Is Winter Really Over?

Elk in Fresh Rocky Mountain May Snow

Three days of snow in May and the storm clouds have finally dispersed. A beautiful hike through the fresh snow in the back country and I’m wondering if we will finally be able to say goodbye to Old Man Winter for the season! I guess the elk were probably hoping for the same… when we cleared the ridge I saw them basking in the morning sun that we haven’t seen for days πŸ™‚

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak Colorado

 

 

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Wilderness at First Light

Last night I knew that there was a very good chance today was going to be a great day! The snow had stopped last evening and the storm had moved out into Kansas and Oklahoma. The temperature wasn’t going to be in the below zero or single digit range, and the mountains are always awesome after a big snow. So, tired as I was I dragged my butt out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get in a cup of coffee before the short journey to the trailhead πŸ™‚

Frozen Gold Mine

Early fog and mist created this beautiful ghostly scene of one of the many abandoned mines in the Cripple Creek area and was well worth the stop for a capture. It turned out even better than I expected, which I’m pretty happy about. So many of these mine pictures just turn out to be so ordinary that I have almost given up shooting them! Glad to finally have one I am proud of πŸ™‚

A deer was at the trailhead to greet me, although the lighting wasn’t too spectacular with the sun yet to clear the ridge on the east side. She showed some slight interest and gazed at me for a few moments while chewing some mountain grass. Cute mule deer

I was hoping to see a big buck mule deer on top of the ridge, but was excited to see that the elk herd was right out in the morning sun, well on their way to their hiding place in the dense pine wilderness. I don’t think they ever really saw me as they didn’t break out into a gallop likeΒ  they so often do, but just continued a leisurely stroll along the edge of the forest. They did stop and look my way, which is always good for pictures but I really am surprised they didn’t run.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

With my 100-400mm glass I was able to isolate groups of them on their way as well as capture the overall scene with my favorite tree in the background. I also had time to snap a few to make sure I at least got something on my sensor before switching to aperture priority mode and f8 to make sure I got a sharp rendering of all the elk, not just the ones closest to me, which was where I chose to focus.

Eventually all the huge beasts disappeared into the woods and the moment was gone. I saw a couple of deer along the road on the way home but nothing spectacular enough to include in this blog post.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and on many cool household, tech and gift items!

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

 

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

Beauty of the Storms

Snowstorm in the Sangre de Cristo

It snowed again so obviously I was obligated to go out in it this morning… and I’m glad I did! In the aftermath of this winter’s latest act of fury, the scenery was stunning and the wildlife were out in number taking advantage of the respite between storms. We saw herds of deer and elk at the edge of wilderness foraging for food, beautiful blowing snow,Β  amazing cloud formations and the majestic peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.

I was wishing I had a circular polarizer for my 100-400mm long lens, but alas it has not yet arrived. Actually I’ve been Winter Storm Deerputting it off because there are a number of B+W circular polarizers from which to choose. I finally researched all the features and discovered the one that I need is the 77mm XS-Pro Kaesmann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano model. That’s a mouthful for sure, but more on that when the piece arrives πŸ™‚

Also would like to mention today that my website has a new look! Fine Art America has made a number of improvements on

Winter in the Pike National

their web site hosting platform which I have

incorporated into my site as well. Now the landing page presents a nice slide show which you are welcome to watch for a while before placing an order if you like! The standard keyword search continues to be available and there is still a button for collections which allow you to narrow down your search by category. Additional buttons across the top of the slide show are now available to give you quicker access to the type of products you are interested in, for example… apparel, wall art, lifestyle, etc. I really like the new look, much easier to navigate!

Anyway, hope you enjoy today’s pictures!

Winter in the Pike National Forest

 

Frozen Ghosts

Frosty Rocky Mountain Forest

A dense fog rolled in while I was ascending Grouse Mountain this morning, covering the pine and aspen trees with a thick layer of beautiful white frost. The billowing mist surrounded the abandoned mining district making the dead gold mines from the old west era look even more ghostly than usual. An eerie quiet enveloped the high country leaving me only with the sound of my breathing and the clinking of Big Dog’s chain. It was like we were on some kind of lonely expedition, like the travelers of old that had previously explored this amazing place.

Of course I had the camera, which I trained on a few of the old mines and some of the Frost on Abandoned Mining Districtmore picturesque aspen tree groves… I have taken enough pictures of the mines that I don’t even really look at them anymore, but in the fog there was a moodiness that I was determined to capture. Slowly the weather in the mountains is succumbing to the inevitable approach of spring and there won’t be many more chances this year to photograph the beauty of snow and ice in the mountains.

Frost on Abandoned Mining District

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art and cool gift items. Give us a visit if you like!

Frosty Rocky Mountain Forest

Splendor in the Gloom

Just a plain gloomy day from the start, not to say that is going to deter Big Dog from wanting a romp in the mountains! Wasn’t optimistic about getting any images this morning, but you never know when you are going to see an elk or a bear or mountain lion or something worthy of another shutter actuation. On the way to the trailhead I always glance over at the peaks to see what I am likely to encounter and it didn’t look promising on this day, just clouds and gray as far as the eye could see. If nothing else, I know I am going to have a great time just enjoying the solitude of the Colorado wilderness πŸ™‚

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

We have been getting a lot of melting these days so I took a chance and left the snowshoes behind. There are still a lot of deep drifts up in the higher elevations but there is enough bare ground to just walk around the drifts at this point. Better than putting on and taking off the shoes every five minutes.

Well, in the time it took us to scale the ridge the sun had poked through from somewhere. The sky was still gray overhead but the beautiful morning light shown on the Sangre de Cristo creating the magnificent splendor that this image conveys πŸ™‚ The Sangre de Cristo never disappoint!

This image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and cool gift items so check it out if you like! The Sangre de Cristo mountains have their own gallery if that is specifically what you are interested in!

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!