Vernal Equinox Moonrise and Tree Planting

Bareroot tree seedlings shipped from the nursery.

March 20 was the Vernal (Spring) Equinox in North America, and the Full Moon as well. Some traditions call the March Full Moon the “Worm Moon”, because in many climates the frost is gone from the ground and so earthworms return to the surface after another long winter. They sure have in my yard here on the Western Slope of Colorado.

As it so happened, my order of tree seedling from Jung Seed Company in Wisconsin arrived the day before. I had measured and marked where I wanted the seedlings to be planted, and even had the holes dug.

But upon reading the instructions from the nursery, they said that the seedlings had been kept in cold storage to simulate them being in winter dormancy. And to gently wake them up with a “spring rain” by putting them in a bucket of water overnight. As a former forester I know a bit about trees, but am always happy to oblige a commercial nursery that wants its customers to have the best in success.

The next day I was ready to plant my trees. On the Vernal Equinox, though I had not planned it that way. I got all thirteen seedlings (ten Black Hills Spruce and three Pyramidal Arborvitae) nestled into their new homes in great soil with good drainage.

As I finished planting (gently straightening my stiffening muscles, it’s been a long winter) I saw that it was still at least a half hour until moonrise. Actually more, because by the time the Full Moon would rise over the Uncompahgre Plateau to the North-Northeast it would be dusk. But light enough for landscape photography with the moon featured.

So I waited, camera on tripod in my back yard. I have a great view to the east, of the Uncompahgre Plateau and the west reaches of the San Juan Mountains.

March Moonrise over the Uncompahgre Plateau, Colorado.

This early in the year the moon would rise from my vantage point over the still snowbound Uncompahgre Plateau, on the Uncompahgre National Forest. I didn’t have time to drive an hour to a known location where I could situate snowy mountain crags in front of the moon. Blame the tree seedlings. They needed me more than my photography did that day.

The March “Worm Moon” rising above the Uncompahgre.

The moon slid silently into view over the crest of the mighty Uncompahgre, yellow with moisture on the horizon. As usual I stood in appreciation that I live in a place where I could be at home (if I had to) and photograph this scene right from my yard.

Almost dark…what a moon!

Vernal Equinox. Full Moon rising. Trees planted. What a day.

Photo location: western Montrose County (the “West End”) Colorado.

See more of my photography on my website: http://www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2019 Stephen J. Krieg

And Then The Lunar Eclipse

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Beginning of the Lunar Eclipse

I was anticipating the first great lunar eclipse in a couple of years. The weather forecast at first seemed so favorable.

Then the clear Colorado skies started to have some high clouds to the east. Uh-oh. My optimism started to become sub-optimal through the afternoon.

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Since the lunar eclipse was going to happen long after sunset it would be useless to make a landscape photo with it. It would merely be a black sky for the background.

So I waited from home to see what I could see.

I was fortunate enough to view the beginning of the eclipse, until the moon started to turn red. Then the clouds hid the rest.

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So-called “blood” moon, so exquisite.

Photo location: Nucla, Colorado

© Copyright 2019 Stephen J. Krieg

Paradox Valley Winter Fog

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Ground fog in western Paradox Valley.

On the morning of January 6 as I was approaching Bedrock, Colorado, I could see that the area of the valley where the Dolores River cuts across the Paradox Valley had a bank of ground fog settled in. With the recent snows and bitter cold and now glorious sunny winter morning, conditions looked ripe to provide some interesting light.

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Highway 90 just east of the fog bank.

I stopped for some shots of the fog bank, with the La Sal Mountains shining with new snow across the Utah state line.

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La Sal Mountains seeming to rise out of the fog bank above Bedrock.

Then it was down into the fog bank. But even at Bedrock it looked like the fog was close to being burned off by the morning sun.

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The Hwy. 90 bridge over the Dolores River.

Passing the historic Bedrock Store, the red rock cliffs had only a tantalizing veil of fog left before them. The Bedrock Store is famous for being the filming location of the pivotal “last phone call” scene in Thelma and Louise. Where Louise said, “Well, we’re not in the middle of nowhere, but we can see it from here.”

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The historic Bedrock Store.

Behind the tiny Bedrock Post Office, some crumbling buildings looked interesting with the misty, snowy cliffs in the background.

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Weathered buildings and the cliffs where the Dolores River empties into and across the valley, rather than following it.

Bedrock is where the Dolores River cuts across Paradox Valley, rather than following it. Thus it comes out of one deep red rock gorge, flows across the valley floor, and resumes its way through more gorges on its way to the Colorado River in southeastern Utah. This is the geologic “paradox” that gave the valley its name.

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Hoar frosted cottonwood trees near Paradox, Colorado.

Continuing on to the hamlet of Paradox, I stopped to admire a grove of cottonwood trees flocked with hoar frost, shining in the morning sun, with the north wall of Paradox Valley behind it.

