Long’s Peak Under a Lenticular Cloud (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Long’s Peak is a prominent mountain peak in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Topping out at 14,269 feet it is one of 30+ 14k peaks in Colorado (I think that is the most of any state in the US…probably has something to do with the fact that they ‘cheat’ in Denver by starting over a mile above sea-level to begin with.

I had spent the morning at Dream Lake taking sunrise pictures and was hiking back to the trailhead when noticed a huge lenticular cloud forming just above the peak. Lenticular clouds are sorta lens shaped clouds that look to me like UFOs. I’ve got several pictures where you can see the full formation over the broad peaks of the mountain. However, I liked the look of this tight shot where the peak seems to be emitting some sort of flame like dragon creature. With Game of Thrones on tonight maybe I’m just seeing Drogon everywhere though?

Long’s Peak Under a Lenticular Cloud (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Long's Peak under a Lenticular Cloud (Rocky Mountain National Park)

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Little Matterhorn – Rocky Mountain National Park

The “Little Matterhorn” is a peak in Rocky Mountain National Park that sits on the bank of Odessa Lake. We took a hike from Bear Lake to Fern Lake (taking the shuttle back to Bear Lake) and stopped for lunch at Odessa Lake. Underneath the mini Matterhorn we had lunch before finishing the hike to Fern Lake. One of the things I’ve learned about Rocky Mountain National Park over the years is that they have some of the best maintained trails of any park that I’ve ever hiked in. Sure, the park itself gets a lot of traffic but if you get out early enough on one of the longer trails you can find quite a bit of solitude. It was a beautiful day but even so we maybe encountered 40/50 people over the eight-mile stretch.

Little Matterhorn – Estes Park, Co

Little Matterhorn - Rocky Mountain National Park

Heading out to Banff for the weekend – hope the weather cooperates!

Dream Lake at Sunrise – Rocky Mountain National Park

One of my favorite places to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park is the Dream Lake area. It is relatively easy to access as the hike is only a few miles but the views of Hallett’s Peak are spectacular. The best time to be in this spot is at sunrise on a relatively clear day when the first rays of light are hitting the peak. It is so quiet and peaceful – in fact despite being fairly popular around midday – I’ve never had to battle anyone for position in the early morning hours. Unlike Glacier National Park though there isn’t a coffee shop directly nearby so you have to be sure to get your coffee the day before. Usually I wind up packing a few pre-made bottles of Starbucks, a bagel and some fruit so I can have a snack while sitting around this area for an hour or two before hiking back down to the car.

Dream Lake at Sunrise – Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake at Sunrise - Rocky Mountain National Park

Started booking my August business meetings today and I’ll be heading out to Denver for a Friday meeting. The past few meetings have been in the middle of the week so I’ve been unable to leverage a weekend trip to Rocky Mountain National Park – I think I jinxed myself last year when I bought the Annual Pass instead of the single week one. It was only $20 – $30 more expensive and I figured I’d be back at least three or four times before it ran out….however, this will be my first trip back since last November.

Adventures in Cancelling

My flight last night to Denver got cancelled…that was a bummer but little did I know that was only the start of my adventure. American Airlines is normally fantastic! I fly them all the time for work and last year came so close to Platinum status. I’ll get there this year! However, last night the O’Hare Airport luggage department really had me in a mindf#ck situation (excuse my French).

Photo of the Day – Sunsetting on the Rockies

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I checked my bag through to Denver and grabbed a quick bite to eat while I kept an eye on the board as I noticed that other flights – presumably due to the troubles out east – were being cancelled all over the place. I finished eating and was happy to see that my plane was still ontime and set to board at 5:15 – unfortunately at 5:10 they announced the flight was cancelled. I don’t know why it took them until five minutes before we were supposed to board to cancel the plane but whatever it happens so I got on the phone with customer service to learn that everything Chicago to Denver was booked until Friday afternoon. Realizing I wasn’t going to make my meeting tomorrow I just cancelled the whole trip and headed back downstairs to attempt to retrieve my luggage. This is where it got fun interesting idiotic (I don’t know if there is a word to describe it so let’s just go with ridiculous).

I got in the line at the luggage counter at 5:20 and when I finally reached the desk to talk to someone it was 6 PM. I explained my situation and the first guy said okay, took some information punched it into the computer, wrote it on the back of the ticket and told me to go to baggage claim 9 and they would get my bag out in a 1/2 hour. At 6:40 my bag still wasn’t there so I went back to the counter – no line this time so I was able to walk right up to the desk. I asked the lady to check on my luggage and noted that at this point I was sick of waiting and asked if they could just deliver it to my house. She said not a problem but she couldn’t schedule that so I had to call an 800 number. Well with the issues they were having out east I knew this was going to screw me but I was pleased to hear the wait time was only 8 to 12 minutes. 45 minutes later and still waiting on hold I got back in what was now a long line at the baggage counter, waiting, waiting, waiting…an hour after I last talked to someone I finally reach the front of the line and start talking to the lady behind the desk. I tell her the situation and say I want my bag delivered and she says okay takes my ticket and says:

