Here is the story we mentioned a few days ago on our Facebook page about Westcliffe, Colorado’s Dark-Sky designation featuring one of our time-lapses in it. Awesome to see our work on TV. Thanks to 9NEWS (KUSA) and Noel Brennan for their great work on the story.
The Westcliffe/Silver Cliff community has been named the 9th Dark-Sky community in the world and the 1st in Colorado!
Over the last couple of years, all of our traveling was squeezed into the summer months. This year we decided to take a short trip during spring break to Crested Butte, Colorado. We had purchased a couple pairs of snowshoes earlier in the year and were looking forward to testing them out on some deeper snow!
Crested Butte is located about 4.5 hours southwest of Denver. The drive between Denver and Crested Butte is very scenic. During inclement weather, the most difficult section would probably be over Monarch Pass in between Salida and Gunnison. It was snowing through there on our drive home.
We stayed in the Alpenglow Cabin at Pioneer Guest Cabins about 10-15 minutes south of Crested Butte. They have several cabins nestled along the mountainside. The cabin was clean, cozy and in a quiet area. There are trails accessible right from the cabin. One of the days we went snowshoeing on a trail following Cement Creek. If you don’t have your own snowshoes or skis, Pioneer Guest Cabins offers rentals.
The Alpenglow cabin at Pioneer Guest Cabins
The rustic cabin interior
Snowshoeing Gothic Road
For our first full day in Crested Butte, we went snowshoeing along Gothic Road with my sister and her boyfriend. I had a hefty cold that day so I wasn’t able to go very far, but we still had a lot of fun. The weather was so nice that we were able to snowshoe in t-shirts! We stopped a couple of times along the way to rest and take in the views. The trail continues beyond our stopping point to the ghost town of Gothic.
Beginning our snowshoeing for the day at the Gothic Road winter trailhead
Panoramic views of the mountains to the north along the edge of the Snowmass Wilderness
Taking a break in the snow and along came this friendly dog
Snowshoeing along the Gothic Road trail
On one of the stops, Jess and I stayed behind to relax. Jess started looking for places to explore. Jumping into the snow seemed like harmless fun. The first jump got him wedged halfway into a snow drift…so why not try again..but this time let’s get the GoPro out. On his second attempt, he went so far down into the snow that it was above his head! He was stuck. I rescued him from the snow by digging him out. It could have been a lot worse, never doing that again. BUT, we have footage (see below).
Jess’ first attempt at jumping into the snow and he wedged himself halfway deep.
So why not shoot the next jump with the GoPro…and end up engulfed in the snow? Not recommended kids.
GoPro footage of the 2nd attempt
Exploring the Area
We got out over the next few days to take some shots near town. Most of the side roads outside of town are not maintained in the winter and are closed. We went out to Nicholson Lake along Slate River Road (FR #734). The Slate River Road winter trailhead begins just beyond Nicholson Lake. Washington Gulch Road (FR #811) didn’t have much for photo opportunities. It ended at a winter trailhead just passed a residential area. Gothic Road (FR #317) ends at a winter trailhead (where we went snowshoeing) on the north side of the ski village of Mt Crested Butte. Kebler Pass Road ends at a winter trailhead with no grand views, however, during snowfall there would be some nice opportunities for photos of the trees along the mountainside. Brush Creek Road (CR #738) had wide views to the south and southwest, very low traffic and gave us a couple spots to set up for sunset photos.
The Crested Butte, Pearl Pass National Geographic Map #131 came in handy for areas around town to the east. For more information on areas to the west of town, the Kebler Pass, Paonia Reservoir map #133 would be helpful.
Winter Twilight at Nicholson Lake Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/20sec
Stars over Nicholson Lake Canon EOS 6D, Rokinon 14mm ISO-5000, 14mm, f/2.8, 25.0sec
While in Crested Butte, we wanted to try to get a nice shot from above the town. We explored a few different roads and found two spots to try. One of them is along the road in between Crested Butte and Mt Crested Butte. The other is high up in Mt Crested Butte. We also stopped along the road into Mt Crested Butte to get a shot of the ski village.
Crested Butte, Colorado at Twilight Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-640, 38mm, f/3.2, 25sec
Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado at Night Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-1000, 70mm, f/3.2, 10.0sec
We had barely seen a cloud in the sky until the last day or so of our trip. A weather system rolled in from all directions it seemed. We had one night where we tried to take sunset photos along Brush Creek Road. The clouds were filling in just as we were hearing about the amazing northern lights show that was potentially going to reach down near our home in Iowa and perhaps even further south. There was no hope for us to see it near Crested Butte though with all of the clouds. The next day was completely cloud covered.
