Courthouse on Fire

Cimarrons, Colorado, Courthouse Mountain, San Juan Mountains, sunset
Courthouse Blues : Prints Available

Evening light creeps up towards Courthouse Mountain, shrouded in a winter snowstorm.

Tonight’s sunset was a stunner in Ridgway, Colorado. It was so good I actually motivated to put a jacket on and step out to my porch with my telephoto lens. We see a lot of fine sunsets from our east-facing house, so I tend to get a bit jaded about photographing them unless there’s an exceptional light show like this evening’s!

Cimarrons, Colorado, Chimney Rock, San Juan Mountains, sunset
Chimney Rock Light : Prints Available

Sunset light on the Cimarrons and Chimney Rock, February.

Cimarrons, Colorado, Courthouse Mountain, San Juan Mountains, sunset
Courthouse on Fire : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light on Courthouse Mountain in the Cimarrons, as seen from the town of Ridgway, Colorado.

A Hair-Raising New Years in Ouray

Colorado, Ouray, San Juan Mountains, fireworks, new years
Ouray New Years Fireworks : Prints Available

New Years 2020 fireworks celebration over the town of Ouray, Colorado, with Mount Abrams and the San Juan Mountains towering behind.

My last hours of 2019 ended with quite a hair-raising experience, and I have a crazy story to tell you from my outings last night to photograph the New Years fireworks.

I had an idea last night to snowshoe up to a cliff overlooking town to gain a unique perspective of the fireworks over the valley, so at 10:30pm I bundled up, strapped on my snowshoes and headlamp, and started trudging up through knee deep powder towards my destination. When I was only about ten minutes up from the road, I was alarmed when I saw three or four pairs of orange eyes reflecting at me from behind some bushes up ahead. My first thought was that they were probably just deer. But I was a bit concerned that the eyes were orange; typically I remember all the deer I’ve seen at night having greenish colored eyes in light of my headlamp. Even more alarming, though, was the fact that the eyes had a certain calm and confidence to them – the animals clearly were not afraid of me and had no intention of fleeing like deer normally would.

About 20-30 feet from the “eyes”, I could see that one of the animals was standing up while the other two or three were sitting or laying down. I took a few more steps closer to get a closer look when I got a clear view of the one that was standing. It was a massive mountain lion staring right at me! Along with two or three of his buddies* (I was too focussed on the big guy to count the others). Holy shit. I quietly turned around and retreated back down through the snow, trying not to seem panicked or rushed like prey, but constantly glancing over my shoulder while trying not to trip over my snowshoes. I got back to my truck without incident, got in as fast as I could, and got the hell out of there, with a bit of adrenaline pumping through my veins!

So, although I was scared away from my intended photo destination, at least I got a story to tell! I had enough time to drive to an old standby vantage point and take the photo above as a consolation shot.

Happy New Year! I hope 2020 is full of more excitement and adventure, though preferrably not involving close encounters with mountains lion gangs!

* P.S. – It’s possible it was a momma lion with her teenage cubs; I didn’t get a good look at the others, just the big one standing in front.

December to Remember

Rolling Mountain, Colorado
Looking towards Rolling Mountain in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

It’s been a fun December here in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, with roughly 120% of average snowfall so far and many powder days on the splitboard! Here’s a few snapshots from the last 6 days of splitboarding in a row.

Tom Kelly skis deep powder.
Tom Kelly skis deep powder.

Continue reading “December to Remember”

Making Turns Again

Skiing near the Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Skiing near the Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado – early December 2019.

This week Claudia and I have been getting out for some backcountry skiing/splitboarding action here in the San Juans. It’s been a slow start to the season, but there’s finally enough snow to make some turns. Sketchy avalanche conditions out there, as usual, so we’ll have to keep things low angled and tame for the foreseeable future.

Ice Skating on Ice Lakes

Colorado, Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, ice skate, ice skating, November

Ann and Collett ice skating on Ice Lake, San Juan Mountains, Colorado – November.

Colorado, Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, ice skate, ice skating, November

Collette ice skates on Ice Lake.

Yesterday I joined my friend Ann Driggers and her friend Collette to head up to Ice Lakes for a high altitude alpine ice skating session! Though I don’t have ice skates myself (and was quite jealous of them flying around on the turquoise ice), it was still super fun to just shuffle around on the ice in my boots and take photos of them. Ice skating seems like a great silver lining for low snow early winters like it has been in the San Juans so far.

Autumn in the San Juans

Cimarrons, Colorado, San Juan Mountains, aspens, Courthouse Mountain, Chimney Rock, autumn
Cimarron Light Show : Prints Available

Fantastic sunset light illuminates golden aspens, Chimney Rock, and Courthouse Mountain in the Cimarron Range, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

The fall colors in the San Juan Mountains have been beautiful this season, though the persistent clear blue skies have put somewhat of a damper on the photographic potential. But it’s always glorious to walk through colorful aspen groves regardless of the weather, and we did have a few short windows of more interesting skies and light to enjoy. See my favorite photos from this October in the northern San Juans near Ridgway and Ouray here: See the photos here >>

Smoky Reflections

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection
Smoky Needles Reflection : Prints Available

A smoky sunset on a warm August evening in the Weminuche Wilderness. The Needle Mountains show through the haze.

It’s been a beautiful summer in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado this year, with a long-melting snowpack, fantastic sunsets, lush greenery, and none of the wildfires and smoke that plagued us during last year’s super dry summer. So while we were camping near a remote lake in the Weminuche Wilderness last week, we were surprised when it got hazy and we started smelling wildfire smoke in the air. My fears of another devastating wildfire were relieved when I found out later on that it was just smoke from a large prescribed burn on the west side of the San Juans. Whew!

While the smoke robbed me of the typically crystal clear scenes, it did provide unique photographic conditions with the hazy light and soft pastel colors at sunset.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection
Smoky Needles Dusk : Prints Available

Sunset light on Pigeon and Turret Peaks as seen from a remote lake in the Weminuche Wilderness.

By morning the haze had cleared and interesting cotton candy clouds motivated me to get out my cozy sleeping bag to go shoot sunrise too!

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection
Cotton Candy Sunrise Reflection : Prints Available

Cotton candy clouds at sunrise above the Needle Mountains.

Roaming the Uncompahgre

Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Wetterhorn Basin, Wetterhorn Peak, wildflowers
Wetterhorn in Candyland : Prints Available

Rich sunset light on Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 ft.) amidst a glorious field of Indian Paintbrush wildflowers. San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Colorado, Dragonsback, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness
Dragon Dusk : Prints Available

A long 20-second exposure captured the dusk glow on a rugged volcanic spire in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

During the first two weeks of August I revisited several of my favorite backpacking treks in the Uncompahgre Wilderness in the northern San Juan Mountains of Colorado, for a total of 8 days of hiking through a good portion of the wilderness. See all the photos here >>