The Wilderness Hunter

exploring colorado in all seasons
Landscapes

2014?

It’s 2015 now?! What the hell happened to 2014?! Lots of changes happened for me through out the last 355 days since my last posting. Unfortunately, very few of them involved either the outdoors or photography. Much of the photography that did occur was incidental, and fairly random, which is how I keep some creative fire burning. It’s hard to summarize what passed in a blur, but I will try with a few photos, and fewer words. Here’s how I remember it:

Some showshoeing in February and March:

A blood moon in April:

Great blue Herons also in April:

Spring in Rocky Mountain National Park, June:

Hiked some Fourteeners, Mounts Harvard, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross in July and August:

Went hunting for deer in September:

Hunted some trains in December:

Photographed the local wildlife in November and December:

And here are some of the random shots I was able to take in October and November:

Timing

I was thrilled this morning to be able to catch a sunrise and a moon set as they happened simultaneously. What’s more is that I could see it from a place I have not been for a long time, which seemed to make the event more significant for myself. For me to explain that would take far too long and be far too painful. However, I was reminded that there are times that we have to stop for a second, or a minute, or an hour and be in the moment. Live in the moment; that’s what my Malie taught me.

Sunrise, moonset over Mount Albion and Kiowa Peak, Indian Peaks

Sunrise, moonset over Mount Albion and Kiowa Peak, Indian Peaks

Falling Gold

I have a thing for autumn, and breakfast, but autumn is the one that is important here. I don’t like to use vague words like “thing” very often, it’s a crutch for the chronically confused, but it seems there is no single word to describe the feelings I get when the trees change color, the sun dips lower to the southern horizon, the air is crisp with leaves, grass, and hints of frost. Fall light is dramatic, but dismal like winter, and not oppressive like summer. In my mind there is a certain romance to all things autumn; hunting and harvest, warm clothes and pleasantly cool days, wood cutting and splitting, all the preparation and waiting for winter’s inevitable coming. In beautiful Colorado, the fall can be extremely short, or in the case of this year, relatively long. So in this case it is just easier to say “I have a thing for autumn.”

I know there are places where fall is distinctively longer and follows what the Julian calendar tell us how long the season is supposed to be. More often than not, winter hits us fairly fast here with maybe a couple weeks of a true autumn, and this has conditioned me to appreciate the lingering seasons when they do come. Every fall I make time to get outside more, and at the very least make a day trip to enjoy the Colorado Gold. I was fortunate this year to make two such trips, and was not disappointed with either! Though it seems I bracketed the “peak color” by a week either side, one week early and one week late, but such is the way things go when you can’t live among the mountains and trees, able to see the subtle day to day changes.

The early trip was part way up a rough road that would eventually take one over Webster Pass and down to Montezuma and eventually into Keystone. A short three mile trail leads up to an alpine tarn called Gibson Lake. Though I didn’t make it all the way to the lake, it was a lovely hike among the trees. Could I have made it to the lake? Absolutely, if I was trying to. But this day I had no true destination in mind, no specific goal except to enjoy being out of doors in my favorite season.

The late trip was with my cousin Brooke, and we headed a bit farther west toward the Sawatch Range, which holds the highest mountain in Colorado; Mount Elbert at 14,433′. Yes, I have been up there. Three times. Okay twice in one day, only because we began to descend the wrong trail after we were disoriented in the fog. It was snowing as we made our way toward Leadville, and the combination of Aspen Gold and snow was making me giddy. Honestly I didn’t think the weather could have been more perfect for an autumn shoot; we experienced snow and sun in perfect measure all day long. Our ultimate goal was a place only called “the Grottos,” which can be best described as small slot canyons in the granite. The slots were carved by the Roaring Fork river ages ago as its path wandered. The most impressive is called the Ice Caves, and there was a bit of ice in them when we got there, and quite a photographic challenge too. Lots of contrast with the light coming in through the slots above and deep shadows in the corners.

Chasm

Just after we returned from our derailed Grand Canyon trip, I still had the awesome camera lenses that I had rented, and they weren’t due to be shipped back for another couple of days, so I made one more journey. The wildflowers in the high country were just beginning to peak, so I decided to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park to see if I could get some blooming Columbines, our beautiful state flower. Chasm Lake was my set destination, located just below the summit of Longs Peak, one of the more difficult fourteeners to climb in the state. Last time I was there was eleven years ago, myself and a couple buddies were headed for the summit and a snowy camp in the Boulder Field at 12,000 feet. It’s a deep glacial tarn with a massive granite monolith rising above it called the Diamond Face. For the hardy and seasoned rock climber, it is one extreme route to the summit of Longs Peak. Unfortunately for me, I picked a day when the expected summer thunderstorms began to for a couple hours earlier than usual, but that wasn’t about to stop me from getting to Chasm Lake. As I was approaching the lake, everyone that had been there earlier was passing me on their way back down. Once I reached the lake, the thunder had started, the cold wind was blowing, but I had the place to myself. I was not taking my time with the photos, and when the first flash of lightning struck on the other side of the mountain, I knew I was going to be running down to tree line. I stowed the camera in the pack, donned my rain jacket and haul my ass off the mountain. After about a quarter mile, it began to rain, and then it began to hail. If you have never experienced a rain/hail storm above timerline, let me tell you, it isn’t a pleasant walk in a summer rain. It’s cold, down right icy and the lighting will whip you into a hurry you’ve never known. Running down a rocky, wet trail with 30 pounds of camera gear on your back is not good for the knees, by the time I reached timberline I could relax a bit, but my pace did not slow even for the aching in my knees. I began to realize I enjoy this kind of adventuring, but not to the point I would knowingly endanger myself, just enough to set me apart from the crowd. I came away with some excellent photos and another memory for the books.

