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To begin our awesome desert road trip, we stayed at my parent’s cabin in Grand Lake for a few days.  While Columbine Lake was our home base, the surrounding area has a lot to offer outdoor adventurers.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

My nephews are both boy scouts, and they maintain geocaches near Rocky Mountain National Park.  Whenever they or my dad are in the area, they’re sure to stop in for a quick check-up.  The path to this one was short and easy, not something I’d venture to call a “hike.”  I was glad for this, as we were still fresh to the high altitude from sea level.

I was surprised to see so many logs lying about, but the bright wood allowed me to catch a glimpse of a colorful moth.  I couldn’t stop staring at the golden aspens in the distance, just turning for autumn.  It had been too long since I was there to see the hillsides awash in yellow.  We get a whole different palette in the Northwest.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

We couldn’t visit Grand Lake without getting out onto the water at least once, so we took the canoe out to the small islands in Shadow Mountain Lake.  These islands are known as a home for ospreys.  We were past nesting season, so we didn’t expect to see the birds, but we hoped to find a few nice feathers for my sister.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

With the unlikelihood that we’d encounter the wildlife and the fact that we were out on the water, I left my big camera back at the cabin.  Imagine my frustration, then, when we did see a few ospreys chilling high in the dead treetops.  We could hear them as we approached, and their beautiful white forms were well beyond the reach of my little commuter camera.  I lamented not bringing my telephoto lens (with the Sony adapter) so I could have gotten closer.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015
This image is actually severely cropped (thank goodness for raw!)

It was fun exploring the little islands, and we chased a few ducks on our way out.  Unexpectedly, we saw several birds, but we didn’t find any osprey feathers.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Itching for more exploring, Dad took us to nearby Adams Falls.  A short and easy path leads to a small stream that has etched its way into a crevice, tumbling over rocks and choked with the remains of dozens of dead trunks.

While we could see it from the overlook, the view was obviously better by going off-trail and down a narrow ledge just below the overlook.  I set up a tripod in this spot and quickly realized the Colorado sun was far too bright for proper waterfall photography.  I’m well past due for an ND filter, but lacking that, my only recourse was to hope for a stray cloud to diffuse the garish light.

After much waiting, a tiny puff did manage to slightly obscure the sun, so I quickly snapped what shots I could.  It was enough.  I mostly loved the lone orange tree in the distance.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

After such an exhausting hike, it was only right that we’d roll into town for an afternoon brew (or wine in my case – never did like beer).  We were just settling in on the back patio, when we noticed a group of people hovering and pointing at something down in the parking lot below us.  After some observation, we realized they were looking at a moose, which are quite common in that area (they’re frequently seen from the cabin’s windows).

Commence internal battle.  Wine or moose?  Drink or shoot?

Part of me thought it was exciting, and I longed to capture it.  The other part was annoyed the moose was there at all, pulling me away from just sitting for a bit.  They’re so common; it’s like getting excited over a pigeon, right?

The photographer won, as is often the case.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

I raced to the car to grab my telephoto and went to join the other gawkers.  The moose was munching away on some aspens in front of a guy’s Jeep; the poor schmuck just wanted to leave.  As I got closer, I saw there were two moose.. and one was a calf.  He was so cute!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

I shot for a while, carefully keeping my distance.  When I felt I had adequately captured the moment and wouldn’t miss out on any new developments, I made my way back to my waiting wine.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

In the end, I’m glad I took the opportunity, as we didn’t see any others while we were there.  And I had to chuckle at overhearing a nearby couple express their frustration that they had spent all day driving around Rocky Mountain National Park looking for moose, only to find them hanging out in a parking lot.

Welcome to the mountains!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

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  1. How fortunate to have a go to vacation cabin in Grand Lake. I would happily spend more time at RMNP if time allowed, but with so much country to cover and so much to see, it’s on to the next adventure and on and on. BTW, moose or wine is not even a close contest. You chose right!

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