Smoky Sunrise on Mount Wilson

Colorado, Gladstone Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, Mount Wilson, San Juan Mountains, Wilson Peak, wildfire, smoke, smoky, sunrise
Smoky San Juan Sunrise : Prints Available

A smoky sunrise as seen from the summit of Mount Wilson (14,246 ft) in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Wilson Peak is on the left, Gladstone Peak near the center, and the Sneffels Range barely visible through the smoke in the distance.

On Monday morning my alarm woke me at 2:00am in my tent at Navajo Lake in the San Miguel Range near Telluride, Colorado. Groggy after only four hours of sleep, I started trudging up towards Mount Wilson under the light of the waning full moon. I could smell wildfire smoke in the air, and the stars were quite dim, but I didn’t think too much of it and continued on my mission to get to the summit for sunrise. Three or so hours later, after much rock hopping and a bit of airy scrambling, I stood on the 14,246-foot summit of Mount Wilson… disappointed with the view. My hopes of a glorious clear Colorado sunrise were crushed by the sight of thick smoke filling the valleys and shrouding the mountains. As I sat on the summit waiting for morning, I knew that my sunrise photo was toast and felt like my whole endeavor was a collosal waste of effort.

But then the sun rose as a red orb filtered through the haze like a lunar eclipse, becoming oranger as it rose higher and casting a warm glow over the smoky landscape. The surreal and somewhat apocalyptic scene wasn’t what I expected but it made for a unique photo opportunity after all!

I learned later that all the smoke came from an 800-acre wildfire west of Montrose. As luck would have it, the wind was blowing due south pushing all the smoke right into the San Juans. That’s a lot of smoke for a relatively small 800-acre fire!

This NOAA satellite image from Monday 7/30/18 shows the Bull Draw wildfire smoke blowing south into the San Juans in southwest Colorado (just above and to the right of the Four Corners). Notice numerous other wildfires above in Colorado and Utah.

Grenadier Loop

Colorado, Grenadier Range, San Juan Mountains, Trinity Peaks, Weminuche Wilderness, panorama
Trinity Peak Sunrise : Prints Available

Sunrise as seen from the summit of West Trinity Peak in the Grenadier Range, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

In late July we went on a 6-day backpack trek in and around the rugged Grenadier Range in the Weminuche Wilderness of the central San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Along the way we scrambled up several 13ers, hiked over numerous high passes, and visited some gorgeous remote alpine lakes. Continue reading >>

Wetterhorn Moonrise

Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Wetterhorn Peak, moon, 14er
Wetterhorn Sunset Moonrise : Prints Available

Full moon rises behind Wetterhorn Peak, a 14er in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, Colorado.

After returning home to Colorado at the end of June we did a quick one-night backpack trip in the Uncompahgre Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. That evening we hiked up to a high ridgeline to watch the full moon rise behind Wetterhorn Peak at sunset. It’s nice to be back in beautiful Colorado!

Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Wetterhorn Peak, moon, 14er
Moon on Wetterhorn : Prints Available

Full moon behind the 14015 ft / 4272 m summit of Wetterhorn Peak.

Eclipsed by Clouds

Colorado, Elk Mountains, moonlight, tent, Little Italian Pass, January

Winter camp below Little Italian Pass in the Elk Mountains, Colorado – January.

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!

Interviewed on “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen” Podcast

F-Stop Collaborate and Listen

Recently I was interviewed by fellow Colorado photographer Matt Payne, on his podcast “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen”. You can look up the podcast in your favorite podcast app, or listen to it here.

I was happy that Matt invited me to participate on his podcast, since it’s one of my favorite podcasts that I listen to regularly. The podcast is devoted to landscape and nature photography, and I love the casual interview format of each episode. I’ve been binge listing in recent months; there’s almost 3 dozen episodes up already featuring a wide variety of talented and insightful photographers. (Matt himself is a very talented and insightful photographer too!) Many of his guests are very well spoken; me – not so much! But I hope you enjoy it anyways.

Camping in the Black Canyon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Warner Route, October
Warner Dusk : Prints Available

Post-sunset glow on the walls of the Black Canyon, Colorado, as seen from the bottom of the Warner Route.

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!

Dinner!

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.

And lots more Black Canyon photos here.

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