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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'

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Grand Staircase-Escalante‏

April 8th, 2010 · No Comments

Easter Sunday this year brought me to true desert. I took a Sierra Club outing to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, about 700 miles from my home in Boulder, Colorado.

The land gets only six to seven inches of rain in a typical year. The plants all adopt different strategies to conserve what little water they get. The animals are scarce and the bugs essentially nonexistent here.

At 4 p.m. I arrived at the campground near the town of Escalante where I met the others who also joined this Sierra Club outing. In addition to the group leader and assistant, ten of us are on the outing. Six are men and six are women. By some strange coincidence, four of the men are named David.

We pitched out tents at the campground for only one night. On Monday morning we struck our tents, climbed back into our vehicles, and all of us made a six-mile hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The 126-foot falls are at the head of a box canyon, forming an idyllic oasis there.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls

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Posted in: Hiking

Capitol Reef

April 8th, 2010 · No Comments

En route to a Sierra Club outing in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument I passed through hundreds of miles of desert, including Capitol Reef National Park. It is a reef in the sense that the high cliffs form a barrier to travel. It’s like our capitol in that the domes of Navajo sandstone look a lot like many of the landmarks in Washington.

I took an easy two-mile high to Hickman Natural Bridge, named for an early park advocate, Joe Hickman. The span of the bridge is 133 feet. It is 125 feet above the valley floor, where I walked.

Hickman Natural Bridge

Hickman Natural Bridge

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Driving through Dixie National Forest offers a sweeping overview of this national park and the Henry Mountains from a lookout at 9,600 feet.

Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains

Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains

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Even in April these mountains have snow. But their beauty remains all year long.

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Garden of the Gods‏

November 11th, 2009 · No Comments

Colorado Springs and Boulder are polar opposites in their culture.

Colorado Springs has the United States Air Force Academy and Focus on the Family.

On the other hand, Boulder is home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, more outdoors people and athletes per square mile than any other city, and Jared Polis, the first openly gay man elected to the House of Representatives (Barney Frank of Massachusetts came out after he was elected).

Boulder has a well-deserved reputation as a pocket of liberal political views within a largely conservative state. Some people call it “The People’s Republic of Boulder.”

Colorado Springs, 70 miles south of Denver, is Colorado’s second city with 360,000 residents. Boulder, 25 miles northwest of Denver, with about 95,000 people isn’t even in the state’s top 10.

In one way, however, the two cities are alike. Both have spectacular red sandstone formations. These so-call Fountain Formations stand along the Front Range with Boulder’s Flatirons and its Red Rocks at the northern pole and Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods at the southern.

Near Denver are two more beautiful examples of these formations. One is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where I was delighted to see and hear Leonard Cohen this summer. The other is Roxborough State Park, where Susan and I explored the Fountain Valley Trail a couple of weeks ago.

Twice before I briefly visited Colorado Springs. In 1953 my family drove through on our cross-control summer vacation. I vividly remember visiting the Broadmoor Hotel where my mother shocked me by buying a small figurine of a nude woman (no longer shocked, I now keep it on my desk). I’m sure that I would remember the Garden of the Gods had we visited it. On my second trip here I rushed through the city en route to nearby Pike’s Peak, where I drove to the 14,115 foot summit.

Especially this year I have concentrated on experiencing our 58 national parks. So far I have I been to exactly half of them — 29 — and visited 15 national parks this year alone. But the Garden of the Gods isn’t a national park. It isn’t even a state park. It is just a little park of the city of Colorado Springs.

In 1879 Charles Perkins, a friend of General William Jackson Palmer, who founded the city, purchased 240 acres of the Garden of the Gods, later doubling the size of the land he owned there. Exactly 100 years ago his children deeded that land to city, stipulating that, “It shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park.”

Not until yesterday and today did I explore the Garden of the Gods, figuring that, unlike many landscapes, the season wouldn’t degrade its beauty. I arrived about noon after driving straight through from home in less than an hour and one-half.

Arriving when I did might not seem to make sense for landscape photography. It’s more about light than any other photography, even nature photography. We can capture the beauty of wildlife, flowers, and insects even in the harsh light of midday. But landscapes are the most beautiful in the first hour after sunrise and the first hour before sunset.So the reason why I arrived at the Garden of the Gods just after noon was to plan my shots for yesterday evening and this morning. I needed to see where to be when.

Nevertheless, I carried my camera with me for my introductory walkabout. Just in case.

I was glad that I did, since I captured two of my favorite shots on my first visit.

