August 15, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

A Trip Up Mount Evans

From the Mount Evans Road

From the Mount Evans Road

The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved roadway in North America, topping out at 14,130 feet. IMHO it also has to be one of, if not the most spectacular roads I have ever driven.

From the Mount Evans Road

From the Mount Evans Road

Climbing over 7,000 feet in 28 miles, the road travels through groves of evergreens at the start, then …

Mount Evans Bristlecone Pine

Mount Evans Bristlecone Pine

… through a rare forest of ancient, some as much as 2,000 years old, Bristlecone Pines …

Above Treeline on the Mount Evans Road

Above Treeline on the Mount Evans Road

… then breaks above treelike, providing spectacular long range vistas.

From the Mount Evans Road

From the Mount Evans Road

Above Treeline on the Mount Evans Road

Above Treeline on the Mount Evans Road

There are many miles of road above treeline, with several switchbacks and lots of unprotected drop-offs, as in no guardrails. Not for the faint of heart, but truly spectacular views.

Above Treeline on the Mount Evans Road

Above Treeline on the Mount Evans Road

Mount Evans Road From the Summit

Mount Evans Road From the Summit

At the Summit of Mount Evans

At the Summit of Mount Evans

There is a small paved parking lot at the summit …

At the Summit of Mount Evans

At the Summit of Mount Evans

… where the adventurous can scramble up these large boulders to the true peak of the mountain. Delighted that I could still simply breathe at this altitude, I decided not to push my luck and join those folks up there in the clouds.

Summit of Mount Evans

Summit of Mount Evans

Mount Evans Crest House, the castle in the sky, was completed in 1941 and was destroyed in a fire in 1979. The surviving stone and concrete walls were stabilized and the remnants of the building now serve as an observation structure. During my hour at the summit, the weather went from sunny and hazy, though still brisk in the 50’s, to blue sky, to light rain, to snowing, much to the delight of several of the small kids at the top.

Nanny and Kid

Nanny and Kid

Mount Evans Mountain Goats

Much to my delight, just below the summit, I noticed this mountain goat mom and kid taking a noon time siesta. Though not that far from the road, they were actually pretty easy to miss amongst all the light rocks surrounding them.

Mount Evans Nanny

Mount Evans Nanny

I pulled my photo gear out of the car and hiked off the road a bit to get a little closer once the mom and kid got up and began to graze.

Mount Evans Nanny on the Move

Mount Evans Nanny on the Move

Mom was joined by another nanny and kid that I had failed to initially see, and they slowly started walking across the side of the mountain.

Two Kids

Two Kids

The two kids joined up and fell in behind their moms …

Mount Evans Two Mountain Goat Kids

Mount Evans Two Mountain Goat Kids

… but like any small kids, one of these guys seemed to be a bit of an agitator ….

Two Kids

Two Kids

… turning and blocking the other’s way …

Mount Evans Two Mountain Goat Kids

Mount Evans Two Mountain Goat Kids

… not letting him catch up to his mom, as he clearly wanted to do.

Mount Evans Two Mountain Goat Kids

Mount Evans Two Mountain Goat Kids

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Not far away, I spotted a solitary male, surveying his domain, still wearing the remnants of last winter’s coat.

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

He soon was off, heading up the slope towards the summit.

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Loved getting the opportunity to get some nice shots of a large male mountain goat in his high altitude habitat.

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Not having ever had the opportunity to be this close to a mountain goat before, I was impressed with just how stocky and powerfully built this rugged guy was. Living up here in this rarefied air, I imagine a lot of that bulk has be taken up with a large set of lungs.

Three Mountain Goats

Three Mountain Goats

As I descended, I noticed more goats feeding and bounding amongst the large boulders that make up most of the summit of the mountain.

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Mount Evans Mountain Goat

Pretty nimble, graceful fellows.

Mount Evans Mountain Goats

Mount Evans Mountain Goats

A great pose from a pair of Mount Evans mountain goats. After two months of searching for elk, goats, and sheep, with nothing to show for it, I have now found two of the three just this week during my stay at Twin Lakes. Though I didn’t bother to take any shots, being just too far away, I also found a large herd of Bighorn Sheep, ewes and lambs only, while heading down the mountain.

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August 13, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

Big Horn Ram

Big Horn Ram

At Long Last, A Little Wildlife

Big Horn Ram

Big Horn Ram

Sunday afternoon, and though I usually don’t stray too far from camp on weekends, choosing not to battle the summer hordes, I got a little bored late in the day and grabbed my gear and drove just a couple miles south to see what might be up the Clear Creek Canyon Road. I had actually debated with myself whether to bother loading all the camera gear in the car, seeing as how I didn’t consider my route one that would yield any wildlife.

Big Horn Ram

Big Horn Ram

Not that far past the reservoir, as I was about to round a little bend, a hundred pound rock came bouncing down the embankment to the right of the road, straight out in front of me, barely missing the front of the car. Now this rock was about a foot tall and my 3 inch clearance Prius was going to have some trouble going over it, so I backed up to go around, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw what caused the rock to come tumbling down the hill.