Detour

As usual, I am finally able to catch up on my posts and photos from the summer. We had a family trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon planned for mid-July, and I was excited for it. Preparing myself both mentally and photographically, I had purchased new memory cards for my 7D, another pair of batteries, a wireless remote trigger, a couple of books on some good places to shoot, but the most exciting of all; new lenses. Well, I should qualify that, I was *renting* new lenses. There are web based companies that rent all kinds of photographic equipment, so I thought I would give it a try, since I wanted the crispness in the photos that only an L-series Canon lens can offer. At first I had a list a mile long of gear I wanted to rent for the trip, but had to trim it to meet a budget, and decided on a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II wide angle and a Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L telephoto. Four thousand dollars worth of camera glass was mine to use for a week! Pardon the geek out moment, I still get excited thinking about it. However, one minor detail would set things back a day, its always the little things. We had planned to leave on Saturday morning and meet the rest of the family, and continue on our journey. I had set up my lens rental to they would be delivered on the Friday before we left, so checking the UPS tracking number for my package, I saw everything was on schedule. When I checked the tracking info Friday afternoon, the package was being returned to the sender! Called borrowlenses.com to find out what the hell was happening, and I had transposed two numbers in my house address, causing UPS to believe the address didn’t exist. They were awesome to work with, and they would have another package sent to me overnight so I could get on my way as planned. My replacement package was set to arrive at 10:30 Saturday morning, well past the time we were planning to be on the road, except that said package didn’t arrive until 12:45. The family caravan had left already and we were going to meet them in Green River, Utah, a kind of mid point between home and North Rim, Arizona.

We were on our way, after my lovely wife Jen had finally decided to accompany me, with my truck acting as a pack mule. We carried most of the camping gear necessary for the entire group, so it was quite a load. And it was mid-July so it was hot. And there was traffic. Driving a loaded vehicle slowly uphill in the 90 plus degree heat is a recipe for a cooling system breakdown, and that is exactly what happened, though we didn’t really notice anything unusual until the traffic cleared up, but the engine temperature did not go down even when it started to pour rain. We had to finally stop near Silver Plume on I-70 and let things cool off before I could check the radiator and see what was going on, and it continued to rain. Jen had the idea to catch some of the rain water in a pan in case we needed to fill the radiator, and it was a good thing too, because all the coolant had boiled out in the slow crawl in the heat earlier. Once on the road again, we had to stop periodically to put more water in the radiator, and we did this all the way to Glenwood Springs. Now I will tell you that modern engines operate at a temperature just at or below the boiling point of water. That being said, every time we go going again, and the engine got up to operating temperature, the water in the radiator would turn to steam and force itself out of the tiny stress cracks that had formed in the radiator, slowly opening those tiny cracks to bigger cracks. After we limped into Glenwood Springs and diagnosed the problem, I had to come up with a solution. Unfortunately no auto parts store in Glenwood had a radiator for my truck, so it would have to do with a patch, and a patch would not be good enough for a trip across the desert in July. After a couple phone calls to the family waiting for us in Green River, we decided we couldn’t join them at the Grand Canyon, even though we had most of the camping gear they would need. Extremely disappointed, but not the least bit deterred, Jen and I decided to at least enjoy our time together in beautiful Glenwood Springs.

We had both spent plenty of time in Glenwood Springs over the years, swimming in the hot springs pool, meditating in the vapor caves, et cetera, but never had the occasion to walk around much. There are plenty of attractions in the town to distract a couple of stranded travelers. The Colorado Hotel built in the 1890’s, the Hot Springs Pool built around the same time filled with the natural hot mineral springs the town gets its name from, the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves, under ground caves that fill with therapeutic steam from the same hot springs, Doc Holliday’s grave up on the hill side south east of town. All I can say is that I was glad we didn’t breakdown some place boring. We took full advantage of all these distractions while I formulated a fix for the radiator. It actually became an adventure in itself, and we were having a great time! We began to realize that sometimes we take things for granted just because they are close or familiar. Growing up in Colorado and swimming at the hot springs pool innumerable times, I had never seen Doc Holliday’s grave, didn’t know there was a small frontier museum in an old house in downtown Glenwood, and that walking around downtown was kind of fun in itself! We had with us a small stuffed penguin we found on a hike a few years ago. We call him Hugsy, and started placing him in spots we visited and taking some pictures, and it became quite the game. We perused the gift shops and laugh at the T-shirts and other things that touted “5,761 feet elevation” as something special; at home we are at 5,420′. Then realized that we were in a town that subsisted now on tourism, rather than the railroad junction that created it. Never the less, it is the duty of the locals to trivialize what is extraordinary to visitors, and we did so with amusement. We were making lemonade out of lemons, and decided to stay another night and patch up the radiator in the morning.

When morning came, we went to the auto store and bought some patch putty and some tools, and I pulled the truck under a tree in the hotel parking lot and began to remove the radiator so I could find the troublesome leak and plug it. I was missing a large crescent wrench (since I can fix most anything with WD40 and a crescent wrench), when I caught the maintenance guy and asked if he might have one I could borrow. A nice guy name Cody said he would check, and brought us back a crescent wrench and some paper towels, and took an interest in what I was doing. He was a great help and left us a small gift in our room that meant a lot to us, and his help was immensely appreciated. With the leak fixed, and proper coolant in the radiator, we decided to meander our way home, continuing the adventure by stopping at places along the way that we would have just driven by, and did so on many occasions. Took a detour south from Glenwood to stop at a little known spot called Hayes Creek Falls, which I had discovered by accident years before. Stopped at the top of Vail Pass to appreciate a cookie and some cool fresh air, stopped again at an overlook to admire Dillon reservoir and Peak One soaring above Frisco, pulled off to overlook the Georgetown Loop Railroad, and finally took a detour to see Buffalo Bill’s grave situated above Golden on Lookout Mountain. I’m a sucker for that kind of historical stuff, but yet another place I had not visited before. We finally arrived home tired and happy that we had fun even with the broken vehicle, and decided to continue our funtime the next day.

