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

Entries Tagged as 'Photography'

Rabbit Mountain without Rattlers

June 27th, 2015 · No Comments

Rabbit Mountain is only about 30 miles north of my apartment in Boulder and at 6,006 feet in elevation is only about 650 feet higher. But it’s wild.

And its wildness is what drew Sharon and me to hike a trail there as far as it goes up the mountain. Neither of us had been there this year, and we took our sweet time on Thursday exploring the three-mile Eagle Wind Trail, the longest of the Boulder County Parks and Open Space trails on Rabbit Mountain. In fact, from our arrival at 5:15 a.m. before the sun was even up until we returned to the car at a little after 11 we had enjoyed almost six hours experiencing nature, flowers, and birds.

We didn’t see any rattlesnakes even though this used to be called Rattlesnake Mountain and rattlers are common here. In fact, just last month one bit a Wyoming woman at Rabbit Mountain. She lived.

We did see a profusion of wildflowers. Two of my favorites contrast the delicate softness of the flower with the rugged thorniness of the plant.

​A Prickly Rose

A Prickly Rose

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Bear Canyon Trail

June 8th, 2015 · 4 Comments

The Bear Canyon Trail is a Boulder migrant trap for birds visiting here. That makes it a bird trap for me.

The month of June has barely started, and I have already been drawn twice to this trail that is just 2 miles from my apartment. Sharon and I hiked up to to the end of the trail on Monday, and I returned to the lower portion on Wednesday.

When Sharon and I hiked there, she commented that she liked the last house that we passed. I think that it is pretty nice and has an adequate location, although it’s a bit too big for my taste. This was its setting at 5:45 this morning.

​A Trail, a House, the Devil's Thumb, and Bear Mountain

A Trail, a House, the Devil's Thumb, and Bear Mountain

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Just 10 minutes later I noticed that a jogger who had run to the top of the meadow was taking a break.

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The Colorado Trail

June 3rd, 2015 · 1 Comment

Sharon and I hiked the Colorado Trail yesterday. Of course, we didn’t hike all of it then. Nobody can, because it is almost 500 miles long, running from Denver to Durango.

But we hiked part of it. Actually, we hiked the first 3.1 miles. And back another 3.1 miles. That was enough for each of us. We were on the trail from 6 a.m. until noon, and by that time the weather had become hot and humid.

We hiked up from where the South Platte River debouches from Waterton Canyon into the plains. Walking within view and sound of the water almost the entire morning, we appreciated that we were near the headwaters of one of the world’s great rivers. It is in fact the fourth longest river in the world. To make that calculation you of course have to include the streams into which it flows: the Platte, then the Missouri, and finally the Mississippi. It runs for almost 4,000 miles, draining almost all of the center of our country.

Before coming to this place that neither of us had ever seen before we had read that this part of the Colorado Trail was famous for the chance it offers to see Rocky Mountain Sheep. As we walked up the trail through Waterton Canyon we kept scanning the ridges on both sides in the vain hope of seeing these big animals. Actually, because I know how rare the Rocky Mountain Sheep, are I wasn’t surprised that none were to be found.

But on the way back we spotted a ewe and her lamb hundreds of feet up at the very top of the canyon! They were standing on the skyline in what I think of as the classic view of Rocky Mountain Sheep. The lamb looked so small that it must be only a few days old. The ewe on the other hand looked a little worse for wear because this is the season that she sheds her coat.

The Classic View of Rocky Mountain Sheep

The Classic View of Rocky Mountain Sheep

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The sheep delighted us so much that we watched them for well over an hour. During that time we spotted several other families, including one across the river and up on the rocks of the canyon.

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Walden Ponds

May 15th, 2015 · No Comments

The first sunny day in almost two weeks got me away from my desk yesterday, and I headed out to the Heatherwood Trail along Boulder Creek. But it was closed due to the flooding from all our spring rain, so I went instead to the nearby Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat.

Boulder County has five Walden Ponds, while there’s only one Walden Pond in Massachusetts where Henry David Thoreau wrote his most famous book. Our Walden Ponds, named for a former Boulder County commissioner, aren’t quite as well known, but we probably have more birds. We almost certainly had more American White Pelicans yesterday.

Most of the pelicans were fishing together in the largest of the Walden Ponds, the misnamed Cottonwood Marsh. A few of my shots may show why I call them the most social birds.

​Up!