Cute husky at Pioneer Guest Cabins
Sunset over Whetstone Mountain Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 40mm, f/8.0, 1/40sec
Slate River Bridge in Crested Butte, Colorado Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 44mm, f/8.0, 1/500sec
Clouds make for interesting time-lapses, so we spent the last day taking a few around town. We’ll release a short clip in the near future.
Finally got some nice clouds for time-lapses
Winter in Crested Butte, Colorado Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/400sec
Lastly, we can’t forget the food. We enjoyed eating at a few different places in Crested Butte including The Last Steep, McGill’s, and Brick Oven Pizzeria & Pub. Our last food stop was the Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream shop!
Delicious chicken sandwich with gluten-free bun at The Last Steep
The Denver Scromlette at McGill’s, yum!
We had a great time exploring the winter landscape around Crested Butte and are looking forward to future winter adventures!
Distance: 9.08 miles round trip. Elevation change: 9,931 ft to 11,709 ft
Time to Lower South Colony Lake: 2 hours 40 minutes
Time back to parking area: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total hike with stops: 6 hours
The South Colony Lakes trail is located south of Westcliffe, Colorado in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. We hiked up to the Lower Lake during Labor Day weekend in 2014. Many people use the area around the lakes as base camp for summiting several peaks in the area including Humboldt Peak and the Crestone Needle.
There are two main parking areas for the South Colony Lakes Trail. A lower parking area at the base of the mountains on South Colony Road is suitable for non 4WD vehicles. The upper parking area at the trailhead is about 2.75 miles up the road. Low clearance vehicles should park in the lower parking area. We drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee to the upper trailhead. We saw a couple of Subarus at the upper trailhead and were amazed that they made it. The road in general was fairly rough and there were a few sketchy spots. There is one hole in particular that you must be careful navigating otherwise you could really mess up your underside. And on the way back, you can’t see where you’re going when you get to that spot.
Looking up the road to the upper trailhead at one of the sketchy spots
There were plenty of vehicles when we arrived around 8:45am, but we still managed to find a spot. The trail heads into the woods and crosses a bridge before heading up an old Jeep road.
Trailhead at the upper parking lot. Trail starts on the left side of this picture.
The trail follows the old Jeep road for about 2.6 miles before reaching a split where each trail narrows. The Jeep road is steep and rocky so sturdy and comfortable shoes are recommended. Once at the split, you can follow the sign to the left or right. We chose to go to the left since we weren’t familiar with the trail and the sign indicated that the Lower Lake was to the left.
From the trailhead, we reached the trail split side after about 2.58miles. We went left.
We went left to the Lower Lake. From what I’ve read, you can get to the Lower Lake in potentially less time by taking the right-hand loop.
Less than 0.2 miles after the split, we came to a red gate with a sign that read that the Lower Lake was 1.5 miles away. The trail levels off for a while and doesn’t climb much until it nears the lake. The scenery opens up not too far after the red gate with sheer mountain walls all around.
From the trailhead, we reached this red gate after 2.74 miles. The sign says 1.5 miles to the Lower Lake from here. It was pretty accurate.
Jess hiking the trail
The trail curves around the mountain before heading uphill as it approaches the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.
Rounding one of the mountains to head up to the Lower Lake
We reached the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness sign after 3.87 miles
The trail climbs up through the forest and begins following a steep drop off where the views open up to the Crestone Needle. The trail continues up through the trees before reaching the lake. There is another fork right before the lake. Going left will take you along the south shore of the lake toward the Crestone Needle trail. Going right will take you around to the north side of the lake and head towards the Upper Lake. We first went to the right and explored a bit before ending up on the south side of the lake.
Our first view of the Crestone Needle Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/200 sec
Crestone Needle towering above Lower South Colony Lake Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/200 sec
One of the outflows at Lower South Colony Lake. It can get pretty windy up there as evidenced by the trees! Canon 6D, Rokinon 14mm ISO-100, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/160 sec
Lower South Colony Lake Canon 6D, Rokinon 14mm ISO-100, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/200 sec
As we walked around the lake we saw several empty campsites and a few with tents set up. Many of the campsites were tucked away and sheltered by shrubs. After over an hour at the lake, we started the trail back down. We took the same trail that we came in on. The rocky Jeep road was a bit rough on our feet going down particularly because we were traveling much faster. On our way down we passed a climber that we saw earlier coming down from the Crestone Needle. He looked pretty worn down, was traveling alone, and carrying his helmet. We felt bad for him so tried to exchange some encouraging words as we were only about half a mile from the parking area at that point. Luckily he hadn’t parked down at the lower parking area!
South Colony Lakes is well worth the hike. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by towering peaks. It’d be nice to do a weekend backpacking trip up there. There are so many areas to explore and plenty of campsites tucked away. We will be visiting again someday!
