Winter Wonderland

This is what gets me going every day… Sitting there drinking my coffee, warm puppy on my lap, I’m always thinking, not today, today I’m just going to sit here and enjoy this moment. But soon I begin to wonder, what am I missing, what wildlife is on my mountain, what kind of weather am I missing? And off I go and I am almost never disappointed :)Fog Bank in the Colorado Rockies

Such was the case today. It seemed just like a normal partly cloudy morning, no wildlife to be found, perhaps only a day of exercise on the snowshoes was going to be my reward. But then we crested the mountaintop and this amazing winter scene came into view. A beautiful Colorado winter wonderland to behold πŸ™‚ Well worth the effort it took to get myself up the snowy hillside!

As always, this image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting.

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

We have had a beautiful springlike couple of days but this morning’s clouds portend a change… Snow and cold are on the way for later this week, temperatures will be dropping back to near zero for a couple of days. Big Dog and I were up early today so just

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

before sunrise we grabbed the camera and the snowshoes and headed for the mountains. I could see that it was going to be a beautiful sunrise and indeed it was. But the real show was not to the east, but to the southwest where the alpenglow effect was illuminating the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peaks ranges in a beautiful pink glow. I found a good spot and pulled over for a few shots before going on to the trailhead where I hoped for another photo op with the elk herd. For some reason however, they were not there today, no sign of them at all. It’s like they have vanished off the face of the earth! Oh well… maybe this week’s cold weather will bring them back down to lower elevations. Lol… and by lower elevations, I mean 10,000 feet πŸ™‚

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

Our snowshoe hike yielded nothing in the way of wildlife. Did get a few shots of the storm clouds gathering on the Sangre though, some of the nicest that I have seen in a long time!

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Fresh Powder

Fresh Powder in the Colorado High CountryTen degrees, wind blowing, face frozen, drifting snow, complete solitude… It doesn’t get any better :) Perfect day for snowshoeing. Most of our trail has been buried by the drifting snow from yesterday’s storm but most of the time I could ascertain where the packed trail probably was. Sometimes not though, but the feel of the fresh powder beneath my snowshoes was well worth the extra effort. Big Dog seemed to be better at finding the trail as he charged ahead, I suppose he could locate by smell! Good companion to have along :)

Was hoping to find that the elk had gathered at the edge of the forest near the summit so I could get some good wildlife photographs,

Snowshoe Tracks in the Powderbut I saw little sign of life anywhere on the frozen mountain. Looking back at where we had come from all there was to see was our trail in the snow over the top. Thought it made for kind of a neat scene though! On our way down I did find elk tracks leading up a different trail around the other side of the ridge, so maybe tomorrow we willΒ  go investigate.

 

Cutting the Trail

I arose early this morning in preparation for a snowshoe trek over the top of the mountain, the wind was not as bad and the snow has taken a break for now. I knew it was going to be a tough morning though, cutting a new trail through the deep wind blown snowdrifts!

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo

As I began the climb with Big Dog I was thinking maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad after all… the wind had blown the snow completely off the trail and we were just striding along in comfort on the hard packed base. But… it wasn’t long, the trail took a turn and we found ourselves in a deep drift which seemed to go on forever. Big Dog was really struggling to get through and for a bit I thought we were going to have to give it up. But soon for some reason the drift hardened, and with the snowshoes both me and big dog could hike along in comfort right across the icy surface.

Up in the trees there were a couple of spots where we had to cut a new trail, but on the top of the ridge the snow had mostly blown away. The view from the summit was of course amazing as usual so I stopped for some pictures. A couple of bucks were also of the mind for cutting a new trail and I could see that they were having a tough day as well. Buck Mule Deer in Deep Snow

The backside of the mountain was easy, the snow had completely blown away leaving bare grass and dirt most of the rest of the way. Here I encountered a trio of doe mule deer foraging on one of the pine tree. So intent upon their task were they that they paid us no mind at all making for a great photo op and a couple nice portraits. These are not shown in this blog post, but are definitely for sale on my website in the wildlife gallery!