When we woke, I suggested we head north from home and visit Boulder Falls where North Boulder Creek spills through a short steep side canyon spilling into Boulder Creek, and then on to Estes Park for a relaxing day of togetherness in another mountain town. Boulder Falls was “closed” but that didn’t stop us, or many other people from ducking under the chain and walking up to see the falls anyway. With the recent rain the falls were roaring, though water falls in Colorado are relatively short, they are still impressive during runoff in the spring and just after a good summer thunderstorm had rolled by. On the way up to Estes Park from Boulder, we took the scenic route through Allenspark. Writing this now though, most of the area has been devastated by the 100 year flood that swept through in September, and the roads we drove are closed as much of them have been washed into the canyons and creeks they follow. Overall it was the best detour that I have ever had to take, even though we didn’t get to the Grand Canyon. Besides, the canyon has been there millions of years, it will still be there next year!

Evans’ Old Goats

I woke up the day before my birthday like any other day, but I was reading Outdoor Photographer magazine and in the back pages of the magazine are advertisements for various guided photo excursions. I like to glance at them and the locales they offer, mostly wishing I had the funds to take off on one of these, also to see if there are any local photographers subtly giving away their spots. One caught my eye; “Colorado Mountain Goats at 14,000 feet!” Bingo. The rest of the ad proceeded to indicate the destination was Mount Evans, where, as the locals would know, the goats are almost tame enough to eat out of your hand. Inspiration hit me like a freight train, and I had to go. As a kid, my Mom and Dad and I spent a lot of time both on Mount Evans proper and the surrounding area, but I didn’t ever recall going all the way to the summit, which you can drive to. The fact the road leads to the top makes it a big touristy destination, the only other 14er that you can drive to the top of is Pike’s Peak. Things on Evans had changed a LOT since the 1980’s, namely the fact one now has to pay to drive CO HWY 5, the highest paved road in North America,

to the top of a 14,000 foot Colorado mountain. Okay, so it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea for the US Forest Service to charge a couple bucks per car to help maintain the road. So I swallowed my sentimentality and put away my old man comments like “I remember when..” and forked out the cash and started driving. The amount of  traffic for a Thorsday was off putting, but once again, I dealt with it and drove to Summit Lake where I had fished with my Dad and my Grandad years ago. There used to only be a flatish dirt spot to park and an old stone shelter with a dirt floor. The shelter was meant to be a refuge from the harsh storms that blow suddenly across the mountains at that altitude. I have a memory of one such occasion when I was just a pup. On a June day Mom and Dad and I drove up for a day in the mountains with our dog Tisha, mostly sunny kind of day, stopping to look at the mountain goats and  have a picnic at Summit Lake. Though once we got to Summit Lake the summer turned winter and we were in the driving snow with jackets, hats and gloves on. Back to the present, Summit Lake now has a proper divided parking lot, pit toilet facilities, triangular lodge pole fences complete with ‘stay off the tundra’ signs that are regularly ignored. The old stone shelter still there, the flatish dirt spot was now much larger and filled with shiny late model SUVs and the like. It’s things like these that pain me deep down. It seems that, like the old stone shelter, gone are the days when only the hardy, well prepared types headed to the mountains. The people I saw there could have been easily picked up off that mountain and dropped into a park in downtown Denver. Or maybe it happened the other way around. On the other hand, what could I expect on a mountain one could drive to the top of? Now seeing an urbanite strolling around the top of North Maroon Peak or El Diente, two other 14ers that require skills above the ability to walk, would probably drive me in to a deep insanity. I digress once more. I found a spot to park just a ways down from the summit and started rock hopping to the top of the ridge, where I could look down on Summit Lake, and Chicago Lakes and Creek, Abyss Lake, Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth, the jagged ridge that connects Evans and Bierstadt. I found my spot, well away from the throngs of people flocking to the very summit of the mountain and sat fo

r a while watching as a flock of Ravens soared between to rocky perches. And after sitting Zen-like for what seemed a day and a half, I headed down before the tourists saw the dark clouds forming to the west and the mass exodus began. On the way down I finally got some shots of the Old Goats I had come here to see in the first place. Watching them sit on the rocks of a sheer drop, Zen-like without a care that the people were stumbling over each other to get closer with point and shoot cameras and cell phones, I felt a great deep connection with the goats. It was then I remembered that Mom always said I was part Mountain Goat.

 

Oregon Coast

About a month ago I had the opportunity to go with my Mom and Aunt to visit our cousins in Oregon. Though my Aunt had broken her ankle badly six weeks before, she still was up for traveling. It was a travel milestone for myself, as I had not been on a plane in close to eleven years, or seen the ocean in that same amount of time. As well as that, my only other trip to the Pacific Northwest was in August of 1997 when I visited Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver. Back then I was 19 and only a budding photographer shooting random stuff with my 35mm Minolta, not terribly interested in nature or landscape photos either. The trip was awesome, not alone the photography aspect, but the opportunity to catchup with family that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. And with such gracious hosts and tour guides, how could we not have a great time! I wanted to write more, and I will probably come back and get some specifics into this writing, but as we speak I am trying to get ready for another adventure to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. For my family, I will get you all another link to the “people” pictures, since I like to keep them private from the web. Thanks again to Eileen, Michael, Lauren, Ashley, Helen, Anne, Phillip, and Jim!

Rocky Mountain Summer

This post won’t be as long as the last one, I promise. This is meant to be a summary of summer this year for me in the mountains. My tenth anniversary was in August, and I spent a week with my lovely wife doing things that were meant to be a retrospective of our time together, hiking, horseback riding among them. A short visit to the A-frame cabin came later in August, where we were surprised with a smattering of prematurely changing aspen leaves. Unfortunately, time was short in the summer, but I knew that soon fall would be here, and fall is my absolute favorite time of year in the mountains.

