An Environmental Success Story

In early spring, we took a quick trip out to Colorado.  We arrived into Denver in the darkness of the late night, so stayed overnight near the airport.  We decided that we would check out the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, not far from downtown Denver.

Much of the land has transitioned over the years from farmland to being used by the army to produce chemical weapons, and later their dumping grounds for the weaponry developed there.  It was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) and designated a “Superfund” site, being considered an environmental disaster.  After 23 years and $2.1 billion dollars in the clean-up efforts, the remediation and clean-up work was considered complete.

Consisting of currently 15,988 acres of national wildlife refuge, it’s one of the largest urban refuges in the USA.  The complex is home to 330 species, including the endangered black-footed ferrets, which were re-introduced there.  One of the species that was influential to the refuge’s existence is the bald eagle.  DSC_4221I had often seen images of the bison there with either the backdrops of the Rocky Mountains or downtown Denver.  I hoped that we could get some of the same.  Sure enough, before too long, we came across 2 bison grazing in the grasslands.DSC_3655Further along, there were more.  I couldn’t help but wonder if those bison appreciated the wildlife refuge, where they could roam freely, with those amazing scenic landscapes.DSC_3801-EditA few of the areas are fenced off a bit, which made those images a bit annoying, but it sure was a beautiful day and the bison didn’t seem to care.DSC_3856At one point, we encountered a herd of bison, roaming from one side of the road  to another, and often, back again.  It made traveling down the road a bit challenging.  LOL_DSC2119These bison seemed a bit more skittish than others that I’ve encountered before.  At one point, I got out of the opposite door of our vehicle to get a better image … well outside safe distances for photographing bison.  To my surprise, I startled them and them stammered a bit, to which I quickly got back in the car.  The last thing I wanted to do was alter their behavior.DSC_3970DSC_3881-EditTrue to natural bison behavior, they preferred to hang out together in the herd.  There were a few young ones, which we would observe nursing on their moms.IMG_3286Of course, the Arsenal is more than bison.  Though we didn’t see the black-footed ferrets (except the ones in the exhibit viewing area), but we did see LOTS of prairie dogs!DSC_4128A good variety of birds were seen as well.  The northern flickr, which is a favorite of mine, was spotted in a nearby tree.  It didn’t feel like cooperating for the camera lens, so I left it alone and kept driving.DSC_4077The western meadowlarks were out in force as well, though fairly erractic in flight and a bit further out than I’m used to in Florida (our eastern meadowlarks, of course).DSC_4206Always a thrill for me to witness observe, and photograph were the red-tailed hawks.  Several times while we were there, a few circled in the thermals above us.DSC_3723-EditDSC_3711-EditNear the waters within the refuge, we spotted lots of birds, though most were a bit further out as well.  The Barrows goldeneye in flight was a fun subject.DSC_4092The Canada Goose was present in pretty good concentrations and some were seemingly nesting along the roadside as well.  This one let me get low and close for a head shot.DSC_4091-EditYes, we enjoyed our time at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge … where it’s living proof that good things can happen at bad places … for both the benefit of man and nature.  🙂_DSC2140As we were driving away, one of the MANY prairie dogs was spotted checking us out.  It seemed to be saying … “leaving so soon”.  LOL  Ok, maybe not!  if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend to visit this urban gem.DSC_4295Next Up:  Back to the wetlands of Florida

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Monument & Grand Mesa

Much of our free time towards the end of 2016 was spent in Colorado … for numeorus reasons.  Part of it is the efficient flights between Ft. Lauderdale to Denver … inexpensive (if timed just right) and nonstop is possible (always a bonus).  A big part of it is the beauty of Colorado … that great mix of wildlife and natural outdoor recreation and gorgeous landscapes.  It’s a state that I feel I have only recently touched the surface of, though I have visited numerous times.