Baggage Lady (BL): Uh oh. I can’t help you
Me: Why?
BL: You haven’t reached your final destination. This bag is going to Denver.
Me: No the flight was cancelled so I just decided to cancel my whole trip.
BL: So you aren’t going to Denver?
Me: No, not until May when I have another meeting
BL: Well you can get your bag then
Me: Wait, what? I have to wait until May to get my bag?
BL: Yes, we can’t give it to you until you reach your final destination.
Me: But I cancelled my flight so THIS IS my final destination.
BL (shows me the ticket and the baggage claim receipt – pointing to the DEN representing Denver): You see here on the ticket it lists your final destination and it says DEN for Denver. Until you make it to Denver we can’t give your bag back that is just protocol. I’m sorry I can’t help you (meanwhile she is reaching over for a pamphlet with the 800 number for me to call and file a claim) but you can call this number and you can see if they can help you.
Me: No, I see the final destination but my flight was cancelled completely and now I am not going to Denver at all
BL (Confused Look): I thought you said you were going in May (at this point as my head is about to EXPLODE the 800 number finally picks up and I am able to start this process over again with her as I begrudgingly collect my belongings off the counter and walk away)

Ultimately, I wind up filing a claim with the 800 number lady 3 hours after I started this procedure at the O’Hare luggage desk. I sigh and head out to hop in a cab and head home….just as my bag pops out onto baggage claim nine. I grab the bag and get the hell out of there. I know I’m not perfect at my job and I’m sure I have some bad days but I don’t generally deal with the public. I feel like if you are representing a major airline and dealing with their customers your IQ should be greater than that of my cat Nola. She could have been as helpful as one of the three counter people at the ORD airport. Morale of the story is – if you check your bag at ORD and your flight gets cancelled you are screwed!

I’d be catching a sunset similar to this right now had I made out from ORD yesterday. The weather in Estes Park looks amazing! 40s – 50s for highs and lows in the high 30s. This after three feet of fresh snow last weekend so it would have made for some glorious winter photos. Ah well – I’ll just have to see capitalize on the May trip.

Winter in the Rockies

I flew last year on September 11th as well but unlike last year I wasn’t at the airport for the moment of silence that all of them have. However, flying on this date is unlike any other – it is quieter, more somber (probably as it should be) – and much less busy. My flight from LA to Chicago which is normally packed is essentially empty. Sure it is a Wednesday but I typically don’t have rows around me empty as I did when I just looked to change seats. Maybe people purposely avoid flying on this date – I didn’t do it by choice – but I can’t imagine that other business travelers somehow can avoid this date completely.

Photo of the Day – Winter in the Rockies

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Winter comes early in the Rockies – when I’m in Rocky Mountain National Park in November this is probably how the Dream Lake area will look. The lake may not be completely frozen yet but the tops of the mountain will be snow covered. I’m off to Glacier National Park in ten days. It will be my first trip back to Montana since I went to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons shortly after college. Admittedly, the grizzlies scare me quite a bit so I will not be hiking (solo) before sunrise like I typically do in RMNP where bear sightings are a very rare thing (and black bears at that). However, I’ll still be out at sunrise for pictures and staying out past sunset to get that beautiful light. I’ll just make sure to stay a little closer to civilization while doing it…..just in case.

The Continental Divide

An early morning look at the Continental Divide at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was the first time I’ve ever been to this lake for sunrise that I didn’t run into any other photographers – most of the time there are five or ten other people walking around and trying to find a shot but for whatever reason on this particular Saturday the lake was all mine. I spent the majority of the morning on the Continental Divide side of the lake shooting back at the rising sun but worked my way over to this spot just prior to the light getting too harsh to get any decent shots of the mountain.

Photo of the Day – Sprague Lake Stream

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A few winters ago I tried to take a picture of this bridge – it was winter so the stream wasn’t running nearly as fast – and the snow made the image a little too bright. I’ve shot it a few other times since then and have never been happy with the results. However, I kept coming back and kept trying different angles figuring I’d eventually get one that I liked.

Sunrise at Emerald Lake

I watched ‘Into the Wild’ this weekend as I’ve always been a fan of the book and just recently realized that it was available for streaming on Netflix.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.

– Jon Krauker, Into the Wild

Photo of the Day – Emerald Lake Sunrise

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As someone who wasn’t happy with their circumstances and made a change I do believe completely in this. We all have the power to change – change is difficult and it isn’t always simple but for those that push through and see it through it is very worth it because if you live in an unhappy place what is the point of living. For everyone who criticized Chris McCandless for taking off and heading into the woods at least he took a shot – sure there were things he could/should have done differently and he paid the ultimate price but isn’t there something to be said for doing what it is that you love – even if it kills you? I mean, maintaining the status quo just kills most people slowly anyways. If you aren’t busy living you are busy dying.

Now, waking up hours before sunrise and hiking to Emerald Lake isn’t exactly going into the wild but there is something to be said about getting away from it all and just being on your own. Seeing the sunrise without anyone else – heck probably not anyone within a few miles. There is peace there and each and every time I see it I can understand why McCandless felt that joy did not simply emanate from human relationships – but rather it is found all around us….like in a sunrise over Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.