Exploring Mueller State Park

Finally after all these years of wondering what was up the dark road in the trees along highway 67 I have taken the plunge πŸ™‚ Drove up to the ranger station and paid my daily pass fee. The nice lady gave me a map of all the attractions and trails available in the park and off I went!

I decided to first just drive all the way through and get the lay of the land before delving into any trail exploration and the winding road took me a few miles back into the vast park, past picnic grounds, campgrounds, horse facilities, an RV park and finally to the turnaround at the north end.

Forest of Mueller State Park ColoradoI was most intrigued by the Ridge View Trail so I opted to hike that one. It looked pretty rugged and I’m no expert mountain biker so tackling that one on foot was my only option. It wasn’t a long walk before indeed there was a stone outcropping and an overlook. Unfortunately there is so much haze and smoke in the air these days that there wasn’t much of a view, just some close by hills in the Pike National Forest.

Finally the turnaround came into view at about 1.5 miles in and there was another

Golden Eagle in Flight

overlook with a little better view than the first spot… I think I would have been able to see the Sangre were it not for all the stuff in the air. As I was preparing to take a picture some kind of eagle soared majestically toward my position so I switched my camera to wide area focus and tried for a couple of captures. At first I was thinking this was a golden eagle, but now I’m not sure what it is, possibly even just a turkey vulture. Don’t know and I don’t feel like trying to find out, I simply don’t have the patience to be aΒ  bird photographer. Then I was trying to decide whether to go back the way I came or to continue on into some more rugged terrain hoping for a loop back to the trailhead… by the way, the map that they give you at the park entrance, bring it with you on your hike… those trail numbers may come into play later on. Eventually I did the smart thing and just went backΒ  the way I came. As it turns out the trail I was on came to and end right where I was and there was a possible loop back but it would have involved two additional numbered trails, which of course were on the map that I failed to bring with me 😦

Mule Deer in the Wilderness

I was also interested in exploring the Elk Meadow trail, sounded like a good place to find some elk to photograph! Not so much… but I did see a fine specimen of a mule deer buck who just stared at me so I could photograph him. After a few shots I went back to my truck for the 1.4x lens extender and the tripod, but by the time I was ready again the huge buck had disappeared into the woods.

When I got to the Elk Meadows trail I could see where it went, right through a large meadow and there simply were no elk there. I had also read that there might be more elk on the north end of the park along the old Cheeseman Ranch Trail so I went to check that out. You have to drive all the way through all the camping areas including the tent sites to get to the trailhead, which is also the trailhead for the Grouse Mountain Overlook. It’s a seven mile trail through the meadows at the north end, which seemed longer than I wanted to hike at that point so I just walked a few yards along the wide path to see if I could see anything. There was another trail off to the left with a sign so I went to check it out. No bikes it said…. hmmm well that must mean that there are bikes allowed on the trail I was on!

Wonderful, with my bike I was going to be able to explore that trail after all! I climbed on my bike and began a long enjoyable glide along the well maintained artery through the woods. I became a bit concerned when after a while I realized I had not had to pedal for a long time… approximately four miles of long time 😦 Eventually the trail gave way to an unmarked jeep road with a couple of signs that said “emergency exit” and I was getting a little nervous that I had made a wrong turn somewhere. But I fought the urge to chicken out and turn back and finally the trail veered to the west and then made a turn back into the park through a marshy area just behind the ridge. There were a few tough inclines followed by long flat cruises that I was easily able to handle so I took hope that the designers of the park had found a way to get back to the beginning without any killer hills!

In the marshy area I spotted something in the brush moving around so I stopped and dismounted while

Wild Turkeys

gazing intently into the ground cover. I soon discovered that there was a flock of wild turkeys scampering around near a pool of water so I slowly got out my camera and inched my way towards the little group. Unfortunately they spotted me and made their way into a thicket where I couldn’t see them very well. I did get off a couple of not so good shots in poor lighting as they popped in and out of the branches on their way to safety at the top of the ridge.