There’s something really special about Colorado National Monument, a frequent location to visit when we’ve been out there.  The most prominent resident on the Monument is the desert bighorn sheep … a smaller version of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  We were so excited to see a family of sheep.  The females have horns, though not the curls like the males possess.
dsc_1217 A young one was following not far behind, with the male close behind.dsc_1215 The male bighorn totally fascinates me … their magnificent stance, their penetrating stare, their stillness, except for the chewing that seems to be ever-present.  The curls of the bighorn “talks” to the experiences and encounters that they have seen.  So fascinating!dsc_1231 Of course, Colorado has lots more than bighorns.  In the fall, mule deer can be spotted sporting their antlers.  Most of the time, they’re a bit shy, but once in a while, you get a cooperative subject.dsc_1292 dsc_1306 Birds are also out and about there, like this beautiful white-crowned sparrow, who was conveniently perched on the vegetation.dsc_1390 Some of the cutest, most curious chipmunks can be found atop of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado too.  So very cute … and so very fast!dsc_1432I believe that this is a female house finch … but don’t hold me to it.  LOL.  I’m far from the best bird identifier … even in my home area.
dsc_1487 Almost every day ends back up on the Monument … can’t get enough of these desert bighorn sheep.  Who could?dsc_1673 And the views ain’t too bad either!_dsc1836Then when the sun sets, it lights up the Bookcliffs across the valley.  A perfect way to end the day … and the blog post.  🙂
_dsc1866Next Up:  Back to the reality of home … more birding

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Lemonade Never Tasted So Good

In October, we really don’t as a rule worry too much about tropical storms or hurricanes in Florida.  Sure, it’s still technically hurricane season until the end of November, but our peak is usually July, August, and September … at least according to this “almost native Floridian”‘s recollection.  So, when we realized that a potential Cat.4-5 hurricane by the name of Matthew was lurking around Florida a few days earlier, we became concerned.  We were thankful that south Florida was pretty much spared from the wrath of the storm, so when our flight allowed us to check in, we thought we were in the clear.  WRONG … by the time we checked in online to the time we checked into our hotel, a few short hours from Denver, we received the text message … FLIGHT CANCELLED.  Yep, lemons thrown our way.

I felt especially terrible because my daughter and her husband had just left for backpacking in Europe and we were charged with taking care of our grandchildren … doggy ones.  🙂  Luckily, we were in the midst also of sights like these …dsc_7985dsc_7997So with those lemons, we decided to make the proverbial “lemonade”.  We altered our plans (after all, a friend of theirs was battening down the hatches until we got home and all flights into Florida were cancelled) and chose to not sweat it out and swing by Rocky Mountain NP with our newly gained freedom.  OK, truth be told, it probably did involve some “sweating it out”, but you get the gist, right?

I hadn’t been to Estes Park in probably 2 years and this was pretty crowded for me.img_2151After we left the hustle and bustle of town and got into the park itself, it was much better.  Right off the bat, we came across a gang of wild turkey.  I believe that there were mature and juveniles within the group.dsc_8005Of course, everyone knows that October in RMNP is synonymous with the elk rut, so my hopes were high.  Can you imagine how excited I was when I came across this handsome bull down by the lakeside … keeping a keen eye on his harem.dsc_8218It was really cool to get images of him standing almost chest deep in the water.  Of course, when he bugled from there as well, it was well over the top for me.  NOTHING compares to the sound of a bull elk’s bugle!dsc_8342He really was quite the handsome lad and quite cooperative with his poses.  I have a feeling that he’s used to the camera lens.  🙂dsc_8404Of course, during the rut, the bull elk have more on their minds than eating, but that didn’t stop the ladies from getting their fill on the nearby vegetation.dsc_8432A very tender moment to me was when he went nose to nose with one of his gals.  I wondered if she was his favorite … only just kidding.  LOLdsc_8556Instead of eating the vegetation, he would use the bushes to scratch himself.dsc_8593The girls in his harem were about 15, which I thought was a pretty good size.  While most of the rut was over, the mating had yet to begin.dsc_8715Yep, this bull sure knew how to work the camera.  Never have I gotten them in the water during rut like that.  I was thrilled.dsc_8795Sunsets are always a thrill and this place didn’t disappoint.  I just loved how the colors were so mixed, yet oh so beautiful._dsc1775Out at dinner one night, I happened to notice this sign … it warmed my heart to know that some people and places do everything in their ability to protect the bears from being labelled as a “problem bear” secondary to actually “problem people” who don’t exercise common sense.  (I’ll now exit my soapbox)img_2159This time of the year, the mule deer were also out in force and sporting nice racks too.  Such sweet, sweet faces.dsc_9030dsc_9331These guys were out for a little bit of jostling around as well.dsc_9191Now this bull elk, shown from afar so that you can actually see how many gals he had in his harem … 24 in all!!!  Crazy to imagine how busy he was going to be in the near future.  LOL.  We even saw one of them actually try to mate him!  Guess she was getting close to being ready.  😉_dsc1818So in the end, we got home a night later, got to go the Rocky Mountain NP, arrived to Jacksonville to pick up the grand doggies, and safely drove home.  Yep, lemonade never tasted so good!_dsc1813Next Up:  How about some birding?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Backcountry Exploring … 4-Wheel Style

