On the last morning of January there was a lunar eclipse over much of western North America; here in Colorado the eclipse happened right at moonset, just before dawn and sunrise. This was a perfect scenario for us photographers, since photographing the eclipsed moon near the horizon is far more interesting than when it’s high in the sky. With this rare celestial lineup I had an ambitious plan to hike up to a 13,000-ft ridge to hopefully shoot the eclipse right behind Castle Peak in the Elk Mountains.
My friend Ann Driggers joined me and we backpacked into the mountains and set up a base camp in the snow at 11,600 ft. At 2:30 in the morning we woke up and hiked in the moonlight up a pass and along a long windswept ridge to 13,000 feet, only to have our hopes dashed by a thick layer of clouds blocking any potential for the dream shot I had in mind. Not only that but the brutal wind grew worse with sideways blowing snow, so we had little choice but to retreat and navigate back down via GPS.
Of course I was sorely disappointed to miss this rare photo opportunity that I had envisioned, but at least we put in a valiant effort!
In early November a friend and I backpacked about 30 miles through Salt Creek and the Peakaboo Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. This canyon is renowned for its numerous Ancient Puebloan ruins and pictographs; in fact I’ve never seen so many ruins outside of the Cedar Mesa area!
In late October my buddy Kevin and I hiked down the Warner Route and camped along the Gunnison River at the bottom of the Black Canyon for a night. We brought our fishing rods for the “gold metal” water, and it did not disappoint! We caught a bunch of brown trout and kept a few for dinner. Delicious!
I floated and fished the lower Gunnison Gorge with my dad a couple times back in 2007 and 2008; you can see those photos here.
For all of August and September 2017, my wife and I lived out of our truck and tent while traveling around and backpacking in our great state of Colorado. We did over a dozen backpacking trips in various mountain ranges throughout the state, including the Flat Tops, Gore Range, Sawatch Range, San Juans, Sangre de Cristos, and Indian Peaks. I’ve posted my various photo journals from each trek on the Trip Reports page of my gallery site; here links to all those journals, in chronological order.
The final destination of our three-week northern limestone Alps tour in July was the Dachstein mountain range of Austria. Starting from near the Südwandhütte, above the lovely village of Ramsau on the south side of the range, we hiked for three days around and over the Dachstein to the famous village of Hallstatt on the north side, via the Hofpürglhütte, Adamek-Hütte, and Simony Hütte.
Berchtesgaden is a famous Bavarian mountain resort town in southeast Germany. The area is famous for the gorgeous fjord-like Königssee lake and the massive peak of Watzmann which towers over it. In July we spent three days relaxing around town waiting for the rainy weather to pass — which fortunately it [kind of] did — then we headed out on a three night hut trek around Watzmann via the Wimbachgrieshütte, Ingolstädterhütte, and Kärlingerhaus.
In July after our trek in the Karwendel we took a bus and train to the town of Kufstein, stocked up on some snacks, and started hiking into the Kaisergebirge, a small but incredibly rugged mountain range that rivals just about anything in the Dolomites as far as sheer jaggedness goes. This would be a shorter two-night trek but would prove to be much more strenuous than our previous one! We spent the first night at the Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, the second at the Stripsenjochhaus, then climbed over the Wilder Kaiser range via the famous Eggersteig route and down to the village of Ellmau.
In early July after two weeks in Germany visiting Claudia’s family and friends, I was excited to go down to the Alps for some mountain time! Our first destination was the Karwendel range just north of Innsbruck, Austria. Over the course of 5 days, we hiked from west to east below the jagged spine of this range from the villages of Scharnitz to Pertisau, via the Karwendelhaus, Falkenhütte, Eng Alm, and Lamsenjochhaus. With reasonably short hiking days and not very steep trails, this was a perfect warm up trek to acclimate us to mountain trekking again for the first time this summer.
Six hours of train rides brought us from Freiburg to Mittenwald, the uber-quaint Bavarian village where we had stayed back in 2013 prior to climbing the Zugspitze. So in a way it felt like picking up where we had left off before — on that previous trip we had trekked through the Allgau and Lechtal ranges west of there, and now we would be trekking eastward.
The next day we started walking from the nearby village of Scharnitz, just over the border in Austria. A long but gentle forest road led to the Karwendhaus, spectacularly situated on the edge of a dramatic cliff overlooking the Karwendaltal valley. Coincidentally, shortly after arriving at the hut Claudia ran into four of her former classmates from her university days in Freiburg!
It started raining just as we arrived at the hut, but later in the evening everybody was thrilled to see the sunset light burst through the clouds in this spectacular display of light!
The next day we hiked further along the range to the Falkenhütte, located at another spectacular site underneath the massive vertical north face walls of the Karwendel.
Last night we did a quick backpack hike from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak, in the Twin Peaks Wilderness of the Wasatch Range in Utah. Though the wind was relentless during our stay, we had fun exploring this lovely basin and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and moonrise above the lake.
At the end of May we spent three days hiking through the upper portion of Grand Gulch, in Cedar Mesa, Utah. This was the third time I’ve backpacked in Grand Gulch, but the first since the area was designated as part of Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in 2016. Nothing has changed as far as I can tell – just the same amazing canyon scenery and fascinating archeological history to be found around nearly every bend. See more pictures from the canyon below!