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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 'Hiking'

Great Horned Owls‏

December 28th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Great Horned Owls may well be the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas, but I never saw one. Until today, when I saw three of them.

Today, my friend Sharon took me to Twin Lakes, northeast of Boulder, where she got a great shot of one four days ago while going alone.

Sharon's Great Horned Owl

Sharon's Great Horned Owl

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The next day, Christmas, I circled around the lakes by myself and carefully looked for owls — with no success. They are so well camouflaged that my untrained eyes failed to see any, if indeed any were present.

Today, however, we were blessed by seeing a pair of owls napping side by side on a branch about 20 feet up.

Two Owls

Two Owls

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But soon another group discovered them. That was too much for one of the owls, who flew away. But we stayed to see and photograph the one who remained.
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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Viele Pond‏

October 7th, 2010 · No Comments

We don’t have to walk nine miles — like my friend Sharon and I did on Tuesday — to get out in nature. This afternoon I walked a few steps from my apartment in south Boulder to Viele Pond.

This Boardwalk Through the Marsh Approaches the Pond

This Boardwalk Through the Marsh Approaches the Pond

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Viele Pond

Viele Pond

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The Last Wildlower of Fall

The Last Wildlower of Fall

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I call this thistle flower the jewel of Viele Pond. It is the last one still standing.

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Finch Lake‏

October 6th, 2010 · No Comments

My friend Sharon and I hiked the trail to Finch Lake yesterday hoping to see the turning of the aspens from green to yellow and then to gold. But we were too late for this elevation.

Our hike started at 9,000 feet and took us to 10,000 feet at Finch Lake. This was the first time I had ever hiked to Finch Lake, an easy nine-mile roundtrip in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Many of the aspens along the trail had already shed their fall foliage, and few of the remaining leaves were the glorious gold that we had sought. In fact, even at lower elevations this year few aspens are decked out in their usual fall glory, probably because of this summer’s and fall’s devastating dryness. In Boulder we’ve had only one rainy day since at least mid-July.

A Few Golden Aspens

A Few Golden Aspens

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Instead of aspen gold, Sharon and I found a delightful blue lake that we were able to enjoy with only birds as our companions.

Finch Lake

Finch Lake

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A Steller's Jay Peers into the Lake

A Steller's Jay Peers into the Lake

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Fall Spectacles‏

October 3rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

Now that the Naked Pumpkin Run is history, we have only two major fall spectacles here. Diana and I enjoyed both of them Saturday.

We haven’t seen Halloween runners on Pearl Street Mall wearing nothing but pumpkins on their heads since 2008. Far out events like this had led friends and foes alike to call us “the People’s Republic of Boulder” and “25 square miles surrounded by reality.” But Boulder is becoming more sedate.

Still, nothing can rob us of our enjoyment of two harbingers of birth and death, the ruminant mating season and the falling of the leaves. This year both spectacles reached their peak in early October and we took full advantage of them by getting to Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise yesterday.

The annual elk rut and the turning of the aspens coincided because the trees were late this year. It wasn’t their fault. But one of the warmest and driest Septembers on record delayed the spectacle until now.

We also received a bonus of birds, both common and uncommon. We often see magpies here, but never before was its very long iridescent blue and green-black tail so apparent.

A Black-billed Magpie

A Black-billed Magpie

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The uncommon bird that Diana and I saw yesterday was the wild turkey. While they live in almost every state, I had seen them in Colorado only twice before. Diana and I were lucky enough to get within a few feet of three wild turkeys yesterday.

One of the Wild Turkeys We Saw Saturday

One of the Wild Turkeys We Saw Saturday

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

NCAR Mesa

October 1st, 2010 · No Comments

NCAR Mesa is our closest mountain park, just a couple of miles west of my apartment. Late this afternoon I got back to it for the first time in at least a year.

NCAR stands for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It conducts collaborative research in atmospheric and Earth system science. The great architect, I.M. Pei, designed the Mesa Laboratory headquarters at the east end of the mesa. I think that this building, inspired by the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in Southwestern Colorado, is Boulder’s most beautiful. It certainly has the greatest setting!

NCAR's Mesa Laboratory from My Apartment Three Months Ago

NCAR's Mesa Laboratory from My Apartment Three Months Ago

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Today the light at the end of the day was equal to the beauty of the scene.

A Steller's Jay Today

A Steller's Jay Today

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I had remembered the tree below from the last time I hiked here and wondered if I could capture the dead tree framing the living one. Today I got to them just as the light faded.

Fading Light

Fading Light

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Goshawk Ridge

September 24th, 2010 · 2 Comments

My first hike of the fall took me back to one of my favorite nearby trails. The Goshawk Ridge loop trail through the Eldorado Mountain Habitat Conservation Area is only six miles from my apartment, but it seems miles away from civilization.

A Fall Field at the Start of the Goshawk Ridge Trail

A Fall Field at the Start of the Goshawk Ridge Trail

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After the city of Boulder built the trail last year, I have hiked it three or four times. A couple of weeks ago I started out to hike it, but didn’t have the energy to complete the circuit then. I did today.

And today for the first time I hiked the loop counter clockwise starting from the Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram. But I learned that going clockwise is better, because the trail down from the ridge is so steep that I had to go slow for safety.

Peaking Through the Pines from the Ridge down to Boulder

Peaking Through the Pines from the Ridge down to Boulder

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Beaver Meadows Circuit‏

September 9th, 2010 · No Comments

As my friend Sharon and I arrived at the trailhead for the Beaver Meadows Circuit just after 7 this morning, we saw several bull elk. This one had the most impressive rack.

This Elk Posed Briefly for Me

This Elk Posed Briefly for Me

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The trail starts in the Upper Beaver Meadows area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Sharon had never been in this part of the park, and I hadn’t hiked the five or six mile loop trail during the past three years.