When staying in Grand Junction, there are many places that are within a relatively short drive.  I guess it’s all a point of perspective.  So, wanting to see more of the immediate area as we began to make our way home, we decided to drive over to Ouray, which was about a 2-hr drive (or a bit less or more depending on your stops).  It was an absolutely fabulous day and I was finding it hard not to have Tom stop at almost every turn … thankfully he’s used to it.  ;-o_dsc1502The area was so vast and ever-changing, though one thing remained the same … it was beautiful!_dsc1519I just loved the way that there was a lovely layer of snow down on the landscape in areas still that weren’t exposed to the sunlight.  I remember wishing that this was my final destination … the lake, the beauty, the serenity … all to ourselves._dsc1523But alas, there was much more to come and the colors were out, though depending on the elevation, the storm that had just blown through stripped many of the leaves in areas._dsc1577-hdrAlong the road, I remember coming to this corner and I couldn’t take it any longer.  STOP THE CAR order was issued and off I went trying to attempt to capture a fraction of the magnificent scenery that I saw before me.  When I saw that puddle, I knew that I found what I was looking for.  Yes, Colorado at that moment, felt like heaven on earth._dsc1604We had a wonderful dinner and then got some sleep because the next day was going to be filled with adventure and new places to see and photograph.

The next morning we met for breakfast to start our day off right, then we jumped into Rick Louie’s vehicle for a day of 4-wheeling the backcountry road of southwestern Colorado. img_2125-1Just past the town of Telluride, which itself was spectacular, we drove up this pretty steep section to Bridal Veil Falls, which was beautifully dusted with snow and some ice as well._dsc7886I could hardly believe that this was the first week of October still!  To say I was loving the cold weather reprieve from the heat and humidity of home was an understatement.img_2122-1Of course, when we came upon accessible stands of aspen, I just had to run over and center myself in the midst of them and get that classic “look up” shot.  Nothing makes me feel more small, yet so connected to my surroundings as that feeling of looking up and that sun starburst sealed the deal._dsc7922It was all so adventurous as we made our way over into Ridgeway._dsc7941Nothing compares to the views off of Million Dollar Highway …_dsc7950… especially when seen through the entrance of the Last Dollar Ranch._dsc1731Yes, there are some pretty impressive homesteads out there … and the views are even more impressive._dsc1637_dsc1712Now for me, all of this landscape shooting was so much appreciated, but I still got a bit excited when I finally saw my first glimpse of some wildlife … this lone ram out in the middle of the flat landscape.  I so appreciated seeing this guy as he grazed on the grasses.  But all fun days had to come to an end and off we drove on our way back towards to Denver for our flight home … or so we thought.dsc_7937I want to thank Rick so much for taking us around his home state of Colorado in the most adventurous way possible.  If you ever want to do some 4-wheeling in the backcountry roads, we highly recommend him.  Check out his website at http://www.ricklouiephotography.com._dsc1644Next Up:  A change of plans on behalf of … Matthew.

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Glorious Colorado!