Rocky Mountain Spring

Okay so it is now almost October, and I am just now getting around to posting this. These images taken in late July when most of the rest of the state is suffering the hot summer temperatures. But above 9,000 feet, it’s spring time and the flowers were in bloom. Usually. This year however, due to a dry winter and hotter than average temperatures, spring came to the high country about a week or two earlier than I was expecting. My cousin, Brooke and I headed up to Rocky Mountain National park with a vague plan of attack, the only solid thing was that we wanted to make some images of some flowers. After a quick stop off in Boulder for some camping necessities, we headed to the east entrance of RMNP, hoping there were still some camp sites available on the east side. Which of course there were not, what were we thinking?! Friday night at the end of July, on the Front Range side. Though it didn’t help that one of the major campgrounds was closed. So over the hill we headed to the Timber Creek campground where we were assured there were sites available. After a VERY foggy and wet drive over Trail Ridge road, we arrived at Timber Creek CG to set up camp. In the dark. And its raining. To many less hardy types, this would be the time to just turn around and head to the nearest hotel, or just go home. But for us of Lydick stock, we are used to setting up camp in the dark. And the rain. It’s almost a family tradition when camping together. Another thing on our side was the fact that I brought my canvas spike tent, which goes up in about the same time as a four man nylon tent, but is much, MUCH more comfortable and more weather resistant. After getting the tent all set up, and after a bit of mead and a “hippie food” dinner at 9:30, we went to sleep.

We woke to the sound of Elk hooves plodding through camp, and looked out to see several cows and their calves casually munching and walking through the dew soaked grass. Once the sun crested the ridge, we were suddenly in macro photography paradise. The rain and dew had collected on every bit of grass and flower in the immediate area. We spent about an hour or so on our hands, knees, elbows, and bellies in the dampness inches from blooms and blades of grass. Finally about 9:30 we set off on a five mile hike (one way) up to Granite Falls. Just the name was enough for us to get excited about. Like photographers, we took our time heading up the trail, snapping shots of what ever caught our eye. A mile or so up the trail, we came across a young bull Moose grazing the tall foliage, and paying us no mind. Most of the rest of the hike was fairly uneventful, stopping to “click” the flowers occasionally. We reached Granite Falls, and were not disappointed; a stretch of about fifty yards of water cascading over solid granite rock, dropping thirty feet total. There were a few other hikers taking in the falls, though when it began to cloud over and rain a bit, they all scattered so we were left alone to begin our photographic exercises. The clouds helped achieve the long exposures needed to make the silky smooth water effect, the longest of which was a half second, though the average was around a quarter second. Doesn’t sound like much, but for a camera shutter, that’s quite a long time. We spent quite a long time at the base of the falls until the rain stopped, and dipped our feet in the icy water, enjoying a beautiful mountain midday. When we were kids, hiking with our family, our grandad would always have a honey bear full of honey for an extra boost of energy. Brooke had an idea to get a shot of our honey bear we had with us on this hike, which I thought was awesome. To this day I have always taken a honey bear with me on hikes, snowshoe trips and hunting trips. I never would have thought to include it in a photo! So the honey bear shot is for you Grandad.

Soon we decided to head back, since the storm clouds were gathering again and we didn’t feel like getting rained on too badly on our five mile return trip. It was a good plan right up until it began to sprinkle. The sprinkle turned into a rain. The rain turned into a downpour. So we covered the camera gear and headed down the trail with more single minded purpose than we came up the trail with. We stopped just once, to shoot a rainbow hanging over Big Meadow. After a ten mile hike in the soaking rain with thirty pounds of camera gear on your back, the sight of the truck is almost enough to bring a tear to one’s eye,and getting back to camp was just about as glorious. After the fire, and dinner, and more mead, the clouds cleared up and gave us an excellent opportunity to get some shots of the moon with my 500mm super telephoto lens and Brooke’s 2x tele-extender, which increases the reach of any lens. Including the crop factor of our APS-C sensors on our 7D’s, we were looking at the moon with the equivalent of a 1500mm lens! Needless to say, we were able to get some great shots of the moon with incredible detail. Short of actually having a telescope with a DSLR mount on it, we did well. Initially we wanted to get some shots of the stars, but moonset was going to be close to 1:00am, and we were already exhausted from the hike, so we hit the sack instead.

After our morning visit from the Elk, we packed up camp and decided to head in the direction of home, with a minor detour up to Loch Lomond to check out the wild flower situation there. After all, this was supposed to be a “wild flower photo trip.” So after the obligatory flower shots, we headed down the hill back home. And two months later when the fall colors are emerging, here are the photos with the spring color! Forgive me the lack of captions on the photos, I was doing well enough to get them posted.

 

Mitchell Blue

Okay, so I’m trying to catch up on my photo posts from this summer, and realized I never got around to posting and photos from this short hike. Once again I return us to the Indian Peaks Wilderness for another outing, this time on a different route. This trail is a short somewhat easy hike that first takes you past Mitchell Lake, a nice easy hike for any fisherman wanting to fish still water and catch native cutthroats and brook trout. You can head further up the trail to Blue Lake that sits in a granite cirque under the shadow of Mount Toll. When we were there in late June, there were still bits of the ice pack floating about the lake. There was still a bit of haze in the air from the High Park fire outside of Fort Collins. It was a nice short trip into the mountains on a hot summer day.

Mountains and Desert

So after a long sabbatical from photography (due mostly to lack of inspiration, work, and other silly excuses), I was able to go for a long needed road trip. Myself and long time best friend Kevin went out to the eastern Utah desert for a couple days of chasing trains and photography. Since the first trip we made there more than thirteen years ago, I was enchanted with the desolate beauty of the desert. While this trip was less about landscapes and more about trains, the two subjects are intertwined. The trip truly began when we made our way down to the north rim of Ruby Canyon where we would wait for the westbound Amtrak California Zephyr to pass by below us. We exited I-70 at Rabbit Valley, two miles from the Colorado state line where there is an OHV recreation area on the south side. One of the funnest parts of these trips is the frequent four wheeling required to get to our photo spots, and this area is no exception. The views are awesome and it’s really easy to sit there for long periods of time watching time pass. Our train came and went, and we made our own rough tracks back to the highway to continue westward. One problem with chasing trains between Grand Junction and Price, Utah is that there are only four trains a day. With our only train for the day passed, we made for Price. I passed the time watching the landscape go by, taking the occasional shot out the window. Since this was first road trip in years that I wasn’t driving, I was taking plenty of shots of the Book Cliffs in the evening light. While a moving vehicle doesn’t make for the most stable shooting platform, I was able to get some nice images, most of which I turned into panoramas. My camera has enough resolution I was able turn out some good size prints from the panos.

