My birthday is June 23, so this is being released a tad bit late.
Jeremiah is a wonderful boyfriend, and this year he took me to Steamboat Springs for my birthday weekend! We took off to Steamboat Springs on Friday, June 22. The drive out to SS is beautiful. You definitely get to see a variety of landscapes on your way out there. The valley between the mountains in which you are driving in for the majority of the way there is filled with open fields, lush greenery, and several cattle and equine ranches.
It took us a few hours to get to SS, and the first thing we did was check into our hotel room. We stayed at the Fairfield by Marriott. After Jeremy changed into his button up, surprisingly plaid shirt, and I changed into my summer dress, we headed downtown. We shopped the historic main street area, which was filled mostly with tourist shops as one would suspect.
On the way into town we had seen a plethora of yellow signs advertising F.M. Light and Sons, a store. We each ended up getting cowboy/girl hats from there.
We stopped in several other shops. I ended up getting a tank top and a long sleeve hoodie shirt. Jeremy got candy. Ha.
We ended up having dinner at 8th Street Steakhouse. I was disappointed to find that we had to cook our own food if we ordered off of the main menu, and the side dishes were extra. It's over-priced for having to grill your own meat, and the free salad bar was not that great. It's safe to say I was frustrated. The glass of wine I had was yummy, and Jeremy ordered the crab (which he didn't have to make because it was off of the special menu) which was delicious.
We drove over to the Safeway to look for a birthday cake. I ended up getting a variety cheesecake, where all of the varieties included chocolate (yesssss). Jeremy insisted I get the number candles, so he bought me a "2" and a "6". I guess when I turn 62 I can use them again....
The following day was full of adventures. We started off my birthday with breakfast at the hotel, and when we walked out the doors there was a hot air balloon in the sky! I have never seen one in person, so this was very exciting for my young soul.
We started off our adventures with a hike to Fish Creek Falls. There were two trails to take to the falls, so we started with the paved one. The map made it look a lot longer than it is. The view was beautiful! We went down the unpaved trail, which goes along the creek. I greatly preferred this trail as it took us to the foot of the falls.
After Fish Creek Falls, the plan was to head up to Hahn's Peak. Travel Advisor said you could drive to the top. What it did not tell you was that the drive is all "gravel" (big rocks), and it's scary as hell. We made it about half way to the top of Hahn's Peak, debated on hiking the rest of the way, but decided that if we wanted time to do the other adventures on the list, we better not.
Hahn's Peak is not in Steamboat Springs, it's North of it, so we drove out there. Jeremy was betting on this mountain being Hahn, I wasn't sure if he was correct, but as it turns out, he was.
Jeremy is such a good sport. When we realized how rough of a drive it would be, he kept saying "let's keep going". I was terrified. The road was not wide at all, and I kept wondering what would happen if we came across another driver going the other direction. It happened, twice. Once, a large truck pulled over for us since he had the inside and could pull over into the brush. We had the edge of the mountain on our side. The second time was with a small four-wheeler, and they easily pulled out of the way. It was so scary seeing the edge of the mountain outside of my window. I tried not to look, and I kept being thankful that Jeremy was driving and not me.
We made it to the point where Siri said we were at Hahn's Peak. Another lie. We were only half-way up the mountain. Thankfully, there was an area for us to turn around. Jeremy pulled the nose of the car towards the mountain and backed towards the edge of the cliff. My knuckles were white from holding on to the handle on the door.
We got out of the vehicle and explored a little. This flower reminded me of a Bird of Paradise with the way it fans out. I'm not sure what it actually is.
For the amount of dislike I had towards the "road" we had just driven up, the view was breathtaking.
Look. At. This. "Road". Robert Frost would be so proud.
When we got back to the base of Mount Hahn, there was an Aspen tree grove. I think Aspens are absolutely beautiful, so I asked Jeremy to pull over so that I could go take pictures. Being the perfect gentleman he is, he did without question.
After Hahn's Peak it was time to go to Steamboat Lake State Park.
It's a smaller State Park, with not very many trails to wander on. It's mostly a recreational park for boating and swimming. With the mountains surrounding it, it is a beautiful place to be.
The last place we went to was Pearl Lake State Park, which was very close to Steamboat Lake. This was more nature-based, as no swimming or boating was allowed. There were a lot of people stand-up paddle boarding. I saw my first columbine flower here.