Last fall, Tom and I ventured out on an exploratory trip out to Colorado … more on that in a later blog.  In 2015, during the fall, we visited the Asheville, NC area just in time for the fall colors and we were hoping to get the same out west.  Fall colors are much like the weather in south Florida … if you don’t like what you have right now, just wait a few or travel just a bit down the road (or in the case of CO, change your elevation) and you’ll most likely find what you’re looking for.  We decided to meet up woth a friend in the Snowmass area, which wasn’t far from our base in CO.  The colors along the road couldn’t have been much prettier._dsc1252After our arrival at Snowmass Village and a wonderful dinner with friends, we grabbed a few winks before our alarm went off at 2 am, indicating that it was time to get ready for our adventure to Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness Area .. for some astro photography.  It was fabulous out there with the stars and the Milky Way out, but it was a bit cloudy at times, which challenged me in capturing the MW the way I had envisioned. _dsc7792Either way it was a fun time … freezing my butt off!  We stayed there until the sun came up.  Once the sunrise time was near, the place was filling up quite quickly.  Before I knew it, we looked like the combat fisherman I see on the Russian River in Alaska fishing for salmon.  LOL.  However challenging it was to not get other photographers in my shots, it was still worth it.  I mean, who could blame anyone for being out there for the sunrise show, right?_dsc1135Tom and I then returned to Snowmass and I took a walk around town – with my camera of course._dsc1153There’s something so special to me about aspen trees, especially in the fall when their golden leaves begin falling and collect on the green grass below._dsc1160We were headed towards our base in Grand Junction, but decided to take the long way home, which is incidently the more adventurous way.  The scenery was spectacular along our drive.  The fall colors were just beginning to emerge in the lower elevations._dsc1187_dsc1192_dsc1210In the higher elevations, the stands of aspens, cottonwoods, and other trees shooting up towards the sky were undeniably beautiful.  This was truly “God’s Country”, as they say._dsc1254Along Highway 133 we came across the Redstone Coke Oven Historic District, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Enough said … Tom had to stop and learn about the area.  These coke ovens were built at the end of the 19th century by Colorado Fuel & Iron.  The town purchased the land in the early 2000’s in an effort to preserve the history and actually restored 4 of them to their original appearance.img_1993img_1990It was hard to push ourselves down the road on our journey to Grand Junction with such beautiful sights to see along the way.  But rest assured, there are many beautiful places to visit and experience in Colorado.  🙂img_1999Next Up:  Join us up on the Colorado National Monument

© 2017 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2016 Review… The “Far”

As with most years, many photographic opportunities presented themselves, not just in my home state of Florida, but the west was well represented in 2016.  Like the previous year end review post, I will focus primarily on the “new”.

Of course, there are a few images that never grow old, such as the frosty face of a bison fighting for survival in the harsh winters of the west.

_DSC6231-2Though I tend to forget sometimes the landscapes that lay before me, I tried to focus on them a bit in 2016._DSC4055There’s something magical about the iconic image of a beautiful red fox making its way across the snowy landscape …_DSC5569… though unique fox sightings such as this are quite beautiful and intriguing as well.  Never have I seen a setting like this one before._DSC5495It’s always fun to find a couple of coyotes in the snow as well, but it’s not everyday that you see this.  I know that to the casual viewer this looks like 2 coyotes standing there looking at us, which I suppose it was, but what makes this one so special is that they weren’t standing there being cooperative subjects by chance … they were tied after mating.  Once again, I’ve never seen anything like that before … and believe it or not, it was captured on Valentine’s Day.  🙂_DSC6495Another lifer for me was the elusive saw whet owl.  It had long been a dream of mine and I felt like I was floating on a cloud of joy when I got this one._DSC6977Sporting some nice red earrings and a necklace (i.e. tag and collar), my first mountain goats in the snow images were thrilling and a great bar to capture more natural ones in the future, though I do love the fluffy snow in this one._DSC7104This snowy day made photography a bit difficult, but I like most, still tried.  This group of elk in winter were getting tight as a group of either coyote or wolves were moving in on them. _dsc4122Speaking of wolves, I haven’t gotten a great shot of any wolves, outside of Denali NP in Alaska, before and still haven’t, but this is my first of that black wolf that calls Yellowstone home._DSC9812While I have lots of bison shots, this was the first year that I got out in the spring to capture those “red dogs”, who couldn’t be any cuter._DSC0192_DSC9570-2Predators can come in different forms and species, but the instinct to seek refuge is all the same.  Here I photographed a black bear cub who obediently climbed high (really high) to the top of a tree, while mom spotted a boar in the area.DSC_2910Speaking of things that I’ve NEVER experienced before was this aggressive protective behavior exhibited by this dusky grouse.  Though it played coy allowing images, it clearly felt threatened by some (especially women) and it ended with an entertaining, yet scary, encounter with Mr. Flashy Eyebrows, which incidentally change colors too.  LOL_DSC9981Usual sightings of beavers for me have been swimming around in the ponds, usually in the dusk hours, affording little opportunity for me to capture a great shot.  That changed in 2016 when this cooperative beaver exited the pond and sat, in the midst of flowers, on the bank and groomed itself for quite some time.  I was thrilled.DSC_4173-2Who wouldn’t want to have a lunch date with an incredible golden eagle? … Well, except the one being served as dinner.  I sat in awe as it devoured its dinner on the banks of the river, not far from where I was sitting.DSC_4697-2A first for me too was this ADORABLE little pronghorn antelope, that had to be less than one day old.  Nature is an amazing thing because this baby was so skilled at running and kept up with mom right from the get-go.DSC_2714In Florida, we have red-winged blackbirds, but out west they have these beautiful yellow-headed blackbirds.  Though a different species, their song is equally as distinct and lovely.
DSC_1400A definite goal of mine for 2016 was to get that iconic shot of the red-necked grebes swimming with their babies on their backs.  While I didn’t get that, I did manage to get not only the Western grebes, but an image of them offering the fish as part of their courtship behavior.DSC_1726Cuteness alert!  2015 I may have gotten my very first long-eared owls, but how about this?  It’s a long-eared baby owlet!  My heart melted the instant that our eyes met.DSC_21972016 was spent also on some landscape shooting … here from Steptoe Butte in the iconic Palouse …_DSC0513-HDR… and also from the Colorado National Monument, which overlooks the town of Grand Junction, CO._dsc1370-hdrIn what had to be one of the craziest shoots of 2016, was that very, very early morning at Maroon Bells in Colorado.  It was freezing when we started shooting some astro images in the wee hours, but continued to get colder as the sun began to rise.  That was my first time there … crazy, crazy, crazy the number of photographers congregating there!_dsc1135Fall in Colorado is a special treat.  The clouds, the mountains, the leaves … all jaw-dropping._dsc1577-hdrOf course, the golden leaf dropping aspens are always a favorite of mine, both on the ground …_dsc1160… as well as looking up towards the heavens._dsc7922Courtesy of Hurricane Matthew, which re-routed us from our return home, this bull elk chest deep in the lake was a new one for me too.dsc_8342The mule deer, also sporting their racks, were organizing as well.dsc_8998Yes, our time spent out west in 2016 was fascinating and full of firsts and new behavioral images.  Noticeably absent, in both this blog and in my heart, was Alaska.  It would have been our 10th consecutive year, but it wasn’t to be in 2016.  That only means that something super special must be in store for us there in 2017.  Can’t wait to find out!dsc_1673Thanks so much for our friends who participated in the fun during the year, including Jen & Travis, Amy & Scott, Rebecca, Jay, Phil, and Rick … we really appreciated sharing the good times with you guys.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed the trip down 2016 memory lane.  There’s one more segment to 2016 left though … hmm, what could it be?

Next Up:  Proud as a peacock moments

© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

It’s Not Just Red Rocks

While the Garden of the Gods exists primarily for the red rock formations that it features, there are other things that the visitor might visit the area for … such as flowers in the summer, the vast array of wildlife, and the outdoor activities that one might partake in, while in the midst of the beauty that surrounds and defines the park.

Wildflowers are something that I have always been fascinated with, though I rarely shoot.  Of course, as I was waiting for Tom to get ready for his mountain bike ride (remember this was Tom’s mountain bike adventure trip), I had to indulge.DSC_5754 DSC_5756 After shooting several of the wildflower collections, I heard Tom talking.  I found that he had made a new friend … a beautiful magpie that apparently wasn’t buying anything of what Tom was offering.  LOLDSC_5680 Off Tom went on his mountain bike ride, so I hiked around looking for more photo ops.  Didn’t take long before I saw this couple going by on their horses right next to me.  Hey, I want to do that!DSC_5681 Such a beautiful place to go for a morning ride, wouldn’t you agree?DSC_5707 Of course, the clouds were so cooperative this morning and fit in nicely in my landscape compositions.DSC_5716 DSC_5725 Of course, I had to shoot my favorite flower … the columbine … so very beautiful.DSC_5753 DSC_5756-2 OK, so it wasn’t just flowers.  There were great opportunities to shoot some wildlife as well.DSC_5739 We had the sweetest interaction with this bunny rabbit too.  It was feeding on the vegetation off the trails, but stopped and ran up the improvised trail.  Right in front of us it stopped, stared at us, then ….DSC_5657

….. immediately drop down onto its belly as it continued to stare at us.  We laughed so hard, as I had never seen a bunny do anything like that.  Usually, they run away as quickly as they can.

