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Fort Collins Fossil Ridge Basketball vs Poudre (Back to Sports)

Savannah Smith vs Poudre

Savannah Smith drew fouls from her drives in the paint much of the night.

It’s been a little over a year since I moved from Michigan to Colorado and quit shooting sports.  This week I got back to having fun!  Thursday night I was lucky enough to shoot a couple of state ranked basketball teams (CHSAANow.com basketball poll).  Fifth ranked Fossil Ridge Sabre Cats Girl’s Team was at home playing previously ranked league foe, Poudre High School Impalas.  There’s been a lot of historic battles between these two league foes and this game was no exception.  The Cats jumped out to an early lead but by halftime it was a one point game.  The game seesawed in the second half till late when the Cats extended out to a six point lead, with a final score of 52-56 .  Savanah Smith lead the Cats with 15 pts, 11 of which came at the foul line.  Her ability to draw fouls on the drive to the basket put Madison Hamm out of the game in the second half.  Lots of pictures from this game.  See them here.

Alex Semadeni Slams on down

Alex Semadeni Slams on down

In the second game of the night, the second ranked Sabercats took on a much less talented Poudre Team.  This contest was over from the get-go, with the cats running out to a 27-2 lead in the first quarter.  Evan Smith lead the way for the Cats with 17 pts.  But, the scoring was spread out as 11 Sabercats got on the board.  Sawyer Findley lead the way for Poudre with 17 points. There are lots of pictures from this game also. Plus there are pictures from a half time performance by the Sabercats Pom Squad.  See them here.

Crystal Lakes, Rocky Mountain N.P.

Lawn Lake, RMNP

Lawn Lake, RMNP

This picture is taken from the south end of Lawn Lake in RMNP.  If you look above the far end of the lake, slightly left off center you can make out what appears to be an ‘M’ made from left over snow.  It is just below this snow when my destination for this post the, Crystal Lakes lie.  (This picture was taken on a previous trip to Lawn Lake).

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Little Crystal Lake

In my journey to get back to ‘Long’s Peak’ health since my surgery, I took another step this week.  About 10 days ago I had hiked up to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain N.P.  It was a 12 mile hike (round trip), 2500 ft gain to just shy of 11,000 ft. elevation and had wiped me out.    Upon return from the hike I was reading one of my hiking books (Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park) and discovered that there are two more destinations above Lawn Lake, Crystal Lakes and The Saddle.  Crystal Lakes are two small Alpine Lakes about 2 miles and 500 ft above Lawn Lake.  The Saddle is a little less than a mile beyond Crystal Lakes and another 500 ft higher than them.  It sits in-between Hagues Peak and Fairchild Mountain and provides expansive views to the northwest.  I talked myself into small steps and decided to only go to Crystal Lakes this time and then do more conditioning and go back to The Saddle another day.

View of Crystal Lake (in background) behind Little Crystal Lake.

View of Crystal Lake (in background) behind Little Crystal Lake.

Lawn Lake from the north

Lawn Lake from the north

The extra 500 ft elevation at the lakes provide a beautiful view back toward Lawn Lake.  Being late summer, you can see that the water level is somewhat down.   However, the high water mark you can see in the picture is from long ago when a crude dam was constructed to make this a reservoir for farmers down the mountain.  The dam was was not properly maintained and is now gone.  Crystal Lakes are much smaller and packed tightly into a cirque on the side of Fairchild Mountain.  Being unable to back up much to get more of the lakes into the picture results in a very incomplete view of the beauty I found.  I’ll have to remember to take a wider angle lens with me next time.  (Although, carrying a D4 body, 24-70 lens, a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Head and a Gitzo GT3541XLS Tripod up has me pretty much at my carrying capacity!).  So, I completed this 16 mile Trek and felt I had a little gas left in the tank.  However, I realize two things: One, I need to increase my effort in preparation as this does not equate to Long’s Peak in effort.  Longs is a shorter hike, but another 2,000 ft in elevation gain.  Two, I read that the views from The Saddle are beautiful and that you can see Laramie, Wyoming from there.  With that as motivation I will make it my next step toward getting back to summit Long’s for the fourth time.

Hike to Lake Isabelle in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Indian Peaks Wilderness AreaIndian Peaks Wilderness Area is missed by most visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park.  It is located about 25 miles south of the National Park and has some fantastic hiking opportunities.If you don’t have the energy (or are simply not in good enough shape) to hike into the sub-alpine and alpine areas of the Rockies, one can drive to trailheads here that begin around 10,500 ft!  In this post, I would like to describe a hike I’ve done a number of times.  It’s a hike up to Lake Isabelle (as sub-alpine lake).

Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

The distance to Lake Isabelle is a 2.5 mile hike from the trailhead.  It is rated as easy as it remains nearly flat for the majority of the hike.  Toward the very end you’ll go through a couple of switch backs, but nothing too steep.  From trailhead to the lake there is only a 388 ft gain in altitude, topping out at 10,868 ft.  It’s a fee area, but if you have your National Park Pass you can use it to get you in free!  Brainard Lake MapThe picture on the left is of my hiking buddy, Steve, looking at a map of the Brainard Lake Area.  It has plenty of camping sites (first come, first served) on paved interior roads.  There are no services available.  They do have nice bathrooms available, but no flush toilets or running water.  This is typically a wet area, so plan on muddy boots and bring rain gear.

Brainard Lake

The area is so named for a dammed lake (Brainard Lake)  You are able to drive across the dam on the way to the trailheads.  Take time to look around the lake and it’s dam.  It’s a beautiful area.  The dam feeds a stream that runs off toward the campgrounds.  Moose frequent the area.  They are fun to watch, but keep your distance, especially from cows and their calfs!

Brainard Lake Dam

Brainard Lake Dam

The Trailheads provides ample paved parking and information concerning trail conditions and recent animal sightings.  Before taking off on your hike, be sure to visit the park volunteers at the information booth to check trail conditions.

Lake Isabelle Trailhead

Lake Isabelle Trailhead

Steve and I at the Trailhead

Steve and I at the Trailhead

The trail is shaded for much of your journey as you will be hiking through Engelmann Spruce and subalpine fir.  The first mile of your hike will have you walking beside Long Lake (which not surprisingly is a long lake!).  It won’t be visible most of time as it is hidden by the trees.

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There are two ways around the lake.  The trail on the north side is the most direct and most traveled (Isabelle Glacier Trail).  If you choose to take the south trail (Jean Lunning Trail), you will cross a small bridge and go around the lake meeting back up with the main trail at the west end of the lake.  It is about 4 miles to circumnavigate Long Lake.

This is a worth while hike on it’s own as many wildlife sightings have been reported in the area.  The day we hiked, there had been moose, bear and mountain lion spotted in the area over the past week!  Unfortunately, the only animals we encountered were noisy marmots up by Lake Isabelle.  There are many wild flowers along the trail in June and July.  So, don’t be surprised to come across the scene below often!

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Stopping to photograph wild flowers and water falls can lengthen the duration of your hike quite a bit.  So, be sure to plan the time into your schedule for ‘stopping to smell the roses’,  as it’s well worth it.  Below are some of the flowers we found along the path on our hike.

Paintbrush

Paintbrush

Shooting Stars

Shooting Stars

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Bluebells

Bluebells

After hiking past Long Lake you will begin to notice the area up ahead  appears to be significantly higher in elevation than you are currently at.  You are about to travel up a few switch backs to climb up to Lake Isabelle.  This will prove to be  the most picturesque part of the your hike.

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Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

You are soon rewarded with a view of Lake Isabelle.  At the north end you may notice a large snow cap across the escaping water that cascades into the valley below.  Keep an eye and an ear out for the Marmots playing in the rocks to your right.

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This lake serves as a reservoir for some of the towns east of the foothills in Colorado.  The day we were there, it was half drained to permit some work on the outlet.  But, as you can see below, it still is a beautiful subalpine lake.

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If you’re adventurous, you may want to continue your hike up through the pass.  There is plenty more to see if you’re in shape and properly equipped!

May trip to Rocky Mountain N. P.

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Following the near 15″ snowfall we had in Fort Collins earlier this week, I took a trip up into Rocky Mountain National Park to see what the state of the park was.  The sun had melted most of the snow in Fort Collins over the last couple of days and to my surprise their wasn’t much snow left in the lower parts of the park either.  All the pictures here are from Moraine Park.  A friend and I (Steve) were returning down into Moraine Park from a drive up to Bear Lake (where there is still substantial snow!  Also, be forewarned that this road is under construction and is dirt for about half of it.).  Upon entering Moraine Park we spotted four Coyotes running together.  Being caught with my 24-70 lens on the body of the D4, I hurriedly stopped and ran to the back of the truck and threw my 300 mm, f2.8 on.

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By this time the Coyotes were moving quickly through the trees left to right.  I took several shots, but only managed to capture no more than three of them in the lens at a time.  Steve said that they seemed to be chasing (or at least spooked) several Mule Deer that were now further up on one of the hills.  As you can see the coyotes still look healthy in the winter coats.  A lesson here was re-learned.  While at a Moose Peterson workshop in Yellowstone back in 2009 I observed that he always drove through the park with a his camera attached to a long lens on his lap!

