Category Archives: Marmots

September 2, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Elk Cow and Alpenglow

Elk Cow and Alpenglow

Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmots here in the higher elevations of the park are numerous and fairly unconcerned with humans approaching, so not a terribly challenging wildlife subject, but cute nonetheless.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot

I get a kick out of how they seem to love sunbathing in the first of the sun’s rays each morning.

The Sentry

The Sentry

They live in small colonies and usually one will assume guard duties while others forage.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Young Bull Elk

Young Bull Elk

High Country Elk

Two Young Bull Elk

Two Young Bull Elk

I have gotten a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of elk shots over the past few days. They seem to be moving down from the mountaintops this week and I have run into several groups heading down to their winter feeding grounds in the valleys below.

Two Young Bull Elk

Two Young Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise

Bull Elk and Harem before Sunrise

Four Elk CowsFour Elk Cows

Young Bull Elk

Young Bull Elk

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

I have seen several large, very large bulls, escorting their harems down the slopes. A few of them are probably the largest I have ever seen.

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk Bugle

Bull Elk Bugle

A full 14 points on this guy! And that bugle was very, very loud. This shot was taken at very close range … from the safety of my car.

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Young Bull Elk

Young Bull Elk

Needless to say, one must be very alert to when driving around up here these days as the elk are needing to cross the roads on their way down to the valleys below.

Scratching Post

Scratching Post

That post he is scratching his head on is one of many that were just put out this week to guide the snow plows … guess that’s a sure sign summer is over.

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk Charge

Bull Elk Charge

Uh-oh!

Uh-oh!

These shots just above may look quite alarming, but they were taken with my 600mm lens, and although it may look like I was in imminent danger, I wasn’t, his charge was actually directed at one of his harem, not me.

Bull Elk Bugle

Bull Elk Bugle

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

Bull Elk Bugle

Bull Elk Bugle

Early morning, before all the cars and people get up here, the bugling elk are something to hear. I arrive at the top just at daybreak when the elk are most active and am very glad that few people are ambitious enough to get on the road by 5:30 to catch all the action. As I am leaving the park at 10  or 11 in the morning, I pass long, long lines of cars at the entrance booths, usually a hundred or more, plus a steady bumper to bumper crowd all the way back to town.

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Harem

Bull Elk and Cow

Bull Elk and Cow

That Time of Year

That Time of Year

Bull Elk

Bull Elk

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August 30, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

A Beautiful Morning at the Top of the World

Up and out at 5:15 every morning lately, climbing the mountain road in the dark and arriving at the top just as the first rays of the morning sun start to light up the mountains. The cloudy, overcast skies of the past week broke today, producing some of the nicest weather since my arrival here … oh, and along with the nice break in the weather, i am finally finding the elk up high in the mountains.

Elk in the Valley

Elk in the Valley

The image above, and the one just below were taken at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park. Behind the Center is a deep valley where the elk seem to gather in the very early morning. I have also seen four bull moose bed down there in the evening. It is a long way down.

Elk at the Bottom of the Valley

Elk at the Bottom of the Valley

Elk Herding Harem

Elk Herding Harem

There is a footpath and steps to the mountaintop from the parking lot at the Center. Seeing a bull elk pushing his harem up the mountain there, I decided I would climb to the top and perhaps be in position to get some nice shots. It is probably no more than 250  feet of elevation change from the parking lot to the top of the mountain, at a slope you can see in the images of the elk climbing.

Elk

Elk

Bull Elk and Part of His Harem

Bull Elk and Part of His Harem

I wanted to get to the top before the elk so I could get some shots of them with the sun to my back instead of shooting into the sun as these climbing images were shot.

The Harem

The Harem

But since this short climb was at 12,000 feet, I never did get ahead of the elk, since I had to stop and attempt to get my breath every 30 steps or so.

The Harem

The Harem

At the top, I did get this one image of the stragglers just making the summit, and staring at the photographer who was making all these gasping for air sounds.

Pika

Pika

Just a couple of more pika shots, taken while I waited in vain for a good shot of the long-tailed weasel.

Pika

Ouch!

I have no idea how this little guy can chomp down on this piece of what I am guessing is some sort of nettle.

Pika

That Has Got To Hurt

He made several trips down to the plant, ripped off a leaf and struggled with it back up to his den. Must be some kind of delicacy, since I can’t imagine that it would be used for bedding.

Pika Warning Call

Pika Warning Call

The shot above is of a pika letting out some kind of greeting ( ? ) or warning ( ? ) call.

Long-tailed Weasel

Long-tailed Weasel

Maybe letting others know the long-tailed weasel was in the vicinity. Not a very good shot of him, but the only one I got. I was unprepared for his appearance way down the hill and had my 70-200mm lens on for the close by pikas. By the time I changed to a longer lens, he was long gone.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot

While I sit on the roadside wall taking pika shots, the yellow-bellied marmots quite often get very close, sometimes within just a few feet.

