2017 Monochrome Awards

I just found out I got an honorable mention for an international Black and White photo contest.  😁

There were 8,942 submissions from 87 countries! Wow! I am very honored to receive an award for this prestigious event. I submitted 3 photos so am thrilled one was selected. 

My winning photo was one of my all time favorite photos: Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park,  Colorado. 

It’s so exciting to be recognized! 

Last Birding Trip of 2017

During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache.  I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.

I left well before sunrise.  As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog.  At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.

It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quite solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost

Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.

I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about.  Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about.  I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling.  They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.

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Northern Harriers fighting

I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about.  I had to really search the ponds to find any.  Not sure where they were all hiding.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about.  But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them.  But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day.   There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them.  Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush.  Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.

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Crissal Thrasher

I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch.  They are always entertaining.  He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching.  I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone.  🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance.  When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe.  These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.

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Clark’s Grebe

I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home.  I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home.  I had heard a lot about this road.  But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful.  But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge.  The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.

I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink.  It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen.  It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding.  It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through.  🙂

 

Pecos at Night

Recently I was invited to a night photography workshop held near the Pecos National Monument.  I have dabbled in night photography a couple times in the past with poor results.  Mostly because my camera I was using at the time was not meant to do night shots.  But also because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing.  :-\

So when I was invited to do a workshop that was going to be hosted by several people that were much more experienced at it then me, I jumped on the opportunity.  I invited my friend Valerie to join me.  We love going out together for camera time.

We drove to Pecos and arrived late afternoon.  I had believed the Pecos National Monument was open until 5:30.  But sadly, they closed as soon as we got there at 4:30,.  Winter hours had begun.  😦  We weren’t going to meet our group until 6 so we had a 1.5 hours to kill.

I decided to drive up Highway 63 to see what might be interesting to see.  We stopped at an old historic church for a few brief photos.  Usually these old churches are locked whenever I am there.  But on this day, it was open!  Such a beautiful sanctuary.

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Gorgeous chandeliers

Further up the road we crossed the Pecos River.  We just had to stop.  The setting sun was glorious on the water with the stunning fall colors.

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Pecos River

Next stop was Monastery Lake.  I’ve driven by the turn off for this lake several times this summer without stopping.  So it was nice to stop in this time.  It was a small little lake that seemed popular for fishing.  Lovely fall colors surrounded the lake.

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Monastery Lake

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Fishermen along the shore

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Beautiful shore

We figured we better start back to the meeting place.  But I had one more stop to make.  I had seen this cool old garage as we pulled out from the church earlier.  So I quickly pulled into the driveway and snapped a few pics.

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I loved the patina of the paint

There were a couple of dogs in the driveway that seemed friendly enough.  But when it came time to leave, they were determined to chase the car and run in front of us.  I couldn’t go very fast for fear of running them over.  We had to drive down the road slowly for a ways before they finally gave up.  Whew!  They almost made us late for our workshop!

We had to be at the meeting spot on time or we would be locked out.  We were allowed to shoot at an old ranch that isn’t open to the public.  We drove up to the gate with moments to spare!

After a quick meeting, the group broke up into smaller groups around the ranch.  Valerie and I decided we wanted to go down to this bridge to get shots of the bridge, river, moon and milky way.  Several of us went to the bridge – including an experienced night photographer.  Yay!

We had to wear red headlamps to save our night vision.  I took a quick pic of Valerie for fun.  I thought I took a selfie but I guess it didn’t take.  😦

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Valerie bundled up for the cold night ahead

So we made it to the bridge, got some great advice from our expert in the group, and set up our tripods and cameras.  We checked our apps to see where the Milky Way was going to be and pointed our cameras that direction.  And there was a sliver of a moon getting ready to set.  The sky was the most beautiful purple hue.

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Beautiful purple skies

The sun set quickly and I took my first photo of the Milky Way.  It was thrilling!  I took a 20 second exposure with a 20 second high noise reduction setting.  I was anxiously waiting to see what I got.  And then it appeared on my camera screen.  I was so excited to see my first photo come out so beautifully!