And just as I was starting to feel pretty good about a quick return to the trailhead, there it was… the price of an easy four mile downhill ride. A trail pretty much straight up the side of the ridge… I quickly shifted into low and powered up the mountain, sweat pouring down my face and stinging my eyes. I could hear the blood pumping through my ears and the sound of myself sucking wind. I thought I was going to spit out my lungs when I finally gave up and decided to stop and catch my breath. Eventually I got back on and promptly had to jump right back off when I couldn’t get going 😦 At that point there was nothing left to do but push the bike up the hill, a long hard two mile slog to the top of the ridge.

Finally the trail leveled out and I was looking forward to some more pleasurable riding when immediately I came across the sign for the trailhead and that trail was done, just like that!

By then my day was nearing an end and I began the drive back out of the park, hoping to see some stray wildlife in the meadows along the main road. Now that I have some idea of what the park has to offer I’m sure I’ll be back, if for nothing else some nice training rides along the long Cheeseman Ranch mountain bike trail!

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Riding Waterton Canyon

As it turns out I was awake at 4:00 a.m. this morning with nothing to do but stare out the window at the darkness. Or… I could jump in the old Dodge and head for Waterton Canyon in hopes of arriving just after sunrise. Been watching with envy as the Denver photographers post all those great shots of the bear and the bighorn sheep on the canyon Facebook group!

Platte River in Waterton Canyon

Well the first part of the plan came together just fine, I arrived at the trailhead parking lot just after sunrise, jumped on my mountain bike and headed into the canyon. Bypassed some deer that were feeding on the leaves on the riverbank, they were pretty much in the dark anyway. Soon I arrived at the usual location where the animals come down and unfortunately there were no bighorn sheep today. So I thought, well I’ll ride up the river for exercise and look for the bear.

Six miles I rode up the dirt road hugging the South Platte River on it’s way down from the Rockies and onward to Nebraska where it meets up with the Mighty Missouri. I watched the banks of the river and the cliffs behind intently for any sign of the wildlife I so wantedΒ  to photograph. But alas, today was not going to be my day, there was no wildlife to be found. If I had time I suppose I could have made the ride again this afternoon but not sure my legs would have been too happy about that!

Eventually as I neared the end of the ride I saw a small group of people staring at something high on the canyon walls… so I stopped to see what the attraction might be.

Golden Eagle in Flight

Turns out there was a golden eagle perched on top of a rock high on the cliffs overlooking the canyon. I snapped a few shots of him sitting there and then waited to see if he would take flight. It wasn’t too long and he began to rustle around so I readied myself for the shots. Soon his giant wings spread and the big raptor took flight. I had my camera on high speed for the occasion so I rattled off about 20 pictures in the few seconds I had before he flew off out of range along the river.

So the day wasn’t a total loss, and how could a beautiful mountain bike ride along a pristine blue Rocky Mountain stream ever be a failure! Heck, when I lived in Denver I rode the canyon all the time just for the pleasure of the exercise! So, there will be another time soon when I get the chance to find the sheep and the bear. Not tomorrow though… think I might explore Mueller State Park a bit πŸ˜‰

 

Adventure at the Royal Gorge

This was supposed to be a mountain bike adventure along the River Walk Trail in Canon City… and it was for a while, at least until the trail soon became Ditch Walk Trail. I was intending to ride up the river until I found something interesting, but the ride only lasted about a mile before it turned away from the river and up a drainage ditch before dead ending at the college. So I just turned around and rode back to the truck. Tried to think of other things I could do, but already too much time had been wasted so I just headed for home.

Royal Gorge Colorado

As I climbed the hill out of Canon I saw the sign for the Royal Gorge… What the heck, might as well drive back in there and see what I could see was my thought. So I turned left and took the windey paved road back to the gorge. Noticed a small parking lot at a trailhead for some mountain bike trails but pressed on. I wanted to see the gorge, have been in Colorado over 30 years and have never been. Also noticed an interesting dirt road to the left, something about a picnic area and overlook. But again I pressed on to the visitor center figuring that’s where the best experience might be.

