Friday, January 8, 2021

5 Colorado Photography Locations You Can Drive To (No Hiking Required)

 


If you're photographing the high mountains of Colorado and don't really feel like going on a strenuous hike, you might want to look into a few locations that have easy access for your low clearance 2 wheel drive vehicle.  This might especially be true if you are visiting from near sea level.  Altitude sickness is a thing!  Here are of few of my favorite spots that you can shoot just by getting out of your car:


1.  Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to visit.  If you want a true alpine experience above treeline, take the drive along trail ridge road.  Enjoy alpine wildflowers, unique rock formations and stunning views of Longs Peak and the Continental Divide.  All of this can be had from pull-offs along the road.  Keep in mind, there is a National Park fee and this place can get crowded on summer weekends.  





2. Chautauqua Park, Boulder
 
 
 
The city of Boulder sits along the base of the Front Range foothills a short drive from Denver. The most iconic features here are the Flatirons - huge rocky crags that shoot out from the landscape.  Great views can be seen from the entrance.  In fact, the above picture was taken standing in the parking lot!





3. Crested Butte


 
 Crested Butte is called the "Wildflower Capitol of Colorado".  A super neat town with abundant foliage and aspen groves all around it.  From here, you can literally just pick any road to drive down and see great views.  Kebler pass is a great spot in the fall.  It boasts the largest aspen grove in the country...err...world!





4. Dallas Divide
 
 

 The Sneffels Range near the historic town of Ouray is known as "Switzerland of America".  The mountains here are unique and jagged rising abruptly from the landscape below.  Taking Hwy 62 from Ridgway to Telluride goes along the Dallas Divide.  Prime country here.  You can't trespass onto this pasture land that is own by Ralph Lauren, but the best views are along the road anyway.  Once when standing here, I could hear elk bugling and cattle mooing at the same time.





5. Great Sand Dunes National Park
 

 
 Want to go to an ocean-less beach in the middle of the mountains?  The Great Sand Dunes are a true natural wonder.  The highest ones rise up to an elevation of 9,000 ft.  They are super fun to play in with kids, (or adults) but are a bit of a workout if you want to climb to the top.  No worries though, the prime photography spots are near the entrance to the park.  



Got any other easy access photography spots?  Let me know what else could be added to the list!






Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Backpacking in the Wind Rivers - August 2020

 

The last week of summer we spent 3 days backpacking in the Wind River mountains of northwestern Wyoming.  This was my first trek into this stunning area.  Zach had visited this location multiple times before and always spoke about its beauty.  Well...it didn't disappoint.  I was told that these mountains have always been a best kept secret of the locals in the area.  Apparently, some people are letting the secret out because the trailheads were totally full with vehicles parked a mile down along the road.  In all his years coming up here, Zach had never seen so many visitors to the area.  I know that our Colorado mountains are getting overpopulated, but this was kind of sad to see a spot that's in the middle of nowhere in the least populated state have such traffic.  The silver lining is that it's likely the Corona-virus is the cause of so many people going to the mountains.  With everything else shut down, there's not much for people to do.  Outdoor activities are one of the only "safe" suggestions given to us from the government.  Hopefully, once the virus induced madness has subsided, the mountains will belong to the regulars again. 

This was also my first venture into grizzly country.  I slept very little the night before we went on this trip.  It wasn't because I was afraid of grizzly bears, but because I was afraid of not being able to sleep at night in the tent because of the thoughts about grizzly bears.  

"There's nothing to fear but fear itself" 

This is a true statement.  Fortunately, I was so exhausted by the time we reached Dads Lake due to lack of sleep that I slept like a baby that night.  No bear problems, just lots of people.


Dads Lake Wind River Wyoming
Dads Lake - Prints Available


Mirror Lake

 

The next day we planned on heading to Pyramid Lake, then on the third day hit Shadow Lake near the Cirque de Towers.  We quickly realized that we were not in great backpacking shape.  So, we decided to do one or the other.  Zach was partial to Shadow, so there we went.  The views on the backside of the cirque are stunning:

 

A small pond with views of the Mt. Hooker group


 

First views of the Cirque

 

 

As we sat at our camp that afternoon, a young girl only 21 years old came by and visited with us.  She was doing the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico....on foot....by herself.  Wow!  You could tell that she was a little starved for any type of connection with real people as she lingered around our camp for a good hour or so talking about all her adventures so far and her plans for the next few months.  Finally, we offered her some of our extra snacks from our packs which she gladly accepted.  It's crazy to think about someone so vulnerable just walking across the wilderness by herself.  This is not a thing I would ever support my own daughter doing.   In our minds, the biggest danger for someone in her situation is not the animals or elements, but the crazy people she might happen upon.  Still, we were amazed at her bravery and dedication toward accomplishing such a lofty goal. 

 

Sunset on Shadow Lake - Prints Available


Shadow Lake Cirque De Towers Sunrise Wind River Range Wyoming
Sunrise on Shadow Lake - Prints Available



 

 

 





Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Sunrise from Handies Peak - July, 2020

Colorado 14er Handies Peak with American Peak in the San Juan Mountain Range
Sunrise from Colorado 14er Handies Peak - Prints available


This weekend, was kind of a cool 14er reunion for James, Brad and I.  The three of us used to hike 14ers together often when we were in our 20's.  So it was cool to catch up and relive a little of those experiences.  Jimmy and Lindsey joined us this time for a hike in the dark to catch the sunrise from the top.  We started at 2AM on the trail.  Yes... waking up is the hardest part.  In the dark, we lost the trail a couple times near Sloan Lake and had to backtrack using our GPS, but had just enough time to reach the ideal height to see the show.  The sunrise was cloudless, but the sky turned all colorful.  We were wondering if we'd be able to see the NEOWISE comet, but I think it was on the horizon behind the mountains while we were on our way up.


Mt. Sneffels in the distance

The Vermilion Group in the distance

Half Peak left of center (I think)

Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn




Surprisingly, there were a few other parties up there for the sunrise.  I suppose even the more remote 14ers are gaining popularity.  The hike down was leisurely and we got to "frolic" in the wildflowers which American Basin is known for.  The flowers weren't as lush this year as I've seen in the past, but still good. 











Sloan Lake





Jimmy decided that he's not a fan of heights on this hike, especially as we drove along the shelf road with hoards of 4-wheelers passing us along the way.  We stopped in Lake City for the best burger ever at the American Elk Grill and Inn before our long drive back home.  It was a lot of driving and hiking and not a lot of sleeping.  Man, that seemed like it was a lot easier on your body a decade ago.