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My first Milky Way shot!

The group then decided to try light painting the Pecos River.  I have tried light painting in the past with OK results.  I realized later than I used too much light to highlight my subject.  On this night we literally just lit the river a couple of seconds over a 20 second exposure.  I think it turned out nice.

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Light painting of the Pecos River

We then light painted the bridge we were standing on.  It was a little more difficult as the bridge was white.  It really reflected the light.  We only had to very briefly shine the light.  Even then the bridge is pretty bright.  But I like the photo I got.

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Bridge over the Pecos River

We were really concentrating on the south side of the bridge.   When I turned around and looked to the north, I saw this great deciduous tree silhouetted by the lights of Santa Fe in the distance.  I just had to capture it with the purple skies and wonderful light.  I was very pleased with my shot.  We tried light painting the tree, but I  wasn’t as happy with those pics.

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Beautiful skies

By this time, several hours had passed.  It went so quickly!  We needed to move to warm up.  By now the temperature was 32 degrees and we were getting cold standing still.  We headed up the hill to the old ranch house.  There’s this giant steer head sculpture on the fireplace.  We took several exposures of this view but I wasn’t happy with most of them.  This is probably the best shot I got.

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Steer Sculpture

By now we were very cold.  It was time to go home.  On one hand I wanted to stay longer, but on the other I was ready to leave.  Those heated seats in my Jeep were pure heaven!!!

I had a great time on my first night shot outing.  I’m definitely ready to do more!

 

 

 

After The Rains

Around the first part of October, the Albuquerque area got quite a bit of rain storms.  Since the weather had cooled off from those storms, I decided to go check out the Ojito Wilderness northwest of Albuquerque.  This area is just too hot during the summer months.

On the day I went, it was still very overcast.  Thankfully I had my Jeep, because most of the roads were still very muddy and required 4WD.  Because of all the rain we’d had, the rocks had been saturated and their colors were very vibrant.  I enjoyed hiking and exploring all the rock formations.

I thought you might like to see some of the photos I took during that hike.

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The colors of the Ojito Wilderness are so beautiful.

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Unicorn Horn Formation

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This formation was HUGE

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All the wind formed shapes are so wonderful

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Scarlett enjoyed exploring that day

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The white rock formation in the distance is so unique

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Uplifted formations

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Lots of trails through the colors

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Beautiful

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So many colors

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Stormy skies overhead

 

 

La Lena WSA: Emperado Ridge / Continental Divide Hike

Yesterday I went on my first group hike with a Meetup Group called WOW WE (Way Out West – Westside Explorers).  There were 12 of us on this hike including our fearless leader Woody.  I took Scarlett along and she had a blast.

We started our hike in the middle of nowhere about a 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque.  We drove to the top of a mesa.  After hiking about a 1/2 mile, we came to the edge of the mesa.  The views were expansive.  Just beautiful!

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Cabezon Peak on the left

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You could see for miles!

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Kelly and Scarlett

We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.

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Our fearless leader Woody.  We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.

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Soon we started heading down to the valley below.  That’s when the interesting geology started showing up.  I loved all the different colors in the layers of the rock.

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I loved the shape of this dead tree

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We ate lunch in this patch of white rock.  Unique shapes were found all around.

We started seeing our first Hoodoos in the white rock area.  I love Hoodoos!

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Scarlett found a patch of shade.  Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!

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We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.

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Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology.  Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.

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You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.

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Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.

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At one point we had to scramble down a boulder filled crevice.  It was a little scary but thankfully Woody helped me navigate the most scary part.

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Scariest part of the hike.  Thankfully Woody helped me navigate this part.

Soon the mesa was towering over us.  We wound our way from one interesting rock patch to another.

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We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.

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Hoodoo Mushrooms

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The winds create interesting shapes in the rocks.  I like the little shape in the lower left that looks like a puppy.

After hiking for about another mile, we came to a very large area of Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations.  It was a lot of fun exploring this area.  We stayed here quite a while since there was so much to see.

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So many Hoodoos and colors!

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Interesting layers of the rock

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Giant pieces of petrified wood

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So beautiful!

