As the weather starts to cool just a bit, I found myself going back through old files from past Colorado adventures. One of the treks was with my best guy friend, Matt, as we camped in Lake City and Crested Butte, hiked several 14ers, endured a driving rainstorm, trekked through fields of Columbine up a Rocky Mountain pass, and back down again. It was a fun and memorable adventure.

The trip started with a stop in Colorado Springs for Rudy’s barbecue. The food is not quite up to par with Texas bbcue, but it’ll do when in the Centennial State. Being the planner I am, I had brought a few bottles of Salt Lick sauce with me to Colorado, and being prepared paid off. After that, a long drive to Lake City found us setting up camp on the shores of Lake San Cristobal. With mosquitoes buzzing around like WW2 fighter planes, we rigged up the tent and tried to sleep. Not long after, though, the storms of wind, rain, thunder and lightning, left us wanting for sleep. I made a break for the car and spent the rest of the evening in the back of my 4-Runner.

After a dismal night of sleep, we drove the 14 or so miles to the Silver Creek trailhead. The hike up to Redcloud Peak (14,034’) gains about 3700’ over 4.5 miles. The trail is beautiful, and in the summer wildflowers spring up along the creek. Atop Redcloud, the iron-laden rock and dirt appears as a dark orange – fairly unique for high mountain tops.

Views from the top of Sunshine Peak in Colorado are amazing.

A hiker slogs up the slopes of Sunshine Peak after making the traverse from Redcloud Peak. These two beautiful 14ers are located near Lake City, Colorado, and make for a great way to spend the morning.

But this was not our final goal, so we made the easy traverse over to Sunshine Peak (14,001’). The trail is easy to follow and gives you another 1.5 miles and 550 vertical feet. The views north from Sunshine Peak are an amazing sight, indeed. Uncompahgre Peak (14,309’), Wetterhorn Peak (14,015’), and Redcloud are all in the same view. In all, we covered about 11+ miles and 4700 vertical feet. While the skies were patchy blue on top, by the time we approached our car, the bottom dropped out  of the clouds and the rains again came down hard. Fortunately, we scrambled to our car and avoided a total soaking. We did pass several folks on their way up when we were near the end of the trail close to the trailhead, and felt somewhat badly because they had to be soaked. On the other hand, no one should be starting a 14er so late in the morning, especially in the summer months!

Next up, we drove to Crested Butte, but not before stopping in Gunnison for a chicked fried steak dinner. With bellies full, we slept a bit better than the previous evening, awoke early the next morning, and made our way over a still somewhat snowy Gothic Road 14+ miles to Schofield Pass. The trailhead starts at a large turnout and we were the first ones to head out (it was still dark outside). By the time daylight approached, we could tell there were wildflowers along the path, and as the sun broke over the ridge, the blue petals of Columbine were evident. Our goal was West Maroon Pass, a notch in the rock that divides the Aspen area from Crested Butte. The trail is about 8 miles round trip and covers about 2700 vertical feet – a nice respite after logging a lot more the morning before. The views were magnificent and the wildflowers amazing. The last set of switchbacks to the top of the pass brought out my acrophobia just a bit, but I’ve come a long way fighting my fear of heights. This path’s drop-off, while easy to some, was just another mental challenge for me. And I know it is all in my head – the physical part isn’t an issue. Mind over matter; one foot in front of the other.

The trip was great, and I hope Matt and I can make our way down south to the Lake City and Crested Butte area again sometime. Until then,

Safe travels, everyone!

~ Rob

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When I was younger, I loved to go skiing in the winter. We’d leave our warmer confines in Texas and head to the mountains, making a long (and usually overnight) drive so we could maximize the time spent on the snowy slopes. I even wondered why folks would want to come to Colorado in the summer! Yes, I was young and naive. Now, the times have flipped, and I don’t like being cold!

I love summers in the mountains, and my family makes our home base in Winter Park, Colorado. And while my photography business takes me to different parts of the Rocky Mountain state, the Fraser Valley and Grand County are still the areas I call my home away from home. And Winter Park offers many activities for my family and me, as well as photographic opportunities at sunrise and sunset (and even during the day).