Up!

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Greenlee Wildlife Preserve

May 5th, 2015 · No Comments

For two days in a row I sacrificed sufficient sleep, getting out of my warm bed well before sunrise. While I am usually the instigator, this time I can credit Sharon.

The big reason why I like to be to the trailhead by sunrise is the special quality of first light for photography. Last light can also be glorious, but here in Colorado the clouds often roll in during the afternoon. I am more of a photographer than a birder.

Sharon’s interests complement my own because she is more of a birder than a photographer. She appreciates that we can see more birds at the crack of dawn. So a few days ago she suggested that we plan a 6 a.m. arrival at the Greenlee Wildlife Preserve in nearby Lafayette, Colorado.

I doubt if many people rejoice at the chance to get up while it’s still dark, but we thought of still more reasons why we like to do that. As we drove out to Lafayette from my apartment in Boulder we would have been driving straight into the sun if we had left a few minutes later.

Also because of our early start we avoided the heat of the day. The temperature reached 81° that afternoon, but by then we had returned to our homes. We completed our jaunt by 7:30 a.m. and had a whole day ahead of us after our early start.

Of course, we see both more birds and fewer people when we get an early start. But we certainly appreciated it when an older couple who were walking their dog stopped and asked us, “What kind of duck sits up in the trees?”

“A wood duck!,” Sharon exclaimed, because we had been looking for one. The couple then led us back a few feet and showed us where it was.

​A Male Wood Duck Near the Nest

A Male Wood Duck Near the Nest

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This bird is so colorful that it doesn’t look real. But it quacked and moved, and then it flew down to the pond at the preserve. All of our previous Wood Duck sightings had been on other ponds or creeks.

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Birding Cherry Creek

May 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

Cherry Creek seemed too urban. If I thought of it at all, it was about the upscale shopping center of that name. As a bird flies, Cherry Creek State Park is six miles from downtown Denver, the center of a metropolitan area where more than three million people live. More people visit this park — 1,500,000 annually — than any of the other forty-four Colorado state parks.

So even though the park is less than 40 miles from my home in Boulder, I had never visited it before this week. Sharon, my usual hiking buddy, hadn’t either.

Cherry Creek Reservoir, dammed in 1950 to protect Denver from flooding, is the centerpiece of the park. But it also includes wetlands, marsh areas, rolling grasslands, and wooded glades, all of which attracts a great variety of birds and birders, Sharon and me included.

Because the dam is so high we didn’t see the skyscrapers of downtown Denver. Except for some traffic noise, which I was able to block by turning down my hearing aids, the park seemed like an oasis in the city. We didn’t even see the dam or the reservoir for most of the five hours we visited the park.

We made sure to arrive before sunrise at 6 a.m., and by doing so we avoided heavy traffic and had the park mostly to ourselves of much of our visit. This is the time when people are least active and birds most active.

We saw too many species of birds to count. We saw many of them on the ground or water and also in the air. One of my most loved birds took off when I approached it, but I didn’t mind:

​A Snowy Egret Takes Off from Its Perch

A Snowy Egret Takes Off from Its Perch

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We spotted the Snowy as it fished along a creek. But just a few feet away we saw another of our favorite birds high in a tree.

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Birding Chatfield

April 25th, 2015 · No Comments

Chatfield State Park is more than 40 miles south of where I live in Boulder, Colorado. To get there at sunrise on a spring morning meant getting up before 4 a.m., but the birding there this week made it worth the effort.

As my friend Sharon and I approached the park we searched for Burrowing Owls. We eventually saw four of them, but they were too far away for photographs. Much closer, however, were hundreds of Western Meadowlarks, a species of birds that is a delight both to human eyes and ears.

​A Western Meadowlark at Dawn

A Western Meadowlark at Dawn

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Two miles further we arrived at the park where a road circles a large reservoir has dammed the South Platte River since 1976 to stop the river from flooding Denver as it had in 1933, 1935, 1942, and 1965. We hadn’t been to the park since last December when we looked for and found a Yellow-billed Loon — a rare visitor to Colorado — on the reservoir.

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A Brood of Three Owlets

April 24th, 2015 · 5 Comments

For weeks I have been watching a nearby nest where a pair of Great Horned Owls made a nest to raise three owlets. For probably a dozen years that pair has been using the same dead cottonwood tree as their nest, and I have been watching them since 2010.