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“Delfido Moralez 1938” inscription

Finally we were on the last leg of the hike.  We continued hiking along the bottom of the mesa and connected with the Continental Divide trail.  This trail is 1,300 miles long and runs from Mexico up to Canada.  For those of you that don’t know what the Continental Divide is:

“A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea.”

Thankfully this part of the hike was level and easy.  By this point I had hiked over 6 miles.  Whew!  I think Scarlett had hiked twice that.  She loved that there were lots of folks hiking together.  She would run way ahead to those in front of me then come running back to me.

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Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures.  You can see the “CD” sign on the post.

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Stunning!

The last leg of the hike was the only uphill part of the climb.  It was short but fairly steep.  I was pretty tired by this point, but made it up fairly well.

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The uphill climb to the top of the mesa

Once back on top of the mesa, it was a short 1/2 mile hike back to the car.

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Back on top.  You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.

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Our last grand vista view from the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.

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Looking tired LOL!

What a fun hike! In all I hiked 7.5 miles.  🙂  I will definitely be going on more WOW WE hikes in the future.  Fun hike and fun people!

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Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 3

On Day 3 Dia and I were up early again – ready to hit the trails for more beautiful sights.  This time Dia got a GIANT coffee from Starbucks so it would last her all morning long.  🙂

On our drive back from hiking to Emerald Lake the day before, we saw a beautiful waterfall in the distance.  I told Dia I wanted to hike to that waterfall.  So here we were heading to Alberta Falls.

The trail head is in the same area as Bear Lake.  So before heading to the falls, we took some very early morning shots at the lake.  Such a tranquil morning.  There was no breeze so the water was like a mirror.

The trail was in deep shade so early in the morning.  It was a challenge to get a photo of us together (lots of work editing those shadows).

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Dia and Kelly at Bear Lake

As we walked around the lake, the view started to open up and the shadowy areas began to lighten.

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Bear Lake

We came to one area that had giant boulders near the lake.  Dia climbed out on one to get a beautiful view.  A wonderful place for her to enjoy that coffee.

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I climbed an even higher rock and got a very wide angle view.  Gorgeous!

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Perfect reflection.

Soon we were on the trail to the falls.  The trail started off beautifully walking through an Aspen grove.

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Soon the trail started climbing and we could hear rushing water in the distance.  I couldn’t wait to see this waterfall.  I had seen photos online and knew it was going to be beautiful.  We came to Glacier Creek below the falls.  So much water! Not sure why it’s called a creek when it’s a raging river!

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Glacier Creek

After a little while of hiking, we could hear the falls in the distance.  The views were opening up and giving us more light on the trail.  Then finally we made it to the falls.  Stunning! The roar of the water was almost deafening.  A wondrous sound to my ears.

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Stunning waterfall.  I love how the sun’s rays were illuminated by the mist from the falls.

We stayed here awhile and took some photos of each other and enjoyed watching the waterfall.

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Doesn’t Dia look so adorable here 🙂 You can see why I love my friend.  She makes me smile all day long.

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Hmmmm….I see rabbit ears! LOL!

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Scarlett wanted her picture taken at the falls too!  😉

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My beautiful Scarlett enjoying the hike.

Then we decided to walk along the river above the falls instead of staying on the trail.  For some reason the trail leaves the water and we weren’t ready to do that.  I’m so glad we decided to walk upriver because the scenery was so beautiful.

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Glacier Creek

We spent quite a bit of time in one area.  The sound of rushing water and the privacy of the trees and being off trail.  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  We were truly enjoying God’s creations.

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The water was moving so fast!

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I tried to capture the feel of the water’s power.

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A raging river.

We were still feeling good so decided to continue up the trail and see if we could make it to Mill Lake.  We climbed higher and higher and the views opened way up.  Then we came to a bend in the trail and started walking into another canyon.  The views were so expansive.  Such a wonderful hike.

