creek and the 50 cent breakfast at Bronco’s was appealing to me as well, so that’s where I headed.

Curious BurroUnfortunately no bighorns, but I inquired as to the possible location of the burro population in town in hopes of seeing them for the first time in the wild in Colorado. So after breakfast I took a couple of roads to the outskirts of town in hopes of spotting the herd. No herd, but while on the hill I did see a big commotion and some ambulances at a casino… probably one of the ancient decrepit souls with oxygen tanks smoking a cigarette that seem to so often frequent those places. Lol I don’t know, just a guess but that is what came to me when I saw the scene. Then as I was on my way back down the hill I heard a big fight going on around some pickup trucks and motorcycles with lots of yelling and cursing, followed by sirens and cop cars. Another foray into the countryside revealed more cop cars and some sort of biker gang having a meeting. Certainly not my idea of a day photographing wildlife surrounded by the peace and solitude of the Colorado Rockies!

Eventually I decided to give it up, but on my way back down Bennett I spotted a burro, then another… hanging out at the jail museum west of the casinos. I wondered, will they let me just walk up to them and take pictures? I had heard they were used to people so I put on the wide angle and sauntered up. Sure enough, they paid me no attention and I started snapping some pictures. About that time a guy came of of the museum and told me they had burro treats inside. So I went in and made a donation and got a little bag of treats to reward them for being such good subjects. In fact they were so good the wide angle was definitely required to get any kind of shot of them due to their curiosity about the camera and determination to put a nose print on the lens! They like to be petted and also like the treats and were happy to eat all that I could give them. Eventually they lost interest when I was out of the treats and moseyed on over to the water tank that the museum provides for them. A big shout out to the museum for taking such good care of them!

Unfortunately, having to have an extra job is taking a toll on my concentration, my body and my photography skills. I knew something was off by the sound of the camera, but paid no attention to my instincts. Turns out the camera had been accidentally set to Tvย  at a 20th of a second. I’m lucky I got any pictures at all of the burros, very disappointing… But just the same I am happy this one turned out, it was one of my favorites. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back soon and see those sweet natured beasts again ๐Ÿ™‚

Upon returning to the truck I discovered that Son Boy had found a hitherto forgotten packet of BBQ sauce and had managed to explode it all over the inside of my truck ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Actually it was a big relief when I finally ascertained what had happened because when I first saw him I about had a heart attack, thinking he was bleeding from his mouth!!!!!!!!!! Luckily the packets don’t hold much so I was able to clean up in short order and be back on the way. That reminds me… there is still sauce on the ceiling that I need to deal with ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Collegiate Peak Mountains in ColoradoWell then, off to Victor… There were a couple of spots along that road I wanted to photograph in the morning light… On the way I spotted an overlook I have never noticed before, so I pulled in to check it out and discovered a nice hiking trail to a small mountain appropriately named โ€œLittle Grouse Mountainโ€, just short enough for the doggies including 14 year old Kitsu to come with ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice little hike with all sorts of historic landmarks and interpretive signs along the way. Turns out Grouse Mountain is rich in mining history and there are a number of abandoned sites to study along the way. At the top there is a magnificent view of the Sangre De Cristos and the Collegiate Peaks to the west and northwest.

Finally I had escaped the hubub of a tourist invasion in Woodland Park for โ€œfree fishing dayโ€… which reminded me of Tricia. After she was diagnosed with cancer she said she just wanted to go fishing. She had never been and finally decided she would like to just retire and spend some time along a stream fishing. Unfortunately she kept finding too many things to do and never got to go. My advice on that subject? If there is something you really want to do don’t delay, there are no guarantees for a tomorrow in this life. As I wandered the summit of the little mountain and took in the magnificent views I wondered… did the miners appreciate this solitude as much as I was on this day? Were they as appreciative of the stunning views as I was this morning, or were they blinded by greed and the gold dust. I could sense their ghosts as the breeze whispered in the pines, occasionally accompanied by the mournful sound of the historic Cripple Creek Victor narrow gauge railroad train whistle. It had to have been a brutal lifestyle, I wonder if it was worth it? All the work and suffering for that gold only to leave it behind on the journey into the afterlife. And I wonder, am I just like they were? Only with a camera, prospecting for a different kind of gold in the harshness of life in these mountains two miles above sea level. I don’t know, but just the same I thank the Almighty for the legs and the lungs and the opportunity to be able to climb to a place like this and the eyes to see the magnificence of His Creation.

I was so enjoying the solitude, the happiness of finally getting to climb a mountain even if it was only a little one, a place all to myself save for the critters who call that mountain home. But sprinkles soon made my decision for me and it was raining steadily by the time we made it back to the truck. The puppies gladly hopped out of the rain into the camper topper and I decided it was time to return to the madness of the city. But it was a good day in the mountains, not what I had planned but that is ok with me.

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items