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Monday, July 3, 2023

Wildflowers at Coyote Ridge

Two years ago in June we went to Coyote Ridge to photograph the wildflowers. We were busy at the beginning of June so we never went, and by the time we thought of going it was likely too late. As it so happened, I went bike riding at Coyote Ridge last weekend and the wildflowers were still absolutely gorgeous, so Katie and I went with our cameras after work one day.

Considering it's July, we weren't sure if we would go out to take photos because the weather in July can be atrocious in the evenings. But with just a little bit of light rain and temperatures in the mid to upper 70s, it ended up being an absolutely gorgeous walk with fantastic cloudy-day lighting for our wildflower photography.

Common SunflowerLilToadflaxWild KatieYoung BudsPrickly PoppyWith the SnakesMulticolored GreensConelowerSmall RainbowPointer FingerGolden Crab SpiderMunching GrassDumb FaceScared

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

North Diamond Peak

For the 4th of July this year we did the same hike that we did last year: Montgomery Pass. Having been in absolute awe of all the flowers at Montgomery Pass in 2022 we wanted to do it again in the same season. The cool thing about this area is that at Montgomery Pass you can head North or South and continue along the ridge as far as you want and every step has amazing panoramic views. We decided to go South toward North Diamond Peak - the tallest south-most peak in that range.

The wildflowers became even more incredible after climbing up from Montgomery Pass. We spent so much time taking photos of wildflowers because there was an unbelievable amount of them. Rolling mountains of wildflowers as far as you could see. The number of wildflowers wasn't too different from last year, but we didn't see the variety last year that we saw this year.

There were thunderstorms forecasted in the Cameron's Pass area, mostly after about 2 pm. We got to the trailhead just before 9 and started our hike, thinking we would be below treeline before 1 pm - giving us plenty of buffer before the storms. We aren't too worried about getting wet, just concerned about lightning above treeline. That went to plan - we were back in the cover of the trees around 1, with sunny blue skies. What we didn't expect were the 3 quick storms that rolled over us while we were exposed above the treeline. The first one just barely hit us with a little more than some sprinkles of rain. There was a 30-minute intermission of sunny blue skies before we got hit with the second storm. The second storm was a lot worse and we were directly in its path. Being on an exposed ridgeline we headed off the ridgeline to at least get out of some of the wind where we stood waiting for the storm to pass. After about 5 minutes of downpouring sideways rain, we were able to continue on our hike in again,m sunny blue skies. The third storm barely produced any rain and happened on the summit of North Diamond Peak. We waited for this storm to roll over to get different lighting conditions before heading back down.

During the entire hike exposed above treeline we were looking for lightning and thunder. We did hear some thunder, but only from storms that had already passed us and were picking up steam heading East. As each storm approached we made a plan and watched the storm clouds for any chance of danger. Luckily, we didn't encounter anything too dangerous.

The summit of North Diamond Peak had a geological survey marker in very poor condition. Marker LL1389. It looked like it had been melted over the rock it was affixed to which made me wonder if maybe it had been struck with lightning. This marker was placed in 1937 by the Forest Service and was last reported in good condition in 1959. What's cool is that anyone can submit a report that they found one of these, so I reported it as found in poor condition. Katie and I have been starting to research these markers and report them as we find them. The markers have their own reports to them, which has a really funny passage for how to find it from when it was set in 1937:

Turn right on a graveled road, State Highway 14, and follow it for 21.0 miles to the Gould post office.

What's funny about this is that state Highway 14 is no longer a gravel road and hasn't been for quite some time. These reports have some interesting tidbits of history embedded in them that make them somewhat fascinating to read. The report for this marker can be found here. Soon this report will read that it was found in poor condition on July 4, 2023 (by me).