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I love this picture Dia took of me and Scarlett hiking.   🙂

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We came to a sign that said Mill Lake was 1.5 miles ahead.  By this time we had hiked 6 miles.  We were debating on if we thought we would make it to the lake and still have enough energy to get all the way back to the car.  We were somewhat undecided for a while.  Then Dia said “Let’s go!  We can do it! And someone said there’s a baby elk to see!”.  Hmmmmmm…… I was just about to agree when a big BOOM! sounded and I looked up to see this giant thundercloud above us.  WOW!

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Giant thunderhead.  Beautiful but scary when you’re out hiking.

That did it!  I did not want to be caught at 12,000 feet in a lightening storm.  No way! So we turned around and headed back to the car.

On one hand I’m sorry we didn’t go to the lake.  It never did rain.  I’m sure the views were fabulous.  But on the other hand, I know if we had gone we would have been so sore and tired by the time we got off the trail.  That would have extended our hike another 3 miles.  As it was, we ended up hiking another 10 miles this day.  We did 30 miles in 3 days!

I treated Dia to a wonderful dinner with wine for her birthday.  We even had enough energy left to do a little shopping in Estes Park.   It was a great way to end the day.

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When we got back to our hotel, we had one more treat for the day.  A mother Mallard was trying to take her babies to the little pond at our hotel.  When they saw me and Scarlett not too far away, they flattened themselves trying to hide from us.

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Mallards

We all stayed still and soon the mother felt it was safe enough to go to the pond.  🙂

 

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Safely at the pond 🙂

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 2

It’s been a little while since I posted Day 1.  Sorry about that!  Life has been busy!

Day 2 was my favorite of the 3 days at the park.  Dia and I hiked most of the morning.  We took a hike that passed by 3 lakes.  Just stunning!  I think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on.  Seriously!  You’ll see why when you see my photos.  And trust me….they don’t do it justice!

We started out very early in the morning to miss the crowds and to hopefully get some pretty photos of the lakes.    And our planning paid off.

The hike started off in deep forest with a slight incline.  About a 1/2 mile into the hike we came upon Nymph Lake.  A beautiful little lake full of lily pads.

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Nymph Lake

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Lots of lily pads

Fortunately there was a couple there willing to take our photo.  Even though I had my tripod, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone take your pic.  🙂

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Scarlett, Kelly and Dia

Scarlett was wearing her new backpack.  We had her carry all of our water and snacks!  🙂  Being a working dog, she loved it.  Plus, it slowed her down some LOL!

After Nymph Lake we started climbing higher.   Soon we were climbing above the forest and the view started opening up.  So beautiful!

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Panorama of the trail.  You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.

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Stunning views

We came across the stream that fed into Nymph Lake.  It was flowing nicely.  I love hiking next to water.  Just that sound of the babbling brook can be so peaceful and rejuvenating.  Seeing as New Mexico really doesn’t have a lot of water, being in RMNP was so wonderful because it’s full of water.

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Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!

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Sweet little waterfall in the stream

As we climbed higher on the trail, it just kept getting even more beautiful.  I was never bored.  Every step was a joy.

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We started leveling out and the waters became calmer.  I figured we were getting closer to another of the 3 lakes.

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At this point Dia joked that we were hiking to that snow in the background.  Little did we know she was pretty close to the truth.

Soon we rounded a bend and there was Dream Lake.  I absolutely loved this lake.  It was my favorite lake of the entire trip.

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Dia and Kelly at Dream Lake

OMG! This lake was just breathtaking!  I could have sat here for hours.  The water was so clear we could see trout swimming along the shore.  Just beautiful!  The picture below is my most favorite scenic photo from the trip.

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Dream Lake – Just stunning!!!

Too soon we had to leave Dream Lake and keep hiking up the trail.  Dream Lake was long and skinny so there was lots of time to enjoy it as we headed up the trail.  Other parts of the lake were unique and I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of photos.

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Such a beautiful hike

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Dia loved this cool tree

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Clear water and perfect reflections

Soon we were climbing yet again.  Thankfully the trail was never too steep.  So it was an enjoyable hike the entire time.  And now that I think about it, Dia never once cried for a Starbucks.  That’s how great this hike was!!!