But on a recent hike together we decided that we wanted to hike a loop trail of eight miles or less and one that was not too steep. I researched my hiking guide books, and the Beaver Meadows Circuit fit the bill perfectly.

Another attraction of this particular hike was that it is “lightly used.” In fact, we didn’t meet anyone on the trail.

One of my guide books also described it as “a great birding hike,” which of course interested Sharon. While we did see many small birds, she prefers the raptors (birds of prey), like eagles, owls, osprey, and hawks. This is one of the small birds that we saw today.

A Bitty Bird

A Bitty Bird

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Guanella Pass‏

September 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

On Wednesday I went all the way to Guanella Pass with my friend Sharon. Normally, this high mountain pass is just 65 miles southwest of Boulder. It’s now 93 miles away.

Neither Boulder nor Guanella Pass moved. But some rocks did.

The direct route up to the pass south from Georgetown on Interstate 70 has been closed indefinitely since July 30 because of “rock instability.” We had to take the longer route north from the town of Grant on US Highway 285.

We went anyway, because as the summer draws to a close, the high country calls ever more urgently. The weather is cooler now and soon our Colorado mountains will be covered with snow and our roads with ice.

The summit of Guanella Pass is 11,699 feet. It sits about four miles from the Continental Divide to the west and about three miles from 14,060 foot Mount Bierstadt to the east.

Some day I may decide to climb Mount Bierstadt. Three years ago the local newspaper named it as one of the four “Fourteeners for Mortals” of Colorado’s 53 peaks higher than 14,000 feet. The other peaks on that list are Mount Ebert, at 14,440 feet Colorado’s highest summit, Grays Peak at 14,278 feet, and Quandary Peak, 14,271 feet.

Because the road to 14,265 foot Mount Evans goes all but the last quarter of a mile to the summit, the local paper didn’t include it. Sharon and I climbed Mount Evans two weeks ago, and in my book it was actually my second fourteener. My first was 14,110 foot Pikes Peak, which I reached by road two years ago (and climbed the last three or four steps to the summit).

From Guanella Pass on Wednesday Mount Bierstadt looked like an easy climb. It’s just 2,850 feet up from the pass and has the least vertical ascent of the paper’s picks.

Mount Bierstadt from Guanella Pass

Mount Bierstadt from Guanella Pass

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Just half a mile north of Mount Bierstadt is a much steeper challenge, The Sawtooth. At about 13,760 feet, The Sawtooth doesn’t count as a fourteener, but it is more dramatic than its neighbor to the south.

The Sawtooth from Guanella Pass

The Sawtooth from Guanella Pass

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Mount Evans‏

August 18th, 2010 · 3 Comments

My friend Sharon and I wanted to see Rocky Mountain goats this morning. Since the only place in Colorado where we knew they lived was on Mount Evans, we went to the Mount Evans Wilderness at the top of that mountain.

I count this as my first fourteener, one of the 54 mountains in Colorado higher than 14,000 feet. While three years ago I drove up the road to Pikes Peak and then walked the last five feet or so to the top, I’m not sure if that counts. Some people might not even count my ascent today, but Sharon and I did have to hike the last quarter of a mile to the summit.

On the Very Summit of Mount Evans at 14,265 Feet

On the Very Summit of Mount Evans at 14,265 Feet

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We took the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America. It’s just a two-hour drive of 70 miles southwest of Boulder, but the road is open only from May 28 to September 27. Until today I missed it every year that I have lived in Colorado.

Except for the last quarter of a mile, the road goes all the way to the mountain’s summit at 14,265 feet. Mount Evans is the 14th highest of the 54 “fourteeners” in Colorado. From the summit we could see Longs Peak (elevation 14,259) to the north, and Pikes Peak (elevation 14,115), Mount Bierstadt (elevation 14,065), and Mount of the Holy Cross (elevation 14,011) to the south.

We reached our goal with surprising ease. All we had to do was to drive to near the top of the mountain. Just below the summit we found a herd of perhaps 100 Rocky Mountain goats.

Rocky Mountain Goats Like Rocks

Rocky Mountain Goats Like Rocks

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Blue Lake‏

August 15th, 2010 · No Comments

Now, in the middle of summer, the high country is the best place to hike. When it’s hot in Boulder, it can be nice and cool in the mountains. A ranger once told me that the temperature is three degrees lower for every thousand feet we go up.

Yesterday morning, my friend Diana and I started our hike at 10,460 feet, after driving from Boulder, elevation about 5,430 feet. So I expected the temperature to be about 15 degrees lower than at home. It was indeed cool when we started hiking up the Mitchell Lake Trail into the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

After a mile the trail reached Mitchell Lake, where we paused to take in the natural beauty. Then, we hiked on two more miles to Blue Lake, climbing up to the end of the trail at 11,309 feet.

We had a glorious, sunny day and took full advantage of it. We stopped several times to sit or lie on the grass to talk as we enjoyed the sun.

Diana Enjoys the Sun at Blue Lake, 11,309 Feet, and Mount Toll, 12,979 Feet

Diana Enjoys the Sun at Blue Lake, 11,309 Feet, and Mount Toll, 12,979 Feet

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A Brewer's Sparrow at Blue Lake

A Brewer's Sparrow at Blue Lake

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A Strange Insect

A White-Lined Sphinx Moth

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A Colorful -- But Inedible -- Mushroom

A Poisonous Russula Emetica Mushroom

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Diana and I enjoyed our hike immensely. I reflected on the time only a few years ago when my best friend, John, told me that he had just completed a five-mile hike. At that time I couldn’t imagine taking such a long hike. But it was easy for both Diana and me yesterday.

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography