Let’s Go Get Some More Mountain Goats!

During our first year living in Colorado, we were able to visit Mt. Evan Wilderness Area two times … in search of those amazing mountain goats that reside there.  The visits did not disappoint.  Honestly, even if they did, the trip up the mountain is so spectacular that all wouldn’t have been lost.  With views like this at almost every corner of the paved, but  no guard rails road, I have to keep reminding Tom to keep his eyes firmly on the road ahead.  Similar to the road up Pikes Peak, this adventure up is not for the faint at heart.  :-O

Reaching the summit at 14,271′ high … I believe this is the true meaning of Rocky Mountain High!  Don’t try to run out and jump for joy, especially for us ex-flatlanders.  The air is thin, the wind is strong, and generally the temperatures are cold.

IMG_4747The real stars of the trek to the summit (or at least near the top) are the mountain goats which reside there.  This time our trip was in very early September … just a week or so before the road closes for the season.DSC_1632If you’re lucky, the goats can be found congregating near or at the top … if you’re even luckier, you can photograph them with many of the Colorado mountain peaks in the background._DSC2492On this particular day, there was an entire gang up there! 🙂_DSC2500Of course, the stars for me anyways are always the young ones … with their energy, curiosity, and endless antics always a pleasure to photograph.  Like many other species of wildlife, I could watch them all day … laughing almost the entire time as they romp around._DSC2541Clearly everyone wanted to be the king of the boulder at this moment._DSC2526There generally isn’t room for all of them, so staking your claim to the preferred spot is essential.DSC_1789Sometimes a form of “intimidation” is employed to get one of them to move … LOL.DSC_1754Sometimes one simply gets head butted off!  DSC_1707Learning to navigate the steep, rocky terrain is essential to a young one’s survival … and these guys start off young!DSC_1833Once I settle in from my fear of witnessing one of them mistakingly falling off the ledges, I can’t help but feel a bit of envy at their lives.  I mean, can you just imagine climbing out to a ledge, laying down, and getting these kinds of views?  OK, maybe if you’re like me and afraid of heights, you might not ever be able to relax, but this otherwise would seriously be a zen or namaste moment.DSC_1992The young mountain goats are quite fascinated with the human visitors that come by to observe and photograph them._DSC2742When they’re not playing with the others, the young generally follow the adults around instinctually.DSC_1924Gosh, I wish that I could visit with and photograph these fabulous mountain goats all year long, but in reality the mountains are totally covered and the road inaccessible for most of the year.DSC_1852One last look at them before we begin our descent.  Such an amazing visit.DSC_1842-EditOf course, there’s much more to see along the way down … lots of lakes, mountain views, perhaps some elk, bighorn sheep, pika …IMG_4749… and of course, a friendly marmot or two to bid you adieu and remind you to “Come back soon”.  🙂_DSC2829Hope that you enjoyed your virtual trip up to the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area in CO.  Yep, I think I like living out here.IMG_4744Next Up:  Let’s try our luck with some birding and such in Utah!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com            www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

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The Third Times A Charm … Mt. Evans

Practically no sooner that we unpacked the moving trucks … well, at least the first photography out of area trip we made … was to go to Mt. Evans for my mountain goat encounter that I had been denied a few years before.  See, the road to the top is only open a limited amount of time and the last time I tried to make the trip to the top, I could go no further than the Echo Lake Lodge, 15 miles from my desired destination.

So off we went from Fruita, CO at around 3:00 am … to the town of Idaho Springs.  We were treated to a wonderful sunrise along the way.  I considered it a taste of things to come.

IMG_4604Once arriving at Idaho Springs, we drove to Echo Lake Lodge, where we then drove the 15-mile Mt. Evans Scenic Byway.  The sunrise began to reveal the beauty of the landscape along the way.IMG_4605Summit Lake is an amazing recreational location along the way and a place for many to hike the wilderness area and explore some of which it has to offer.  For us, on this morning, I was on a mission … to the top!IMG_4608The roads are, as they say, “not for the faint of heart”.  In some areas there are sheer cliff drop offs of unfathomable heights.  Poor Tom was getting strict orders to keep his eyes on the road for those sections.  LOL.  Other areas were more gentle and could allow for a bit of sightseeing along the way.IMG_4609Finally, we reached the top and I held my breathe … will I find what I was looking for?  Yes!  There it was … my first sighting of a mountain goat at the summit of Mt. Evans … 14,264 feet high.IMG_4614IMG_4623When we got out we found some of the younger goats climbing around the structure, in and around the stairs.  My heart went pitter-patter, then began to skip a beat.  How incredibly adorable!DSC_0440-Edit-EditOf course the adults were always around and watching the whereabouts of the young ones.DSC_0506But that sweet innocent looking face of the young kids were by far the sweetest I’ve seen. Just like other young, they possess such curiosity … as well as a playful nature.DSC_0532The mountain goats weren’t just frolicking around the structure shown above, but they were also out navigating the boulders of rocky terrain … being such excellent climbers.DSC_0555-Edit-EditA few of the older ones were collared, which isn’t the best for photography, but monitoring of their behavior and whereabouts is sometimes a necessity.DSC_0559On the other side of the summit, they began to make their way into the grassy landscape for foraging of food.DSC_0633The family unit sticks closely together.  Also of note in this image, is that the adult goat has all but lost its winter coat.  Just a small patch remains in random places.  DSC_0658DSC_0682After spending time with the mountain goats, we decided to head down … slowly … and enjoy some of the other sightings that the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area has to offer.  Yes, the air was thin up there, quite crisp, and invigorating.IMG_4618

We soon found some pika up there as they were sunning a bit, but mainly foraging the vegetation.  For them, it won’t be long before winter arrives, even when the calendar reads “summer”.
DSC_0728Yellow-bellied marmot also make their home up there and can often be seen sunning themselves as well.DSC_0766-Edit-EditBut the real stars of the adventure were the mountain goats.DSC_0931No sighting was more heart-warming than the kids with their moms.  ❤DSC_0547A herd of elk was also spotted as they migrated.  Bighorn sheep also call the area home, though on this day we didn’t see any.DSC_0924The beauty of the area is undeniable.  I wish that we had more time to spend there and rest assured we will in future visits.  We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.IMG_4627Of course, we stopped at the Echo Lake Lodge for a quick break and to celebrate our day. We treated ourselves to lunch, including these amazing Macaroni & Cheese tots.  Yum Yum!  IMG_4628We did return to Mt. Evans one more time before the road closed for the rest of the year. More on that visit in a future post.

Next up:  More sights and stories from closer to home

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com