We ended up having lunch in Steamboat Springs and then heading back to Denver. We drove over to Jeremy's parent's house to pick up the puppies, and his parents took me out for birthday dinner! I certainly was not expecting dinner, and I thought it was very sweet of them to take me out for my birthday.
Thank you everyone who wished me happy birthday.
To my family, I miss you. It is hard living away sometimes, but just know that I love it here in Colorado and hope to see you all soon.
To Jeremy's family, thank you for always including me in. You have become my Colorado family, and I appreciate everything you do for me.
To Jeremy, thank you for making me realize I deserve more, that I can achieve my dreams, and for always supporting me. I love you, and I appreciate you more than I will ever be able to say. Thank you for a wonderful birthday weekend.
Winters in Denver are odd for a woman who used to live in the "Great White North", also known as Wisconsin and Minnesota.
You see, up North it snows, it freezes, it snows some more, it freezes, and eventually you just have this permanent one foot or taller snow blanket on the ground. Sometimes the snow is so frozen that you can skid a rock across the surface, and it won't even go into the snow, it'll just eventually slide of onto the road, or hit something that stops its momentum.
Here in Denver, it gets cold enough to snow, then warms up enough within the same week or two to melt all the snow away. The point in telling you all of this is to let you know that snow does not stay in Denver, so if you want to capture photographs of snow, you must go out the same day that it does snow. If you know it is going to be cold enough the next day for the snow to remain until then, you are probably safe to wait, but at that point you are gambling, because let's face it, the weatherman is wrong... a lot.
We actually got a decent amount of snow this last week. It looked to be about five to six inches where I live, which I believe is the heaviest snow fall I have witnessed down here. It had snowed Friday night going into Saturday. Saturday was the day Jeremy and I went to the Denver Zoo (read the blog post about it here). The next day I went on a photo walk by myself along Cherry Creek Trail, excited to get some photographs of the beautiful snow.
It was a little nerve wracking going off trail with the blanket of snow on the ground. I was testing the ground before each of my steps unless I knew the area particularly well, and made my way down the hill to the creek.
I thought the rocks along the creek looked kind of cool underneath a layer of snow.
The view of the creek from where I was standing amongst these rocks was breathtaking.
Obviously, a lot of the plant life was buried underneath the snow, and I tried very carefully to not step on anything I could cause harm to. Some of the plants are tall enough to poke out of the snow which made going around them easier.
I made it down to a waterfall, expecting to have a gorgeous shot, but after seeing this image on my computer, I didn't feel there was enough of a focal point for it to be a successful image. It was still a gorgeous sight to see though.
There's this oddly placed picnic table along the path. It's not on the actual trail, but off trail about five feet, and is just sitting atop this hill.
Do you recognize this next shot? It's very similar to one I took when there was no snow on the ground. You can view that image in this blog post here.
I went back down to the edge of the creek and got this next image there. Didn't turn out quite as I had hoped, but that's okay. It still made for pretty pictures.
After very carefully walking along the edge of the creek back to the foot path, I had to climb back up the hill.
When I was about halfway up the hill, I heard a slight rustling coming from the leaves to the left of me. I looked over and snapped this as a hawk was flying away from me through the woods.
Watching the bird fly away, I rushed up the remaining portion of the hill and watched the keen-eyed predator perch upon the very tippy-top of a tree.
There were a lot of birds out that day. A plethora of ducks coasted down the creek or stood upon rocks, ducking their heads under the water to fill their bellies. Geese flew back and forth across the sky in various V-formations. Predatorial birds were perched in high branches in the trees. I even briefly saw a woodpecker.
After I while, I made it down to where the path splits and decided to turn around. The sun was getting towards the end of setting, it was getting colder, and to be honest, I was exhausted. It was the first photo walk I have ever jogged for a portion of, and was the first photo walk in a few years tredging through the snow.
On my walk back, I saw another hawk, and liked the way shadows played with the light with the setting sun.
When I was very close to home, standing at the corner at the end of my block, I noticed the sunlight peaking through an evergreen tree and I really liked the glow it was giving off.
I captured my last photograph of the day, walked the half of a block down to my condo, and slipped inside. It was another successful adventure.
Lessons from going to the Zoo after a snow storm:
1. Nobody else is crazy enough to go to the zoo when it's below zero with windchill and snow on the ground.
2. Over half of the zoo gets closed down for the weather.
3. They give the crazy people who do make it to the zoo free admission! (Not a guarantee, just my luck yesterday).
Jeremy joined me for my trip to the zoo, saying he didn't want me to go by myself. I picked him up in my little Cobalt, my first time driving it in more than half an inch of snow, and we discovered that it gets stuck very easily going uphill. Very. Easily.