Finally there… parked and walked to the visitor center hoping there would be some kind of observation deck, but no… just a bunch of souvenirs that I can’t afford. Looked all around there for a view but there wasn’t much. All I could see was the other side of the canyon wall, no way to look down without paying for the gondola ride or a trip across the bridge.

Well there was still the overlook and picnic area so I got back in the truck and headed for

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

the dirt road. The road wasn’t bad, a few bumps and twists and turns but nothing that couldn’t be handled by any passenger car. Some of the picnic areas were full so I didn’t find a parking place until almost the end, which as luck would have it is where the overlook actually is located. Not only was there an overlook, but a whole trail system surrounded the area. Some visitors were getting out mountain bikes to ride on a trail that would at times come uncomfortably close to the 1000 foot or more drop off the edge into the river. Not for me! In fact after a short distance I went back for my trekking pole! The area is filled with cactus and I had no desire to face plant one one of those devils, plus I was feeling extra clumsy today 😦

I was expecting to see only canyon and river on this outing, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some excellent views of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo across the canyon in the distance πŸ™‚ Storm clouds were already forming over the majestic peaks and it was an amazing scene to be sure πŸ™‚ Finally, satisfied that I had seen all there was to see I loaded up the camera and headed for home. Thought of going back into town for a micro brew at a new place called the Worlds End Brewing Company but already too much time had been spent. I was tired and ready for the drive home.

Probably won’t go back there, although maybe sometime the train ride might be fun… but not on one of my usual solo adventures. That doesn’t seem like a solo activity. Well as always these images and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets plus tons of cool gift, household and tech items! My site has been redesigned and might bear some explaining. There is a row of buttons near the top of the landing screen where you can choose the type of product you are interested in. This then brings up a page with all of my collections, or galleries. These two images can be found by clicking “more collections” and then the “Colorado Rocky Mountains”. Or you can just look below the collections on the landing page where my most recent images are displayed.

Bighorn Adventure

Back in the day I used to go to Waterton Canyon every weekend for my long run while training for the Leadville 100. We didn’t see much wildlife in those days, maybe an occasional deer or hawk, but in the last few years the bighorn sheep herd has been growing nicely and I have been wanting so badly to get back there for a photo shoot.Β  I tried once back in 2015, but felt like Clark W. Griswold when I got there and there was a gate across the entire entrance saying, “Closed for Maintenance” 😦 First time in the history of the canyon as far as I know!

Bighorn Sheep Along the Platte River

Well last night I checked the forecast and it was calling for snow in the Denver area so I was thinking that might just be the right weather to bring them down out of the high elevation and into the canyon. So I got the truck all ready to go yesterday, mountain bike in the back, tank full of gas, oil and tires checked. Didn’t wake up exactly when I wanted too… so I got there somewhat later than I was planning which probably worked out to my advantage because when I arrived I had to drive through a virtual lake of water and mud at the entrance! So I surmised that the expected snow did indeed fall last night and hoped it had the desired effect on the critters.

Unfortunately the mud was so deep that I couldn’t even ride for the first few hundred yards, had to walk and push. Finally after about a quarter of a mile the mud was less deep and the road underneath was solid enough to ride on, so I began to pedal up the canyon. For whatever reason, the canyon didn’t seem as long or as steep as it used to… you wouldBighorn Sheep Along the Platte River think that ten years would have done the opposite? Well anyway I rode along scanning the canyon walls for the magnificent beasts, the plan was to ride all six miles to the top of the canyon if need be! Well pretty soon a friendly looking woman with a big camera was walking back down so I asked her if she had seen any sheep and she motioned that they were right around the bend.