Photo location: Paradox Valley, West End of Montrose County, Colorado.

Enjoy more of my photography at my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2019 Stephen J. Krieg

The Bucks of Autumn

 

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Two big bucks find my aspen tree much to interesting…

Living on the edge of a small town surrounded by farm and ranch fields in southwest Colorado, it’s common to see wildlife and how they adapt to their human neighbors.

Case in point are the four large mule deer bucks that frequent my neighborhood. I call them the Gang of Four. Not only do they know it’s not hunting season, but even if it were it’s illegal to hunt in a residential area. It’s as if they read the town statutes.

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I had wondered about the scars on the trees…they’ve been sharpening their antler points.

Like all wildlife, the Gang of Four knows where their preferred food sources are, and hang about in various nearby spots. They have raided my little garden repeatedly this summer, during the night. A chain link fence is merely something to hop over for them. Finally I resorted to some animal repellent spray, which is supposed to make animals’ mouths tingle in a way they don’t like, so they go eat the neighbor’s flowers, again.

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Trim and muscular, ready for the fall mating rut.

I have watched these bucks during the summer in “velvet”, the fuzzy covering as their antlers grew. Then suddenly they were back. In my yard, in the late afternoon. No more velvet, those antlers were fully grown and ready for the combat of the rut (mating season) in late fall. But for now the four big boys weren’t enemies. That would come later. After the sexual completion of reproduction was over they would become buddies again. I call it the Big Boys’ Club. I’ve seen bull elk do it, too.

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The Gang of Four in velvet, September 11. 

Photo location: Nucla, Colorado.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Rainy September Colorado Colors

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Early aspen colors at Trout Lake.

Rain saturates colors. Far from being a deterrent to good nature photography, it creates opportunities.

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Trout Lake panorama, September 19.

Thus I drove into the San Juan Mountains in San Miguel County in southwest Colorado, in the Telluride area.

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Rainy mountains south of Telluride.

The aspen colors were coming on nicely, due to the recent warm sunny days and cool nights. It was raining lightly but it wasn’t very windy, allowing for some beautiful images of colorful foliage.

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Red-orange aspen colors on the San Juan National Forest.

Aspen fall colors are primarily bright yellow, as the tree stops producing chlorophyll, making the green color disappear and letting the other colors that were there all along become visible. So they don’t really “turn colors”, they just let summer’s green go.

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Aspen gold is highlighted by the dark greens of evergreen foliage in the background.

Some aspen stands, and even individual trees, exhibit a lovely orange or red instead of gold.

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There’s nothing like a peaceful country road in the Rockies in the fall.

On the way home I drove down the South Fork of the San Miguel River.

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South Fork of the San Miguel. 

The clouds were obscuring the high peaks, but I had plenty to interest me. I stopped for a Gambel oak sapling that had vibrant red colors, much more red than most oaks get.

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Gambel oak colors on the South Fork.

And the cherry red of wild rose hips.

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Wild rose hips. 

As I continued west, away from the San Miguels, west of Norwood the clouds opened and the nearly setting sun turned the distant La Sal Mountains and the sky a brilliant gold.

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Utah’s La Sal Mountains at sunset from Colorado.

And since it was still raining, directly opposite to the east the dark clouds formed the perfect backdrop for a full rainbow.

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Sunset rainbow at the San Miguel County – Montrose County line.

Photo location: San Miguel County, southwest Colorado.

See much more of my photography on my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

September Again

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September 2nd Rainbow.

It’s September. Again, at last. Or as I call it, October Eve.  October being the best month.

Even this early in September, the chill of fall is whispering. The shortened days, the way the heat of the day dives so wonderfully steeply before sunset.

I even have to put on some long pants in the evening and the morning. It’s been months. Finally. Oh, yeah.

http://www.NaturalMoment.com

© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg

High Country Sunbeam Highway

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Sunset gold sunbeams over the La Sal Mountains, Highway 145.

Ah, Colorado Highway 145. To me it’s perhaps the gem of the Western Slope.

In this photo I was driving west from Norwood (elevation 7,000 feet) toward the curves down off the San Miguel Basin and into Naturita (“little nature”).

A cloud bank was hovering over the distant La Sal Mountains in Utah. Perfect for breaking the sun’s rays into sunbeams across the eastern slopes of the mountains.

An impossibly high contrast scene, so I switched my Olympus to HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode, merging several versions in camera to try to tame the extremes. To make the image appear much more like the eye/mind could see in real life.

And even with that, further editing in Adobe Lightroom. It worked out.

Photo location: western Montrose County, western slope Colorado.

See more of my best photography on my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Grousing Around Through A May Snowstorm

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Snowing on the red geology in the San Miguel River Canyon west of Telluride.

I had to make a quick trip from Naturita to Cortez, Colorado and back. About 250 miles round trip. After work. And I wanted to be back in Naturita before dark.