My oldest daughter (8 years old) is learning to fly fish, and starting to enjoy the art of catching a fish on a fly (as opposed to a spin rod that she thinks is “boring.”) Gotta say, that’s my girl! If I’m not fishing with a fly rod, I’d probably just as soon not fish. At the same time, both daughters enjoy strolling down the Fraser River Trail. There are some portions of the river that have nice sand bars with plenty of smooth rocks for skipping. We’ve been entertained for hours with just throwing rocks in the river and building sand castles. It is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

The Fraser River Trail provides beautiful scenery to ride or walk and enjoy the cool shade along the Fraser River.

Between the Winter Park ski base and Fraser, Colorado, the Fraser River trail offers 6 miles of beautiful scenery to enjoy. Whether biking or walking, this path takes you along the Fraser River, though the town of Winter Park, and onto the less-touristy town of Fraser.

Heading south and uphill from the Winter Park and Mary Jane ski areas, Berthoud Pass offers some nice areas for hiking. Trails that follow First Creek and Second Creek take you uphill towards Vasquez Ridge, and at the top of Berthoud Pass, the remnants and trails of an old ski area let you make the hike up to Colorado Mines Peak, the first of several peaks that stretch along the Continental Divide. If you want to bag a few 13ers, this is a beautiful hike that affords vast views of the surrounding valleys. But we wary – nearly all of the hike to Mount Flora, Mount Eva, and over to James Peak is above tree line. If storms come up, you have very few escape routes. So start early and enjoy the mountains!

Mount Flora awakens beneath a beautiful sunrise. Located near Berthoud Pass just south of Fraser and Winter Park, Colorado, the trail to reach this 13er follows the Continental Divide Trail.

From just beneath the Colorado Mines Peak near Berthoud Pass, this mountain landscape view looks across to Mount Flora (13,146′). The trail follows the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) and takes you well above timberline across several prominent peaks. This hike makes for an easy daytrip from Denver or Winter Park and the Fraser Valley. I arrived early and enjoyed a magnificent sunrise on this July morning.

Heading in the opposite direction from Winter Park, the town of Fraser offers nice areas to bike and hike. And if you want to summit one of the more well known peaks in the Fraser Valley, Byers Peak is waiting. Although it doesn’t reach 13,000 feet (just under), it is still a beautiful hike – and not too difficult. The altitude gain is below 3,000′ and in summer the wildflowers bloom along the trail. And like the hikes from Berthoud Pass, start early and avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.

After all the outdoor activities available, you’ll probably work up an appetite! Our favorite pizza is the less heralded Elevation Pizza. While most folks think Hernandos is the best, over the years we’ve grown to like Elevation a little better. But with all the restaurants to choose from, you’re bound to find something that fits your fancy.

I love our time in Winter Park. It always goes by too fast.

Happy Travels, my friends.

~ Rob

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In the summertime, my home base is Winter Park, Colorado. I’ve been spending summers here for 25 years and I feel I know the trails and hidden gems pretty well. Of course, some of the more well known places are worth a visit, as well. Between the resort town of Winter Park and the top of Berthoud Pass on Highway 40, there are many trail that branch off from the highway that are worth exploring.

Running through Winter Park is the Fraser River Trail. This river was once great for fly fishing as it passed through Winter Park and Fraser, but as the years have passed, the river has seen some changes – mostly from construction and growth, and even over-fishing (and folks not practicing catch-and-release). I can remember fishing this area 20 years ago and pulling in rainbows and browns regularly, but now I’m happy to catch a few decent fish on a morning’s excursion. But the banks along the Fraser River also offer some nice areas for photography, especially the wildflowers. Lupine, paintbrush, and columbine grow along the Fraser River Trail, coloring the landscape with bright blues, purples, pinks, and reds.

Colorado wildflowers line the Fraser River Trail in Winter Park, Colorado, and attract hummingbirds, ladybugs, and other wildlife.

