Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…ย  when you see that white line pass under your feet.ย  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top ofย  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike ๐Ÿ™‚

A World of White

It is truly a World of White on the mountain these days. It has been snowing every couple of days for months and it is just white as far as the eye can see and although there isn’t much color to photograph I was hoping that the day after a big snow would be a good day to try some photographs! If not, it was still going to be an awesome day for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

I was also wanting to try out my new Keen Revel III winter hikers that I got with an awesome end of season closeout deal at REI ๐Ÿ™‚ They are light, waterproof and insulated with patented Keen Dry breathable membrane and insulated using a special charcoal bamboo material to keep warmth in and moisture out. Also handy to me is that this is one of the only boots I’ve seen that has a gaiter hook for attaching the front of your gaiters.

The instant I arrived at the trailhead I knew it was going to be a good day. The elk herd was grazing in the thick pine and aspen trees on top of the hill, so I did my best to pull in quietly and ready my camera. Unfortunately there were some power lines in the way and I couldn’t use my truck for a hide. I quietly began to move along the fence in hopes of getting a better angle, but the wary beasts spotted me right away and quickly moved to the other side of the mountain.

There was still hope though, if I could stealthily snowshoe around the other side of the mountain I hoped I would find them lingering in the high meadow on the other side of the summit. So I made my way though the deep snow up the steep trail on the east side of the mountain hoping I would arrive at the summit before they had completed their trek to the cover of the forest. Enough snow had fallen since my last visit that I could barely make out my trail, but faint tracks showed me the way along the partially packed route. I would have been struggling through a couple of feet of powder otherwise!

Eventually I neared the summit aware that the crunching of snow under my shoes was

Beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains in winter

probably alerting the great beasts to my presence. Unfortunately that was the case and as I sneaked around the other side of the mountain I could already see them looking in my direction. By theย  time I came into view for a shot they were already moving towards the dense forest on the edge of the high clearing. I managed to snap off a few shots and then switch to video mode for a few seconds of footage which I was able to cobble into a YouTube movie for my channel ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way, please subscribe to my channel, I am needing a few more subscribers in order to obtain the custom #swkrullimaging URL that I need step up to the next level of success there!

Finally the elk had all moved over the other side of the ridge into the pine trees of the Pike National Forest and out of view so I made my way along the ridge admiring the beauty of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range before heading back down the other side of the mountain.

My feet remained warm and dry in my new Keen’s and were so comfortable that no break in is even going to be required. By the way, this article is not sponsored by Keen or any other firm in any way. I purchased the boots and all equipment used in this hike with my own funds on my own volition.

As always the elk images and much more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool gift items, apparel, tech gadgets and household items are also available for purchase all with a beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain image from #swkrullimaging! Once again, please visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel to experience the beautiful Rocky Mountains in High Def Video!

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

 

Winter Wonderland

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

Awoke to an amazing world of white calling my name ๐Ÿ™‚ A foot of fresh powder blanketed the mountains of the Pike National Forest and I was eager to put on my snowshoes and tackle the deep powder. But not before some coffee and pancakes at the Home Cafe of course ๐Ÿ™‚

The winding mountain road had been plowed but was still covered in a thin layer of the slippery white stuff requiring a good bit of caution to negotiate before I arrived at the trailhead. Unfortunately the parking lot had not yet been cleared but I decided to take a chance and enter anyway. I didn’t think I’d get stuck but figured even if I did that the lot would be plowed before I was back from my hike. It wasn’t long before I had lost momentum and was indeed stuck in the deep snow. No matter, no one was going to be around to complain about my poor job of parking ๐Ÿ™‚

It was a long tough slog up the mountainside in the deep powder, fortunately faint

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

imprints of my previous climbs were still visible or I would have been sinking two feet into the deep mantle of white! As always I was hoping for a glimpse of the elk herd or even some mule deer, but I was well aware that the animals were too smart to risk a cougar attack with unnecessary risk in the deep powder. Indeed there was no sign of wildlife anywhere on the mountain, save for a rabbit or two.

