Backpacking Lost Creek – Colorado’s Granite Wonderland

Lost Creek, Tarryall

Lost Creek Granite : Prints Available

Climbing a granite crack to reach a view of the Lost Creek drainage, I exclaimed Wow! when I saw this perfect granite ball sitting on the granite bench. Lost Creek, home to the Tarryall, Kenosha, and Platte River Ranges, is a Colorado anomaly, the granite spires, domes, and twisted rock are the 'Yosemite of Colorado' and unique in the Rockies. This area is accessed via the Goose Creek trail.

Itching to get out over the Memorial Day weekend, we set out for the Lost Creek Wilderness, a wonderland of granite sprires, domes, and three mountain ranges reaching as high as 12,000 feet. It’s a popular early season spot when the higher mounatins are still buried under heavy snow, often getting more snow at the end of May. Our out and back trip from the Goose Creek trailhead was bluebird, and our camp in ponderosa forest rewarded us with the wonder of silence.

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Marla takes in the view high above Lost Creek. Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

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Lone Pine In Stone. Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

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Granite Study, Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

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Camp In Ponderosa Forest. Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

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Majestic Ponderosa Pine. Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

Telluride Valley Floor

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? Continue reading “Telluride Valley Floor”

Gold Rush

marcellina mountain, aspen

Marcellina Sunset : Prints Available

Marcellina Mountain (11,348') and the surrounding aspen forest seems to glow in warm evening alpenglow of an October sunset.

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: Continue reading “Gold Rush”

Transition

aspen trees, east snowmass creek

Snomass Creek Autumn : Prints Available

Aspen trees in various stages of gold approaching peak autumn color. The gold aspen on the ridge above East Snowmass Creek contrast nicely with the maroon rock characteristic of the Elks. 

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.

Autumn Moose

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.

Peak To Peak Color

“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.

Walking Among San Juan Giants

Wetterhorn Peak, blue moon, Matterhorn Peak

Wetterhorn Moon : Prints Available

 The August "blue moon" sets beyond Wetterhorn Peak (14,015') before dawn. The perspective is from the summit of Matterhorn Peak (13,590').

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: Continue reading “Walking Among San Juan Giants”

Moosy Morning

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Bull Moose Portrait : Prints Available

 A large bull moose feeds on willows on an August morning. Moose have just recently migrated to the eastern side of the Continental Divide along the Front Range, long favoring the wet side of Rocky Mountain National Park. On this morning, I watched a bachelor group of six large bulls feeding in the willows. 

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! Continue reading “Moosy Morning”

Colorado 14ers – On The Cover!

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!