Do Over

Well, for whatever reason, yesterday’s fall picture trip was a bust. I failed to notice power lines in a lot of the images and those things are really time consuming to remove with Photoshop. Also it was too windy so the blowing leaves just made the images look blurry. And the wasted time… yesterday I decided that it would be a good idea to drive up Rampart Range RoadΒ  which I just noticed has made the most dangerous roads list, and photograph the Peak behind the golden aspen of autumn. However, the golden aspen are still green up there, the road is absolutely wretched and the Peak just looks like a big brown rock. Outside of Kansas, it was just about the ugliest scene ever.

Historic Gold Mine Colorado

So as I was pondering what adventure today might bring I was thinking a do over was probably the most profitable remedy possible. The autumn leaves around Cripple Creek seem to be the most magnificent that I have seen anywhere and the loop is an easy one to complete. So I arose early this morning and loaded up Big Dog for a hike. Fortunately we were able to beat the wind this morning so the leaves were behaving nicely on the trees and as luck would have it there were the coolest cirrus clouds hanging around high in the bright blue Colorado sky. They reminded me of angels… perhaps there were angels helping me today πŸ™‚

After our little hike we headed south to Victor in hopes of getting some images of the mines and the north face of the Peak… without power lines :-|I was thinking that maybe the polarizer was to blame for some of yesterday’s failure but I could see the colors were so much more saturated with my sunglasses on that it was going to be necessary to use the dark blue glass again. Today the effect was amazing… it really brought out the blue sky and the angel clouds! To account for the one stop of light loss I was just extra careful to steady the camera on the hood of the old Dodge or on handy fence posts. Now that I’m back home in front of the computer I can say I am extremely happy with the results. The images are clear and sharp, the blue sky magnificent, and the colors deeply saturated just as I had hoped.Pikes Peak in Auutmn Aspen

Now I’m ready for tomorrow… truck all gassed up and maintained, pictures backed up, memory chips cleared, camera equipment ready to go… and with a clear head from our nice hike today I think tomorrow’s destination is going to be Twin Lakes. I have seen some images from there lately that make me confident that the leaves have achievedΒ  peak color, the water should be awesome, the sky clear and the temperature amazing! I made that trip a decade ago and ruined the day with a bad choice. When I rolled into Leadville I went out to Turquoise Lake first only to discover that there really isn’t any autumn color there, only pine trees. By the time I got to Twin Lakes it was an ugly cloudy gray day… the trees up Independence Pass were beautiful, but the gray skies and wind made the water choppy and murky and with no light on the color it was a total bust. It has been a long wait for my return to that location, but it should be worth it!

These images and more are now for sale as wall art on my website, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and with traditional framing and matting!

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Autumn Blitz Day 1

Do or Die… my most lucrative time of the year, autumn in the Rockies. Today was my first full day off in the midst of peak aspen leaf season and so far I have made the best of it.Β  Woke up early and took off for the trailhead with Big Dog. After a short analysis of the situation I decided on the polarizer to add some drama to the bright clouds and sky. Not too much of great autumn interest along the trail today, was kind of hoping for a deer or elk as a subject, or maybe a neat shot of the mining equipment against some golden aspen, but no such luck. There were a few trees changing in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo so I tried a couple of captures in that direction, time will tell if it was worth the effort.

Autumn Color on Historic Mines

After the hike we were off to the Goldfield mine fields where there was one nice view of a series of abandoned mines in the midst of a colorful aspen grove. That turned out to be one of my favorites of the day πŸ™‚

Then it was off to an unofficial overlook at the top of Victor Pass for a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Upon arrival there I was surprised to see a lineup of ladies in lawn chairs and umbrellas… looked like a picnic might be in the making! Turns out they were the local Cripple Creek painting club on scene to paint the magnificent view on such a beautiful morning. Lol, I needed to get in front of them to get the shot I needed but was hesitating… the ladies assured me that I would not be accidentally painted into their pictures if I quick jumped in for my photographs… Which cracked me up because for a second that exact thought crossed my mind! Guess I’m not used to seeing painters at my scenes πŸ™‚

Autumn on Pikes Peak Colorado

After that I decided on the loop behind the Newmont mine to see if maybe the aspen were in peak form at the top of that pass. Looks like the trees in Cripple Creek are going to need another week or so to reach their full color so I didn’t bother to stop, deciding to hurry home to process the ones I already had.

