Bittersweet Morning

A special morning in the mountains today… After months of closure for some invisible project being performed by the mine to the north, my trailhead is finally open again. Whatever they had been doing appeared to have been completed months ago, but still the trail remained closed. Finally I called and prompted someone to look into it and it turns out that the trail could be opened.

Small herd of mule deer enjoying a beautiful Colorado winter morning

So this morning I loaded up the camera and the snowshoes and headed for the hills. It has been so long… I wondered if my ungulate friends were still there or if they had allΒ  been shot by the trigger happy redneck population so prevalent here in the high country?

Well my question was soon answered… as I made my way up the steep ascent I could feel eyes upon me. I stopped and looked around a bit and sure enough, peering over the mountaintop were a couple of does wondering what I was up to πŸ™‚ I stopped for a few shots before ascending further. The deer were waiting for me at the summit, warily staying just ahead of me in case they deemed it necessary to flee.

And ahead of me they stayed… about 100 yards all the way to the overlook where our

Small herd of mule deer enjoying a beautiful Colorado winter morning

paths parted. They meandered into the woods to the north as I turned left to complete the loop and head back down. One lone free range cow greeted me inΒ  the deep snow, other than that I just made my way back down the mountain in the quiet of the morning.

Sadness filled my heart in the silence of the windward side of the mountain as I remembered my beautiful four legged companion who was so filled with joy at the freedom of the trail and the fresh mountain air his nose was constantly sampling. This was our special place and to be there without him was heartbreaking at first. soon however, I found comfort in the knowledge that he is no longer constrained by the bounds of this present reality and is free to visit his favorite place anytime he desires πŸ™‚ I think maybe I could feel his presence galloping along the hillsides as I made my way back to the truck.

Small herd of mule deer enjoying a beautiful Colorado winter morning

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

Snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

According to Isaiah Chapter 61, He will give us beauty for ashes and joy for mourning. I am thankful this year for a return to peace and prosperity in my house after all those catastrophic years when my wife was dying of cancer. For a long time it didn’t seem like there was much to give thanks for but somehow I always found something to be thankful for, if nothing else that I had a meal to eat on the day and hope for the future.

I’m not one for a huge feast, for gorging myself until I’m sick on this day. In fact I like to

Fiisky Herd of Mule Deer in the Snow

start the day out in the quiet of the woods, burningΒ  a few calories and getting close to my Creator before celebrating His Great Mercy as weremember that first year that the founders of our nation celebrated their survival in the new land.

When I glanced out the window as the sunlight began to stream over the ridge I could see it was going to be a beautiful morning to be outside. So I loaded up my snowshoes and my camera and headed for one of my favorite trails. The clouds and mist on the high peaks of the

Young mule deer buck in the snow

Sangre de Cristo Range and Pikes Peak were stunning this morning so of course I had to photograph them! Unfortunately there was so much mist from the recent snows that detail on the great mountains is somewhat obscured, but still amazing to behold!

Thanks to all the new snow, the steep sections of the trail isn’t really safe without some kind of traction, snowshoes were my choice today. Not that it takes much convincing, there isn’t much I enjoy more than the sound of the snow crunching beneath my big shoes πŸ™‚

About a mile in I spotted a small herd of mule deer frolicking in the snow so I got my

Winter on Pikes Peak

camera ready and approached slowly and not directly at the animals so as not to spook them too much. They were already aware of my presence but were unconcerned. For some reason they were running around in the snow under the little aspen stand and I quickly figured out why. It is still the deer rut season and the buck was chasing the uninterested does around. Eventually one of the does made her way down the other side of the ridge for lower elevation and the buck followed her, out of sight. The other does went the other direction towards a big hill that they like to spend their days on enjoying the bright Colorado sunshine.

I hiked on to the top of the ridge where I usually turn around and decided that was going to be enough for the day. I wanted to get home in time to create a Youtube video and to get a few of these images published to stock in time for publishers rush to get their advertising campaigns done for the Christmas season.

Now I feel I have accomplished enough to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine and some Thanksgiving turkey. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

If you like my photography please visit my image website to purchase prints, wall art and tons of cool gift items and tech gadgets with my pictures on them!

 

Another Glimpse

Elk on the RidgeAnother glimpse… and that’s about all! The elk were back on top of the ridge but with all the racket my snowshoes were making on the crusty snow it didn’t take them long to notice I was there. So A couple of quick snaps of the camera were all I was able to capture before they drifted out of site into the dense Pike National Forest wilderness.