The Canadian Rockies are a long range of mountains in western Canada that stretch from upper to lower British Columbia and spread into Alberta clear the southern border of Canada. This past summer we ventured to this scenic area in looking for some new areas to explore. We visited several parks, but only a fraction of what is worth seeing. The areas that we primarily visited are Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and Yoho National Park.
Canadian Rockies in western Canada
Being our first time to the area we were very much in awe at the difference in scenery compared to the Rockies in the states. The area definitely has a untamed and untouched feel to it which is a nice change. We explored many areas, several of our favorites we’ve wrote about previously including, Rawson Lake, Burstall Pass, and Parker Ridge. Each of these offered great scenery for our time-lapse hobby.
One of our time-lapse setups overlooking Peyto Lake in Banff National Park. What you can’t see are the gnats, some of the worst we’ve ever experienced!
While we were visiting the area there were some wildfires that did hamper some of our efforts. The overall haze from these fires did take away some of the clarity of the mountains. This also hurt our opportunity to do night time-lapses and possibly see some of the aurora borealis. Hopefully someday we’ll get to capture both when we return.
The amazing Rawson Lake, Alberta
After editing all the time-lapse footage we captured on this long trip we finally have something to show. Below is the short time-lapse featuring some of our favorite places. Enjoy!
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Distance: 3.2 miles round trip. Elevation change: 6,627 ft to 7,610 ft
Time to Parker Ridge: 1 hour
Total hike with stops: 2 hours 30 minutes
We left our room at Deer Lodge in Lake Louise early to watch the sun rise at Bow Lake, about 33 minutes north. It was a beautiful, crisp, calm morning. Unfortunately no clouds in sight, but I still managed to find a couple interesting compositions along the shore. After visiting Bow Lake, we made a stop at iconic Peyto Lake. I’ll post photos from both in a later post. From Peyto Lake we continued following the Icefields Parkway north, making a couple of roadside stops along the way. We saw a large area by Saskatchewan Crossing that had recently burned. Haze from the recent and ongoing fires seemed to follow us wherever we went on our trip. Even with the haze, the entire drive was beautiful, especially the further north we drove. You really begin to feel like you are in the middle-of-nowhere Canada. The Parker Ridge trail parking lot is about an hour north of Peyto Lake or about 1 hour 45 minutes north of Lake Louise. We arrived mid-morning and there were several cars in the parking lot but still plenty of space left.
Steep switchbacks led us 1,000ft up the mountain-side. The road noise from the highway began to quiet down and we were entering the alpine life zone. A few families with young children were pushing their way to the top. Some of those kids didn’t look like they were going to make it. It seemed to get steeper as we approached the top of the ridge and we left the trees behind.
Mt Athabasca towered in the distance as we hiked up the Parker Ridge Trail Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/10.0, 1/160 sec
We reached the top of the ridge and the trail became much wider. This trail is often closed through mid-July. Because it’s in the alpine zone, the meadows are very fragile and the trail doesn’t open until it’s snow free. The trails get wider with heavy foot traffic and hikers that do not want to stick to the single narrow trail.
Looking north back to where we came from Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/10.0, 1/320 sec
Near the crest of the ridge we had a choice to take the left-hand fork or the right-hand fork. Our trail book listed this hike as 1.7 miles (2.7km) one-way with an elevation gain of 820ft, but we weren’t sure which path that was for. We took the right-hand fork instead of the left-hand fork. We wanted to explore that area first before deciding if we wanted to check out the left-hand trail. The left-hand trail looked like it went quite a ways and climbing up 1,000ft in a short distance had left us a bit tired. Turns out, the book was describing the left-hand fork.
Looking west toward the Saskatchewan Glacier Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/400 sec
Being in the alpine zone in Colorado (>11,500ft) is amazing, but up here on Parker Ridge you feel so far away from everything. The alpine zone here starts at lower elevation (7,200ft), so it’s much easier on the lungs. From Parker Ridge, we could see the Saskatchewan Glacier and hear glacial waterfalls thundering off the massive cliffs across the valley.
As we went further up the ridge we came across a couple of rock shelters. Then we descended down the mountainside a bit on some rock scree to see if we could get a better vantage point of the glacier. No such luck. From there it looked like the best vantage point was from the left-hand fork of the trail up above. We were starting to get hungry and more people were coming up the trail, so we thought it’d be best to start hiking back down.