_VEE8121-EditA little further along the road that goes down into Moraine Park there were 30-40 Elk spread out over a couple hundred yards.  Unlike the coyotes, these animals looked like it had been a long winter. They appeared to have begun the process of loosing their winter coats (along with their winter fat stores)

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.   Hopefully with the snow melting they will be able to fatten up.  A few of the Elk had a few riding buddies.  A couple of Magpies were hopping from back to back on some of the Elk.  They appeared to eating bugs from around the necks.  But, to be honest, this is just a guess on my part as I was unable to actually see this occur.

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If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a Magpie on the closest elk.  On the way out of the park we stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.  Steve noticed a Mountain Bluebird near the parking lot.  There have been a number of reports this week that large numbers of them had been found dead following the snow storm in the Fort Collins area.  One of the possible reasons was that many of these birds had just arrived in the area with depleted fat reserves from their migration.  The record cold temperatures during the day and half storm may have been too much for birds and were unable to keep themselves warm.  So, this Bluebird was a welcome sight.

_VEE8154-EditI apologize for messy look of the blog.  It appears that many of the links have broken in the outside columns.  I will try to clean these up over the next few days!

Devil’s Backbone/Coyote Ridge

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My first two hikes in the foothills of Fort Collins were in the Devil’s Backbone  and Coyote Ridge Natural Areas.  These two trails are connected and both trailheads reside in Loveland, CO.  The Coyote Ridge Trailhead is about 3 miles from my doorstep.  After only being in the area for a week, I was fortunate enough to find a ‘hiking buddy’ (Steve) in Fort Collins that has taken me on and is showing the many trails in Foothills area.  Our first hike together was Devil’s Backbone.

Devil's Backbone Trailhead

Devil’s Backbone Trailhead

Pictured here is Steve and I at the trailhead.  In the background you can see the rock ridge that gives this trail it’s name.  It was a beautiful day for a hike and as usual I was over-dressed for it.  I’m a wimp when it comes to being cold.  The temperature was in the low to mid 30s and I figured with any wind it might end up being a ‘blustery’ hike (as Winnie the Pooh may say).  But the wind held off and the jacket was soon open.  The trails in this area are shared trails.  Sometimes they allow hikers, bikers and horses.  Sometimes just hikers and bikers.  At times this trial would separate and horses were allowed on one and hikers another.  Steve and I hiked about 3.5 miles deep on this trial (seven miles round trip).  But, the trail connects with others and one could hike 20+ miles without doubling back.

Keyhole in Devil's Backbone

Keyhole in Devil’s Backbone

About a mile and half into the hike one can see a ‘Keyhole’ in the rock ridge of the Devil’s Backbone.  I was amazed to find that I could see Long’s Peak about 35-40 miles in the distance.  Here I am pretending to point at the Keyhole near the summit of Long’s Peak which I’ve had the fortune to peer and travel through up close a number of times.

Just before Christmas, Steve left me and went for a vacation with his wife (I can’t believe he left me for her!) to warmer climes for several weeks.  I should have been so smart.  Getting restless, I decided to checkout the first trailhead north of Devil’s Backbone, Coyote Ridge Natural Area.

Coyote Ridge Trail Head

Coyote Ridge Trail Head

Now, if you’re adventurous you can hike this about 6 miles in and end up where Steve and I left off on the first hike.  Since I would have to hike up the foothills (seen above in the distance) in the snow, I decided to just go to the top of hill and see what I could see on this day.  About a half mile into the trip I ran into a bunch of fur-balls running around just off to the sides of the trials.  Prairie Dogs!  Not having a telephoto lens along with me, I decided that I would have to come the next day (dragging my wife along with me) and get some shots.

Prairie Dog keeping a watchful eye on me

Prairie Dog keeping a watchful eye on me

The furry fat butterball above I shot with my Nikon D4, Nikkor 300 f2.8 lens and a Nikon 2x (600 mm total).  They were wary of us to say the least.  As you can see below it wasn’t long before he (or she?) was at his hole gleefully signaling to the rest of the community as to my presence.

This Dog was signaling my presence

This Dog was signaling my presence

After that, there were no more pictures to be had.  But, I had decided that I would have to venture back early one morning with my Nikkor 200-400 mm f/4 lens and a monopod (giving me 800 mm), and sit a while.  I would like to see if they would acclimate to my presence.  Hikers on this trail pass right through their community, so I’m hoping they are somewhat familiar with humans.

View back toward the trailhead from the top.

View back toward the trailhead from the top.