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day… planning to leave the house by 4 a.m. to make Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise. I will hit Bear Lake first I think to capture the sunrise on the lake, followed by an attempt at seeing some wildlife in Morraine Park. From there I hope to drive Trail Ridge Road followed by some more wildlife viewing on the west side of the park at dusk. Also hoping for my first visit to Fontenot’s Restaurant for some blackened catfish… back in the day the wife and I used to make a special trip up to Winter Park just for the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite places πŸ™‚

After that, who knows? I still have my sights on Quandary Peak in hopes of bagging at least one 14er this season! I would also like to make it up to Twin Lakes and maybe some fall colors along the river along the bottom of Independence Pass. Anyway, stay tuned, I’m justΒ  getting started πŸ™‚

These pictures and more are available on my image website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and matting and as art on many cool and handy household and gift items, including battery chargers, apparel, beach towels, greeting cards and more!

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.Β  As the coffee soaked in andΒ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

 

Spring

Today is the spring equinox and as it turns out, my fourth anniversary with WordPress who’s software greeted me with a nice electronic congratulations πŸ™‚ Can’t say I even remember signing up, but four years ago today was exactly nine days before Tricia went into surgery to try to save her spine from the tentacles of the cancer she was so bravely battling. Unfortunately although they called the surgery a success, she never walked again. I don’t even remember blogging the first year of my membership here. Every day consisted of pushing her wheel chair about a mile down to the coffee shop and back. The coffee shop had the only chair on the planet, as far as I know, that she could be comfortable sitting in. The sun would stream into the windows there and that warmth and comfort was about all there was to look forward to. By the next spring she was gone and I was starting life anew… Thinking back that first year alone in the campground was crazy! I’m sure I had plenty to blog about then, perhaps I should go back and read some of my entries πŸ™‚ I remember every weekend through the spring and summer I spent hauling the remnants of our lives together off to an auction house in Denver.

Sangre de Cristo Spring

Sangre de Cristo range on the first day of spring

Today didn’t feel much like spring though, yesterday the windchill was -1 and today the real feel was 10 accompanied by a couple of inches of blowing and stinging snow. That didn’t stop me and Big Dog from making the trek down to the mountain, it was cold but with a couple of inches of fresh snow and some beautiful sunshine it was a splendid day πŸ™‚ The alpenglow was some of the most pronounced that I’ve seen yet, but I shot that yesterday and felt like sleeping in a little today. By the time we got there the view to the west was obscured a bit from blowing snow and haze in the air from the spring snowstorm, but the view of the Sangre de Cristo range was stunning anyway. Although not award winners, the pictures from today are pretty and a good record of the first day of spring for 2018!

Snow on Pikes Peak

Fresh snow on the foothills of Pikes Peak

Was hoping to see some deer out early this morning but no luck with that. I wasn’t paying much attention on the return trail and missed the turnoff which produced a view of the Pikes Peak foothills and some blowing snow off to the east that I haven’t noticed before. Some wispy clouds in the morning sun added to the scene which kind of made the day πŸ™‚ However, plans to get out on my mountain bike were definitely dampened by the wind and snow, maybe next week!

I hope that this spring brings hope and joy to everyone, especially my readers and that all your plans for the warmer weather come to fruition! I know many are struggling with all kinds of issues and it is my fervent prayer that with the onset of the warm sunshine peace and prosperity will seek out and find each and every one of you πŸ™‚

Special Mountain Morning

It’s not every morning I get a visit from a herd of deer but I did today and I had my camera with me πŸ™‚ Right at the beginning of my trek through the woods and up the mountain, there they were. I would never have even seen them if Big Dog wasn’t pointing them out for me, like, “Hey, look some deer!”. They were peering out from the mountain grass and I really couldn’t see them because the sun was in my eyes, which didn’t make for very good pictures, back lit and all. There was not going to be any opportunity to move around and get a better angle, I knew the minute I moved they would be gone so This is the best I could do under the circumstances 😦 It is kind of cool that you can see individual hairs in their fur though and early morning sunlight is nice πŸ™‚

Colorado mule deer in the winter

Three doe mule deer in the sun

The sun was much more handy in lighting the Peak though, the south face of America’s Mountain was magnificent today! With just the right light for me to use I was able to set the camera on f11 and use aperture priority to get some really good depth of field. The golden morning sun made for some great color on the beautiful red rocks and the scene was a joy to behold πŸ™‚

Didn’t get to see my elk buddies today, but there was a coyote in the distance carrying on quite a conversation with me and Big Dog. I’m sure he was just telling us we were on his mountain. Been a long time since I’ve seen one of the little wild dogs close up, even longer since I’ve gotten a decent picture! Still, they remind me of my bucket list item to travel up to Yellowstone to photograph the wolf packs that have been nurtured there.

