July 27, 2016 Cimarron, Colorado

North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte

A Week of Exploring the Back Roads

Lupines
Lupines

I have spent the last week traveling over 600 miles on the gravel back roads searching for fields of wild flowers and wildlife. Haven’t been terribly successful with either.

Sheep Grazing Among the Lupines
Sheep Grazing Among the Lupines

The best shows of wildflowers seem to occur at an elevation of over 9000 feet, so the Prius has had to work hard this week and has taken me places I probably shouldn’t be going. Even had the thrill of having to change out a flat tire while coming down a 10% grade at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, got to gasping a bit for breath while doing that task.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers

Though finding a few spots where the meadows were quite colorful, just not finding all that many areas where there are more than two or three types of flowers in bloom at the same time, not as nice as some of the images I have seen online over the years.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers
North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte

I made a day long 240 mile trip to check out the mountain roads around Crested Butte, the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado” that yielded some dramatic mountain scenery but not all that much in the way of wildflowers.

North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
Backroads near Crested Butte
Backroads near Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
North of Crested Butte
Sunrise, Black Canyon National Park
Sunrise, Black Canyon National Park

Also did a quick morning trip into Black Canyon National Park, a place I have visited before, and not one of my favorites.

Black Canyon National Park
Black Canyon National Park

If you are ever here, the road down to the East Portal is something to see … and drive, a 16% grade that runs for over two miles down to the river. The Prius complained a bit on the way down but really moaned driving back up and out. One very SERIOUS descent and ascent, needless to say, no trailers or motorhomes allowed on this road.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet

Despite all the miles covered on back roads at high elevations, wildlife sightings have been few and far between. I have yet to even spot an elk.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet

This is one of a group of four mule deer bucks, still in velvet, that I did encounter.

Mulie Buck in Velvet
Mulie Buck in Velvet
Shiras Moose
Shiras Moose

And this is Shiras Moose, the smallest of the moose subspecies, and not all that numerous here in Colorado. Though I couldn’t get a good shot of it, this cow was accompanied by her young calf, but the calf was a little camera shy.

Black Canyon RV Park
Black Canyon RV Park

I have been staying at a private RV park on Route 50 just a little past Cimarron, Colorado called the Black Canyon RV Park and Cabins. A very neat and clean park with a wonderful owner and surprisingly quiet. Most of the campers here are long term with just a very few overnighters. The sites are reasonably spaced on fairly level grass pads. Full hookups with the absolute best campground WiFi I have ever encountered, which was a big plus, since there is absolutely no Verizon signal here whatsoever.

My thirteen year old refrigerator died when I first pulled in here and I have spent a good deal of time trying to find anyone who would be able to install a new one and get me back on the road. Campers World in Colorado Springs said they could squeeze me in on September 10th ! The RV dealer in Montrose could maybe get me in by the middle of August. I finally found a place in Delta, CO that will replace the refrigeration unit only, and they are going to do it for me tomorrow. Though this saves me about a grand, versus a new refrigerator, I am not completely certain this is the way to go, but I need to get the refrigerator back on line so I continue of my trip with a series of paid reservations down the road, as I make my way to Leadville and on to Estes 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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June 30, 2015 Homer, Alaska

Kachemak Bay Sunrise
Kachemak Bay Sunrise

Another Gloomy Week on the Homer Spit

Although there are brief periods of sun and bits of blue sky now and then, for the most part the skies are constantly gray and gloomy. I understand that this type of weather pattern is quite usual for this area, so what can one do but wait it out. Though the sun seldom appears, it also doesn’t actually rain all that much, no downpours whatsoever, just periods of light rain and drizzle.

I usually maintain a very solitary existence on my travels, but this past week plus I have had the distinct pleasure of being camped next to a delightful retired couple from South Dakota. I have enjoyed more small talk with them than I usually have in the course of several months on the road, and have gotten quite a kick out of watching and hearing about their fishing exploits here in Homer as they have fished for salmon and halibut. A lot of the salmon fishing was done directly in front of our motorhomes, while the halibut fishing was done on a charter where the Mrs. managed to haul in a sixty-two pounder. Had fun teasing him as she also landed the largest King Salmon at the Fishing Hole, down the beach from our campsites, seemed to outfish the man of the house at every opportunity. But today they broke camp and have moved on, and their replacement has definitely not lived up to them as far as great neighbors go, outside, ten feet away slamming doors at midnight and running one of the noisiest generators I have ever heard for hours on end. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

You will have to forgive my constant barrage of bald eagle shots but they are about the only interesting subjects i have here on the Homer Spit.

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

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Coming of Age
Coming of Age

A few interesting facts about bald eagles can be found here, including the fact that they mature at four to five years old, which would make this guy more than likely than not, about four years old.

Immature Bald Eagle
Immature Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

I was walking around the marina and just happened to catch this juvenile as he lifted off. I haven’t really tried doing any flight shots of these guys here because of the constant mist and drizzle, but if it ever clears up, I may just set up my tripod and long lens right outside my door and try to get some images of the eagles as they fly by all day , and night, long.