Rock shelter along Parker Ridge Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 35mm, f/8.0, 1/500 sec
Hanging out on Parker Ridge Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 29mm, f/8.0, 1/500 sec
The Parker Ridge trail is easy to get to and was one of our most rewarding hikes. The trail was short but steep and the views were amazing. Next time we hike this trail, I would like to get there a little earlier and take the left-hand fork. Tour buses were parked in the parking lot when we got back to the Jeep. We relaxed a bit, took a lunch time timelapse of clouds forming above Mt Athabasca and then went on to the Athabasca Glacier tourist trap. Everyone should see it once! But really, overall, we highly recommend the Parker Ridge Trail and will visit again someday.
Westcliffe, Colorado is located about an hour and a half southwest of Colorado Springs in the Wet Mountain Valley. Surrounded on each side by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east, this small community has a beautiful backdrop and plenty of sights to see. Read More →
Distance: 9.8 miles round trip. Elevation change: 6,220 ft to 7,685 ft
Time to Burstall Pass with stops: 2 hours 57 minutes
Total hike with stops: 6 hours 15 minutes
The trail to Burstall Pass begins at a parking lot next to Mud Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park along the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail. We drove from Elkwood Campground down at Kananaskis Lakes to the trailhead parking area a bit after sunrise. We were not expecting the road there to be gravel, but it was for most of our drive even up to Canmore after we completed the hike. We had read that the pass is one of the most popular day hikes in the park, so we wanted to get an early start. When we arrived at the parking area, there was one other car there and another that pulled in as we were getting ready to go. We began around 9:30am. The trail follows an old road for about 2 miles making for easy hiking. It passes above Burstall Lakes before turning into a single-track trail. We didn’t stop at the lakes although there are a couple of side trails to get to them. The trail passes through thicker forest before arriving at a large open willow flats area. We made it here in pretty good time, about 50 minutes and stopped for a few photos. Just as we were done taking a few pics a runner came jogging out of the woods headed across the flats. We decided he knew where he was going so we followed.
Looking east right before crossing the willow flats Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/200 sec
The willow flats taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4. We hiked over to where the ridge on the left curves downward into a U shape. The trail goes around that ridge to the left and up.
The braided streams in the willow flats rise and fall with the daily temperature. Mount Robertson and the Robertson Glacier are primarily responsible for the runoff. We had to take some long leaps across a few streams. There were good markers guiding us across the flats through the willows to the other side. Once we made it to the other side we immediately started hiking uphill in thick forest. The trail leveled out as we reached a wide open meadow. We made a pit stop here and a few other hikers passed by. I knew we were going slower than I would have liked us to. The higher altitude and my lungs don’t agree too well.
The trail levels off for a bit after the first steep climb. This is looking back toward the east. Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
Looking toward the north/northwest from the meadow below the pass before the last steep climb. Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
We looked up the trail off to the west trying to determine where the trail went and how we would get to the top. You can see the trail in the photo below curve to the left and head straight for the trees. The trail goes into the forest and begins climbing. The ridge sloping up to the right is what we ended up hiking to get to Burstall Pass.
Looking to the west across the flat meadow. Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
After the meadow, the trail went up, up, up. We didn’t stop too much, because the mosquitos were quite thick. I was glad I had my trekking poles for this part of the hike. We kept going up and up and at one point we turned around and saw the view begin to open up.
Looking back toward the east/northeast with Mt Birdwood in sight and the trail we came from below. Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 29mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
We kept climbing up the trail and eventually reached the top. The views were spectacular! There was a small group of hikers further up the trail sunning themselves on the rocks. We picked out a spot on the rocks and started setting up for a few photos and time-lapses.
What a view! Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
I took a few photos and started helping Jess set up for a time-lapse. Come to find out…we forgot the trigger cable that connects the camera and the Emotimo TB3. Sadly we wouldn’t be getting any pan or tilt in our time-lapse. Our only option left was to carefully press the shutter button and time each photo ourselves. I did the honor of controlling the first time-lapse attempting to take an image every 2 seconds for about 15 minutes. It actually turned out pretty good! Jess did the honor of taking the second one. I think we’ve decided that if this ever happens again, I’ll be the button presser
Our unusable Emotimo TB3 simply because we forgot one very small cable… better luck next time. Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4.
After spending 45 minutes or so taking photos and time-lapses, we continued up the trail out of curiosity toward South Burstall Pass before heading back down the trail.
This is a five image stitch from Burstall Pass Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
As we were hiking down the trail we passed several people on their way up including families with young children. We were amazed at how many kids we saw on some of the longer hikes we did, but particularly this one clocking in at almost 10 miles round-trip. We met one family with several kids probably ages 7-13 just before we got back down to the willow flats. They looked like they were ready to be there but they were just getting to the tough part! We never did see that runner again. Crossing the willow flats on the way back was a bit trickier. With the warmer daytime temperatures, the water levels had risen and we had to do more leaping getting a touch wetter this time. This area of Canada was having a heat wave while we were there with highs in the mid-80’s.