Bighorn Sheep Along the Platte River

A few more yards and there they were, a couple just lying in the sun along the Platte River and a few more resting in the sun on a grassy knoll on the canyon wall. I stashed my bike and camera backpack and approached the animals slowly hoping that they wouldn’t run, which they didn’t. They seemed completely unconcerned by my presence so I just shot away until I was satisfied that I had captured that scene. Then as I looked back down the canyon I noticed an even bigger part of the herd walking towards me and looking like they might be wanting to cross the road for a drink out of the river, which is exactly what I wanted. The sheep with the river and canyon walls in the background. Now this bunch was a little more wary of me so I decided to just take a seat on a rock and just watch them a bit while they settled down.

Soon they were satisfied that I meant no harm and went about their business of eating and drinking on the river bank, perfect for getting all the pictures I could possibly want! The sun even came out for me so I would have some nice light allowing me to dial the ISO back to 200 for some even better images than I had gotten before.

Bighorn Sheep Along the Platte River

Finally all the animals decided it was time to lie down for a nap which wasn’t making for very interesting pictures so I decided to call it a day. All in all I filled up two memory cards and captured over 500 images! After a quick review I have decided these are my favorite of the day and have uploaded them to my website.

By then I was pretty tired and hungry and the drive home seemed long… On the way up I had noticed a Pub sign in Palmer Lake so I decided to check it out on the return trip πŸ™‚ The Palmer Lake Pub turned out to be a great little place in a great little town, the beer and food were both excellent and I was soon revived enough to finish the long drive back to Cripple Creek πŸ™‚ I’ll be stopping back in there as often as possible!

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. Also available are tons of cool gift items including blankets and pillows, tech items such as battery chargers, apparel, yoga mats and more! All with a beautiful S.W. Krull Imaging picture! I have over 500 more pictures from today to process, so be sure to check back often!

 

My Wedding Photography on Instagram

Been thinking about attacking my wedding photography with a bit more vigor for some time now and it occurred to me that one good way to do that would be to create a special Instagram account for just that purpose! Of course it wasn’t that easy, first I had to create a special email account because it wouldn’t let me use one that I had already used for S.W. Krull Imaging, and I had to update my wedding facebook page that I have long been neglecting 😦 But it looks like I have managed to provide the basic structure… now I just have to flesh it out with pictures, an activity for another day I’m afraid!

Western wedding couple with horse

For now I am going to get ready for tomorrow, have to get the bed of my truck unloaded from selling my camper trailer so that I can load up my mountain bike for tomorrow’s intended adventure! Been wanting for so long to go to Waterton Canyon and hopefully photograph the bighorn sheep. The Waterton Canyon trail is a pretty long one, six miles one way, too far to go on foot in any reasonable amount of time, hence the mountain bike.Β  It has been a long time since I have made that trek so I don’t remember how far in it is before you can find the sheep, I hope not all the way to the end! Although there are some awesome compositions of the river itself to be had as it spills out of the dense pine trees of the Pike National Forest.

Anyway, better get to it, we’re burning daylight!

 

A Little Exploring

My original plan for the day was to just stay home and give these tired old legs some rest… Lol, in my case, the flesh is willing but the spirit isn’t, I’mΒ  just not good at resting it would seem! So once again I decided to load up my backpack, get on my bike and see where the day would lead me. First off I noticed that I could still get down to Bronco Billy’s in time for the cheap breakfast, so down the hill I coasted for some French Toast while I pondered my next move.

I thought about seeing if I could ride clear to Victor but the sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor train whistle reminded me that I had yet to explore the abandoned mines on the mountainside visible from my bedroom window. There aren’t any obvious roads going up there and I have been wondering for almost a year now if I could get up there for some images. Well… today was the day as I began my journey by pedaling east through town towards the dirt road that leads up to the narrow gauge train tracks. I always figured that it was private property beyond the train tracks because there is a sign posted beyond there along the dirt trail. However as it turns out the sign is just a notice of the Cripple Creek mine reclamation project boundary, so the area is fair game.

Cripple Creek Train

The first hill was wicked and I was not able to pedal up it, but I didn’t mind pushing the old 21 speed for a few feet to the top. As I neared the top of the first ridge I could hear the train whistle getting louder and also saw the most beautiful view of the tracks that I have ever seen. The train tracks can be seen winding out of the forest against a backdrop of a magnificent valley with the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background. Only today you have to look very close to see the mountains, unfortunately it appears the Arkansas River Valley is filling with smoke from the distant fires in the southwest corner of the state. Took a few shots of the train and some abandoned buildings located in the vicinity before looking around to see if the trail would continue.