Hills Above Homer
Hills Above Homer

Searching for Fireweed

The green fields such as in the image above will be turning pink sometime in the weeks ahead as the fireweed finally comes into bloom. I have been driving all the hillside roads above Homer and north all the way to Anchor Point hoping to find some fireweed patches blooming, but I’m beginning to feel it just isn’t going to happen while I am here. The flower stalks have been starting to form here and there, but I have only seen a couple individual plants here and there in full bloom. If you are going to be in this area in July, and are interested in knowing which roads will provide the best shots of these fields, just click on my Travel Maps to see my notes on these back roads.

Lupines and Roses
Lupines and Roses
Blue Flag Iris
Blue Flag Iris
Cottongrass Trail
Cottongrass Trail

While searching the countryside for fireweed I do continue to run into other wildflowers though.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

And also yet more bald eagles, this one perched on some fence rails left in the middle of a meadow that probably once was some kind of farm plot.

Bald Eagle Staredown
Bald Eagle Staredown

I believe this is his ” would you mind just leaving ” stare, obviously a little annoyed at my presence. This was taken from the window of my car with my 600mm lens, so I was not close enough to actually disturb him as he was on the lookout for any movement of prey in the field he was surveying.

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June 20, 2015 Homer, Alaska

Cottongrass
Cottongrass

Wildflowers and Wildlife

Cottongrass
Cottongrass

Driving all the back roads above the city of Homer, I run across patches of wildflowers here and there, nothing like the fields of wildflowers you may find in the west, in the lower forty-eight, but still a visual treat when you do discover them. This is a particularly dense patch of cotton grass growing alongside the road, a very neat plant I was able to get some nice shots of very early in the morning before the breeze came up.

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

Cottongrass
Cottongrass
Columbine
Columbine

I really haven’t come across much Columbine, just a couple of plants here and there, again nothing like in the mountainside meadows of Colorado for instance.

Jacob's Ladder
Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium is starting to appear more frequently.

Impossibly Blue
Impossibly Blue

And this is not a wildflower, but some form of perennial that caught my eye in a bed next to East End Road. I am not sure what this impossibly blue flower is as I have never seen it before, and I used to pour theough all the perennial flower catalogs back when I managed almost a half acre of perennials at my art gallery.

Impossibly Blue
Impossibly Blue
Homer Perennial Bed
Homer Perennial Bed

Gorgeous flower in a very nicely designed perennial bed.

Lupines
Lupines
Lupines
Lupines

And then there is the lupine … everywhere it seems. Unlike back in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, here there is only one color, this blue, or perhaps purple. At least I have yet to find any other color here.

Boatyard Lupine
Boatyard Lupine

As I said, lupine, everywhere.

Virginis
Virginis
Fireweed Road
Fireweed Road

What I am patiently waiting for, here in Homer, is for the fireweed to start blooming. I think it is a real shame this wonderful plant is labeled as a weed because it is just a beautiful flower that fills the fields and roadsides here above Homer.

Fireweed Farm
Fireweed Farm

Thes two images kind of illustrate that point quite well, and just happen to be images taken on the back roads above Homer some twenty two years ago on my last visit here. I have actually been able to locate the fireweed farm location and would like to get an image to show the penalties of progress. That wonderful scene is now bisected with dirt roads leading to not so scenic homes breaking up the previous expanse of fireweed, and though I’m sure a lot of the plant still survives, the beauty of that particular landscape has fallen victim to progress.

Angry Beach Eagle
Angry Beach Eagle
Takeoff
Takeoff

I enjoy watching the antics of the bald eagles on the beach every morning while I have my coffee. This guy was doing his angry eagle walk up the beach heading directly at me until my neighbor came out and slammed his door only thirty feet from the eagle and scared him off. There used to be a woman who fed the eagles here on the Homer Spit for many years so a lot of these birds probably are somewhat accustomed to approaching humans looking for handouts, though now it is illegal to feed them.

Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls
Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls
Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls
Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls

As I walked around the boat harbor very early in the AM I was startled by the number of gulls on the breakwater there.

Ring-necked Pheasant and Chicks
Ring-necked Pheasant and Chicks

And this one really suprised me, what I am quite sure has to be a Ring-necked Pheasant mom and chicks feeding along the dirt road at the end of East End Road. I had no idea these birds could survive this far north.

Ring-necked Pheasant Chick
Ring-necked Pheasant Chick
Moose and Calf
Moose and Calf
Moose Calf
Moose Calf

And finally my daily dose of moose. This mom was feeding along the edge of the road and when I stopped to watch, her calf came struggling up through the deep grass behind her. As the cow continued to move forward and browse, her calf was having a really hard time trying to keep up with her movements. At first I thought maybe the tall grass and bushes were just so thick, and tall, that perhaps that was it’s problem.

Mom and Injured Calf
Mom and Injured Calf

But when they finally crossed the road, it became quite clear that the poor little guy had somehow broken, or severely injured his left hind leg and was hobbling along on three legs.

Moose Calf
Moose Calf

Barely one in three moose calves survive their first summer, most here on the Kenai fall victim to black bears or grizzlies, although there is also a growing presence of wolves in the area. Not being able to run or keep up with a protective mom probably will mean a short life for this guy. Mother Nature is cruel.

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