The next day saw a lot more rail action, as we headed westward toward Soldier Summit. The near 2% grade on the trackage from Helper to the summit, and the fact that loaded coal trains have to go up that grade makes for some exciting train chasing. We caught Amtrak #6 heading east at Castle Gate, which was still in the shadows at 6:30 am. From there we worked west listening to the radio chatter, looking for either a westbound to chase toward Provo, or an eastbound to chase back east to the desert. We were in luck as we encountered an eastbound Utah Railway coal train headed east toward that railway’s branch line, which serves a very productive coal mining operation. The rising sun was perfect for eastbounds, and the resulting shots were great. We kept with this train all the way to the Wildcat coal load out, and were able to kill some time while it was loaded. Once loaded, the train headed west once again toward Salt Lake City, where it would interchange with the Union Pacific, and ultimately the coal was destined for China as export coal. We left the coal load a way up Price River Canyon and headed back east to catch Amtrak #5 westbound out in the desert, since we planned to camp in the desert the second night. Our sources told us that there would be a special surprise in today’s California Zephyr; ex- Rio Grande business car, and ex- Ski Train private car Kansas. Since the discontinuation of the Ski Train several years ago, the cars were sold here and there to special charter rail lines. Our beloved Kansas was headed to a west coast luxury charter from the American Railway Explorer charter line. After a shot at Thompson Springs, we bid it farewell at Green River, and returned east to the desert siding at Sagers. Knowing we were essentially out of trains for the rest of the evening, we set camp and waited for darkness so we could do some star gazing and astrophotography. When darkness comes to the desert, it is the most spectacular kind of dark. The moon hadn’t risen yet, and you could literally see by starlight. I had done plenty of star trail shots with long exposures, but what I really wanted was to capture the galactic core in a shot. After a bit of experimentation, I  found the formula (which I will keep to myself for now). And to add to the night shooting fun, we had two trains pass by in the dark as well.

After about two hours sleep, we woke with the dawn, took some sunrise photos and headed off. Once again we found our selves chasing Amtrak #6 east at Thompson Springs. We decided to chase it as far east as we could without losing it. Or it losing us, as the case ended up being. We were only able to stop occasionally as passenger trains make 75+ mph through the desert almost all the way to Glenwood Springs. Fortunately the California Zephyr makes a station stop at Glenwood Springs, which allowed us to catch up and stay with it along the Colorado River from Glenwood Springs to Gore Canyon. For probably the first time, I was able to try to get some photos of Glenwood Canyon from the car. Let me tell you, it is not as easy as it sounds to get a decent shot without a convertible! Nonetheless, I tried and actually ended up with a couple good ones. We left Amtrak at Inspiration Point at the mouth of Gore Canyon near Radium and headed back home a bit sooner than we would have liked. However, the trip was still good for the soul, and I had once again found my photographic inspiration in the Utah desert; always the last place you look!

Autumn

Recently, someone said to me “You haven’t updated you website for a while,” to which I responded; “I have a website? Oh, yeah! I do!” In the past FIVE MONTHS (!) I have barely had time to even think about picking up my camera, let alone get out and shoot with it! Though photographic inspiration was running low, working my ass off didn’t help matters either. Earlier in the year I had tried to plan multiple photo trips, all of which never happened for varying reasons, among them were Colorado wildflowers, as well as Fall Colors. All that could be managed for Fall Colors was a day hike up to the Indian Peaks, which I have to say, produced excellent photographic results, as well as just being an absolutely gorgeous autumn day in the mountains. Though I have visited this exact location numerous times, this time there was a photo everywhere I looked all day long. We took a couple different trails in order to get a bit of a different perspective, with our main destination being Isabelle Glacier, an 8 mile round trip from the Long Lake trail head. Well, I’m also a bit out of practice writing as well, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves now…

All Aboard

This morning I took my bud Kevin, his daughters Jaina and Bella, and his sister Kris to Denver Union Station. They had planned to take Amtrak #5 to Glenwood Springs for a couple days, and this was to be Jaina and Bella’s first train ride. The morning started with an early downpour driving toward downtown, which didn’t really ignite my creative photographic juices. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last, and when I decided to actually chase the train westward, a dense fog was the only remnant of the nasty weather. I waited for the train to show up at a spot just off CO-72 called Chemical. The fog was actually getting me in a creative mood, though it started to lift a bit just as the train came into view. Next, I drove west on CO-72 up Coal Creek Canyon with a perfect spot in mind for my next and final shots of their train. The problem was, I had to hurry because Amtrak trains waste no time getting to where they need to be; passenger trains have a higher speed limit than freight trains, and my spot was not exactly easily accessible. So I drove west and with the occasional update text from Kevin, I was able to get into position with plenty of time to spare. From there I snapped some shots and waved them off from atop a rock near South Boulder Creek, and began the climb back up to the truck, but not without a few incidental nature shots on the way. Most of them are black and white because the colors didn’t thrill me when I got back home and started to download  the images from the card. I saved myself some time by shooting simultaneously in RAW and JPEG also using the monochrome picture style in the camera. These shots are basically straight from the camera, save for the watermark added for publishing!