Click to enlarge

Holding Steady

A Flock of Birds Circled Around and Around this Red Rock

A Flock of Birds Circled Around and Around this Red Rock

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Posted in: Hiking

Susan and Fountain Valley

October 20th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Susan DeWind is an intrepid hiker I met in August when we hiked 132 miles together on a Sierra Club trek through the High Sierra in California. A few days ago she sent me great photos of herself and of me from that memorable journey:

Susan and Hawksbeak

Susan and Hawksbeak

An Impish Guy at Stella Lake

An Impish Guy at Stella Lake

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Southwestern Colorado: Mesa Verde’s Balcony House

October 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

For my second full day at Mesa Verde National Park today this sunrise from the balcony of my room at Far View Lodge welcomed me:

Far View Sunrise

Far View Sunrise

Then, later this morning I experienced the most challenging cliff dwelling, Balcony House. The challenge was in getting to and from the one cliff dwelling clearly situated for defense:

The View of Balcony House from Across the Canyon

The View of Balcony House from Across the Canyon

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Southwestern Colorado: Mesa Verde’s Cliff Palace‏

October 3rd, 2009 · 1 Comment

For my first full day at Mesa Verde National Park on Tuesday I sought out the largest cliff dwelling. And the position of the sun in the sky determined when I photographed it.

Mesa Verde offers so much to do that I had to be picky. I focused both literally and figuratively on Cliff Palace, the largest Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling anywhere. Once it probably had more than 200 rooms, of which 151 remain, including 23 kivas.

Cliff Palace has an incredible location, 100 feet below an overhanging ledge of rock. I appreciated the location all the more when I hiked down to it and then back up. I took this photo from part way down:

Overview of Cliff Palace, the Largest Cliff Dwelling in the World

Overview of Cliff Palace, the Largest Cliff Dwelling in the World

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Southwestern Colorado: Mesa Verde‏

October 3rd, 2009 · 4 Comments

When I started this road trip to Southwestern Colorado, I had two regrets.

I wanted to stay at Orvis Hot Springs, one of Colorado’s few clothing-optional hot springs resorts. But they had no rooms available until late in October.

My drive Monday from Montrose to Mesa Verde National Park took me within a couple of miles of the hot springs. Naturally, I stopped to look around and see if they had a day-use option. They did and I took it.

Wisely, everyone soaking in the hot pools opted out of their clothes, and of course I did too. The day was perfect for a nude outdoor soak, with clear skies and dry weather in the high 70’s or low 80’s.

Actually, a soak for an hour, rather than staying for a day or two, was just what I needed. Photos were of course not an option.

My second regret was missing the height of the aspens changing color in Rocky Mountain National Park. But Southwestern Colorado showed me more aspens changing color to yellow and orange than I had ever seen in my whole life. I photographed about one and one-half billion of these aspen trees, and this was my favorite shot (thanks to a clear day and my new 300mm lens):

Aspens near Telluride

Aspens near Telluride

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Southwestern Colorado: The South Rim of the Black Canyon

September 28th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Today I returned to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This trip took me down into the canyon and then along the south rim.

Only one road goes down into the canyon. East Portal Road took me to the east side, where although the canyon is wider, it is still beautiful.

Gunnison River in Black Canyon

Gunnison River in Black Canyon

Aside from this road, the only way down is a steep and dangerous hike that all my sources say is not something mortals should consider. I did hike from the East Portal road to the tiny sandbar in this photo, where the rudimentary trail stops completely. [Read more →]

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Southwestern Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison

September 28th, 2009 · No Comments

My new lens is wonderful, but not enough. I realized today that I need a another prime lens to handle closer distances. Doug Goodin, a professional nature photographer who is a friend and mentor, recommends a 50mm lens. Maybe when I get this one I will be satisfied!

I’ve bought two photos of Colorado scenes and both of them grace my living room. Doug took one of them, and another professional nature photographer in Boulder, Peter Steele, took the other one. He calls it “Horse Crossing” and a low resolution version of it is online. Peter told me that he found this scene near the town of Marble, and since the road I was taking today went close to Marble I drove there to see if I could find the setting.

Here is a copy of the online version of Peter’s photo. The print that I have is a lot sharper:

"Horse Crossing" by Peter Steele

"Horse Crossing" by Peter Steele

While Peter was there in spring and I got there in the fall, this is same place:

More Horses

More Horses

I was headed toward the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the only national park in Colorado that I hadn’t experienced before. The National Parks attract me. We have 58 of them in this country now, and I have experienced just over half of them. [Read more →]

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Rocky Mountains

September 21st, 2009 · 3 Comments

With a prediction of sunny skies everywhere here in north central Colorado, plus a temperature forecast of 80 degrees in Boulder and 60 degrees at the top of the Rocky Mountain National Park, today was a great day to get back to the high country. The weatherman was almost right.

Except for a snowstorm during the last hour of my hike along the Old Ute Trail from the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road to Milner Pass on the Continental Divide, the weather was perfect. And the first person I asked for a ride back to the visitor center took me right there.

This four-mile hike is one of favorites. You can see why:

Old Ute Trail Before the Snow (The Dark Cloud Was A Clue)

Old Ute Trail Before the Snow (The Dark Cloud Was A Clue)

A Butterfly on One of the Last Flowers of Summer

A Butterfly on One of the Last Flowers of Summer

That was my first hike today.

But last night I showed about a dozen of the best shots that I took this summer to the other members of the Colorado Nature Camera Club. This was a trial run to see how they would look on the club’s projector. I was most concerned whether they would be sharp and bright enough. They were. [Read more →]

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography