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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Prospect Lake

December 9th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Freezing weather, like it was this morning, is hardly my favorite time to go hiking. While the temperature was 26 degrees when I got to Prospect Lake, I had dressed with my warmest gear and it was sunny, calm, and teeming with birds. So I was happy.

Among a huge flock of Canada Geese were a pair of goldeneyes.

​A Female Goldeneye (left) with a Male

A Female Goldeneye (left) with a Male

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Looking closer, I spotted Hooded Mergansers.

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The Peace of Hall Ranch

November 24th, 2015 · 1 Comment

At Hall Ranch Open Space early on Sunday morning all the animals that we encountered were at peace, mostly resting.

To me, Hall Ranch seems to represent the real American West better than any place I know in Boulder County. And these sandstone outcroppings are the epitome of it. When Sharon and I got to the trailhead just as the sun struck the top of these peaks, the day was cold at 28 degrees. But the wind was light and the sky was clear. We too were at peace, but were glad to keep moving and to warm up.

​Indian Lookout Mountain and Hat Rock Are Radiant in Early Light

Indian Lookout Mountain and Hat Rock Are Radiant in Early Light

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As we hiked up the trail we encountered far less snow and ice than we had expected from the snowstorm that had covered the land a couple of days earlier. But we saw many Mule Deer (which take its common name from their big ears) including more bucks than I remember ever seeing anywhere before. One young buck came within a few feet of us and showed no fear of us strangers, an experience that several other species of mammals and birds repeated throughout the day. Whenever an animal comes close to me as an equal like this, I always feel more at peace with the world.

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Belmar Park

October 28th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Lakewood’s Belmar Park was calm and quiet this morning, yet it is an urban oasis less than six miles from downtown Denver, the heart of a metropolitan area where 2.7 million people live. The heart of the 127-acre natural park is Kountze Lake, which has an uncanny attraction for migrating waterbirds and is therefore an equivalent attraction for nature photographers.

Autumn Has Arrived at Kountze Lake in Lakewood

Autumn Has Arrived at Kountze Lake in Lakewood

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The first birds that I saw immediately after arriving at sunrise were a flock of cormorants still roosting on an island in the lake. They were impossible to miss because they were the only birds already in the sun.​

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Pumpkin Season in the Rockies

October 25th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Almost exactly eight years ago I got my first glorious view of the pumpkin patch at Rock Creek Farm with the Rocky Mountains in the background. But I had just got my first DSLR camera and have never been pleased with that photograph.

Photography rewards patience, persistence, and knowing both the place and the equipment. Now that I know the place and my camera better, I have been returning to the scene every year in hopes of getting a shot that would please me. I was rewarded today with a clear and calm morning offering a stunning view of Longs Peak, at 14,259 feet the highest mountain in northern Colorado, covered with the first snow of the season there after four days of rain and overcast skies here.

A Pumpkin Patch

A Pumpkin Patch

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​Still Ripening

Still Ripening

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White Rocks

October 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

The White Rocks Natural Area is only 9 miles from my apartment in Boulder, but I hadn’t hiked there​ before​, and it wasn’t for a lack of wanting. ​I finally got there on a fine yesterday morning.​

Because this area is so fragile and ​is ​the home of nesting Bald Eagles, it’s normally closed to the public. It’s only open from August to October and only with a Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks guide. And before 2011, when the city bought it from the heirs of Martha “Ricky” Weiser for $4 million, it wasn’t open at all.

​The so-called White Rocks Trail off Valmont Avenue is open to the public without any guide, and I’ve hiked it dozens of times. It’s a lovely trail, but it doesn’t come close to the real White Rocks.​

About 1960 conservation proponent Ricky Weiser bought the 240 acre property for $50,000 that she had just inherited. Local architect L. Gale Abels design​ed​ ​the​ home​ for her family on a bluff overlooking Boulder Creek between two outcroppings of pale Fox Hills sandstone, from which White Rocks takes its name. Completed in 1963, the result ​became a distinctive ​Contemporary Style​ building that maximize​s ​views of the surrounding landscape and the Rocky Mountains​,​​ and it isn’t visible from any street.​​

It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in October 16, 2013, two years to the day before I ​was able to ​visit it. ​​The home is one of 82 ​historic places in Boulder County.

The Martha "Ricky" Weiser Home in White Rocks

The Martha "Ricky" Weiser Home in White Rocks

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​Undercutting action of Boulder Creek​ ​exposed the White Rocks sandstone. ​It formed about 65 million years ago, ​when a large inland seas covered the whole area. The surface of the sandstone displays interesting patterns ​known as turtlebacks. ​Regular wetting and drying of the rocks caused these fractures.