Green Mountain

This post marks the 50th post made to my blog! One day last week I was finishing a bit of work in Lakewood, and was very close to Green Mountain, and it was a gorgeous day. It was a fairly long hike up hill, which brought to light how long it had been since I had any real outdoor exercise. At the top was a pile of rocks which marked the highest point of Green Mountain, and I could see Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Hogback, North and South Table mountains, the Flatirons, and a very good view of Mount Evans. The view to the east was less than flattering for the city; a heavy looking brown cloud hung low, stretching along the foothills and out to the east. Over the mountains, lenticular clouds were forming and made for some really dramatic sky. Lenticular type clouds  form when moist stable air moves over a range of mountains. Due to their distinctive lens shape, they are sometimes mistaken for UFOs! The colors of late winter/early spring leave something to be desired for the landscape photographer, so I set the camera to shoot black and white. The sky was developing some very interesting clouds, high contrast and a red lens filter were the order of the day. All the images are pretty much straight out of the camera, the only adjustment made was for size and the watermark. All said, it was a great day to be outside and exercise the body, and the creative photography muscles!

Open Space two

Here’s a couple shots from the Broomfield Commons Open Space. I feel very fortunate to be able to walk five minutes from my house and have some kind of photographic opportunity, especially when things get busy and I can’t make a longer trip, I always have my open space!

Mountainous

When a friend of mine asked me earlier today to send her “a couple of your best mountain scenes/panoramas,” I began to think about what I had in my library of some 13,000+ landscape images only to be confounded. I don’t know if I am just being to critical of my earlier photography, but I could only find a handful that met my criteria for a “good photo.” These are for the most part taken with my old Rebel before this website came into being, and here’s the ones that made the cut!

The Links

I have been playing golf since my Grandad taught me when I was nine years old. Granted I haven’t played consistently in those years, and don’t claim to be a great golfer, but it is something that I have a great interest in anyway. I have always connected hiking and camping with photography, and photography with many other things, but for some reason there was a mental wall between golf and photography. That is until one day when I was driving to work past Hyland Hills Golf Course; the fog had settled in since the previous day and night had been cold and rainy, and the morning was clear and gorgeous. I as I was looking out the window at the course zipping by at 45 mph, it struck me to stop and take a couple photos. I was not disappointed, the light was brilliantly warm and seemed to hang in the air with the fog. But by the time I got to a place to park, gathered my gear and walked to the spot I had seen from the road, a lot of the fog had dissipated. But there was enough left to get some good clicks from. A similar thing happened to me this morning driving to the bank, and saw a photographic opportunity at the Broadlands Golf Course, not even a half mile from my house. Check it out!

Blackpowder

Get comfortable, because this is going to be a long winded post!

The blackpowder hunting season here in Colorado has become my favorite. Not because I have had any better success, but because of the traditional feel of it. I hunt with a traditional cap and ball Hawken style .50 caliber rifle, no optics (not even binoculars) wearing a wool sweater and canvas pants or kilt; as close as one can get to the “old days”. For this year, I drew a buck deer tag for GMU 500. For the uninitiated, that means I’m hunting Bambi’s dad near Boreas Pass, between Como and Breckenridge. I have hunted this area before, and know where the deer and elk like to hang out. Unfortunately, I chose to start my hunt four days after the opening weekend; which was September 11th, I started on September 15th. What this means is that the animals will have already had a few days of hunting pressure (not including the archery hunters that started much earlier), and will have scattered also. There were a few other factors to consider as well; phase of the moon, weather patterns, availability of water and food. If the moon is anywhere from full to half, the deer and elk move around more in the night, making it harder for hunters to locate them. This is also compounded when the weather is fair, if there is rain or snow, they move to the lower elevations and the thicker cover to protect themselves. When it is dry, like the area has been of late, the animals move to where there is water and green stuff to eat.

Wednesday afternoon I had camp set up and was ready to hunt that evening. I had hunted this area before , so I knew theoretically where the deer would be, since I had seen them before. I found my spot and waited, watching, until the sun sunk behind the mountains see neither hair nor hide of a deer. So I headed back to camp for the customary “first-day-of-the-hunt” whisky. I was planning on shooting some star trail shots when the moon  when down, but that proved to be closer to morning than I originally planned. I abandoned that effort in favor of sleep since I knew I would be up before the sun the following morning to hunt.

Thursday morning I was up at five and in my chosen spot by half past. By six thirty I heard heavy footfalls that could only be made by elk; and elk it was, two cows and one of the biggest bulls I had ever had the pleasure of seeing in the flesh. They passed by me without stopping or even noticing my presence, only about thirty yards away! If only I had a tag for elk, my hunt would have ended that morning. So ends the only action for the Thursday morning hunt, and with it I planned to take a fairly long walk with the camera, since mid-day hunting sucks. I ended up hiking three miles out to a stand of bristlecone pines, whose bare twisting silver trunks always fascinate me, and make for awesome photo subjects. While I was in a great area for fall Aspen colors, I was surprisingly not near many Aspen groves; pines and spruce dominate the landscape. I was back to camp in the late afternoon for a short rest and something to eat before the evening hunt. Although after burning so much energy during the day, leaving the comfort of my camp chair was less than appealing. Besides, it was a beautiful evening to sit and enjoy just being outside; the elk were bulging like crazy, and continued to do so until after the sun went down. My camera has HD video capability, which I never thought I would really use all that much, but I decided to try to capture the ambiance of the evening with it. This was the night I also chose to take a long exposure, but waiting for the half moon to go down was out of the question. I say A long exposure because it was an hour and a half! The moonlight kinda washed out some of the stars, but overall it came out pretty cool. A few points about long exposures with the 7D versus my old Rebel; first, the live view with the 7D makes it soooo much easier to focus the scene! I was fairly well guessing with the Rebel. Second it the noise I got with the Rebel during an hour long exposure (due to the sensor getting hot) was non-existent with the 7D. I also should have used a wider aperture, that way the star streaks would have been broader and brighter, but enough of that.