Out of the SnowField of FlowersJacobYellow PaintbrushMontgomery PassStormyOld-Man-of-the-MountainRainbow in the ValleyReady For the StormAlpine Forget-Me-NotsMelted?Nokhu CragsLooking NorthPygmy BitterrootIn the MountainsCrazy HairWandering Around the SummitAt the SummitStorm over Clark Peak

Monday, July 24, 2023

Alone in the Mountains

Today, Katie and I got married in the most "us" way that we could think of - at a secluded alpine lake. We hired Bailee from Alpine Vows as our wedding photographer to accompany us. Bailee specializes in Colorado hiking elopments so I didn't need to focus on photography on this hike allowing us to be more focused on each other. And my photos show that this wasn't about my photography - I took just a few photos, very quickly. I decided to bring my camera on the hike dispite us hiring a photographer for two reasons. First, this whole thing was about staying true to ourselves, and since taking photos on hikes is what I do, I wanted to take some photos to post so I can count this on my blog as a hike we've done. Secondly, my wedding ring has Longs and Meeker engraved in it. I plan to redesign the ring and have it remade with the ridgeline of the mountains where we got married at, which requires a very specific panorama. I certainly could have asked Bailee for that particular photo to be taken, and we completely trust her with all the photos, but the mountainscape I have engraved on my ring needs to be my artwork for it to mean what it does to me.

The morning started at 2 am when we woke up in a bed and breakfast in Georgetown, Colorado that we had arrived at the day before. As we were getting ready in the early morning hours, we had just a few things to get done: get dressed, do Katie's Hair, and do Katie's makeup. all of that took about an hour before we were out the door heading to the trailhead. The trailhead was a little under 30 minutes away through the winding roads of Gunealla Pass. Along the way, we encountered a young male moose licking the guide railing on the side of the road. This was our first moose sighting of the year and even more of a sign that we were ready to be married.

We started our hike at 3:45 where we meet up with our photographer and made it to Murray Lake in about an hour. The lake was a little over 2 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation which is a fast pace for us, especially since it was pitch black other than our headlamps. But we were excited and had our adrenaline pumping so we got there incredibly quick. We got to the lake well before sunrise which was the plan from the beginning so we could get the alpenglow on the mountains. While waiting for the sun to rise, I helped Katie into her dress and we waited for the sun to start peaking above the horizon.

The sunrise and alpenglow on the mountains were absolutely stunning. After spending about an hour taking portrait photos, Katie and I had our private ceremony around 7 am where we exchanged vows and rings before heading back down to the lower lake - Silver Dollar Lake. There, we had a cheese charcuterie picnic followed by signing the marriage certificate and then some more portrait photos. The hike ended around 10 am after 6 hours of a lot of excitement. We can't wait to see the professional photos and get them printed.

When deciding on a hike for our wedding, we had a few requirements that are listed below. All of these criteria were met and we have our photographer Bailee to thank - she did such a great job at finding this perfect hidden gem of a spot for us to get married.

Wedding Hike Criteria:

  • The hike needed to be to an alpine or sub-alpine lake. Katie and my favorite type of hike is to a lake. Summiting tall mountains is great, but doesn't have the same view that a lake has. Not only was this hike to an alpine lake but there were 3 lakes on this hike.
  • The ceremony needed to be private with a hike that didn't have many people on it. We had Murry Lake all to ourselves and didn't see a single person until an hour after we were married - this hike perfectly met this need.
  • It needed to be a true hike. Not something where we drove to a lake and took some photos. No one would know the difference in the photos if we did this, but adventuring is what we do, and you can't adventure without doing a little bit of work. Katie and I have always defined a true hike to be at least 1,000 feet in elevation gain, but we didn't want it to be a torturously long hike that resulted in us being drained of energy at the summit. This hike came in at just over 2 miles to the summit and about 1,200 feet of elevation gain making it an easy, but true hike.
  • Wildflowers - we chose a late July wedding date specifically for the wildflowers, which this hike was packed with. So many different varieties. It was magical as the sun came up and we could see just how many there were.