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

What a Day!

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

By 9 AM, I had to quit trying for animal shots and just concentrate on the magnificent clouds and mountains. I had been waiting for a week to finally get a morning like this.

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

The clouds were just spectacular!

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

Rocky Mountain NP, Top of the World

As always, the camera just can’t quite capture the felling of space and distance, but today was truly something special up here at the top of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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July 5, 2016 Pagosa Springs, Colorado

View from Above Wolf Pass

View from Above Wolf Pass

Wolf Pass, Colorado, Goodbye to Jenny

View from Above Wolf Pass

View from Above Wolf Pass

It is only a 10 mile drive to the top of Wolf Pass from where I am staying at the West Fork Campground, about 14 miles north of Pagosa Springs. And when it gets a little too warm at the campsite, that is where I go to cool down and wait for the evening temperatures to drop back to a comfortable level.

Above Wolf Pass

Above Wolf Pass

Above Wolf Pass

Above Wolf Pass

By the time one reaches the summit, the temperature has usually dropped by 20 to even 30 degrees and there is always a strong breeze up here. From sweating down below to pulling on the sweatshirt up here.

Above Wolf Pass

Above Wolf Pass ( Note the Beetle Kill )

The views are stunning but the extensive amount of bark beetle kill is just awful to see, and unfortunately is probably a view into the future when most of these coniferous forests will all be devastated like this.

View from Above Wolf Pass

View from Above Wolf Pass

The beetle kill at this altitude, about 10,000 feet, is probably around 60 % of the forest.

Beetle Kill Near Wolf Pass

Beetle Kill Near Wolf Pass

Marmot Den

Marmot Den

Wildlife and Wildflowers

Marmot Den

Marmot Den

I was shooting some wildflowers on one of the steep roadside banks going up to the overlook above Wolf Pass, when this marmot stuck his head out of his den to see what I was doing in his neck of the woods.

Marmot Sunbathing

Marmot Sunbathing

Figuring I wasn’t much of a threat, he made his way out of the den and up the rocks to get a little late day sun.

Colorado Wildflowers

Colorado Wildflowers

I have read that the wildflower displays the Colorado mountains are famous for occur in mid July and beyond, exact timing, most likely, depending on elevation.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

But up here at Wolf Pass, the show has at least started.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

I won’t even begin to try and identify these individual flowers, not my field of expertise, but I can appreciate their beauty without knowing their names.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Mulie Twins

Mulie Twins

These guys were tiny, couldn’t have been more than a few days old.

Wait for me, Mom

Wait for me, Mom

Sam Checking Out Wildflowers

Sam Checking Out Wildflowers

Jenny’s Last Outing

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

On July 6th, I left Pagosa Springs with an enormous hole in my heart, traveling for the first time on this full-timing gig with only Sam ( Samantha ) for my companion.

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Jenny, my constant companion for almost 16 years, is no more. She has been suffering from some kind of seizures for the past two weeks, her breathing has become very shallow and it was quickly becoming obvious that her end was near. I clipped her long coat just a few days before these shots at Wolf Pass were taken when the heat was making it very hard on her. She and Sam have been all but connected at the hip for 10 years, but Sam has almost always been right at her side the last several days as she obviously knew something was not right.

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Sam even became something of an alert dog as she could sense when Jenny was going into one of her seizures and would jump out of their bed and let me know what was coming just seconds before the seizure would hit. I was hoping that such a wonderful little dog like Jenny would be blessed with a quick and painless end, but for whatever reason, that was not to be.

By July 4th, her breathing was becoming very shallow and rapid, and she was now being hit with a couple seizures a day, so I had to help her out and made an appointment for her to be put to sleep at the veterinary clinic just outside of Pagosa Springs. They were very kind and did a wonderful job of ending Jenny’s suffering, even coming out to the car, so she wouldn’t have to experience the normal dread she went through anytime we approached a vet’s clinic for annual checkups and shots.

Jenny

Jenny

Jenny made it to 15 Years and 9 months, a fairly long life for a small dog, and I can proudly say, I know she had as good a life as any little dog could possibly expect to experience. The look on her face in the image above expressed this inexplicable adoration she had for me. Though certainly friendly, she would barely acknowledge other people, or dogs, and seemed to focus all of her attention on me, why, as I said, I just don’t know.

At Home on the Couch

At Home on the Couch

In our previous life, she had the run of a 6000 SF house and art gallery/frame shop, plus a large yard  to chase squirrels in.

Keeping Me Company in the Workshop

Keeping Me Company in the Workshop

She always had a canine companion and for the last ten years, that was Samantha, seen above in their daytime space behind my work station in the frame shop.

Checking Out New Territory

Checking Out New Territory

Three years ago, the three of us hit the road for this full-timing life, and she was able to experience a lot of North America, exploring lots of new territory.