A hummingbird hovers near a Lupine along the Fraser River Trail.

As you work your way south up Highway 40 from Winter Park, up the switchbacks, and onto Berthoud Pass, you’ll pass several small creeks that are mostly fed from spring snow melt. First and Second Creek wind up the mountain towards Vasquez Ridge. Along the wet and often swampy banks of these little creeks grow Colorado wildflowers of all colors and shapes. I like to arrive at first light and work my way up the banks, photographing whatever flowers and scenes I come across. On these slopes, I can find peace and solitude – a nice escape from the stresses of everyday life – and I can lose myself (not to be confused with getting lost!) for a few quiet hours.

At the top of Berthoud Pass, the famous Continental Divide Trail (CDT) crosses the highway. I like hiking west up the well-marked trail, following the 14 switchbacks up and over to Russell Peak (12,391′), especially before sunrise. Rarely do I see folks up here that early, and the experience of watching the sun climb over the distant peaks is stunning. Often, there are small yellow sunflowers (Old Man of the Mountain – not to be confused with me) that line the trail and grassy slopes at this lofty elevation. The views atop the small summit offer expansive views of Vasquez Ridge and the valley below. In the distance, you can even see a curve of Highway 40, giving you some perspective about how high up the climb takes you.

 

The Continental Divide Trail near Winter Park, Colorado, provides amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

On the way up the Continental Divide Trail just off of Highway 40, I paused to look back and saw the crescent moon rising in the east just ahead of sunrise.

As you travel back down Highway 40 towards Empire, there is another stop to make and explore – Butler Gulch. But I’ll save this area for a little later. The wildflowers don’t really show up in that area until at least late July.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to follow my journeys on my Colorado facebook page.

Happy Travels!

~ Rob

Images from Colorado

With the heat of summer bearing down on the Lone Star State, I’ve escaped to the mountains of Colorado for a while. With my wife holding down the store front back in the Hill Country, I’m off gallivanting around Colorado in the middle of the night – photographing the Milky Way – and trying to grow our business in the Rocky Mountain State.

I haven’t had the luxury of much sleep lately. A few mornings ago, I shot at the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (the highest paved road in the United States). From this lofty vantage point over 11,000 feet in elevation, the Milky Way is clear and crisp. But to witness the nighttime spectacle, I had to roll out of bed at 1:45am. I normally never use an alarm clock – always able to awaken on my own even for early morning sunrise shots. However, this was a little early for me. I then drove the one-plus hour to RMNP and made my way up the switchbacks, above tree line, set up and enjoyed the light show. Using a star tracker, I took several long exposures of the Milky Way in a few different locations. One location looked across one of the valleys of RMNP where low clouds filled the cracks and crevices. Another, Lake Irene, provided both a trail and a lake to use in different images. I’d photographed Lake Irene many years before at night, but wanted to return in order to produce high quality prints and digital files – some that could go quite large – up to 8 or 9 feet high – and would retain their crispness.

Starry night over Lake Irene in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Irene is a small, high mountain lake sitting at about 10,000 feet in altitude. In early summer – around 3:30am, the Milky Way rises over this area. Here, the beautiful night sky even showed in the reflections of the calm water.

I returned to RMNP a few days later – this time shooting just after sunset when the Milky Way is more in a horizontal position. I also shot this same view of the Milky Way over Lake Dillon Reservoir near Frisco and Breckenridge.

I think now I’ll focus more on sunrise and sunset photographs. The middle-of-the-night stuff is wearing me down!

Feel free to visit my new Colorado gallery. I hope to be adding images to it for quite a while now.

Happy travels, my friends!

~ Rob

Follow my on my Colorado Facebook page, too!

As the summertime weather moves in, it is time for me to head north to the Rocky Mountains. I’m looking forward to working on and adding to my Colorado Images website. I hope to travel around the state for a month or so photographing mountains, towns, and wildflowers – and maybe even the Milky Way if the conditions are right.