The Ceremony LocationWedding CoordinatesMy BridePre-Marriage SelfieSilver Dollar LakeMarriedLooking Back

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

First Day of Marital Torture

I jokingly got it into Katie's head that the first hike we do together as a married couple should be a 14er. I'm always down to do hard hikes but I meant this as nothing more than a joke since the focus of this trip was a wedding day hike. But she took it to heart and we did it despite being exhausted from the wedding hike the day before. We went to bed at a modest 7 pm both because we were unbelievably tired from waking up at 2 am that morning and also so we could get up at 5 am the following morning to climb Mount Bierstadt.

Often referred to as the easiest of Colorado's 14'ers, Mount Bierstadt is not an easy hike. None of Coloradon's 56 peaks above 14,000 feet in elevation gain are. But this distance and elevation gain isn't anything harder than hikes we've done in the past so we gave it a shot. The difficulty came from the fact that we had hiked the day prior and didn't get much sleep.

We arrived at the parking lot around 6:30 am and the parking lot was already full. We were able to park alongside the road without adding too much extra distance to our hike. We got going and started the torture. The weather was fantastic and we summited Mount Bierstadt after 3 hours. Surprisingly, the summit had calm winds on the East-facing slope, which made for a fantastic place to sit and eat a peanut butter and jelly wrap to refuel before heading back down.

Even though this hike was right in the same area as our wedding day hike, Mount Bierstadt had lots more wildflowers on it. We got plenty for our wedding but it was incredibly breathtaking how many wildflowers were covering the Mount Bierstadt area. We spent a lot of time photographing the wildflowers.

Mount Bierstadt, unlike our wedding hike, was busy. We started the hike early, but there were already several dozens of people on the trail when we arrived. Katie and I don't like this kind of hiking, and the crowds on this trail are a symptom of it being Coloradon's easiest 14'er. People climb this to say they've done a 14'er but we're not interested in achieving those bragging rights - we hike to enjoy nature, get good views, and have the area mean something special to us knowing that not many people witness the same beauty. But we did it anyway because as Coloradoans, climbing a 14'er is a right of passage and something we needed to get marked off Katie's bucket list. But after being reminded of how busy 14'ers are, I think we'll stick to the more secluded 13'er hikes which have similarly incredible views but without the people.

This hike had 2 moose sightings on it. The first moose was on the side of the road as we drove up. We think, although have no way of knowing for sure, that this was the same moose we saw while driving up to our wedding day hike since it looked similar and was in (we think) the exact same spot. The second moose sighting came in the last half-mile of the hike at the lake near the parking lot. I have carried my big and heavy telephoto lens with me on every hike since I got it and this is the first time that we've seen wildlife cool enough for me to use it. The moose was in the middle of the lake dipping its head down to eat off the bottom of the lake. It was quite far from us, but the telephoto lens did a great job of capturing this magnificent creature.

Summiting a 14er is our 2024 New Year's Resolution, despite it being 2023 and us still needing to complete our 2023 goal. We wanted to make hiking a 14er our goal for 2023, but with the wedding and our Icelandic honeymoon, we had a lot going on during the prime 14er hiking season that we didn't want to give ourselves an unrealistic goal. There's a pretty small window of time that 14ers can safely be hiked; it can't be too early in the summer when thunderstorms are too unpredictable, and it can't be too late because the first snow on a 14er could be mid-August. Now we just need to keep working towards our 2023 goal of beating our highest 2022 statistics by 15%. More on that goal is in this blog post.

Married in NatureAlpine AvensNew FlowerThe Grueling TrailWedding RingOur First 14er TogetherMorning LightThrough the WillowsSummit PanoramaSurvey MarkerIn the GrassAlpine SpringbeautyPatches of CloudsWestern Yellow Indian PaintbrushWhipple PenstemonWilsonStickign out of the WaterMoose in the LakeTall Moose

July 2023

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