Pikes Peak Winter Morning

Fresh snow on the south face of Pikes Peak

It’s been a great few days on the mountain but tomorrow it’s back to the rock pile. Saw an article today that says there is spike in the death rate of men at age 62… Something about feeling useless and disengaging from society. Lol… I won’t have a problem I’m sure! Unless the death rate has something to do with falling off mountains because of the increased time spent there? Well who knows, all I know is I can’t wait for these annoying work week interruptions in my otherwise rewarding life to end!

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art, cool gift and household items and on the stock portal as commercial stock for all your advertising needs!

Never Leave Home Without It

Almost did it today… just about left my camera at home. It was so gloomy looking this morning that I looked out and almost decided to leave it at home. But, that nagging feeling to bring it along on my training hike today would not let me go so I threw it in the old Dodge just in case. As I was driving towards the trail head I was glad I did because the fog and new snow were making for an interesting looking day.

Winter Elk Herd

Elk herd in the snow

I’ve hiked up that mountain dozens of times without ever seeing wildlife so that was one more reason to leave the camera behind, but today as I crested the summit I thought I spotted the telltale ears hidden in the woods off to the south. So I stopped and got out the Canon 70–200 to see if I was things or if there really was an elk in the clearing. Indeed there was, in fact there was an entire herd of them hiding in the shadows of the fog and dark pines of the Pike National Forest. They were a good bit away though which makes a sharp capture a challenge so I knelt down and steadied my camera with my elbow and knee and snapped a couple just to make sure I got something out of the sighting! Then I quietly moved to a better vantage point without the trees obscuring the white elk and acquired a couple more before the beasts noticed me and retreated out of view further into the dense forest.

Pikes Peak in Winter Snow

Pikes Peak on a Colorado winter day

Big Dog and I got in a good training hike and headed around Victor to see what I might see on the other side. Pikes Peak is always putting on a good show from there and today didn’t disappoint. There were some low hanging clouds and fog enveloping the magnificent peak so I stopped to get a few angles on that scene. The fog makes a sharp capture a bit of a challenge, but I hope people will understand when they view the images that I have made for sale on my website, including the two that I have included in this article.

Well, the moral of the story today is a note to myself, never ever leave the camera at home when I am going for a hike. The mountains are always amazing, even on a dreary cloudy Colorado winter morning πŸ™‚

Not According to Plan

Well that certainly turned out differently than I had planned. Got in the truck to go to my sunset spot when I heard a very unnerving noise coming from somewhere so I promptly parked and gave up the idea of sunset pictures tonight. But from my house I could see a hint of a good sunset and a possible view that I hadn’t noticed before. So I just started to hoof it down the road to see if I could maybe salvage some sort of successful evening.

Sangre De Cristo Sunset

Sunset over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Colorado

Well as I got closer to the view I was eyeing, I noticed that I might get a better view from a nearby dirt road so I set my sights on that. However as I neared the road the sun began to set and walking turned into running and before it was over I had covered a couple of miles on foot, and had to negotiate my way around a particularly difficult cattle guard that I could not get the dog to cross one other time when I was walking down this way.Β  Fortunately when I got to the dirt road I was able to see the Sangre De Cristo rangeΒ  and maneuver into places where there weren’t power lines and buildings in my way πŸ™‚

I wound up with no tripod and no remote release, but I still managed a few good captures at f11 before the color began to fade to darkness and I headed back down the hill where much to my amazement there was an impressive sunset scene going on over the town and over the big gold mine. I scrambled up the hill on the other side of the dirt road and steadied my camera on a fence post while getting my coat caught on some barbed wire. But I got the shots and as I am looking at them I am also noticing that there is a view of Pikes Peak in the distance from near my house.

Pikes Peak Sunset

Beautiful Pikes Peak Sunset

Well anyway, the evening was definitely not according to plan, but I got some shots and learned about some new spectacular views that I can walk to if need be. And I also found a way around the cattle guard so that I can bring Big Dog with me up the dirt road in the mornings when it looks so pretty over in this direction. Now my legs are exhausted, my arms are even tired and it is definitely time for a Fat Tire that I wisely purchased before all the trouble started πŸ™‚