DSC_5666 DSC_5726 Again, the flowers were the big hit and provided added beauty to this already beautiful place.  We will always return when we’re in the area.DSC_5711

Next Up:  One word … BOURBON!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Sunrise … Sunset … At “The Garden”

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Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is always a favorite destination of ours when we visit Colorado.  There’s something beautiful about how the light plays on the red rock formations, especially when surrounded also by the green vegetation.

So, come with us as we explore the area … starting of course with an early morning sunrise.  Rather than viewing the sunrise from the park itself, we choose a higher elevation, so that we can look down upon the magic as it happens.  🙂  Looking down at Gray Rock, South Gateway Rock, and North Gateway Rock, as the sun lights them up.

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The same for the Glen Eyrie formations to the north.DSC_5517 Always a favorite is the Kissing Camel formation within North Gateway Rock.  See it?  It’s on the top, about 1/3 of the way from the left.  🙂DSC_5520

As the sun begins to rise, as you can see we’re in an overlook parking area, but there is a community of homes hehind us.  How wonderful would it be to be able to peer over your fence and witness this sunrise every day!DSC_5556 DSC_5574

The best way to see the park is VERY EARLY in the morning.  You can almost have it to yourself … before the herds of tourists arrive and climb all over Balanced Rock here doing silly stuff like Tom is illustrating here.  LOL.  OK, it was difficult to get Tom to pose like this for me, not to mention to hold up that big old boulder, so don’t tell him that I put this shot in this post …  😉

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The park was donated to the city of Colorado Springs with the condition that it always remain free of charge for all to enjoy.  DSC_5596 One of our favorite views in the park is this one, which frames perfectly the image of Pikes Peak in the distance … yes, the same 14,000+ feet mountain from my most recent post.  Of course, it’s still a distance away.DSC_5605 They call this formation the Siamese Twins, which is obviously how it got its name, and you can see that window I used for framing.  Again, if you don’t get there early, you will never get an image without lots of people in it.DSC_5607

This place is full of textures to highlight in an image … the rough surface of the rocks, the trees, the puffy white clouds … so beautiful!DSC_5610

Midday is difficult to shoot the area, so we left but returned later in the day.  This image is of the Garden area and it’s a favorite of mine.  I just love the colors and the way that the light casts shadows on the landscape.

DSC_5351 We decided to hike around a bit and found it to be a bit crowded, but as you can see, you could easily find areas where you could compose and find that you’re alone in that process.

DSC_5388 I always find paths and stairs to be so inviting … makes you wonder where it goes … what’s around the corner.DSC_5397DSC_5398 Though the area is famous for the red rock formations, there are also several white rocks which intrigue the visitor as well and the light dances and shines nicely upon them.DSC_5417 Probably my favorite image from this years visit is the one below.   I mean, look at those clouds in the backdrop of the rising red rock formation.  This perspective, believe it or not, was courtesy of several visitors who were in the area, so I got low to block them from my shot.  Love the way it turned out.  DSC_5437 Being that it was summer, the wildflowers were out as well.DSC_5445 Though we wanted to stay for full on sunset, an intense storm decided it would come join the party, so we left and went back into town.  Good thing too, as it was a big one.DSC_5480

Next up:  More from Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Wanna Get High In Colorado?

From the Mt. Evans area of Colorado, we proceeded to Colorado Springs, which is a favorite of mine.  We visit there at least every few years.  This time, the guys (all firefighters) wanted to be sure to visit the International Association of Fire Fighters Fallen Firefighters Memorial.  It provides tribute to those firefighters and emergency medical personnel who have been killed in the line of duty and provides assistance to their families.  When we arrived, we were surprised to see that the Memorial was being re-done, but they were gracious enough to let us visit and pay our respects anyway.