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The Trail to Emerald Lake

October 17th, 2015 · No Comments

The most popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and probably in the whole state of Colorado is the trail to Emerald Lake. Neither Sharon nor I had hiked it for years, but we finally got back there Tuesday.

People come from all over the world to experience this wonderful trail. In a little over 1.8 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead it takes thousands of hikers every year to four beautiful mountain lakes.

Right at the trailhead is Bear Lake, 9,450 feet up in the Rockies. Two weeks earlier we saw and photographed this lake on a rare still day when we left from the same trailhead on our hike around the Bierstadt Lake Loop.

Just 0.5 miles further up the trail to Emerald Lake on Tuesday we reached Nymph Lake, which sits in a bowl at 9,705 feet. This small lake is ringed by pond lilies that bloom in the spring and early summer.

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Bierstadt Lake Loop

September 29th, 2015 · No Comments

Eight years ago I figured out how to enjoy the fall color on the Bierstadt Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park without having to make a steep climb. I’ve been doing it ever since — once every four years.

This Friday my friend Sharon and I returned and were blessed with a crystal clear day. It was also a rare day in the mountains with utterly no wind.

Because we knew that later in the day the parking lot at the popular Bear Lake Trailhead would be full, we made sure to arrive close to sunrise. As a result, when we skirted around Bear Lake en route to Bierstadt Lake, we got there during the golden hour and stopped to check out the view.

A Bear Lake Reflection

A Bear Lake Reflection

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From Bear Lake at 9,475 feet an easy trail leads through a mixed forest of spruce, fir, and lodgepole pine about two miles to Bierstadt Lake at 9,476 feet. After eating our picnic lunches at the lake, I asked Sharon to pose before the scene. After looking in vain for a big rock or stump in the right place in the foreground to anchor the scene, I told her that she was better than either of them.

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Mount Evans

August 30th, 2015 · No Comments

This summer I have been going higher and higher in the mountains of Colorado. I’ve also made sure to get up early so I could reach the trailheads at sunrise. Today I reached both of my limits.

​I climbed to the summit of Mount Evans. At 14,264 feet, it is the highest of the Chicago Peaks in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and is 70 miles southwest of my home in Boulder. The highest paved road in North America took me up to 14,127 feet, so I only had to hike about a quarter of a mile to the summit.

At the Summit of Mount Evans

At the Summit of Mount Evans

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​Colorado has 11 mountains that are even higher that Mount Evans, starting with Mount Elbert, which is 176 feet more. But none of them have roads that will take me most of the way there.

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A Hard Hike to The Loch

August 29th, 2015 · No Comments

If I didn’t known how beautiful The Loch and the trail to it is, I would have stayed home. I would have missed a great experience that at the same time exhausted me.

Two previous hikes to this spectacular lake in Rocky Mountain National Park convinced me that no setting can be more glorious, so it would be worth the effort. When I first hiked up to The Loch in 2007, I wrote in my photo essay then that I never had to stop because I was tired.

But I had to rest quite a few times on Tuesday. I’m not sure what explains the difference, but of course I’m eight years older now. I also forgot to bring any food with me and had only a glass of my protein shake for breakfast at 4:30 and nothing else until I got back home 12 hours later. Sharon, my hiking partner, offered me some of her picnic lunch, but because it wasn’t vegetarian and low-carb, I declined. Another difference was that I was drowsy from the drug I’m taking for seasonal allergies. In addition I was carrying two of my cameras, my binoculars, and my backpack.

​Sharon Says I Take So Much Stuff

Sharon Says I Take So Much Stuff

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But both Sharon and I made sure to carry our cell phones, even if for most of the hike we were out of range. We want to be sure to avoid a repeat of our misadventure at Caribou Ranch earlier this month.

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Back to the Pawnee Grassland

August 24th, 2015 · No Comments

The sun rose on Thursday over the Pawnee National Grassland on the high plains of Eastern Colorado as Sharon and I watched. A freak summer cold front brought the temperature down to 46 degrees, and smoke from fires in the Pacific Northwest partly obscured the sun on an otherwise cloudless morning.

The Sun Rises on Pronghorn and Sunflowers

The Sun Rises on Pronghorn and Sunflowers

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We drove two hours from our homes in Boulder in order to drive another 21 miles on the Pawnee National Grassland Birding Tour. A proud looking bird welcomed us at the information kiosk when we reached it.

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