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I loved that from this point forward we stayed next to the stream.  At times we crisscrossed over it.  And at several points there were small waterfalls.  Gorgeous!

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What a great trail.

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Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.

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I had to scramble down between big boulders for this shot.  What photographers do for a photo!

Finally we were getting close to our final lake and the turnaround point for the hike.  We had made it to the snow that Dia had earlier joked about.  Granted, it was just here and there but we were at around 10,000 feet so it was cool enough for some of it to stay even in the middle of summer.  And what was on that snow????  A lifer bird for me!!!!  A Pine Grosbeak.  A beautiful male so pretty in his pink plumage.  This is the southernmost area you can see these birds in the US.  I was so excited!  I didn’t have my birding lens on, but thankfully he was close enough I got a decent pic with my regular lens.

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Pine Grosbeak

Right after seeing the grosbeak, we came upon Emerald Lake.  A stunning high alpine glacial lake.

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Emerald Lake

My favorite photo of the trip of Dia and I together.   Such a stunning backdrop.  Thankfully I had lugged my tripod along on this trip so I could get such great shots and pictures of us together.

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Kelly and Dia at Emerald Lake

We stayed here awhile just soaking up the views.  You could hear the distant waterfall.  So peaceful.  A lovely hike on a lovely day.

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Dia enjoying the view of the lake and distant waterfall.  Scarlett enjoying all the squirrels running around.  She let us know where every one was…

Too soon we had to head back down the trail.  Thankfully it was downhill the whole way back.  It was interesting to note how different the lakes looked when the sun was directly overhead.  I was so happy we got up at 5:30 to hit the trail early.  It paid off with gorgeous photos and no people.

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Nymph Lake later in the day

We were tired at the end of the hike.  We had a snack in parking lot and talked about what we wanted to do next.  Since we had just hiked 6+ miles we decided we wanted to drive around and see more of the park.

We ended up stopping at another lake – Sprague Lake.

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Sprague Lake

It wasn’t nearly as scenic as the other lakes, but was still nice to walk around.  Plus, there were lots of birds in the area.  Always a plus!

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Lovely wildflowers

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Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mountain Chickadee

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mallard

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Cutie pie 🙂

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Mountain Bluebird

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Bank Swallow

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Steller’s Jay

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Dia couldn’t believe I got this dragonfly in flight 🙂

My favorite bird on this walk was a Song Sparrow.  He was kicked back, relaxing, and singing his little heart out.  So Sweet!

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Song Sparrow

As if we hadn’t hiked enough that day, I talked Dia into hiking from Sprague Lake down to Glacier Basin.  It was a pretty little downhill hike.  But I tell you, we were wiped out at the end.  Thankfully they have shuttle buses running that were able to take us back to our car.  While waiting for the bus, I saw a wasp carrying a large caterpillar.  He was moving fast so it was tough getting a pic.  But I was fascinated by this.  That caterpillar is going to be food for its young.

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Common Thread Waisted Wasp

After getting back to our car, we decided to drive around a little more.  We drove through the giant meadow of Moraine Park.  A beautiful area full of wildflowers and big vistas. And lots of birds!  I made plans with Dia to let me get up early the day we were to drive home so I could go birding in this area before we left.  I knew it was going to be great!

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Moraine Park

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Lovely wildflowers

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There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!

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Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂

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Bee Balm

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Brewer’s Blackbird male and female

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – I love this pic!

There was one river that we crossed every day.  It had beautiful rushing water.  I really wanted a picture of it.  We tried walking up next to it, but it didn’t do it justice.  Though we did see this sign…

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So I decided to walk back out onto the bridge for a pic.  Much better! So beautiful!

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Gorgeous!

When we got back to the hotel, we were pooped!  While I was walking Scarlett for her potty break, Dia sent me this text.  LOL! We had hiked 10 miles this day.  Plus 10 miles the day before.

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As we were getting ready for bed (at 7:30 pm HAHAHAHAHAHA!), I decided to take Scarlett out one more time to go potty.  When I looked out, I saw Bull Elk right outside our room!  WOW!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and take a dozen pics following them as they grazed.  What a great way to end a day!

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Bull Elk