Back to the hike now.  I made it to the top.  The picture above is the view looking back toward the trail head.  If you look closely, the trailhead is on the south side of the nearest road crossing the image horizontally.  Below are two more images from the top, looking the other direction.  I hope to revisit this trail soon and complete the section that goes from the top to where Steve and I turned around on the Devil’s backbone hike.  Please feel free to leave comments and questions below!

Looking south from the top back towards Devil's Backbone

Looking south from the top back towards Devil’s Backbone

The view directly west from the top

The view directly west from the top

A Journey Begins

Poudre River at site near Poudre Park

Poudre River at site near Poudre Park

Moving is stressful!  It’s taken about 2 months since we received an offer on our house in Michigan until we are “semi-settled” in Colorado.  I say “semi” because we still live amongst boxes and furniture that have yet to find their place in the new house (will that ever end?).  Unfortunately, it’s been about the same amount of time since I’ve had a chance to pick up my camera and take some pictures.  There are several reasons why my wife and I undertook this move.  One being family.  At some point, while visiting the Rockies almost every summer for the last 25-30 years, our son decided to stay out west and make it his home.  Now that he has married, we decided to move closer to be near our future Grandchildren (no pressure there, eh?).  The other having to do with depth.  With each visit, it seems that I just scratch the surface of an area.  The Rockies are beautiful and immense.  I’ve walked to the top of some their highest peaks and along some of their biggest valleys.  But, it always seemed like a drive by shooting.  Now I hope to take the time to investigate these old rocks and look for the secrets they may hide.  I took my first break from unpacking boxes the other day.  Even though it was only a couple of hours, I discovered country I have never seen,  Late in the afternoon, I headed up through the hills northwest of Fort Collins for a drive.  In this short time, with diminishing light I found some interesting areas that I plan on returning to and hiking soon.

Tunnel through the mountain just west of Poudre Park.

Tunnel through the mountain just west of Poudre Park.

I drove about 30 miles out of town along the Poudre Canyon Hwy, into the Poudre Park area.  It is located fairly close to where the fires were this summer.  A number of times, while driving through the area, I saw Thank You Signs to the fire fighters that fought this blaze.  Even though the light was not great, I did fire off a couple of shots just so I could exercise some very rusty muscles.  It has wet my appetite for more exploration.  I hope to chronicle a lot of it here so I can revisit this journey.

Improving Photography Skills

Recently I’ve had a number of people asking me a variety photography questions so I thought I would share some thoughts, photography sites and a question with you.  To keep improving your photography skills you need to do a few things.  You need to shot more (duh!), read more and look at great shots by other photographers.  Now, I read a large number of photo blogs weekly.  I had started putting them on my Pinterest site a while back, but didn’t keep up with it.  After this post, I’m going to try to start updating it.  That way, if you want to see what I’m reading, you will be able to access it from there.  I also maintain a number of boards there that concern photography that you might find useful to follow.  Check out some of the blogs I read and find someone that ‘speaks to you’ and start reading them as often as possible (because I guarantee that they write much better than I).  With that in mind, I just ran into a couple of new (to me) sites today that you should check out.  I love Scott Kelby’s photo books. He’s a great, easy to read, humorous photography writer.  He also has a number of great web sites.  I just found out about a brand new one of his.  It’s a weekly 15 minute video called Photography Tips & Tricks.  It’s loaded with quick and dirty ‘howtos’.  Now some of these may be a little advanced for you, but then you might get exposed to things you didn’t know your camera could do.  I also encourage you to have a look at his Digital Photography Book Series.  They’re full of great tips and tricks, and are easy to understand.  Kelby has many other video productions to check out, here’s a page that lists all of the free ones: KelbyTV.

Now, if you find you’re getting serious about taking your photography to the next level it might be time to come to grips with the second half of photography: Editing.  To get better pictures, you’ve spent $1000+ on your camera, but how about the editing?  What you use to organize, store and edit your pictures is at least as important (if not more) than your camera.  The good news is you don’t have to go out and spend $600 dollars on Photoshop.  You can buy the new Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 11 for under a $100 bucks.  For the photographer you will find that it does almost everything you want to do.  What it doesn’t do, most photographers either don’t use or very seldom need.  But, there’s a piece of software out there that was developed specifically for us Photographers!  It’s  Adobe’s Lightroom.  I and most all of my Photo buddies use it.  It’s a little more expensive ($115), that’s only $15 bucks more!  And, I believe, much easier to use.  Now for my question I promised at the beginning.  I’ve been thinking about teaching several workshops on setting up and using Lightroom, but I don’t know if there’s enough interest out there or not. I was thinking of running four, two hour workshops over a series of four weeks.   If you might be interested in such a workshop could you let me know?  If I get enough responses I certainly will be motivated to put them on!

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