Now that I have the hard part done I’m looking forward to another trek over the top in the morning and hopefully some more wildlife pictures! There are rumors of more snow though… stay tuned!

Wind Shear on the Sangre

Been a wild couple of days with tremendous winds, snow and zero degree temperatures so I have been wimping out and staying indoors at the computer. But today it finally warmed up a bit although a stiff breeze persisted throughout the day. When I looked out the window though and saw the show on the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristo I knew I was going to have to go out and investigate!

Wind Shear on the Sangre

The always ready Big Dog was eager to get out and play in the new snow so off we went. Worn out from a week of sleep deprivation from work though, I wasn’t ready to attempt the deep snow so we took the lower trail around the east side where the wind had blown the snow away instead of piling it up on the trail.

No wildlife was out at that time of day, but the snow blowing over the high peaks of the block fault range in the distance looked magnificent. With the sun climbing ever higher in the southern sky with the steady approach of spring, I was happy to have brought along the polarizer which did a good job of accentuating the clouds and blowing snow. In fact the entire Arkansas Valley was a bit obscured by blowing snow so the images don’t have a lot of contrast, but I am happy with the mystical effect that resulted from the weather.

Hoping for some good rest tonight though, so a snowshoe trek could be on tap for the morning!

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Beautiful Powder

Had to wear snowshoes today in order to make it to the summit, life at almost 10,000 feet has it’s benefits! Besides the beautiful scenery the snow up here is much better, not like that sticky mess found at lower elevations πŸ™‚ It was a tough climb though, I could hear my heart thumping in my ears… not too much though! Well anyway, when we crest the ridge and these mountains come into view all petty problems fade a bit for sure!

Sunrise and Storm Clouds on the Sangre

 

How Could I Not Take the Picture

Storm Brewing on the Sangre de Cristo

I was looking over my portfolio this morning and was thinking, “I have too many pictures of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, better stop shooting them for a while.” But then I came over the ridge and saw this view! All thoughts about not photographing the Sangre vanished in an instant and I just started shooting. How could I not photograph something this magnificent! It seems another storm is moving in and the first place I get to see the evidence is over the Sangre range.Β  The slight hint of color from the early morning sun only added to the stunning beauty of these mountains this morning.

Also saw a trio of doe deer foraging for food on the mountainside which needed some photography! These were some of the cutest faces I’ve seen in a while. They appear to be pretty young. Fortunately they didn’t just run, stopping to pose for a few minutes before disappearing over the ridge πŸ™‚

Trio of Deer in the Wilderness

These pictures and more are now available as wall art and cool gift items on my website so if you are inclined to give the gift of art for Christmas, please take a look!

 

Sunrise Surprise

Elk Herd at Sunrise

Lucky for me the big dog was impatient for this morning’s trek through the Colorado wilderness. I am always expecting to see something along the trail, but today held an extra special surprise…Β  a large herd of elk in the golden light of sunrise. Most of the animals were passing silently by in the shade but a few presented themselves against the aspen trees in the beautiful morning light. This one was my favorite. Oh and if you want my advice… get a dog, they are very motivating :)This picture and more are available on my website as wall art, greeting cards and many more cool gift and useful household items!

Never a Missed Opportunity

Winter Garden

It was just a yearly checkup at the VA clinic, but the gears in my mind began to turn… The route to the doctor’s office goes right past Garden of the Gods! So I packed up and left three hours early in hopes of a few shots of the Garden in Winter. Unfortunately there wasn’t much snow but the day and the sky were magnificent. I also liked the stark scene that the leafless trees created at the base of the huge red spires. Good advice though, never leave the camera at home! The polarizer on the shot below was a big help too… without it the beautiful wispy cirrus clouds were virtually invisible.