Last year the first of the owlets fledged on April 14.​ This year the first one waited a week, and I found it in a tree just a few feet from the nest.

​A Great Horned Owlet on its First Day of Fledged Freedom​​

A Great Horned Owlet on its First Day of Fledged Freedom

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​Adult ​Great Horned ​O​wls start nesting in January. The female will incubate the eggs ​for about four to five weeks ​while her mate brings her food. ​When the eggs hatch, moma owl doesn’t have to stay on the nest, but she is never far away. She was always ready to protect her young from crows or other birds that hate owls or ​from ​any ​predator that want​s​ a ​tender​ meal.

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Seacliff State Beach

March 26th, 2015 · No Comments

When I arrived at the beach, the sky was dark with a heavy cloud cover. But it was late in the day, and I could see a patch of clear sky on the western horizon and knew that in a few minutes the sun would drop down below the level of the clouds. For a half hour before the sun sank into the ocean it offered me a glorious vista.

I was at Seacliff State Beach off the coast of Aptos, California, where I had lived for almost five years before moving to Colorado. Visiting my friends John and Vicky, I had borrowed one of their cars for a last look at the ocean I missed so much.

​The S.S. Palo Alto Docked at the Aptos Pier

The S.S. Palo Alto Docked at the Aptos Pier

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Built at the end of World War I to be an oil tanker, this is this is the most famous concrete ship on the west coast and is the subject of David Heron’s book, Forever Facing South: The Story of the S. S. Palo Alto “the Old Cement Ship” of Seacliff Beach.

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From the Skyline to the Sea

March 25th, 2015 · No Comments

​It was more than seven years ago that John and I had hiked to Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. ​But that was a hike that neither of us will ever forget.

​On a sunny day in early February 2008​ the two of us blithely set off from the trailhead at the park’s visitor center with the intention of walking about four miles along the famous Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail until we reached the falls. It was an arduous hike, requiring us to crawl over several fallen redwoods and to climb up and down more than 1,000 feet to get over and out of the Big Basin, but we made it to the falls a little before 4 p.m. that day.

​The trip rewarded us with a photo of the falls that John liked so much that he had note cards printed up. Each of still use them.

We lingered at the falls, the most spectacular scene on the hike. When we decided to return to the car, we decided to take the long way back. To see a different scene.

We made a loop hike when we returned via the longer Sunset Trail, even though that meant a hike totaling 10.2 miles that day. ​We did see the sun set on the Sunset Trail, but we were only about two-thirds of the way back to the trailhead. We also saw a fire smoldering in an old redwood tree that John still talks about and reported at the ranger station when we returned.

​But for the last two hours or so of the hike we didn’t see much of anything. It was a pitch-dark night and we had either left our flashlights behind or the batteries were dead. What I remember most from that time was my fear that we would have to spend the night in the woods, because the trail just stopped. In the blackness of the forest we stumbled around looking for a way through the forest, and finally John found a way around what was a fallen tree blocking the trail.​

This time we decided to do it right. I think that John had a flashlight this time, and I made sure to have one as well as spare batteries. And this time we decided to hike the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail all the way from the visitor center down to the ocean. Normally that would have required two cars, but Vicky made it easy for us by dropping us off at the visitor station about 10 a.m. and picking us up at the end of the trail just after 7 p.m.

We were slow, but we had hiked at least 13 miles, and John’s pedometer said it was considerably more. I don’t know how accurate that measurement was, but I don’t doubt that John walked the 39,000 steps the pedometer said he did as I went beside him. Not bad for a couple of senior citizens, one of 82 years and the other of 79.

​Normally I hike with my Canon 7D mounted with a Canon 100-400mm lens as well as with a Canon 7D mounted with a wide-angle lens, each of which I carry on a photographer’s vest called a Cotton Carrier (and with a couple of other lenses in my fanny pack). But I knew that the more than 10 pounds this rig weighs would be a strain on my shoulders. So I borrowed John’s iPhone 6 Plus and used it to take all of the shots in this photo essay, while he carried my basic cell phone. This way each of us could call for help if we got separated, assuming that we were in cell phone range. But for essentially all of the day, we weren’t.

​The hike started easy at first as we walked along a placid stream.

​Opal Creek Near the Start of Our Hike

Opal Creek Near the Start of Our Hike

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Then we had to climb. And climb. Fortunately, I had forgot about the climb.

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