Big Horn Ram

Big Horn Ram

A small mixed group of Bighorn Sheep was clamoring along the hillside, dislodging rocks as they went.

Young Bighorn Ram

Young Bighorn Ram

Big Horn Ram

Big Horn Ram

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams

Big Horn Rams and Lamb

Big Horn Rams and Lamb

There were two lambs and two females traveling along with six or seven rams. Their destination, a mineral lick.

Gathering at the Mineral Lick

Gathering at the Mineral Lick

And this hillside obviously was some sort of mineral lick.

Mineral Lick

Mineral Lick

Mineral Lick

Mineral Lick

The embankment was pockmarked with holes like the one in the image above, where the sheep have licked and poked their noses into the clay to get at the minerals they crave. The mineral licks are an important source of sodium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, and other micronutrients for the bighorn sheep.

Gathering at the Mineral Lick

Gathering at the Mineral Lick

Gathering at the Mineral Lick

Gathering at the Mineral Lick

Still no elk or mountain goats, but now I at least have one species crossed off my Rocky Mountain Wildlife list.

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August 12, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

A Day Trip Over Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Yet another wonderful blue sky Colorado day so I was up early and headed south to travel the road over Cottonwood Pass.

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Early Morning Fishermen

Early Morning Fishermen

In my Colorado Benchmark Atlas, I noticed a note on the map showing a Mountain Goat Viewing Area down a side road off the road to the pass, so I ventured down that-away. The viewing area was on the opposite side of the road from this small lake, dotted with early morning fisherman.

A Pair of Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels

A Pair of Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels

Now there certainly was some very mountain “goaty” looking terrain down the road, but the only wildlife I encountered were these two ground squirrels. I spent quite a bit of time scanning the vertical cliffs above the road with my binos, but did not find any goats.

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

As was the case with my trip over Independence Pass a couple of days ago, the scenery along the road was nothing short of breathtaking.

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Along the Road to Cottonwood Pass

The road is paved all the way to the pass  ( elevation 12,126′ ) from the east side and turns into a fairly wide, pretty much great gravel road down the west side. There are some switchbacks on the west side and short sections of washboarded surface, but all in all, a good gravel road, as witnessed by the number of large 5th wheels and motorhomes traversing the route to Taylor Park Reservoir.

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

I wonder if this scenery eventually gets taken for granted by folks that live here?

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

On the Road to Cottonwood Pass

Taylor Reservoir From Cottonwood Pass

Taylor Reservoir From Cottonwood Pass

This is a distant shot of Taylor Park Reservoir where there are two campgrounds, a primitive one at the north end with 6 or 7 nice flat level pull throughs for large rigs, and a nice more developed large campground at the south end that had many sites with utilities and several were large enough for big rigs.

At the reservoir, I turned around and retraced my steps back home, a yet another gorgeous trip through the mountains of Colorado.

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August 11, 2016 Twin Lakes, Colorado

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

The Blue Cup Returns to Action

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Being unable to locate any wildlife on the roads here in the mountains of Colorado, to get my wildlife fix, I was forced to dig out the old blue metal coffee cup and lure in what wildlife I could find here at the campsite.

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Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

A little on the ” Blue Cup ” can be found in this older post, from my campsite in Pagosa Springs, where I first captured a couple of chipmunks trying to gain sole possession of a source of food.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Here at the Lakeview Campground, I have Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, at least three of them, in addition to about eight Least Chipmunks, and a flock of Juncos all competing peacefully for bounty contained in the cup and scattered around it on my picnic table.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels and Least Chipmunks

Whereas the two chipmunks back at Pagosa Springs aggressively would drive the other away, here everyone seems willing to share the bounty. I have seen no aggression between species or individuals of the same species. Even the Juncos would hop right into the midst of feeding chipmunks to grab their fair share of seeds.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunk

I started shooting at mid day and experimented with a couple of different backgrounds ….

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel and Least Chipmunks

… but wasn’t really pleased with the results.

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

So, bright and early the next morning, I moved my setup to the other end of the picnic table and waited for the sun to poke it’s head over the mountain to the east, and found the perfect background … the shadows of the surrounding pines.

Least Chipmunks

Least Chipmunks

Least Chipmunks

Least Chipmunks

There are times when there are as many as five little chipmunks all gathered around the cup chowing down, or waiting to get a spot inside the cup where the real goldmine of seeds is located.

Least Chipmunks and Junco

Least Chipmunks and Junco

Two or three Juncos will quite often come in to share the feast. They appear to have no fear of hopping right in amongst the chipmunks or the much larger squirrels.

Junco and Least Chipmunks

Junco and Least Chipmunks

The wonderful lighting conditions only last for an hour or so until the sun gets high enough to start throwing some bright areas into the background, so I have to wait another day to get more shots with this dark background. I’m afraid you haven’t seen the last of these little guys .. they continue to just crack me up.

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