Jenny Checking Out the Texas Wildflowers

Jenny Checking Out the Texas Wildflowers

…. smelling the wildflowers in Texas

Windblown in the Desert

Windblown in the Desert

….getting windblown in the desert

Jenny In Amish Country

Jenny In Amish Country

…perched on a picnic table watching Amish buggies go by in Pennsylvania.

Photographer's Assistants

Photographer’s Assistants

Accompanying this photographer to too many locations to possibly recall, always there to help me pull gear from the back of the Prius.

At the Beach

At the Beach

And, God, how she loved the beach ( I guess that probably goes for all dogs ). Just run forever, never seeming to tire whenever we hit the sand.

Watching the World Go By

Watching the World Go By

Here watching the world go by from one of her favorite perches when we were wintering on the Port Aransas Beach.

In the past, and unfortunately I have gone through this process many times, I have usually replaced a dog with a new pup fairly quickly because I don’t like to leave the remaining dog without canine companionship, and training a new puppy usually takes my mind off the recently lost pet. This time, I don’t know what I am going to do yet. The sorrow is little deeper than ever before, perhaps a reflection of my own age, but more likely because of the special place this little dog held in my heart.

Rest in peace, Jenny.

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July 19, 2015 Wasilla, Alaska

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

A Gorgeous Day at Hatcher Pass

Yesterday I left Anchorage and travelled a short way north to Wasilla and set up in the Walmart parking lot. I am truly experiencing a real wilderness adventure the past week or so, boondocking first in Cabella’s parking lot and now at Walmart, but the truth of the matter is that I have yet to find a decent private campground in my Alaska travels. All have you packed in like sardines and seem very much overpriced for what they offer.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Three Rocks

Three Rocks

With nice weather predicted for today I was out and about before 7 AM and drove out the Wasilla-Fishhook Road heading for the Hatcher Pass. The Little Susitna River parallels the road as you gain elevation on the way up to the pass, so I had to stop for a few river shots.

Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River

The easily climbed paved road up to the State Historical Park at Hatcher Pass provides several great vantage points for photos as well as a couple of primitive campgrounds that would handle mid-sized rigs.

Hatcher Pass Mine State Historical Park

Hatcher Pass Mine State Historical Park

There are a few restored buildings at the State Park and some old mining facilities that have definitely suffered from years of abandonment.

Old Mine Works

Old Mine Works

Alaska Marmot Catching His Morning Rays

Alaska Marmot Catching His Morning Rays

There also was this Alaskan Marmot warming himself up in the early morning sun.

Alaska Marmot

Alaska Marmot

He appeared pretty used to human presence but kept a close eye on this photographer as I was capturing his image.

Hatcher Pass Road

Hatcher Pass Road

Hatcher Pass

Just before you reach the State Park, there is a gravel road that takes off to the left and heads up to Hatcher Pass itself. This is a little narrow and steep in a couple spots, and although it probably could be done in the motorhome, i wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass

The road climbs for a half mile or so to a small parking area at the very top where you can walk out a footpath for some pretty dramatic views of the valley below where the road then takes you eventually to Willow.

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Some of the high meadows up here have this weird mounded texture. These mounds are about a yard wide and rise up about a foot or so in the center and are covered in moss.

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

I have no idea how or why these exist, and can’t say as I have ever encountered anything like them before.

Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass

At times today, I literally did have my head in the clouds.

Hatcher Pass View From the Top

Hatcher Pass View From the Top

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

As you can see, you are well above treeline up here and the air is crisp and clean, the distant view just simply spectacular.

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

The narrow gravel road, in relatively good shape, leads you down from the pass and to the town of Willow, about thirty miles away.

Mine Tailings

Mine Tailings

Along the road there are a few active mining operations as well as some abandoned ventures.

Sounding the Alarm

Sounding the Alarm

All along this road, especially at the higher elevations, were these ground squirrels, some of whom were a little wary of me …

The Lookout

The Lookout

…and some that probably had discovered that some people will throw them some little treats if they look cute and approach your vehicle.

Ground Squirrel Portrait

Ground Squirrel Portrait

This guy was one of the latter.

All along this road, I was constantly scanning the meadows and mountain slopes looking for wildlife. I was sure I would have to see some sheep or bears somewhere along the way, but I never saw anything, even though I stopped every mile or so and glasssed all the slopes. Perhaps the weekend warriors scared evrything off? It just looks like there would have to be wildlife up here.

Descending to Treeline

Descending to Treeline

The road eventually descends back below treeline, where you start to encounter fireweed once again.

Road to Willow

Road to Willow

Roadside Fireweed

Roadside Fireweed

This was close to a ninety mile round trip and it took me about six hours to make it around with all the stops for photographs. The Willow side of the mountains appears to be a very popular spot for the local ATV crowd.  THere were several pulloffs for camping along that section of the road and on this Sunday afternoon, almost all of them were occupied by campers with ATV’s. The State Park land doesn’t allow ATV’s.

If you are ever in the Wasilla area and have some decent weather, this is a must do trip.

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