Burstall Pass was a beautiful hiking trail and a long one for us. This was the longest hiking trail we’ve completed and you really get to know the true meaning of one step at a time. The views from Burstall Pass were amazing! After this one we definitely needed to give our feet a rest before doing more hiking. No blisters, no sores, just some tired feet. I highly recommend this hike if you’re in the area, but make sure your legs, feet, and heart are ready for it.
We visited Clear Lake near Silverton, Colorado for the first time on July 4th of this year. Jess and I wanted to take his parents on their first above-the-treeline 4×4 trail for some amazing scenery. The Colorado 4×4 trail guide book that we had along with us rated this trail as easy…and I would agree up until the last bit. We started up the trail with our Jeep Grand Cherokee in familiar territory having hiked up to the Ice Lakes Basin last summer. We took Hwy 550 from Ridgway down to County Road 7 just north of Silverton. We followed CR-7 for just over 3.5 miles and headed off to the right up County Road 12. The first few miles of CR-12 were easy driving through the forest. Once out of the forest, the views opened up and we were in the alpine. We could see southwest toward the beautiful Ice Lakes Basin. Soon we arrived at a waterfall next to the trail and stopped to take a few pictures. Marmots were everywhere!
Waterfall below Clear Lake with a parking area off of a switchback that has room enough for 2-3 vehicles
Looking to the south/southeast from near where we parked Canon 6D, Rokinon 14mm ISO-100, 14mm, f/8.0, 1/250 sec
After leaving the waterfall, the trail quickly became rockier and the switchbacks became steeper and tighter. We made it through the last switchback, by far the sketchiest of them all, and then we attempted to cross a slick, slanted boulder. One of the front tires was spinning in a hole full of loose rock while the other was trying to get up over the rock precariously tilting us toward the drop off. After a couple unsuccessful and rather nerve-wracking attempts, we safely backed down the trail and found a wide spot to pull off so we could hike the rest of the way. Maybe next time when we have something better than stock tires on our Jeep or maybe if we have a side-by-side instead we’ll attempt again someday.
Looking up the trail to the sloped boulder that stopped us from continuing further. Sketchy, sketchy. Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/5.0, 1/250 sec
The hole they tried to fill with rocks. Needless to say, that didn’t work. Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/3.5, 1/250 sec
Hiking up the remaining stretch of trail to the lake Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/6.3, 1/250 sec
After a little ways up the trail leveled off and it was easy walking the rest of the way. Before arriving at Clear Lake, there was a really nice, small, shallow lake with great mountain reflections. In fact, I much preferred this smaller lake for photos when we were there.
The lake just below Clear Lake Canon 6D, Rokinon 14mm ISO-100, 14mm, f/8, 1/200 sec
Lots of snow melt filling the streams Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 24mm, f/8, 1/200 sec
As we got closer to Clear Lake we noticed that there was still a decent amount of snow on the ground. The road that we would have had to drive on had we made if over the rocks below was covered in snow (photo below) and we would have had to stop anyway. Through the snow on the right in the photo below and just up over that little hill is where Clear Lake lies.
We walked through that snow on the right covering the road to get up to the lake. Canon 6D, Rokinon 14mm ISO-100, 14mm, f/8, 1/200 sec
It was a beautiful sunny day when we were there but didn’t stay too long to explore. The water didn’t look nearly as green as I thought it would. Next time we go I’d like to hike up on one of the mountainsides and get a higher vantage point. We had the entire place to ourselves. The only people we saw along the trail was a couple down at the waterfall when we headed down and a guy playing his guitar at a campsite along one of the switchbacks down in the forest.
A few flowers in bloom near Clear Lake Canon 6D, Tamron 24-70mm ISO-100, 38mm, f/10, 1/200 sec
As we headed back down, it was nice to see the expansive San Juan mountain views. More and more vehicles started showing up along the road as we neared the bottom. Many were parking along the road for the alternate Ice Lakes hiking trail starting point. Back down on the main road (CR-7) vehicles lined the road; all there for 4th of July camping.
We spent about 1.75 hours getting from the beginning of CR-12 up to the lake (including our hike time). Clear Lake was nice and I’d like to visit again some day but perhaps not in a full-sized vehicle with stock tires. I’d like to see it about a week or two later when a little bit more of the snow has melted off the road and more flowers are in full bloom.