Winter View

Phantom Canyon

Funny the twists and turns my days make… I had fully planned to take Big Dog for a short hike followed by a road trip up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns were still there this morning. However on my way through Victor I glanced down towards the south and thought, “Hey, it looks like the trees are changing down there too! I wonder what the road is like?”. I’ve been wanting to explore Phantom Canyon Road along the Gold Belt Tour series of day trips since the day I first saw it on the map! Surprisingly the road is listed on the “Dangerous Roads” website, but I didn’t think it was that bad… although it could be inΒ  bad weather! So… I turned the old Dodge south and headed down the dirt road toward the canyon. After a couple of miles I was thinking it really wasn’t too bad. The last time I even attempted that route, the ice and snow of the Colorado winter had made a complete mess of it. Now it was a little rough but not a brain rattling washboard like Rampart Range Road the other day… So I just kept going πŸ™‚

According to my brief study of the road’s history, the road actually began as a narrow gauge railroad bed providing access to the gold fields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The name of the canyon is also steeped in history as well according to the website Colorado.com, which attributes to a ghostly inmate who was executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in the 1880’s. I saw no ghosts on my trek through the haunted canyon πŸ™‚

Entrance to Phantom Canyon

The northern part of the canyon really isn’t too much of a canyon. Just a nice dirt mountain road past a lot of golden aspen leaves with a nice view of the Sangre de Cristo range in the background. Stopped a few times for pictures of the mountains and even the road winding it’s way back into the trees while making my way ever further south. Soon I was way too far down the 30 mile road to consider turning back and I’m glad I didn’t! The canyon is magnificent, beautiful high walls along the sides between really pretty aspen groves and meadows.

There are a couple of places where the road gets slightly dicey, pieces of it somewhat Phantom Canyon Drive in Autumnwashed out and other places are quite narrow due to rock walls on both sides. No big deal today, but I could see where it would be a pain in the butt on a busy weekend day, especially during leaf season. It is possible somebody would have to back up if two cars met in just the wrong place. There were even a couple of one lane tunnels through the rock that I tried to get shots of with my phone but the bright light at the other end of the tunnel coupled with the dark canyon turned out to be an unrecognizable photographic disaster! Oh well… And there was a very cool old wooden bridge that I really liked but was on it before I realized it and so I didn’t get a shot of that either. Come to think of it, a canyon in general is quite difficult to get pictures of. The high walls look very impressive to the three dimensional capabilities of the human eye, but not so much to a two dimensional camera view. So mostly I just cruised along in second gear, enjoying the tight turns, the dense forest, cool rock formations and high cliffs along the sides.

Phantom Canyon Wall

I did get one shot of the road behind along the canyon wall with my phone camera, but as far as capturing the canyon as I saw it with my eyes, it was pretty much a photographic bust. Even the shot I did get is much less impressive than the view that my mind was enjoying! You can kind of make out the path along the cliff that the road is taking but it seemed much steeper when I was driving! I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out and spent a little time in the dense forest, but didn’t have all day… I mainly just wanted to drive the road so I could check the bucket list box in the sky πŸ™‚ Actually I’m much more of a high peaks person than I am a canyon person anyway… I like to get up where I can see! I was also surprised that I didn’t see any wildlife at all on the entire trip… I don’t know maybe deer and elk aren’t big fans of canyons either?

I have to confess, by the time I was about two thirds of the way through, I was just wishing that I was all the way through. Finally with about five miles remaining, the road widened out and the bumps relented allowing me to finish quickly in the 30-40 mph range, followed by some black top road where full speed was possible and I was in Canyon City in no time.

Pondered going on through to Salida to see the Sangres, but as I thought about that I realized I had actually been to Salida before and don’t really remember the Sangres being all that impressive from right beside them. So I opted for the Highway 9 and High Park Drive turnoff for a quick trip back to Cripple Creek. I had read somewhere that there are supposed to be great views of the Sangre range from High Park but I didn’t see it. I’ll go visit the Sangre de Cristo range when that is all that I have planned for the day. Maybe in the winter when the peaks have snow and aren’t just big brown rocks!

These pictures and more are now for sale on my website as wall art, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framing and matting. You can also purchase a good variety of cool household items and gift items such as phone chargers and hard cases, t-shirts, beach and yoga mats, shower curtains, greeting cards and much more!