The storm was over but as it does many times at this elevation on the mountain, snow continued to drift lazily out of the haze enveloping the entire world, reflecting light like a million tiny prisms. I tried capturing the phenomenon but it does not appear that I was successful. I had packed my 100-400mm lens in hope of capturing some wildlife and it was not the best choice for the expansive scene before me, but I did enjoy shooting a few of the snow covered trees with it. Eventually I was relieved to arrive at the summit and catch my breath. The snow was still deep but at least the steep climb was done with!

Heavy Snow in the Colorado Rockies

The aspen and pine trees were covered in frost and snow, looking like ghosts in the distance against the white snow and grey skies in the background. More snow is on the way today so if all goes right maybe I’ll get another chance tomorrow to visit my favorite winter wonderland!

Finally back at the parking lot I was faced with the unpleasant reality that my two wheel drive truck was deeply embedded in the slippery white stuff ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I cleared a bit of snow with the snow shovel that I had wisely packed but it did little good other than to get me a couple more feet along my way. Eventually it became clear that I was not going to get out of putting on the chains, which proved to be the right weapon to get me back on the road ๐Ÿ™‚

Tired and sore now, but still happy that it was a good day in the Colorado high country. As always some of these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Cool gift and household items are also available with a beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain scene from S.W. Krull Imaging!

Snowshoe trail

Snowshoe trail in deep Colorado snow

Snow Shoes Required

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Today there were no questions about whether the snow shoes were going to be required. One look at the trail and the question was answered, deep snow all the way to the summit and beyond. There was a cold wind out of the west this morning and as I strode up the mountainside and it wasn’t long before my ears began to tingle in pain from the searing cold. I shivered a little and pulled my sweatshirt hood over my head and then for good measure I cinched up the hood from my windbreaker as well.

My hopeful eyes scanned the ridge line as the dense pine trees drew closer, but there

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

was no wildlife in sight on this frigid morning. Finally I cleared the summit hoping to be greeted by the Three Amigos as I call them, the three bucks that seem to so thoroughly enjoy that mountaintop but they were not there. In fact there was no sign of life in the high clearing at all, no tracks, no droppings, nothing at all to indicate that I was going to have any wildlife photography success.

So I resigned myself to the idea that I was just going to have a nice snowshoe workout and maybe some good views of the mountains. And as always, the view from the summit never disappoints. The Sangre de Cristo were spectacular today under their heavy coat of

Heavy Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

fresh snow with what appears to be another winter storm gathering on the high peaks of the beautiful block fault range.

On my way down I encountered the tracks of a lone coyote and I wondered how he would survive the long hard Rocky Mountain winter. How could any animal survive the wicked cold and winds at this elevation? As I listened to the whoosh, whoosh of fresh powder beneath my snowshoes I found myself hoping he would, hoping I would hear the howls of his pack in the spring warning me not to get too close to a new litter of pups.

And as I thought upon the beauty of these small feisty predators it also came to mind that

Coyote

I shouldย  write some letters to the politicians to demand an end to the indiscriminate and cruel murder so many of these tenacious animals face, and I hope you will write some letters and make some calls too. And please make special mention of halting the inhumane and unnecessary medieval practice of trapping that has been banned in over 70 civilized countries all over the world. Also please do all you can to bring an end to “yoting”, the vile so called sport practiced in Wyoming and Montana described in this excellent article from High Country News,ย  of running these animals over with snowmobiles, leaving them wounded and maimed, left to suffer a horrible painful death, alone in the snow. What kind of people are they who think of this as fun?

As always, these pictures and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets ready for hanging, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift and handy household items are also available, including coffee mugs, phone chargers, blankets and pillows, apparel, all with a beautiful Rocky Mountain image from SW Krull Imaging

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 allย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 inย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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, burningย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ Tough going though. Guess I don’t have to worry about running out of snow for a while!

Snowy Colorado Sunrise

Snowy Colorado Sunrise