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It was quite a moving experience for Tom and his friend Todd.  The granite walls will be engraved with the names of those who have fallen.  It should be quite beautiful when they got it finished, as it was already touching even in transition.

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Once we left the area, it was such a wonderful day that we decided to take a “Sunday drive”.  Actually, the guys wanted to take a nice bike ride in the mountains, so Rachel and I decided to drive “SAG” for them.

Who knows where we are going?  Hmm, what’s this?  A warning about a potential “Big Foot” sighting?

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Of course, it’s all in jest.  For anyone that guessed already, yep we’re driving up Pike’s Peak, just 15 miles outside of Colorado Springs.  Initiating at an elevation of 7,400 feet, it summits at a height of 14,115 feet, making it the tallest summit of the southern front range of the Rocky Mountains.  Now a fully paved road, I remember driving up there with my mom and my daughter, when she was just about 3 or 4 years old.  Of course, back then the road to the top wasn’t paved and I remember “white-knuckling” it all of the way to the top.

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Nowadays, it’s not so bad, except for an occasional tight turn with no guardrails and steep drop-offs.  To get to the top, one can drive, bike, hike, or take the cog railroad up.

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The air at the top was quite thin and chilly, snow was on the ground, and everyone was laboring a bit getting from one area to the other.  I kept thinking about Tom just a few days earlier, riding his bike up to Mt. Evans for me … in pursuit of those mountain goats … when the road was closed for repairs.  LOL

As you can see, storms were brewing off in the distance.  OK, so as we were driving up, we actually hit rain, sleet, and corn snow!  What?  This is July!
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The guys drove up, with the intent of riding their bikes down, and no snow or inclement weather was going to keep them from doing that!  Now that the skies began to open up a bit, they decided that they had better descend and quickly, before the next storm blew in.

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The views all of the way down were gorgeous.  I was driving so it was a bit difficult to partake in the photography …

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…. but wait … what do we have here?  Marmots!  I’m pulling over to shoot them.  🙂

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I’ve never seen little ones playing like that!  They looked like sumo wrestlers as they stood up and held on to one other, as they tried to push each other around.  Of course, these guys were young and just being restless.  The parents were nearby just watching them from the rocky cliffs.  So cute and immensely entertaining!

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The guys made it down safely, as did we.

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If you’ve never experienced Pike’s Peak before, make it a point to do so if you’re ever in the Colorado Springs area.  One word of advice though … go early!  The traffic going down gets progressively worse as the day gets later.  Oh, and no matter what time of the year it is … dress warm!

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Thanks to Rick Louie for leaving his hat behind in our truck a few days earlier…. sure came in handy at the top.  😉

Next up on the Blog:  From sunrise to sunset at Garden of the Gods.  Stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

He Did It For Love :-)

OK, so in the last blog post, I told everyone that we met up with a friend of ours at the Echo Lake Lodge, in order to take the road up to Mt. Evans and visit with the mountain goats.  I also mentioned that something went wrong with that plan and that we improvised  with another plan for photography… let me explain.20150716-IMG_2812

I was so excited for us to arrive at the lodge.  The road up to Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in North America…. all 14,270 feet of elevation at the top.  They say that when you drive to the top, the oxygen can affect you even just walking without elevation or added stress.  The reward at the top are the mountain goats which call the mountain top their home.  🙂

So you can imagine my shock when we got to the road entrance and saw this …..!

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I swear, it was as if we reached WallyWorld (from the Chevy Chase version of the movie Vacation) and it was CLOSED for business.  I was absolutely that desperate trying to figure out how I could still get up there.  The culprit for the road closure was that the road was in such disrepair that they had to close the winding narrow road for said repairs to be made. The repairs were extensive and kept the road to the top closed for the summer.  Estimated completion date was “hopefully some time in August”.  Now I know that I’m retired now, but I couldn’t possibly wait THAT long!

Now that road to the top was open for hikers and cyclists, but it was 14+ miles to the top and the elevation gain was about 4,000 ft and ends in 14,270 ft.  Quite a bit higher than the 5 ft above sea level that I reside in.  LOL.

Tom and I talked it over and over, trying beyond hope to find a way to accomplish our mountain goat “photo session” goal.  Tom decided that there was only one thing to do … that was for him to take one for the team and ride up there on his mountain bike!