Distance: 4.4 miles round trip. Elevation change: 5,635 ft to 6,670 ft
Time to Lake: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total hike with stops: ~2.75 hours
Having spent the night in a humid and cool Jeep without enough blankets (83F at 8pm…40F at 12am) , we were ready to get outside and do some exploring. The Rawson Lake trail was first on our list. Not wanting to run into any early morning grazing bears, we were reluctant to begin closer to sunrise. We waited until around 9:30am to begin and at that point there was still only 1 other car in the parking lot and it didn’t look like they were heading up anytime soon. Advantage of being first up the trail: you have the place to yourself. Disadvantage to being first up the trail: you get to clear the spiderwebs hanging across the trail.
The trailhead is located at a parking lot next to Upper Kananaskis Lake and followed the shoreline for a bit with peak-a-boo views of the lake through the trees with a few larger openings. Not too far into the trail we crossed a flood damaged bridge at Sarrail Creek Falls. We stopped for a few minutes here to check out the view of the lake and the falls.
Rock man looking out to Upper Kananaskis Lake along the Rawson Lake Trail Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm 45mm, f/8.0, 1/200 sec, ISO-100
Sarrail Creek waterfall on the Rawson Lake Trail Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm 24mm, f/14, 1/20 sec, ISO-100
Shortly after the waterfall the trail begins to head steeply up the hillside into the forest. The sound of the waterfall disappeared pretty quickly. The trail was in pretty good shape and we stopped occasionally along the way up. It seemed like it was uphill for quite a while before leveling out.
Hiking uphill through dense forest Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4
Once the trail leveled out we were able to pick up some speed. There were several places where flat logs were put in place of the dirt trail. We kept our eyes peeled for bears as we went through the forest. After an hour and 20 minutes or so we arrived at Rawson Lake. It was cloudy when we arrived, very quiet, and no one was around. It was a bit buggy close to the water and the sky wasn’t quite right for us to begin taking a time-lapse so we decided to explore the trail further along the lake.
We followed the lake around the trail and stopped for a few pictures. We decided it was time for a snack break so Jess moved to get some food out of my pack. Just as he did that, I looked straight ahead and saw a grizzly less than 250 feet from where we stood! I could not believe my eyes. I had only ever seen a bear once in the wild, a black bear out in Colorado from very far away. This one was not far away and it was standing there staring at us. We looked back at it somewhat stunned. It took a couple of steps in our direction. We then began slowly walking backwards up the trail and right then it turned and walked off away from us. At this point we felt safe enough to try to steal a few snapshots of it. My camera was not ready so I lost time fumbling with it and only ended up with the blurry Sasquatch looking photo below, ha! And THAT was our introductory experience to the Canadian Rockies!
Can you see the grizzly?
After that exciting experience we went back to where the trail meets the lake. On our way back we ran into a couple of girls heading out in the direction of the bear, so the polite and still excited folk we were, we warned them of the bear. We picked a spot along the shore and set up for a time-lapse and I took a few photos. The water was perfectly calm while we were there which made for some nice reflections. The morning light on the huge rock wall reflecting into the water made for a few nice shots. We have a pretty cool time-lapse from this place to process soon.
Forest reflections at Rawson Lake Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm 47mm, f/14, 1/30 sec, ISO-100
Rawson Lake Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm 24mm, f/7.1, 1/250 sec, ISO-100
Rawson Lake Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm 38mm, f/7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO-100
Once we were done at the lake, we made it back down to the parking lot in about 50 minutes. We passed a lot of people heading up the trail as we were coming down. The lakeshore portion of the trail is also part of a trail that loops around the lake. Once we got down to that portion there were more families hiking along. After getting back to the parking lot we decided to enjoy a nice lunch with a view of Upper Kananaskis Lake followed by utilizing the wifi connection at the visitor’s center to tell everyone about our bear sighting!
Post-hike lunch break overlooking Upper Kananaskis Lake Canon EOS 6D, Tamron 24-70mm 24mm, f/7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO-100
If you’re interested in seeing time-lapses from our Canadian Rockies trip, keep an eye out on our new Facebook page: ELEMOTIONphoto
About a month ago, Chris from The Chronos Project setup a contest to win one of his very trick Lens Apparatus systems. Chris is a well known DIY guru for all things time-lapse. He does an excellent job of taking simple ideas and offering realistic solutions on any budget. The great thing about Chris is that he not only offers these solutions for purchase but also helps people who want to build their own versions. That really speaks for how great Chris is to the community.
His contest idea was quite basic, but very challenging. He wanted people to show off their manual focus changes in a time-lapse. During a time-lapse it can add great depth to have the focal point change mid way though the shot. This sounds easy enough but to maintain a very steady and smooth shot during a time-lapse is extremely difficult. You are constantly touching and changing the camera settings and anyone that has done time-lapse work knows that one of the very basic concepts to a good time-lapse is to keep everything smooth. Manually moving your focus point on your camera over a period of several minutes can easily lead to a disaster if you bump the camera out of place. Also you have to gradually move the focus point in a smooth manner. You can’t just change it fully between two different pictures, It wouldn’t look right.