We headed to the zoo, went up to the gate ready to pay our admission fees, and the girl looked at us and said, "It's actually free today." It was one of my favorite groupings of words to ever hear. She handed us a map of the zoo which had a line across it made with a blue highlighter. Below the line were the exhibits that were open, and above it were the exhibits that were closed.
Jeremy lead the way, having been to the zoo before. There were many sculptures around the zoo made from recycled trash. They had a lot of facts posted here and there about how much plastic is found in the ocean. It's a real tragedy, and it inspired me to be even better about my recycling habits than I already am.
We found the zebras, which if you know me, you know that the zebra is one of my favorite animals (I have two). They just had a baby zebra born earlier this month, but it was too cold for the baby to be outside.
Because of the weather, many of the animals in the open exhibits were indoors which made getting photos difficult, but I still had a good time learning about the animals and studying their movements.
The red pandas were quite active, except for one that was sleeping on a branch with his/her legs hanging down.
The tiger looked very bored and stayed put in his little place against the wall and napped the day away, occasionally looking up to check out what was going on.
Jeremy and I went outside of the Wild Cat exhibit and found the leopards outside. One of them ducked inside, so we ducked back inside, and I got this portrait when the leopard was practically posing right next to the glass.
After the Wild Cat exhibit, we went over to the giraffe house. The giraffes are quite amusing. Obviously, they are tall, and they like to lean their head over the gate and look down at you, and their faces are just down-right amusing.
Look how cute this guy is!
We then went into this exhibit, I forget what it's called and I'm sure Jeremy will inform me of the name later, (Tropical Discovery, I later found out) where they housed the fish, reptiles, amphibians, spiders, and had some tropical plants growing all over the exhibit.
They didn't have any sea turtles, which disappointed me just a little bit, as they are my other favorite animal, but they did have a plethora of other types of turtles, including this one which apparently needed to stretch its legs.
There were a lot of peacocks wandering around the zoo. They freaked me out at first, but after a while I got a little more used to them since they were guarding almost every door going into the open exhibits.
We finished with the open exhibits and went snooping around a little bit to make sure there weren't any that we were missing. After determining that we had seen everything that was open that day, we went into the gift shop to try to find another little keychain animal for my red camera, since I have a zebra hooked to my black camera. I want a sea turtle for my other one.
We then went to Cherry Creek Mall to hang out a little longer, and then I dropped him off at his home.
A coworker, Dawn, and I decided to go on a photography trip to Silverthorne/Dillon, CO.
I really wanted to see the lake, so we picked that as our destination.
We wound through the mountains, and I saw, for the first time ever, those truck stoppers where if a trucker loses their brakes, they can just aim for one of the dirt hills meant for stopping the truck.
Clever, and scary.
We made it to Silverthorne and Dillon, which are two smaller towns right next to each other on Lake Dillon.
We found a parking spot near the lake, and started our wandering.
This is the path from the parking area down to the lake. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Let's live here, yes?
We made our way down the path, Dawn going her way, I went mine, as we walked around capturing photographs.
I've never been on a dock more still than the one at Lake Dillon.
While I was standing on the dock, a family with their dogs came to the lake to fish and let the dogs play. Works out to be unsuccessful for the fisherman, with their dogs running into and out of the lake, but whatever brings you happiness, right?
This little girl was having a bunch of fun throwing the stick for her dog to catch. I always love watching animals interact with children. For the most part, it is like they know they need to be more careful with smaller humans.
Unfortunately, around this time, Dawn's film camera started acting up, and she was unable to continue shooting for the day. We stayed probably for another 30 minutes to an hour before heading back.
The scenery was gorgeous though, and the people and animals playing in the lake made me wish I never had to leave.
I could build my dream home out here. Just thoughts for the future... ;)
After going to the lake, Dawn and I stopped in Idaho Springs so that I could try Beau Jo's Pizza. It was delicious, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to try something unique to Colorado.
I woke up at 1000, and left my house at approximately 1200 to go get an emissions test completed. The emissions test took less than 15 minutes (hurrah), and the DMV only took 1.5 hours. I'd call that a win-win!