However all the recent heavy snow has left a beautiful mantle of white on the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountain range, well worth a stop for a couple more pictures. Spring is nearly upon us and there are 40 degree days ahead… I don’t think I’ll be snowshoeing much longer on this mountain, but it was a good winter. I got more of the exhilarating snowy treks in this year than I have in the last ten years put together!

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

 

After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!

 

Break in the Weather

Fortunately for me the weather forecast for this morning was wildly inaccurate. It was

Foggy Sangre de Cristo Mountain Valley

supposed to be 4 degrees and snowing so my popplans were to just sit on the couch like a vegetable and drink coffee πŸ™‚ I was getting a pretty good start on just exactly that when Big Dog came wandering in from the bedroom asking for his morning constitutional… So on went the coat, gloves, hat and thermal underwear and out into the elements we went!

Frosty Aspen Trees

I had looked out the window earlier and could not see the mountains for the clouds and mist so I didn’t bother to bring the camera, we just walked down the street to the open space. But as we got a bit closer to the saddle I could see that it wasn’t just clouds I was viewing! Filling the Arkansas River Valley was a beautiful layer of fog which I knew was going to need some closer examination! So I hurried Big Dog along and loaded him into the truck while I ran in and got the camera.

And off we went to snowshoe trailhead for a better view of the Sangre de Cristo and the Arkansas Valley from the summit of Little Grouse. And it was so well worth the trip. First of all the snow and fog had left behind a beautiful coating on the aspen grove at the bottom of the hill which I deemed worth a couple of captures and I thought the bright blue Colorado sky was amazing!

Then from the summit the view was stunning. The mountains in the background were just beautiful as they jutted above the fog in the valley below, and there were a couple of the smaller peaks that were just peeking through the fog in the lower valley. And as with the aspen trees, the dense pine wilderness of the Pike National Forest was also sporting a new mantle of white from the fog and snow.

These images are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, stretched canvas as well as traditional matting and framing.

Buried Trail

Deep Colorado Mountain Snow

Heaviest snow I’ve seen in a long time last night! That plus a lot of wind and drifting pretty much obliterated our packed trail. No matter, we just had to cut a new one πŸ™‚ Tough going though. Guess I don’t have to worry about running out of snow for a while!

Snowy Colorado Sunrise

Snowy Colorado Sunrise

Stunning Sangre de Cristo

It’s not always easy to put down my coffee and go out into the cold with my snowshoes at sunrise, but if you want to get the pictures there is no other choice. There is nothing like first light on the mountains. However it does help to have an enthusiastic partner… Big Dog is always ready to go, well before sunrise if need be 😦

So off we went, to the trailhead while looking for any deer or elk we might find along the way. Past the overlook, it didn’t look like this morning was going to be anything spectacular and I saw no need to pull over for any photography there. At the trailhead… strap on the snowshoes and head up the mountain into the cold and the wind. My eyes scanned the edge of the forest for any critters that might be trying to catch some early morning rays, but there were none. I don’t know where the animals all went but I haven’t seen any stirring since the elk departed the other day.

It was looking like all we were going to get today was some exercise, nothing wrong with that though! There is no such thing as a bad day of snowshoeing! But as we crested the ridge I could see the tops of the peaks and something had dramatically changed! The sun was shining underneath the cloud cover right onto the Sangre de Cristo Range giving them a stunning soft early morning glow that would take your breath away! So me and the big dog began running, not an easy thing to do on back country snow shoes! But I knew the scene would not last and there was no shot from where I was. It was about a quarter of a mile to the edge of the mountain I was on and we had to get there before the light changed!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Of course Big Dog thought running in the snow was the bomb, but by the time we got there I was pretty out of breath and wondered if I would even be able to steady the long lens. But most importantly, we had made it in time and the soft glow of first light still shown magnificently on the rugged range in the distance. I dialed back the ISO to 200, down from the 400 that I was prepared to shoot wildlife with and decided upon a exposure compensation of +2/3. A little fiddling and I tried a few more with ISO 100 and a few with compensation of +1. As I look at the pictures on the computer I’m not sure which worked out better, but they all turned out beautifully πŸ™‚ I’ll study the results more carefully later on, right now I’m going to have some more coffee and some waffles while I try to warm up!

Oh, here’s a nice tip… when you come in from the cold just leave your camera in the bag for a while. The camera is cold, the bag is cold and both will warm up slowly and safely. If you don’t expose the camera to the warm air right away there is a lot less chance of damage caused by condensation!

As always these images and more are available on my website in the “Sangre de Cristo Gallery” as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional framing and matting materials. #swkrullimaging pictures can also be purchased on a ton of cool gift, tech and household items such as t-shirts, gift cards, phone chargers, blankets, pillows and more!