Bear and Bighorn

Bighorn Sheep Cooling in the Platte River

My mountain bike trek into the back country was way late yesterday, well beyond the early morning hours best for spotting wildlife… of course I brought my camera anyway, you never know! About three miles in I spotted a small herd of bighorn sheep ewe with a few lambs sunning themselves on a rocky knoll across from the Platte River. I parked my bike and got out the camera hoping for a few nice pictures to mark the day.

On my way back to my bike after a few shots of the ladies and their babies I spotted something moving in the water on the other side of the stream. OMG, it was the bear that I have long been seeking, this one a cinnamon colored black bear taking a break from the heat of the day in the cool Rocky Mountain water. I placed the camera on the monopod and snapped a few pictures from my vantage point on the opposite side of the river from the bear. Soon I

Colorado Black Bear

decided to go back to my pack for the 1.4x lens extension for some closer views.

By the time I returned though, the beautiful bear had completed her swim and was back on the riverbank nearly out of sight in the dense foliage lining the river. It was at that moment that I spotted more movement in the leaves and upon closer inspection with my long lens I discovered not one but two little cubs clamoring to keep pace with their mommy! They were making their way west in search of berries in the trees along the bank so I hopped back on my bike to follow.

Colorado Black Bear Family

The trio meandered along the shoreline of the pristine river, the little ones occasionally stopping to play while mom searched for the food she would need to survive the long Rocky Mountain winter. At one point the little ones got spooked by something and ran back downstream to search for a convenient place to climb to safety. Mom patiently walked back downstream to retrieve the youngsters and the journey upstream continued. Finally I captured my favorite shot of the day as the little ones frolicked, mom and one of the babies together! I had hoped to catch all three but the little ones proved to be much to busy to stop and pose for me πŸ™‚ I believe I’ll return the week after next with

Colorado Black Bear Family

the hope that I will see them again before they crawl into their cave in the rugged cliffs for the winter.

Eventually the little family arrived at a particularly rugged and steep section of cliff and rock where mom led the little ones up a precarious crevice behind the rocks where there appeared to be a good source of food. I could no longer see the bears, only the trees shaking as the cinnamon bear bent the branches down for her babies, so I climbed on my bike and made my way back to the trailhead.

Wow… what a privilege it was to see these amazing animals up close… and to get to photograph them, amazing. A few others had gathered to take in the amazing scene but the bears paid no mind to the people on the other side of the river. I would like to see the little family make the river their permanent home, living out their lives in peace in the safety of the rugged cliffs of the canyon along with the growing herd of bighorn sheep.

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Also available are many household products, tech items and stationary, all with a beautiful #swkrullimaging photograph!

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The Three Amigos

Majestic buck mule deer

An amazing morning on top of the mountain greeted me today… As I cleared the ridge I noticed something new out in the meadow. At first I thought maybe it was a bush I hadn’t noticed before but I was curious enough to take a look through the long lens just to be sure. As it turns out it was a buck mule deer with his head turned away from me so that he just looked like a round blob in the distance!

I made my way over the summit and down towards the right in hopes that I could get a Three Buck mule deerlittle closer without disturbing him when I discovered a second buck lying down in the grass. Then the third big guy came out from behind a tree to take a look at me and I recognized the magnificent trio as my favorite Three Amigos, three buck mule deer that have been hanging together all summer πŸ™‚ These are the closest and clearest shots that I have ever been able to capture of this little stag club!

Three Bucks on a Ridge

They weren’t too worried about me at the distance I chose to set up my gear but eventually they did began to amble off towards the wilderness on top of the ridge.

As usual, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas or traditional framing and matting. Also many unique gift and household items are available with a picture including apparel, bedding, tech items such as battery chargers and phone cases and more! Just click on the link to my website to explore all the possibilities!

Furtive Little Deer Herd

Pair of doe mule deer

Today’s payoff was this cute little herd of very active deer. They were kind of running in circles while they figured out where to go next making it very difficult to get their pictures! Every time I pointed my camera at the one that was looking my direction they would look away! The ones looking right into the camera are my favorite but that just wasn’t going to happen today! And with the moving all around it was difficult to get a decent composition! But it was still fun to see them and I hope you enjoy the best of what I was able to capture this morning πŸ™‚

Pair of doe mule deer and a buck

Morning Sunshine

With a terrible ache in my heart I set out on my morning routine without my four legged friend. It was hard but there isn’t really anything else to do, I need the exercise, I need the pictures, and I need to eat breakfast. The other choice is to sit at home and do nothing which is no choice at all for me… I have to go, that’s just the way it is.

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

It’s been a long time since I have seen my deer friends on the ridge but today I looked up and there she was, peering out from the forest at me. She paused long enough for me to attach my camera to the monopod and get a couple of shots off in the beautiful morning sunshine of a late Colorado summer day.

As I proceeded further along the trail I heard the thundering of hooves as a couple of bucks just below the summit detected my presence and made a run for it. I was

Deer Herd in the Wilderness

hoping they would not run too far before turning around to see what I was up to. The good news is they did stop, but the bad news was they stopped part way into the shade of a tall pine tree at the edge of the wilderness. I took the shot anyway hoping that I would be able to make a decent picture in post with Photoshop. I’m not totally thrilled with it but at least there is a record of the sighting πŸ˜‰

From that point I just descended the mountain and headed off to breakfast. With tears in my eyes I swallowed the last bite, the one I always saved for my exuberant friend. Anyway, it’s done… I made it all the way through the morning. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

The picture of the doe is available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas or traditional framing and matting. All kinds of cool gift and household items are also available with a picture including apparel, tech items, stationary and more.

 

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˜‰

 

Bucket List Gold Camp Road

Gold Camp Road Scenery

Well I finally did it… I drove the length of Gold Camp Road from Victor to Colorado Springs, something I have always wanted to do but never quite worked up the nerve to actually do! I wasn’t planning on it… The plan was to test out the GPS on the phone by driving in a couple of miles to Almagre Mountain and hike a couple miles to the summit for some exercise. The GPS worked splendidly, taking me not a couple of miles, but five miles to a turn off and then three more on a rugged forest road to an unmarked turnout, at which time it told me I had “arrived at my destination”. There were no trail markings, no real hiking trail, just an ugly jeep road heading right up the side of the mountain 😦

Rugged Gold Camp Road Colorado

Pretty soon another four wheeler pulled up and saw me looking up the mountain and asked me skeptically I might add, if my truck had 4wd. No, I replied… my plan was to hike the short route on foot to the summit. Looking relieved he responded, well it’s about two miles up this jeep road to another jeep road at which time you turn left to another jeep road and it will take you to the summit. Apparently there is another trailhead up yet another jeep road a couple of miles up Gold Camp that is supposed to be shorter but I wasn’t able to locate that route. Having already climbed Grouse Mountain earlier in the day I decided to abandon that plan and head for home…

Gold Camp Road

However once I got back to Gold Camp Road I got to thinking it might be fun to check off that bucket list item and complete the drive down to Colorado Springs. So I turned the old Dodge left and went for broke. Lol… now for my description of Gold Camp Road… It is a stupendously bad washboard riddled, pothole filled, rocky, curvy narrow road traveling through numerous single lane sections between rocky walls that don’t always stay in place and some allegedly haunted tunnels. Several times I had to maneuver around minor cave ins, large rocks in the road and huge holes. My truck was rattling, my teeth were rattling and everything passing by in the other direction was rattling! And that was the good part… when I got closer to the Springs the ride got steeper, rockier, and even more filled with holes!

Gold Camp Road Scenery

That being said though, the scenery was spectacular, especially the steep part near the Springs. There were a few places where it was possible to look back on the rugged mountains of the Pike National Forest and even though it was mid day by then some of my pictures are kind of nice, at least I think so anyway πŸ™‚ Also the road is lined with aspen groves from end to end so I would highly recommend this route to autumn leaf seekers! I think the colors will be spectacular in late September and early October this year!

Finally I arrived at the end of the dirt road and wound the rest of my way down to the city on the paved portion of Old Stage Road, which I think is what Gold Camp used to be called. According to Westside Pioneer Online, the road has a rich old west history with it’s beginnings as a railway to transport gold ore between Cripple Creek and Midland. Now it popular with four wheelers and ATV enthusiasts and I also saw a few mountain bikers negotiating the steep ascent from Colorado Springs.

Don’t think I’ll need to make that trip again, unless maybe I finally get the jeep that I have been wanting my entire life… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story! As always a couple of these images are available for purchase as wall art and gift items on my website! The traffic and the heat down in the city were horrendous so I think I’ll just sit out the rest of the holiday weekend and wait for the tourists to go home. Next week when the mountains aren’t so crowded I may visit Waterton Canyon again and I have hopes of hiking to Continental Falls near Breck πŸ™‚ Stay tuned!

 

Huge Bull Elk

Had to share my mountaintop with a huge bull elk this morning. As I cleared the ridge I spotted a few buck mule deer in the distance running back and forth making it difficult

Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

to get a decent shot. As I moved around a grove of trees in hopes of getting a closer view without disturbing them even more I spotted something else in the woods staring out at me. A massive bull elk was peering through the branches at me! I quickly attached my camera to the monopod / trekking pole and got off a couple of zooms. Unfortunately my camera must have picked up a branch or twig near the animal’s face because those turned out slightly out of focus 😦

As I continued my way along the trail the elk moved out into a clearing where he was keeping a close eye on me. I got a few captures with him posing against the wildflower filled meadow and then he moved onto the top of the ridge where I was able to include the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

Unfortunately it was quite a gloomy morning so the images don’t pop as much as I would like, but I’m very happy to have seen the majestic beast and happy to include these images into the permanent record πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website in the elk and wildlife galleries!