January 23, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

A Little Rain in the Desert

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

I was just setting up to do a little painting early this morning when I glanced out the dinette window and noticed some dark clouds approaching from the north. Several minutes later, a fairly brilliant rainbow appeared, so I grabbed the camera and ran outside for a few shots.

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

As the rain began falling a little harder a second rainbow started to form, but unfortunately, the wind was blowing the rain directly at the camera and I was forced to retreat inside.

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

Still, a nice way to begin your day!

House Finches
Full House

The tray feeder continues to attract a crowd, with the finches, sparrows, and doves feeding here pretty much all day long.  I never thought I would see this number of birds here in the desert. Unfortunately for a few of these little guys, the large number of birds now gathering on and around the feeder has attracted the attention of a Coopers Hawk who checks in on the situation several times a day and causes quite a commotion when he appears. I haven’t actually seen the hawk grab anyone yet, but there have been a couple of times when I have gone out to replenish the feeder and seen him take flight from the ground just 30 feet away. The fact that he is on the ground most likely means he did grab somebody. Cruel, but I suppose everybody does have to eat.

If you right click on the image above ( or any image ) you should be able to see a larger version of the image.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

Finally got a few poor shots of the Gambel’s Quail as they bob around under the feeder and scratch around the rocks.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

They are very wary and flush at the slightest sound or movement, so these images were taken through the glass. They are very amusing to watch as they chase off the doves and sparrows feeding on the ground with them.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

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September 3, 2016 Estes Park, Colorado

Cow Elk
Cow Elk

Strange Morning, Great Day

Saturday’s forecast had called for clear skies and beautiful weather, so I was a little surprised to see clouds obscuring some of the stars as I packed my gear in the Prius and left the campsite for Trail Ridge around 5 AM.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
The Start of a Strange Morning on Trail Ridge

As I started the climb up Ridge Road, I stopped for a couple sunrise shots, made more impressive by the threatening skies moving in.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge

There was a weird red/magenta glow in the sky as dark clouds began to dominate the skies the higher up the road I climbed.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

As I neared the top, I stopped and hopped out of the car as a fairly bright rainbow suddenly appeared out of the gloom. I was so close to the rainbow, I couldn’t get the entire thing in a photo even with a 20mm wide angle lens, felt like I could just about reach out and touch it at times.

Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

The rainbow increased in intensity as the wind began whipping rain sideways, and, unfortunately, right in my face as I attempted more shots, covering the lens, and me, in rain and forcing me to retreat to the car.

Trail Ridge Rainbow
Trail Ridge Rainbow

I raced farther up the road hoping in vain to escape the windblown rain so I could get more shots of one of the most intense rainbows I have ever seen, but as I drove on, the rainbow faded and eventually all but the tail end disappeared before I could get out of the driving rain.

Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
Strange Morning on Trail Ridge
From Trail Ridge
From Trail Ridge

By 8 AM, the rains stopped, the clouds slowly lifted and the good weather promised for today started moving in.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

On my way back down the mountain, I spotted four Bighorn Rams grazing on the slope above me, but unfortunately, there was no nearby pullout and the Saturday morning stream of traffic coming up the mountain made it impossible for me to get any decent shots.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

Since these guys were the only Bighorn Sheep I had encountered in my two weeks here, I was more than a little disappointed, to say the least.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk

By the time I returned to the valley floor, the wonderful weather predicted for today had fully arrived. And with it my first opportunity to shoot some nice bull elk basking in the early morning sun.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Two Bull Elk
Uneasy Peace

This actually was my first opportunity to shoot elk with some wonderful golden hour light, all my previous encounters have been in the dim light of dawn or duck, or in complete shade.

Two Bull Elk
Uneasy Peace
Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk Sparring

These two younger bulls would alternate grazing and semi serious sparring sessions.

Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk Sparring
Bull Elk in Retreat
Bull Elk in Retreat

One of them finally tired of the game and headed across the meadow at a full gallop.

Chapel on the Rock
Chapel on the Rock

Later in the afternoon, I took a short trip back down Route 7 to get some shots of The Chapel on the Rock. I liked the dark clouds setting off the sculpture on the hill above the chapel. When I was here several years ago, I remember this building being surrounded by water, actually appearing to be built on an island, so something has changed here in the last few years.

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July 19, 2016 Ridgeway State Park, Colorado

Black Sky
Black Sky

A Little Rain, a Little Drama Along the Million Dollar Highway

Dark Sky
Dark Sky

Well, yesterday we finally saw some of the dramatic afternoon storms I had been told of. So, hoping to get something a little exciting, like a lightning streaked sky against a mountain backdrop, I set out for the top of the Million Dollar Highway to see what I might see.

Dark Sky
Dark Sky

The dark threatening skies allowed the setting sun to peak through every now and then illuminating the peaks of some of the colorful mountaintops around Red Mountain Pass.

Red Mountain Rainbow
Red Mountain Rainbow

Then it got a little weird, and threatening. The skies were suddenly glowing with this strange yellow cast and thunder was cracking all around, though I never saw any lightning.

