Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sawtooth Range, Idaho - June 2017

Mt. Mount McGown Peak at sunrise in the Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.  Mountain photography by Aaron Spong
McGown Peak at Sunrise - Prints available

For anyone considering a trip to the Sawtooths in Idaho, I have a few observations from our recent hikes that could be helpful.

First, early June is too early for backpacking to the higher lakes.  The continuous snow began at about 7,500 ft. covering the trails which made route finding difficult without a GPS.  Many of the rivers do not have bridges built to cross them and were too high and strong to safely cross (especially with a dog).

Second, if you want to stick to lower elevation areas, then June is an excellent time to go.  The entire area was empty.  I didn't once encounter another person on any of the trails other than Fishhook Creek.  The dispersed campsites (non-pay campsites) were all empty as well.  The weather was cool and mosquitoes were not too bad compared to the horror stories from other trip reports.  Deer and Elk were all over the place.  I would bet that even in the height of summer this area still sees light crowds compared to what we're used to in the mountains near Denver.

 Third, The Sawtooth Range is stunning.  Hands down one of the prettiest places I've been.  The beauty of the jagged peaks rivals that of the Teton Range or anything in Colorado. 

The original plan was to hike a loop from Pettit Lake to Redfish Lake camping at specific locations along the way including Alice, Toxaway, Cramer, and Baron lakes.  The snow and river crossings made this unrealistic and the new plan was to do day hikes/backpacks to lower elevation areas.

Sunrise at little redfish lake with Heyburn Mountain and Horstmann Peak Stanley Idaho
Heyburn Mountain and Horstmann Peak

Reflection on Pettit Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.
Pettit Lake

It started raining on the first morning and continued for the next 24 hours with a light dusting of snow.  Never fun.  There was a flood warning for Stanley that night. 

The weather was better for the next couple days.

Sunrise on Hell Roaring Lake with the Finger of Fate
Sunrise at Hell Roaring Lake - Prints available

Reflection in Hell Roaring Lake reflection the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho
Hell Roaring Reflection

Meadow with river and Horstmann Peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho
Fishhook Creek Meadow - Prints Available

Cloudy reflection of McGown Peak in Stanley Lake Idaho.
Stanley Lake  - Yep, this is a real place.

pppp  Sawtooth Range Wilderness mountains from near Stanley, Idaho with wildflowers.
Sawtooth Range Panorama - Prints Available

The Grand Mogul reflected in Little Redfish Lake near Stanley, Idaho
Grand Mogul - Prints Available

Alturas Lake near Stanley Idaho in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area
Alturas Lake - I fell in the water after this shot.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fern and Odessa Lakes - RMNP

Thanks to Grandma for watching the kids so Cami and I could take a hike into Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was a perfect weather day and a treat to spend a day in a beautiful place with my beautiful wife!

Typical vagrants in Estes Park
Sunrise on Moraine Park with the Big Thompson River in springtime Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Big Thompson River and Moraine Park at dawn - Prints available

The hike to Fern Lake (9,500ish ft.) was snow free on an easy trail.  At Fern Falls, we walked right up to a backpacker who was taking pictures of the waterfall.  The falls were so loud that he didn't hear our voices or footsteps.  It startled him and he jumped and accidentally dropped his smartphone in the water!  Just kidding.  He didn't drop his phone, but we did give him a good scare.  We wouldn't see another soul for the rest of the morning, which is rare for this part of the park. 

Fern Falls was violent from the spring snow melt

Fern Lake Rocky Mountain National Park Near Estes Park, Colorado
Fern Lake - Prints available

Fern Lake Panorama

The trail past Fern Lake was completely covered in snow.  The nice thing about spring hiking in the National Park is that all the snow on the trails has been packed down by the many visitors walking on them.  This makes for easy hiking on top without the dreaded postholing.  All we needed were microspikes on our boots. 

We had the lake all to ourselves for lunch.

Springtime wide angle photograph of Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado
Odessa Lake with Notchtop Mountain - Prints available

Photograph of Notchtop Mountain reflecting in Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park RMNP
Odessa Lake vertical

Friday, June 2, 2017

Postholing to Emmaline Lake - June 2017

James and I spent a day hiking, snowshoeing, and postholing to Emmaline Lake in the Comanche Peak Wilderness west of Ft. Collins.

 "The best way to train for long days in the mountains is long days in the mountains."

Moose or Elk tracks

Cirque meadow in the Comanche Peak Wilderness Colorado
Cirque Meadow

Once we reached the lake, the storm clouds rolled in and we got hailed on and had to take cover in some bushes.

Emmaline Lake...Hail began 10 seconds after this shot

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flatirons hike - May 2017

Flatirons Wildflowers - Prints Available

Took a quick sunrise trip to Chautauqua Park to see how the wildflowers were looking.  The heavy rain and snow this spring must be pushing it back a bit.  There were a few pockets that were blooming, but most of the area is a couple weeks away yet. 

Lupines at sunrise - Prints Available

I'd never actually hiked up into the hills around the flatirons before.  I decided to hike to the top of Flatiron #1.  Probably should have done some research, because it turns out that you can't "hike" to the top.  It's a technical climb, which i quickly learned as I reached some sketchy scrambling below the summit.  Nope... not trying that.  Still a beautiful area to hike up to.  It's no surprise the park is so popular.  Not too crowded at dawn though!  I saw only one other person on the way up at 6:00 am, but passed dozens on the way down an hour later.   

Flatiron #3

 Great views of Indian Peaks 

This was the stopping point

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Family Trip - Great Sand Dunes National Park

High Dune from Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado
Great Sand Dunes from High Dune - Prints available

Family trips can be difficult, but rewarding.  It's a chore hauling two kids across the state between baby crying and traffic and the occasional "Are we there yet?"

"How many more minutes until we're at the sand dunes Daddy?"

"About 200 Sweetie."

Road to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the San Luis Valley
Road to the Sangre de Cristos - Prints available

Then you get to your destination and put sunscreen on, hats, water, bottle, snacks, jackets, etc.  Did we forget anything? 

"Just stuff him in there!"

"Should we change his diaper first?"

"Too late he's already buckled in the seat.  I'm not taking him out again!"

"If he gets his pants dirty, I'm going to be upset.  Those are the only other pair we brought."

"It'll be fine.  He can just go without pants.  He's a baby!"  

Once we finally start on the sand, all is good in the world.

Scroll at your own risk.

 KD made it all the way to the top without complaining... much. 

He loves the sand!

This was also a photography trip.  In the evenings, I abandoned the wife and children at the hotel and went out in search of some landscape beauty.   The weather was pretty good both days with some clouds making for great shots of the mountains and dunes.

Sunset over the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve Colorado Star Dune and the Crestones
Sunset over Star Dune and the 14ers from the south - Prints available

Sunrise on the Blanca Group.  Mt. Lindsey at right - Prints available

The second evening I hiked up to the top of (9000ish ft.) High Dune for some close up shots of the mountain range.  I had done this once before, but forgot how Incredible the view is.  I would highly recommend hiking up there if you go to the park.  It's a bit of work, but well worth it.  The winds picked up as I approached the top.  Also, make sure to cover your skin (and your camera) so you don't get sandblasted.

Approaching the top

Panorama from High Dune in the late afternoon

Sunset clouds over the Sand Dunes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado
Sunset from High Dune - Prints available

Fiery Sunset Over the Dunes - Prints available