That’s where the Lens Apparatus comes into play. With this device, you can program a stepper motor to gradually and precisely change your focal point on your camera. Automation is a beautiful thing in time-lapse. It opens the door to endless complexity that makes things more amazing in the final product. So in order to win one of these trick devices I did a few quick last second time-lapse shots on the road.
The first stop was the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Setup right at the base of one side of the arch I focused right in front of the camera and began a 20 minute time-lapse. Several minutes into the shot I began to slowly and precisely turn the focus ring until I was focused on the top of the arch. It’s extremely nerve racking to be hovering only a fraction of an inch away from your camera lens and touch it ever so slightly to move the focus point after each picture. Luckily it turned out decent. Below is a picture of some down time near the end of the shot after the hard part of focus changing was done.
The next stop I made was in Nashville at the Parthenon. It’s a pretty cool building mirroring the more famous version in Greece. I struggled to find a good focus change shot to do here but am mostly pleased with the results. Again, quite anxious during the shoots hoping that during those 4-5 minutes of intense focus changing nobody would enter the shot, bump into me, or even just myself move the camera accidentally. Another instagram BTS shot during the non focus changing points of the shoot.
With all that said, below is a final product of the shoots for the contest. Be sure to watch in HD.
Also be sure to check out Chris’ site over at TheChronosProject.com.
Distance: 7 miles round trip. Elevation change: 9,800 ft to 12,270 ft
Time to Lower Lake: 2 hours 40 minutes
Time to Upper Lake from Lower Lake: 1 hour 20 minutes
Time to descend from Upper Lake: 2 hours
Total hike with stops: 7 hours
The hike to Ice Lake was the highlight of our July 2013 trip to Colorado. It is the hardest hike we’ve done so far and the highest altitude that we’ve hiked to. The trail head begins at South Mineral Campground near Silverton, Colorado at an altitude of about 9,800 ft. There is ample parking near the trail head. We got there around 7:30am and there were just a few cars in the parking lot.
The hike started off with us realizing we forgot one of the tripods at the car 3 minutes in. Jess went back to the car while I waited and photographed anything that looked interesting around me of course. Once he was back, we were on our way. Soon enough we came to our first waterfall. We stopped to take a quick photo and continued on. We came to the junction where another trail that starts on the road up to Clear Lake joins the main trail. Part of that trail crosses over a pretty sketchy looking waterfall with some waterlogged wood that you have to walk across. I was glad that we didn’t have to cross over that, but we stopped there to take some photos and a quick time-lapse. We continued up the winding trail passing through a couple of small meadows along the way.
Spruce trees along the trail Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17–70mm lens ISO-200, 48mm, f/5.6, 1/60sec
The first waterfall along the trail Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17–70mm lens ISO-200, 44mm, f/7.1, 1/50sec
Waterfall plummeting into the valley. This looks much sketchier in person. Ice Lakes Basin Trailhead Canon EOS Rebel T4i, Tokina 11-16mm lens ISO-100, 11mm, f/5.6, 1/160sec
The steepness of this trail was really quite amazing compared to what we are used to. This trail climbs 1,600 feet in the first 2 miles! It was a foggy morning in the mountains and it wasn’t until about an hour or more into the hike that the clouds and fog seemed to start breaking up. The clouds never completely lifted during our hike though, but we had peeks of sunshine here and there. We continued through the forests and caught glimpses of a couple more waterfalls. Waterfalls are plentiful on this hike!
Hiking along the trail through the meadows. Canon EOS Rebel T4i, Tokina 11-16mm lens ISO-100, 11mm, f/8.0, 1/125sec
Panoramic view of the valley with six images stitched together Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 30mm, f/8.0, 1/320sec
Hidden waterfall just off the trail Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17–70mm lens ISO-100, 25mm, f/6.3, 1/100sec
Forest panoramic along the trail with four images stitched together Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 33mm, f/7.1, 1/100sec
Two and a half hours into the hike, we finally reached the Lower Ice Lake Basin. We didn’t realize that it would take us so long to get to the Lower Basin. There were a couple of times that we thought, “we’re almost there, we’re almost there”, and then “oh just kidding”. The first lake in the Lower Basin is not very photogenic and is a hike from the trail if you want to take a photo of it. We decided that since it took us so long to get here that we would press on through the basin. Wildflowers covered the lower basin. There is a small campground in the Lower Basin. Some day we will have to come back and camp here. It must be amazing with the stars at night and to be able to get up early for sunrise at the Upper Basin would be great!