Red Mountain Rainbow
Red Mountain Rainbow

Now being around 8:30 PM, I headed back down the mountain for home, but had to stop as the skies opened up and rain blasted the windshield. As I passed Red Mountain, I could see the beginnings of a rainbow  above the peak. I pulled off the road and tried to position the car so I could take some shots through the open driver’s side window, shielded somewhat from the driving rain.

Red Mountain Rainbow
Red Mountain Rainbow

Not the best of conditions to get some rainbow shots, with little light and rain blowing sideways, but a very dramatic sight to see.

Tomorrow I break camp and leave Ridgway heading just a few miles farther north and east to around Cimarron, where I hope to explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and make the drive up to Crested Butte, the wildflower capital of Colorado, to see if I can locate some of those fields of wildflowers I have not been able to find as of yet.

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July 24, 2015 Wasilla to Cantwell, Alaska

Rainbow Over the Parks Highway
Rainbow Over the Parks Highway

A Few Surprises Heading North to Denali

Spotted Horse
Spotted Horse

Since I awoke to rain at my wonderful boondocking spot in the Wasilla Walmart parking lot, I decided to forego loading the Prius and getting soaked and so decided to make a final drive along some of the back roads in the area. I found this neat horse along the Farm Loop Road, grazing alone amongst the fireweed and knee high grasses.

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

Spotted Horse
Spotted Horse
Moss Abstract
Moss Abstract

These colorful mosses along the roadside also caught my eye and I managed to snap a couple shots as the sun was starting to poke through the rain clouds here and there.

Moss Abstract
Moss Abstract

By 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the sun was drying things out so I returned to camp and loaded up the Prius, did my last minute stocking up on groceries for Denali at Walmart, and headed north on the Parks Highway.

Rainbow Over the Parks Highway
Rainbow Over the Parks Highway

North to Denali

About an hour or two into my drive north, the skies clouded over once again and I ran through some intermitant showers. As I passed the Mount McKinley Viewing Areas, both South and North, all I could see were low hanging clouds, clinging to the mountains to the west, no possible sighting of McKinley.

Pot of Gold ?
Pot of Gold ?

As the rain became a little more serious, I decided to pull off the highway around MM 203.5, a little south of Cantwell, and make camp for the night. I knew that the intersection with the Denali Highway was just a few more miles north of here and I figured this pulloff would be a good place to unload the Prius and explore the road conditions on the Denali Highway to see if I wanted to take the motorhome in there to boondock.

It turned out to be a bit of good fortune that I stopped at this particular spot as a rainbow appeared not long after I got myself setup. I wish I could have gotten some better shots of it, but I was really struggling trying to keep my equipment from getting too wet as this particular rainbow presented itself accompanied by the heaviest rains I have encountered so far here in Alaska. And when the rains subsided, the rainbow disappeared. Oh well, nice to see one after a long dry spell between rainbows for me. Though quite unexpected, I managed to pick up a pretty good Verizon data signal here and was able to do some blog posts from this location.

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

Finally, Mount McKinley Appears !

The very next morning, I was up a little late, for me, and when I went outside with the dogs at 7 AM, I was stunned by this view back south along the Parks Highway … Mount McKinley ! Absolutely clear blue sky and not even any mountain created clouds starting to show around the base or the peak of the mountain.

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell
Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

This was shot from my campsite with my 600mm lens from about 40 or 50 miles away. So since I never even saw the mountain in my two weeks in the area back on my last trip to Alaska, and since the extended weather forecast for my time here this year does not look too promising, I had no choice but to unload the Prius and backtrack 70 miles to try and get some shots of the mountain.

Mount McKinley from the North Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the North Viewing Area

This is a shot of the tip of McKinley taken afrom the North Viewing Area along the Parks Highway at MM 162.7. Not the best place to get a shot of the mountain as other shorter mountains block the view. There is a large parking lot with side by side camping here, not my cup of tea for sure.

From the North Viewing Area
From the North Viewing Area

These are some of the mountains south of McKinley shot from the North Viewing Area.

MM 134.8 Denali Viewpoint South

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area

Finally, a shot of Mount McKinley, 22 years in the making for me! This shot was taken from the parking area of this turnoff. Simply a spectacular sight.

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area

To the right of the parking lot viewing area, there is a trail that takes you up a hill to another, even better viewing area, overlooking the Chulitna River. If you get here on a day when the mountain is visible, BE SURE to take the short walk up to this second viewpoint, it should not be missed. ( Also, be sure to click on some of these images to see the larger, sharper version )

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
View From South Viewing Area
View From South Viewing Area

The jagged peaks of the mountains surrounding McKinley are quite impressive in their own right.

Jagged Peaks
Jagged Peaks

After spending an hour or so here ( I even put the camera down for a bit, sat back and just drank in the grandeur of the scene in front of me, something I often forget to do ), I turned around and headed the 70 miles back to my roadside campsite.

Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway

What a difference a day can make! These three images above are of just one of the multi-colored mountainsides that were completely concealed along the Parks Highway by yesterdays inclement weather. They were passed by yesterday without even a second glance, and today, just breathtaking.

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