Happy New Year!
The Telluride Valley Floor resident elk herd moves from open meadow to wetland on a golden October morning.
While we were in Telluride earlier this month, I spent some time on the Telluride Valley Floor, protected open space that extends west from town. The San Miguel River, fed by streams pouring off the San Juan Mountains, runs the length of the valley. Behind a gas station is a healthy Gunnison’s prairie dog colony, sandwiched between a wetland along the San Miguel River and a forested area that is home to a resident elk herd. With big lens on my shoulder, I walked into the conservation area and a whole new world opened before me. Migrating Western bluebirds perched on an old cattle fence and picked off insects in the prairie dog town, where endangered Gunnison’s P’dogs chirped a warning call to tell the community about an intruder. Surprisingly, a badger emerged in mid-afternoon sunshine, poking his head in prairie dog holes, looking for an easy meal. The town taxed itself $50 million to buy the Valley Floor, creating a conservation easement to protect the land in perpetuity. Is protecting a western valley for prairie dogs, elk, and recreation protectionism run amok or visionary brilliance? (more…)
We just returned from a magnificent fall color trip to Kebler Pass in the West Elk Mountains and Telluride in the San Juan Mountains. Conditions varied greatly, from brilliant stands of gold and red to bare trees, stripped by storms a few days prior. Photographically, it was a completely different situation every day, and exhilarating to make images of the inevitable march towards winter. I hope you enjoy my photo essay – just click on more: (more…)
It seems crazy that just three or so weeks ago we were backpacking in the San Juan Mountains, mid summer conditions, a warm tundra color pallette the only hint of fall coming. I made this image while we were in Aspen/Snowmass last week where the colors were peaking. We’re having one of our best autumns in years, so it’s time to chase the gold rush some more. I hope to have a colorful photo essay late next week.
Bull moose in autumn, Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado
Since photographing a bachelor group of bull moose last month, I’ve been making regular trips to their willowy habitat around 10,000 feet on the Front Range. The bulls have dispersed and are on the move following cows during the autumn rut. The largest member of the deer family is more imposing this time of year, grunting and snorting, thrashing willows to polish antlers, and rapidly covering a lot of territory in pursuit of a female. This male was following a cow with two calves, juveniles now, and she did a good job of keeping her distance.
Moose are famously ornery during rut – I’ve read accounts of moose attacking cars in Alaska. I’ll keep going back while giving moose plenty of room.
“Aspen Mosaic” Aspen mixed with pine approaching peak fall color along the Peak To Peak Highway near Nederland, Colorado
Aspen are rapidly changing to peak fall color in the Colorado high country. There’s been a lot of talk about an early autumn because of the drought; and maybe it’s a few days early on the Front Range. I’m just enjoying the transition to cooler temps and active wildlife. This image was made with a 600mm lens to isolate the tapestry of color.
We have a tradition of taking a long walk – usually with some mountain tops mixed in for our Labor Day break. Winds of change led us to the San Juan Mountains in our home state this year, just about the only place around to escape fire smoke riding the jet stream from Idaho. The San Juans are such a spectacular range; you simply can’t go wrong no matter what area you choose to explore. So after a couple of days in the Sangre De Cristos near Alamosa, we traveled to Creede and on to Lake City to launch a trip into the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area. Click more to see many more images: (more…)
There’s a bachelor group of very large bull moose on the Front Range, magnificent creatures all feeding in harmony until rut starts next month, when they’ll battle for the right to mate. For now the bulls are fattening up on willows before they spend a lot of energy during mating season. Moose were a very rare sight on the eastern side of the Front Range until the last few years; you had to go over to the Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park or Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge to have a decent chance of spotting moose. Cow sightings are now common near Estes Park and I’m hopeful that the rut will happen in the general area where I photographed today. The photo experience included an 8 foot step ladder with my Kirk window mount on top, turning the whole rig into a “ladder pod.” Without the ladder, I’d just be looking at antlers sticking out of willow; you can only make so many of those abstract moose images. I used a Nikon D3s camera body, which has great low light capability and both a 600mm lens and an 80-400mm. The moose passed right by me and two other photographers on their way to the forest – next time I’ll have a wide angle lens in my pocket. What a thrill! (more…)
I’m honored that my Crestones Sunrise image is on the cover of the Skyline Press 2013 Colorado 14ers Calendar! I’ve worked with Todd Caudle at Skyline on a number of projects, including the award-winning 14,000 Feet and my Prairie Thunder book, also a Colorado book award winner.
The Colorado 14ers Calendar is a celebration of Colorado’s 54 highest peaks that invites top photographers to submit their very best mountain images for a place in this top-notch calendar. I’m stoked to be on the cover and have my Eolus goat shot in the calendar. Thanks to my friend Todd Caudle for your great work at Skyline and support of Colorado photographers!
The 3rd and final chapter of this Sangre De Cristo story…
I wasn’t sure we’d ever be here, but Annie invited us via Steph, who’s down to her last three 14ers, and well, here we are outside of the gate to Cielo Vista Ranch with plans to climb the only Colorado 14,000 foot peak on private land. We’re just a few miles from New Mexico and there’s a festive atmosphere, with climbers setting up camp, cooking, and talking about 14ers. A lot of climbers save this one for the end, choosing to climb all of the free mountains on public land first. This one costs $100 for camping and a day of climbing – another $50 if you want to tackle Red Mountain, and surrounded by like-minded folks, I’m warming to the experience. There’s no logical explanation for paying to climb, Colorado has thousands of beautiful peaks on public land; but if you want to summit all of the 14ers, you’ll wind up here eventually. Landowners these days are diversifying all sorts of ways, and we had just come from Zapata Ranch, where dude ranch hospitality compliments bison and cattle ranching. Cielo Vista opens the gates of the 77,500 acre ranch to paying guests climbing Culebra and private elk hunts in fall. Hunters pay ten large for the chance at a trophy elk. Our plan was to camp out as guests of the ranch, meet Carlos, the ranch manager at 6 a.m. when he opens the gate, take care of formalities, and climb the peak the next day. (more…)