Springtime in the Rockies

Ghostly Figures in Foggy Mine Country

Springtime is an unpredictable mess in the Rockies but no one can say it isn’t beautiful! On this day a dense fog rolled in from below in the Arkansas River valley creating this amazing ghostly scene in the Cripple Creek / Victor mining district. The Peak itself however, was not to be outdone. There was just enough fog and approaching cloud cover to create this amazing vista on the south face of America’s Mountain.

As always, these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and cool gift items!

Fog and Clouds on Pikes Peak

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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’mย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Wild Ass Day

Definitely a wild ass day in Cripple Creek! lol… well technically it was a wild Equus asinus day in the old west gambling and gold mining town. Turns out the latest house I was trying to buy down there is back up for grabs… it went under contract out from under me but is back on the market again. I wasn’t actually too sure about buying the place so I decided to make a trip down to take another look.

Curious BurroFirst stop of course was Bronco Billy’s for breakfast. Had some scrambled eggs and hash browns and a half order of biscuits and gravy ๐Ÿ™‚ Left a 100% tip for my favorite waitress and my total bill was $2 ๐Ÿ™‚ Put a couple bucks in the slots while I was waiting and won a buck so following the huge breakfast I was only down $1!

Then it was on to the west side of town to take a look at the house. As I was cruising up up Bennett Avenue I noticed the donkey herd strolling along the street towards an empty lot of mountain prairie grass. These animals are believed to be the descendants of the pack mules used by the gold miners back in the old west days when Cripple Creek was first discovered. I pulled on ahead a ways where the doggies wouldn’t get so excited about the animals and grabbed my camera and the bag of treats that I had left over from my previous burro expedition and did my best to sneak up on the pack beasts without disturbing them. They are quite used to people so they didn’t seem disturbed in the least.

Burros in Cripple CreekSnapped a few frames of them grazing and tried to get some good portraits of the prettiest ones. When I was satisfied that I had captured the scene I got out the treats and boy did I make some friends fast! It wasn’t long before the entire herd had surrounded me looking for one of the special burro treats that I had picked up for a small donation at the Jail Museum a few weeks ago on my way to visit Little Grouse Mountain. Luckily it turned out that I had just the right amount and each critter delicately lifted a donkey biscuit from the palm of my hand. Gave each one of my new friends a pat on the head, checked my camera screen to make sure the pics turned out and it was off to the house on the west side.

As luck would have it, the owner / builder was there and I got all my questions answered about the place. Much more enticing than I originally thought so I didn’t dawdle this time, got right on the phone to my real estate agent and got the ball in motion. I don’t know if it will actually come through, but it looks like I have a good chance of landing a house in Cripple Creek this time for my retirement years. Life’s twists and turns are amazing… 30 years ago when I moved to the Denver area I would have thought you were nuts if you told me I would someday be retiring in Cripple Creek… Well maybe not, I have loved that place since the first time I visited, long before the casinos were even thought of.

Be sure to look for the complete set of print and gift items that will soon be for sale in the wildlife gallery on my website, including glossy wall art on metal and acrylic sheets, canvas and in traditional frames plus tons of gift items and novelties, including coffee mugs, t-shirts, shopping bags, shower curtains, greeting cards and more!

 

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

More Gold Mines

Nothing new to see on this morning’s hike… the peak looked the same as always and I didn’t get a chance to photograph the deer herd before they headed up the mountainside on terrain too difficult for my two legs! So I just finished my hike and made my usual rounds to the gym, the Donut Mill for coffee and the library to get on the computer and see if a house I can buy may have come up for sale. No luck there as per usual. Then I wracked my brain for a while trying to think of a new place to go photograph within a reasonable distance… Felt kind of like Curly for a little bit, “I’m trying to think but nothing is happening!”. No luck there either.

Independence Gold MineEventually I decided to just come home and work on uploading some new images from photo shoots done earlier this year. Looking back I decided that my trip to Victor in March is a good place to start. Have a bunch of nice images from that day that I need to get processed and keyworded. It is with a bit of sadness that I work on these though, twice this year I came close to getting a house there only to have the loans fall through for various reasons beyond my control. Still hoping, though I know now it’s a long shot.

Anyway, I managed to get three more of the Independence Gold Mine processed and they are now available on my website on Pixels.com as print and RF stock. The history of this area is rich with imagery and stories of the old west. I can only imagine the harshness of life in these mines on the rugged mountains surrounding Cripple Creek and Victor at elevations well above 9,000 feet. It’s a rough go even now just to photograph them, and in pleasant weather to boot! I hope you visit my site and enjoy these images and more.

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

 

Pikes Peak or Bust

Pikes Peak or Bust, my motto lately, became one step closer to reality today. Under contract for a house in the old west mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. Sketchy start to the day however, as creepy stalker woman somehow managed to be out working in the yard in March at 7:00 a.m. so as to be sure to be able to make snide remarks as I passed by with the dogs on their morning walk. As of this morning I was not sure that the sellers were going to accept my offer, so the words of stalker lady were all the more unbearable. Prayed a long prayer when I got back home that the long dark valley I have traversed over the last decade might finally be over and that He would finally allow me to shake this town and all it’s harsh memories.