Friday morning’s early hunt at the same locale yielded another close encounter with elk, and later, a close encounter with two very young spike bucks and one four point buck that was just too young to be a shooter. Although the minimum size for a legal buck in Colorado is four points, the shot was sketchy, at best. I was standing on top of a hill looking slightly down at them, with the four-pointer facing me straight on, and one of the spikes behind. He was also standing enough below the crest of the hill that I could not get a decent shot at his vitals. So many things calculated in a fraction of a second; still amazes me to think that my mind worked all that out so quick! Friday mid-day was time to collect fire wood (which I was very low on from the night before), and take a drive around to get some photos of the fall color. I am very much a “morning-evening” hunter that I usually don’t bother with the time in between; the animals want a rest and so do I! My sometimes boss and friend has a cabin down in the valley below my camp, and with all the beetle-killed trees, he had no shortage of firewood available. So on my way down to poach *ahem* borrow some firewood from him, I stopped along the way to record the changing Aspens. By the time it was time for the evening hunt, I was getting tired of getting skunked and almost gave up the rifle hunting altogether, and stick with the camera, but my sense go the better of me (knowing Murphy’s law inflicts those of  Celtic descent ten fold) I went fully loaded with photo and hunting gear to a place I knew the animals to be. This involved a climb to near the top of Red Mountain (13,229) to about 12,500 feet, and a three mile hike laterally to cross Hoosier ridge on the northern flanks of Mount Silverheels. I had eyeballed the area previously knowing if was good hunting ground, but was daunted by the thought of coming back should I shoot something! With the growing desperation that drives the hunter, I headed out at three for the previously described area. I was in place at five settled in for some action. And action I got; too bad it was all elk, and not a single deer to be seen. This is where the photo-hunting took over, and my first wildlife photography experience other than photographing birds. I also put the HD video feature to good use here and caught some cool video of real wild elk (not those half-tame Rocky Mountain National Park elk). It started when I heard a  lot of bugling and crashing around in the thick timber across the small valley I was situated to overlook. I didn’t actually see the bulls fighting (that would have made for some awesome video), but I could hear them crashing together. Then I see this young spike bull emerge from the timber in the valley floor, then a cow, then another cow, and another. Next out comes one of the largest bulls I have had the pleasure of laying eyes on! He came out of the timber, bugled, sniffed round the grass a moment, bugled again, charged back into the timber with a crash. Much more ruckus took place and he emerged again and stood on a small rise above his harem, looking very kingly, literally king of the forest! Stood in a thicket of stubby willows and bugled again, then proceeded the thrash the hell out of said willows with his magnificent antlers. He then came down from his overlook to join the harem and browse for a small bite to eat. Suddenly all the elk looked back into the woods the came from, and then took off up the steep valley wall across from my vantage point, covering ground that would have taken me at least  forty-five minutes to cover. They stopped above tree line to browse the short vegetation there before leisurely making their way over the ridge, and out of my view. I wanted so much to follow them, but the sun was nearly down and I had a fair distance to travel, and I didn’t relish making it in the dark with no trail to follow. I got back to camp, made some quick dinner, and promptly passed out on the cot, visions of elk still in my head.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I made no effort to get up too early to hunt. The hunt was nearly gone from me, but when I was up and moving, I decided to make one last trip up the hill, going light, taking only rifle, bag, and powderhorn. Another hunter, the first one I had seen in all my time here, had made it to the same spot I had hunted the week past. Somewhat discouraged after only a half hour of watching, I turned back to the same spot I had seen the deer the day before. And there standing before me, not thirty five yards away, was the neck and back of a mule deer. When he raised his head and looked at me, I almost forgot what I was there for. Staring at me was a gorgeous six point buck with a nice twenty inch spread in the antlers. Hands shaking, I raised the rifle, cocked the hammer and took aim. The hammer came down, and nothing happened; the deer stared at me still. Cocked the hammer again and pulled the trigger; the percussion cap snapped, but still no fire. My deer took off, leaving me fumbling for another cap. Now, let me explain something about deer versus elk. If this had happened with an elk, said elk would have been in the next county in a wink. Deer will run away a few yards and stare at you, then go a bit further, look back again. With my deer now about seventy five yards off, stopped looking back, me finally with another cap on the rifle. Took aim again, and BOOM! Finally the damn thing fired! Though through the smoke I could see already I pulled the shot to the right, evident by the large track of dirt freshly tilled by a .50 caliber bullet. The deer took off again, leaving me indecisively trying to pursue, and pour powder into the measure and pour it into the rifle, and stuff a bullet in, and ram it down, and put a fresh cap on, and not lose sight of the deer. He stopped just outside of some stunted pines up the hill from me giving me one last shot before disappearing like a ghost. After traipsing around looking for sign of my deer on the hard dry ground, or sign of a possible hit, I gave up and headed back to camp to pack up and head home. I was feeling contented, slightly disappointed, and worn out as I packed up camp. I found what I came for though; solitude in the wilderness, great photos, and best of all, to feel the thrill of the hunt. On the way home I stopped here and there to make some last clicks of  the fall colors, which were at their very peak! And now, here are the photos, the videos will be posted soon…

Morning Jaunt

A few quick shots taken this morning while walking Malie at the Broomfield Commons open space. The Swainson’s hawks were uncharacteristically tolerant of my presence today, which made for a couple great shots!

Loch and Load

Last Monday rolled around, and I wanted to get away to give my new 7D a test run in the mountains, rather than around home. My Grandad asked me a few days before if I had ever taken any photos of the Bristlecone and Limber pines around Loch Lomond and James Peak. Loch Lomond is one of a couple lakes situated just south of James Peak; the road begins in the town of Saint Mary’s. Now, whenever Grandad suggests a location for me to photograph,  I am very inclined to take his advice. When I was a kid, our family would take the old Ford Broncos up this particular four wheel drive road and camp for a night or two and hike around, and I hadn’t been there in several years. One vivid memory in particular had me standing on a very high saddle in the foggy wet weather looking down into Ice Lake, feeling like that was the edge of the earth! While the weather this time was about the same, with lighting striking the high ridges around Loch Lomond, I didn’t venture too far from the truck; mostly because I didn’t want to expose my new camera to the rain just yet. However the clouds and rain came and went in the usual fashion, allowing me a window of sunshine to go for a short walk-about and did manage to get a few clicks of the Bristlecones before the rain began to fall again. The great big puffy clouds make for great subjects coupled with such great scenery, see for yourself!