Abandoned Gold Mine

There did appear to be some sort of access road leading along the ridge toward the big mine so I thought I might give that a try on the bike. It was nice road for mountain biking, but it only went about a half a mile back into the woods before coming to an end at another mine reclamation sign. At that point I got off the bike to look around for a possible composition or maybe a foot trail, neither of which seemed to be available. There was a steep berm created for the reclamation project leading up to the top of the next ridge, not something that looked like it was wanting to be climbed but I was curious what kind of view might be possible from the summit. So I found a climbing stick for myself and headed up the steep hillside. Unfortunately the top was a false summit and proved to only be the bottom of another even worse climb that I was not in the mood to tackle. However there did appear to be a trail leading around to the south that looked well worth checking out but only ended up at the base of the big mine in view of the massive trucks hauling ore.

On the way back down the hillside I hoped I would spot a two pound gold nugget just laying out in the open… No such luck but I did find a giant rusty iron spike weighing about five pounds. Although I would have liked to add it to my collection of useless junk it was far to heavy for me to want to carry on my bike all the way back to town! It appears that gold and riches will have to wait for another day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangre_de_Cristo_Range

The ride back down was much easier than the ride up, although there was once place where the downhill on rocky gravel was so steep that I thought better of it and got off and walked. I have never forgotten the harsh lesson of an endo that I experienced on the White Ranch Trail system over 20 years ago! Riding a bike is something you never forget, so they say… but flying off a bike upside down onto a rocky mountain trail is something you never forget too!

So… calling the day a success, I got a little exercise that I really didn’t need or want and a few nice images of the failed mining endeavors attempted by my Cripple Creek predecessors for my website if you would like to take a look πŸ™‚ Wall art on metal and acrylic is available as is more traditional framed and matted prints. Cool household and gift items are also available, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, yoga mats, blankets, beach towels and more! Just above the images on the site there is a button for galleries, which are how I divide my work up into categories if you would like to explore my site a little more thoroughly πŸ˜‰

 

A Good Ride

Wasn’t too sure what I was going to do today… getting back in shape at my age is no easy task and I just felt tired this morning. But I resolved to get on my mountain bike with my camera backpack and head down the hill for a 50 cent cheese omelette at the casino. Figured I could just call it good from there if I decided to, but thought maybe at least having the camera along I might be inspired to go further πŸ™‚ And when I got done with breakfast it was so beautiful that the idea of just going home became unconscionable πŸ™‚ So off to Victor it was!

Herd of Mule Deer

Saw a small herd of mule deer along the way so I had to get off the bike and get a couple of shots. Unfortunately by the time I had my camera out of the backpack and ready to go the deer were getting nervous and headed off to other parts 😦 But I still thought this one turned out kind of nice, even though they were already a ways away. It appears a few mountain wildflowers are beginning to bloom up here at almost 10,000 feet of elevation!

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Next stop, just short of the bridge in front of the mine I found an abandoned mine site that had an awesome view up the valley all the way to the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, and it appears that there is some new snow blanketing the high peaks. By then the sun had begun to light up the haze a bit too much for good pictures so I thought it might be a good time to try the polarizer on my #Canon F4l 70-200 long lens. The scene through the viewfinder was much more dramatic with the dark glass in place, so this last one of the day is the one I chose for this blog post. I have many more to process, including some of the alpenglow effect on the range before sunlight that I shot while taking Big Dog for his exercise and morning constitutional πŸ™‚

Now back home after a good hard ride up and down the hills of the Cripple Creek mining district. Glad I didn’t let the early morning negativity defeat me today πŸ™‚ Hoping all my readers enjoy the pictures, please check my website for new prints and gift items that will becoming available in the coming days as I get around to processing them!