Independence gold mine in Victor ColoradoAs I sat once again contemplating life with coffee and a donut at the Donut Mill in Woodland, I got the call that I was waiting for! Go down to the bank and get the earnest money, the sellers are going to sign! So off I went to pick up my friend and take the check over to the real estate agent ๐Ÿ™‚ Once that was done, we decided that today would be a good dayย  for a road trip to Cripple for another look at the house and maybe some shots of the historic abandoned gold mines that I have been planning for a while now.

Pikes Peak or Bust was of course originally the motto of the gold miners pouring into the Cripple Creek and Victor Colorado gold mine discovery district. The area has a rich old west history and has somehow managed to retain that old west small town feel, despite the invasion of Las Vegas Casinos that have largely taken over the old town area. According to the website and organization,ย  MiningHistoryAssociation.org, “The Cripple Creek mining district lies on the southwestern flank of 14,115 foot high Pikes Peak. Gold was discovered in 1890 by ranch hand-turned-prospector, Bob Womack. Relatively meager placers led to the discovery of rich vein deposits. The rush was on as thousands of would-be prospectors and miners again accepted the challenge of the 1859ers, โ€œPikes Peak or Bust.โ€ By 1900, 500 mines had been discovered, the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor had been established, and rail service had linked the district to the outside world.”.

Independence Gold Mine in historic Victor ColoradoAfter a short visit to some colorful Cripple Creek establishments and a drive past the prospective new abode, we decided to head over to Victor to photograph a couple mines I have been eyeing for some time now. The afternoon lighting was just right, the weathered wooden ruins of the mines against the amazing Colorado high elevation blue sky. The old Dodge truck took us up the rough gravel road to the base of the mines for an amazing photo session to capture this important era of American history.

So once again, a day that started out a bit sketchy became a day of hope… Reminding me of the words of the Almighty, “I will give you beauty for ashes.” and “I will turn your mourning into dancing.”.

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

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo, meaning “Blood of Christ”, according to this article in Wikipedia. Here in Colorado it is also a rugged and magnificent mountain range, one that I have been meaning to photograph in winter with just the right light for a long time. I knew that recent snow storms and cold temperatures were creating just the right conditions so I have been on the alert for the perfect day. I have been scoping out the right time of day for a while and when I saw that we had fresh snow followed by a clear day in the weather forecast, I knew that today was going to be the day.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range on a bitterly cold Colorado winter morning.And quite a day it was. Unfortunately when I awoke I was dismayed to discover that it was three degrees below zero here in southern Colorado with a bit more snow last night than I was planning on. Three below with a -10 windchill made me want to just crawl back under the covers and go to sleep, but the little voice told me it was going to be a great day. Often the bitterly cold days following a snowstorm produce amazing scenery here in the high country. So… I walked the dogs and loaded up my gear. Also called my friend to find out if she was still down with our planned trip… and after a slight hesitation she replied, “sure, what time?”. That was it… Come hell or high water I was going, and after a slight detour to Walmart for supplies we were on our way.

Not much to see but valley between Divide and Gillette Flats, but as we cruised through the high mountain prairie I could see it was indeed going to be a great day ๐Ÿ™‚ A few more minutes and Tenderfoot Pass was in the rear view mirror and the mountain range came into view. And it was amazing to say the least… The bitter cold and snow had produced one of the most amazing scenes I have ever encountered in my 30 years in the mountains. Soon the overlook came into view and we pulled in… Solid ice on the pavement made stopping in time a challenge, but a few pumps of the brakes and I was out capturing the day’s income! And it was cold… the wind was blowing hard from the west and the temperature at 10,500 feet was not very accommodating either! The wind chill was probably -20 I imagine, but I was not going to let a minor detail like that keep me from getting these images!

However, there was one little item to cut the session short… I promised my friend we would make the .49 cent breakfast at Bronco Billy’s casino in Cripple… so 136 images later we were on our way into town… and 30 minutes ahead of the deadline for breakfast. So my friend decided it wasn’t too much of a risk to gamble $1, which she turned into $19 by the time we got the call for our reservation ๐Ÿ™‚ $2.25 later and we were both stuffed… with eggs, hash browns, pancakes and toast and jelly ๐Ÿ™‚

Next destination, the park west of the court house to walk the doggies… another damned cold endeavor, but fortunately the puppies got their jobs done in a hurry ๐Ÿ™‚ Then onto the house we are buying… to make sure it is still there of course ๐Ÿ™‚ Assuming nothing goes wrong… I will be calling Cripple Creek home in about a month ๐Ÿ™‚

There is one more nice overlook between Cripple and Victor which seemed like a worthwhile stop, as long as I was this far… While shooting from that spot I noticed that the mountains were a lot more clearly visible with sunglasses on. Too bad my camera doesn’t have sunglasses. Wait, it does! I shuffled through my camera bag of goodies and there it was, my awesome B&W circular polarizer (ABWCP). Now of course I had to go back to the original location and shoot some more with the filter on, which proved well worth the effort. The best image of the day was one shot with the polarizer. Reminds me of a senior picture session I did one time… after an entire morning of shooting in Botanic Gardens in Denver, on our way out I spotted a bench with some colorful flowers in the background. One more shot, and the last shot of the day proved to be the best one of all. Lol… I could have gone there first and taken one shot and gone home ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So far I only have one image completed, the one shown in the article. But soon there will be many more available for purchase as prints, gift items, apparel and stock licensing for commercial use. Please click the link to my Fine Art Website to view the images as I complete them.

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