Skyward

The day after my niece was born, both Jen and I were lacking sleep, and Malie was lacking human contact and wanting a walk. I grabbed my camera as we were headed out the door, and saw these dramatic clouds. I immediately visualized a black and white photo, and made the shot accordingly, to capture the contrast and drama. The tricky thing with shooting B&W versus color is that the photographer has to be able to see things in a different way; tones and contrast, instead of just the color. Even with digital photography and the ease of digital photo editing, not every color photo can be made into B&W and have the same feel as a photo shot strictly for B&W. If any of that makes sense to you, great! If not, here’s a photo:

Clouds, sky, black and white

Clouds catching a breeze.

Indian Peaks – Again…

Yes, I went to the same spot again. There is something about the area that draws me to it, I don’t usually visit the same location more than two or three times, but a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t think of anywhere I rather go and camp. Best part about the Brainard Lake rec area is that it offers some of the best scenery in the state, without driving multiple hours to get there. This was my fifth visit to Isabelle Lake within a year. First the infamous “lighting strike” trip, where myself, my Mom and my Dad shared a lighting bolt backpacking our way over Pawnee Pass to Crater Lake. Second, was the 15 mile, one day marathon from the Long Lake trailhead over Pawnee Pass, and down Cascade Creek to the Monarch Lake trailhead. Third was a snowshoe to Long Lake in the Arctic cold December wind. Fourth time was a longer snowshoe trip all the way from the winter trailhead a mile below Brainard Lake to Isabelle Lake. Which brings us to June 26, two days shy of my birthday, and the opening weekend for the Pawnee Campground at Brainard Lake. Usually when I go camping, I have the truck loaded the night before, and leave the house no later than 7:00 am. This trip was a bit on the spur of the moment, so I didn’t actually leave until Saturday morning at about 9:00. I arrived at about 10:30, set up camp in the almost full campground with a nice view of Brainard Lake. After a bit of an early lunch, I headed off to Isabelle Lake, and so did everyone else in the campground; or so it seemed. Of course after seeing the place in the winter, more than five people seems like a lot! I took my time on the way, as photographers do, making the two mile hike in about two and a half hours. My intention was to spend the the afternoon and evening up at Isabelle Lake, relaxing and watching the light change, waiting for that “magic hour” when the sun sets. I sat there watching the clouds build, sprinkle a few drops, and move on. This kind of nothing-too-special afternoon weather passed a few times, until finally the clouds built too a point that said to me “you won’t want to be up here in about five minutes.” I started down, leaving behind about 15 people who didn’t get the memo from the weather gods. Sure enough I got down to the cover of the trees, and the rain began, followed by the lighting and the hail. With my plans thus changed, I went back to camp to dry out and have some dinner. After eating, the weather was once again calm, and I made the decision to head back up the hill to Isabelle for the sunset I intended to photograph. The trip back up, I wanted to get there as soon as possible, and made the hike in 45 minutes. I was thrilled to see that I was the only person at Isabelle when I arrived at 7:45 pm. While I was hoping for more color in the clouds, I was not disappointed with the results. For anyone who hasn’t hiked in the twilight hours, I can tell you that it is one of the most amazing experiences one can have. The light is there, and it isn’t, you can see, but you can’t; it’s full of contradictions. I returned to the Long Lake trailhead a bit exhausted, but hoping to get back to camp and shoot some stars, but there was a thin layer of cloud that obscured everything but the full moon. I had also intended to wake early to get back up to Isabelle for the sunrise, but decided against it when my travel alarm went off at 4:30 am, instead I shot the sunrise at Brainard Lake (a mere 100 yards from my camp). After packing up camp somewhat early, I stopped at Red Rock Lake and made some clicks in the morning sun, and slowly made my way back home, stopping off CO 72 on the way to Nederland to make some more incidental clicks of a scene that caught my eye off the side of the road. Take a look at some of the results!

Long’s Peak Morning

I was driving to work yesterday morning toward Boulder and saw this through the windshield; I just had to stop. Whenever I set out to capture moments like this, they never come; too many clouds, not enough clouds, I get setup too late to get that nice morning light. But when I have to be somewhere and can’t hang around to wait for the scene to change, or just enjoy the moment, the perfect ones happen. Often the simple clicks are the best.

Long's Peak, Colorado

Long's Peak rising above the fog on a front range morning.

Indian Peaks April

Once again, I couldn’t resist the draw of the Indian Peaks wilderness. Something about it calls to me on such a deep level, I cannot explain. Twice I have been there in the summer; absolutely beautiful. Now twice I have been there in the winter; absolutely beautiful in a totally different way. As most of you know, the seasons in the Rockies don’t follow the seasons on a calendar; for winter above 10,000′ lasts well into what we know as summer at the lower altitudes. That is why, on Wednesday this week in April, I refer to this as my second trip to Indian Peaks in the winter. Six feet of soft snow everywhere, snowshoes strapped on, jacket, gloves, wind-proof pants, all the while in Boulder the temps reached into the middle seventies! I love the diversity of climate that living near the mountains offers; something for everyone! I headed out again from the winter trail head about 2 miles below Brainard Lake, and pushed all the way to Isabel Lake, four miles distant, through some mostly un-tracked snowy wilderness; this is the kind of stuff my dreams are made of! What a feeling to be one of a very few to venture this way during the snowy season. Anyway, my thoughts of it are totally incoherent, so here are the photos!