I didn't pack anything to eat, and wanted to go on a photo adventure, so I went back home, grabbed some food to go, and then left.
I arrived in Golden, Colorado, drove aimlessly for a bit as I had no idea what street I needed to be on, and ended up just finding a parking spot and taking it.
I walked down the main street through the historic downtown, and arrived at Clear Creek.
My stubbornness to get a good shot resulted in a lot of weird side glances coming my way, but I didn't mind as I climbed over and around the rocks down on the creek bed. I have to say it was worth it, because you can't get this kind of shot by standing off to the side on the path:
I arrived a little over 20 minutes before I lost the sun behind the mountain, leading to an evening golden hour. The colors were perfect, and I excitedly took this image. It's so amazing how something so beautiful can be right in the middle of town. All of these pedestrians were walking right by this view, without even realizing there was anything to see.
Golden Hour began. I continued my journey of weaving up to the path and back down for various shots. I made it down to the small waterfall in the image above, laid down on the big rock to the left, and got this low shot:
The details on the waves drew me in, the breeze chopping up the surface of the water, and the colors with the setting sun making everything pop marvelously.
Golden has this adorable little area along the creek that is run by their historical society. There are several historical cabins, a church, and a chicken coop, with chickens in it. I felt like a child at a petting zoo, and stared at them for a while before continuing on and capturing a shot of one of the cabins.
At the end of this historical section of Golden is a bridge that crosses over the creek. It's a very different world on either sides of this bridge. The one side you have the adorable, cozy log cabins, the silly little chicken coop, and the wooden church. The other you have a sort of campsite. There's no campgrounds, but it's a place where all these people are living in Winnebagos and various large vehicles.
There was this bright blue one, way on the end, that had a yellow biohazard sign on a side window. It stood boldly amongst its duller surroundings, the only color in its company being the color of the cone.
Anyone reminiscing about Breaking Bad?
I continued following the creek, weaving in and off the path, and found one single twig from a Juniper Bush on the rock bed. There was no Juniper Bush in sight, just this lonely twig. It's bright blue berries stuck out in the yellow-ish atmosphere of the Golden Hour, the softness of the leaves contrasting the harsh edges of the stones.
The cemented path ended at the Golden Water Supply and converted to a well-groomed dirt path. The air was crisp, the sky was starting to darken, and I rushed forth to try to cover as much of the trail as possible before I lost the light.
The path wound before me, a quaint wooden fence lining the one side. You could see where humans had made their mark on the nature surrounding the path. Initials were carved or burned in several trees, ashes from previous campfires blackening the dirt, even though there are signs everywhere stating that campfires are not allowed.
Nonetheless, the path was beautiful, calming, and excitable. I am definitely returning to this path in the fall and taking photographs of the gorgeous colors that will be canopying the path at that time of year.
You can still see what's left of the fall colors, but just imagine all of those trees full of orange, red, and yellow leaves!
I continued walking and reached this bridge after some time. I took it as a sign that I should turn around, as it would take me a while to get back to town and I didn't want to be in the woods after dark.
I walked back to my vehicle, ate the food I had packed, and worked on heating up my muscles. The chill had set into my arm muscles, and so my fingers were moving slower than normal.
After warming up for a bit, I drove off to find a mountain top away from city lights. I went to I-70 and drove to exit 456, a randomly picked exit, and headed to a top of a mountain. It was time to complete my first attempt at astrophotography.
I set up my camera with my standard lens, and started changing settings around until I got one that seemed to work. It was much colder on top of the mountain than it was down in Golden, so I stayed in my vehicle and set up my tripod right outside the driver door. After about 45 minutes of waiting, the sky darkened as much as it seem it would, which was not as dark as I had hoped, and I started taking photographs. I found that an ISO 2500, f/5, and a 25 second long shutter speed worked best in these settings for my standard lens.
I switched to my wide angle and found that an ISO 800, f/2.5, and a 15 second long shutter speed worked well for that lens.
The images didn't turn out quite as I had hoped, and on my second attempt at this I am going to try using my telescopic and macro lenses to see what kind of results I get with those. They still turned out pretty cool though, in my opinion.
I captured a shooting star! I was pretty excited about that.
Was? Who am I kidding, I still am.
I am excited about my small accomplishment from Wednesday evening, and I cannot wait for my second attempt. I'm already dreaming about next Wednesday!
Photographer, visual artist, mother to five fur-babies, and travel enthusiast.