Lower Ice Lakes Basin – one of the many waterfalls on the right Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 17mm, f/9.0, 1/100sec
Wildflowers along a stream from another waterfall in Lower Ice Lakes Basin Canon EOS Rebel T4i, Tokina 11-16mm lens ISO-100, 14mm, f/5.0, 1/160sec
Taking a short video in Lower Ice Lakes Basin Canon EOS Rebel T4i, Tokina 11-16mm lens ISO-100, 12mm, f/14, 1/50sec
We stopped to rest, enjoy the view, and take some photos. I counted at least 4 waterfalls that I could see pouring into the Lower Basin from where we were. It was pretty incredible. After we were done resting we started toward the top. We walked through the meadow for a ways and started up the trail to go the last 800 ft toward the top. 800 ft might not sounds like very far, but we were already at over 11,000ft. The air was getting pretty thin, and our lungs were born and raised in Iowa.
Waterfalls everywhere in the Lower Ice Lakes Basin Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 17mm, f/8.0, 1/320sec
Another waterfall plunging into the Lower Ice Lakes Basin Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 17mm, f/8.0, 1/160sec
Looking up the trail to Upper Ice Lakes Basin Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 17mm, f/8.0, 1/100sec
Looking back toward Lower Ice Lakes Basin. Multi-image panoramic. Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 28mm, f/8.0, 1/100sec
We took a slow and steady approach and made it to the top after a little over an hour. Once we crested the top of the trail and saw brilliant blue water of Ice Lake, all I could say was, “WOW!“. Just amazing! The water is so blue it almost seemed like it was glowing blue at times and even more when the sun hit it. We took in the view, relaxed a little, and wandered around taking time-lapses and photos. We had a couple of people along the trail ask us “who do you shoot for?” Jess was tempted to say “oh you know, National Geographic” haha! Unfortunately, by the time we got up there it was almost 12:30pm, still pretty cloudy, and the weather was getting more uncertain. We stayed for just under an hour before heading back down the trail. Just as we were heading back down the trail, a man and his young daughter who was maybe 12 years old were nearing the top. He was encouraging her to keep going. She looked exhausted and asked how much further it was to the top. What a hike for a young girl!
We didn’t want to leave, but also didn’t want to get stuck in any bad weather. Down we went and all the while I kept thinking, “when can we come back next!?” AMAZING!
Looking back up the trail as we head down Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 33mm, f/8.0, 1/100sec
Down we go Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Sigma 17-70mm lens ISO-100, 17mm, f/8.0, 1/100sec
We didn’t have any issues with mosquitoes on our way up the trail, but they were thick on the way down! I highly recommend wearing some good hiking shoes and good socks! The hike down is very steep for 2 solid hours. It can be brutal. Dress properly, it was very chilly at the top. Lots of water and snacks are necessary. I wish we would have had one more bottle of water on our hike. Walking sticks would have been nice; bring them if you have them. I don’t know that I would bring kids on this hike. That poor girl we saw near the top looked miserable. There are no signs beyond the start point so bring a map to check where you are. It was difficult to gauge distance based on the time with such a steep hike. You could spend days here exploring this trail. Don’t try to do this hike as a half day trip. It’s worth a full day or more!
We discovered something shocking yesterday. One of our time-lapse video clips is in the latest Kanye West music video! Needless to say, we have mixed emotions. The time-lapse, shown in the upper left in the video below, is of Dallas Divide in Colorado. This was purchased through one of the stock sites we sell through, as far as we can tell. The video clip it appears in is in the lower right.
How did we find out about this you might ask? I kept seeing the Bound 3 parody by Seth Rogan and James Franco popping up in my twitter feed so I gave in and had a look. After laughing so hard because it was so hilariously bad, I had to see what the original (fairly inappropriate, don’t watch unless you really want to, not a fan of the song at all…) looked like. I was shocked, in multiple ways, but one of them was because our time-lapse clip shows up twice! Once at 1:14-1:17 and then blurred quite a bit at 1:34-1:40.
Kim Kardashian’s face comes in from the right. Upper left portion of the video masked out so they could use different clouds and have the sun in the upper left. Clouds on the right are still ours and some left above the mountains on the left. They also panned the clip from right to left, blurred a little, and brightened it up.
Appears to be zoomed in and blurred even more, but they kept our clouds.
After months of editing, our 2013 time-lapse montage is finally complete. This year we again captured southern Colorado spanning from Ridgway to Westcliffe. Our summer trip offered much more hiking options and greener surroundings to contrast last year’s fall colors. Read More →
New prints and stock images available at www.stephcoffmanphoto.com featuring Iowa lakes & wetlands and Colorado mountains & wildlife. Several galleries have been updated, too many to list here. I’ve also created a new Black & White & Monotone gallery, so if that’s your thing then those images will be much easier to find!