I recently spent a week out in west Texas shooting in and around the Davis Mountains. This little state park rests between Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Davis Mountains State Park is small in comparison – only about 2700 acres – but does offer a few trails for hiking and biking. The Skyline Drive Trail boasts some spectacular views of these ancient mountains, and when I was photographing this Texas landscape at sunrise and sunset, I rarely saw another person.

http://www.imagesfromtexas.com/photo/davis-mountains-sunrise-4/

Connected to Davis Mountains S.P. is Fort Davis National Historic Site. You can reach this restored military outpost (manned from 1854 to 1891) by hiking a two mile trail from the Davis Mountains or driving your car to the site’s parking lot. If you hike, the views as you wind down the lava cliffs into the Fort Davis valley are spectacular. Walking the grounds and taking in the exhibits displaying what life was like 150 years ago on the frontier, one can begin to appreciate the harshness of the area and the sacrifices that were made protecting settlers from marauding Indians.

To see a collection of images from this west Texas area, please visit my Images from Texas website.

Thanks, and happy travels!

~ Rob

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I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new website, this one featuring my Colorado images. After the success of Images from Texas, I felt the time was right to start displaying some of my work from the Centennial State.  I’ve created several galleries on the website and will be adding more in the coming weeks, months, and even years. My plans are to feature some of the more popular mountain towns like Ouray, Silverton, Aspen, Breckenridge, and Winter Park. Complementing these galleries will be a collection of wildflower images from American Basin, Yankee Boy Basin, the San Juan mountains, and many other iconic summer locations. Other galleries will showcase hiking trails, mountain summits, including some 14ers, and even  black and white photography. Eventually, I hope to include a Denver gallery by adding both local flavor and skyline images.

Colorado wildflower such as these are often found above tree line in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado wildflowers (Old Man of the Mountain) enjoy the last light of evening on the rocky slopes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Please take a minute to peruse these images. I’ll be adding to this work every day for a while.

Happy Travels! ~ Rob

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Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to photograph one of the favorite vacation destinations of Texans – Port Aransas, Texas. (Go here all of the newest Port Aransas photos.) This little coastal town is just up the road from Rockport and Corpus Christi and provides a relatively close location for a quick getaway, especially from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. I tried to shoot at sunrise and sunset each day I was there. I do love walking the beach in the early morning. Even in the summer, you’ll have the stretch of sand mostly to yourself. Of course, the herons and seagulls will be making their morning rounds looking for small fish and sand crabs.

Port Aransas is beautiful at the beginning and end of the day.

The beach at Port Aransas on the Texas coast is a nice place to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. Here, seagulls soar overhead as the sun sets in the west. Waves roll in gently, reflecting the sunset colors in the soft water and shifting sands.

One of the unique landmarks of the area is the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier. This wooden structure stretches out 1200 feet into the surf, allowing anglers to put their lines in where the fish are. The pier also makes for a nice foreground when the sun is rising in the east.

Seagulls fly over the beach at Port Aransas, Texas.

The sunrise greeted the Texas coast and Port Aransas with a display of orange and blue on this warm June morning. Seagulls coasted overhead as waves rolled onto the sandy beach. In the distance. Caldwell Pier stretched out 1200 feet into the gulf of Mexico.

One thing I discovered while walking the beach in the afternoon is that seagulls like bread. I made the mistake of tossing up a portion of bread to a hovering seagull. Amazingly, and literally within seconds, twenty or more seagulls flapped around me wanting a handout. While this was amusing, I also realized this would make for a unique photo opportunity. Here is the result:

Blue skies and seagulls enjoy a summer afternoon at Port Aransas, Texas.

Port Aransas has a thriving bird population. Here, seagulls coast along this sandy Texas beach. You can even see a half moon rising in the southeast. I don’t normally shoot much during the day, but I do love the contrast between the seagulls and blue sky.

I do look forward returning again in the fall. There are many more places to see and experience, and more seafood to be enjoyed!

Happy Travels.

~ Rob