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What a guy, huh?  Now if the altitude and the 14+ miles each way wasn’t enough, enter the weather conditions … a brisk 60 degrees with a wind of ~15 mph.  They said that at the top, with the exposure of the wind without any shield above the timberline, the wind would be at least 30mph and the temperatures would be at least 15 degrees colder.

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So, not only is Tom my sherpa on our photography adventures, but he really took the bull by the horns on this one.  Of course, I set up the camera and lens for him, gave him 32 GB (remember that number) to work with, and instructions regarding angles and shots I wanted.  LOL20150716-DSC_5144 While nervously waiting for Tom to complete his mission, I tried to occupy myself with some photography of my own.  Even at the 10,000 ft elevation of the base area, I found myself moving a bit slower than normal.  🙂20150716-DSC_5155 After some time, I also decided to hike, since I REALLY wanted to get to the goats myself, though realistically I knew that at 10am to start out, there was NO way I would get up there.  Still the area, in the 3+ miles that I did manage, was beautiful.20150716-DSC_5199 20150716-DSC_5190 That road just kept going … and going …., climbing and climbing, … and I was really hoping that Tom would reach the top, though he was instructed to return short of the goal if he felt the slightest bit not at ease.20150716-DSC_5160

Tom did finally make his way to the top!  He took a selfie to prove it!  It took him about 2 hrs to get up there.  He said that he was so cold up there that his fingers didn’t want to work properly in the beginning to take images for me.

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The mountain goats were “everywhere” reported Tom.  There were adults basking in the sun with those spectacular views everywhere!

20150716-DSC_5562 20150716-DSC_5587 Then he spotted his first young kid, the baby goat,  and he said it was just the sweetest thing ever.  It pretty much came over to him and stood in front of his Santa Cruz mountain bike.photo 1-1 The goats must have been a bit out of sorts in that they’re quite habituated towards people visiting up there, but since the road closure that only get access to the cyclists and some park and wildlife personnel.photo 2-1

He said that they were all shedding their winter coat.  It’s amazing to see just how MUCH they shed though.20150716-DSC_5566“On the top of the world” shots were definitely requested and Tom did a great job in checking that one off the list.  How adorable!!
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This shot really cracked me up … almost looks like a two-headed (sort of) kid here, huh? LOL

20150716-DSC_5560 Not sure if they’re oxygen-deprived as well or not, but these young kids seemed to have some other activities on their mind.  LOL20150716-DSC_5558 Tom was so upset that he got to witness these wonderful little ones without me.  20150716-DSC_5552 20150716-DSC_5577 Of course, even the adults were fascinating for him to see.20150716-DSC_5569 Like little children, the tribe of kids were “so adorable” as they played with each other … butting, pushing, climbing on each other.20150716-DSC_5579 It wasn’t just mountain goats either…. he said that the place was teaming with marmots as well.  He even saw a marmot nose to nose with a little lamb.  I really wished I could have seen and photographed that one.20150716-DSC_5561 Though he was freezing up there and getting blown around in the high winds, he found it hard to tear himself away from the wildlife.20150716-DSC_5573-2I was quite excited to see Tom flying down the mountain, which took a mere 30 mins on the descent.  When Tom returned, of course, I got to hear all about it and get a sneak peek at the images over lunch at the Echo Lake Lodge, which was delicious by the way.  We highly recommend the Mac & Cheese nuggets, but everything was excellent.photo 1I couldn’t be prouder of Tom for making the climb, especially in those conditions and without any planning to do so.  He returned with images …. that’s right …. 51 in all!  Barely making a dent in that 32 GB card he was armed with…. perhaps my instructions weren’t clear … or was it the lack of oxygen, cold weather …?  LOL.  But hey, that’s 51 more than I would have gotten without his heroic effort.  🙂 He’s not just my husband, my traveling partner, my sherpa, but my human “mountain goat” and hero as well!  He said he did it for love … I’ll take that.  Before we left, we also promised to return next year, so that I may get to experience the real thing for myself.  Thanks again Tom!  ❤
photoNext up:  Colorado Springs, CO.  Check it out!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy & Tom Tubridy / TNWA Photography