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No bicyclists today on this stretch of Hwy. 145!

It would have been quite reasonable except we were finally getting some rain in southwest Colorado. Which meant snow in the San Juan Mountains. Which meant stopping for photos along the way. It just has to be done.

From Placerville (named for the extensive placer mining for gold during the pioneer days) going up the San Miguel River Canyon on Highway 145, it was already snowing up above on the red cliffs adorned with the green of spruce and fir trees. And I had a lot higher to climb before crossing Lizard Head Pass.

At the Conoco station outside Telluride I got a hot sandwich and coffee. Then it was up toward the pass. The snowfall was much heavier, a snow plow truck was scraping the highway going the other way.

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Very fresh grouse tracks in the snow.

I was enjoying seeing the new wet snow plastered to the still-bare aspen trees. I pulled over at a likely spot. I noticed fresh grouse tracks in the new snow. Really fresh. But I didn’t see it moving about, and at the moment I was more interested in some shots of the aspen forest.

Then I looked at the grouse tracks some more. It wouldn’t have been crossing the highway at this spot. And it hadn’t. It had walked back down over the shoulder of the road into the woods.

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The grouse, hoping I will merely go away. 

I peered over the edge and through the snow-plastered brush, there she was. A female spruce grouse, I believe. Sitting still, hoping her camouflage would keep her invisible amidst the white. I was able to get a shot of her, then ease back without making her “flush” (fly away explosively, as they do).

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Snow on newly emerging leaves. How will they take it?

Then it was across Lizard Head Pass, elevation 10,222 feet. From there I would be gradually dropping in elevation down the upper Dolores River valley until I was once again below the snow line.

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Lizard Head Pass.

There were a number of stops for more photographs. Such beauty from an early May snowstorm in the Colorado Rockies.

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Upper Dolores River, below Lizard Head Pass and above Rico.

After completing my task in Cortez, it was west to Dove Creek, with heavy rain clouds around.

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Northwest of Cortez at Narraguinnup Reservoir.

Then at Dove Creek, north on 141. Up over the mesas, down to cross the Dolores River at Slick Rock, then back up onto Disappointment Valley, Big Gypsum Valley, Dry Creek Basin, and finally down to the San Miguel River again at Naturita.

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On the way back north from Dove Creek.

And I made it just before dark.

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Back to Bedrock the next morning.

Photo locations: Montrose, San Miguel, Montezuma, and Dolores Counties, Colorado.

See more of my photography on my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

Elk At The Speed Of Dawn

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I had camped below Lone Cone Peak at Dan Noble State Wildlife Area.

The evening had been exquisite, even though I had only caught one small rainbow trout. Which was freed back into the lake and used its muscular tail to torpedo it back into the depths. Its predator ways only momentarily interrupted by a two legged land based predator. A fisherman.

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The lake below Lone Cone Peak

There are a lot of Canada geese at that lake. A perfect breeding ground for them. They are loud and raucous all day and evening, seemingly talking from one end of the lake to the other about what their latest fears are. A coyote! A human!

The geese do seem to observe Quiet Hours once it gets dark, like a campground. Meanwhile the nearly full moon was arcing across the sky all night. Though even it couldn’t wash out the brightest stars, there so far away from city lights.

At first light I packed up my campsite and headed down toward town. As always, especially around here, I keep my eyes peeled for large wildlife on the road. Or just off the road, looking to jump in front of my vehicle at the last moment, which is even worse.

On this morning drive, the elk were off in meadows on either side. I wanted to photograph them, but the light was still weak. And true to form these animals didn’t seem cooperative enough to wait for sunrise.

So as one group turned away from the roadside fence and ran parallel to the road, I thought: what the heck? I panned my camera with them at a slow shutter speed, like those photos of race cars or horse races.

I think I did ok, since there wasn’t going to be another lap. Not with these elk. They were outta there. A beautiful wildlife moment.

See more of my photography on my website: www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

First Wildflower Reds of the Season: Paintbrush

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Indian Paintbrush and Prickly Pear Cactus, April 17.

I was cruising the highway north of Naturita, Colorado to enjoy an April evening. And to try to catch some trout.

The fishing action was nothing to write about, but I enjoyed being out in the wilds, as always. Nobody else around.

While checking out another little road spur through the sand toward the San Miguel River, the bright red of wildflowers caught my eye. I had seen prickly pear cactus as I drove, and so at first thought I thought the red might be the blossoms of Claret-Cup Cactus.

Nope. It was Indian Paintbrush, always the earliest of wildflowers in the high desert country. This clump happened to be nestled in against some prickly pear cacti, which added to the red-green color fiesta against the otherwise drab ground cover.

While walking back from the river’s edge I did spot a colony of Claret-Cups. So I will keep tabs on this site, as they will be blooming soon, too.

Photo location: Naturita, Montrose County, Colorado.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg