Tag Archives: Colorado

Elk Photo Shoot

Here are three of the seven bull elk that lounged and grazed in a neighborhood where friends and I stayed in Estes Park, Colorado.

My husband and I visited several U.S. National Parks in the last year and a half, and we didn’t see one large mammal — even in Yellowstone National Park, where you can always see bison.  I’d seen plenty of elk, moose and bison a few years earlier, but I had entered an animal drought. I was determined to see some elk on our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in early November 2018.  We stayed just outside of the park in the town of Estes Park.   I was very eager to shoot a few elk with my new camera.

We’d visited RMNP in August, and I only saw a large ground squirrel in the park.  During that visit, we’d hoped to see bighorn sheep at Sheep Lakes, where we’d seen a herd in a visit a few years ago, but the ranger report this year indicated that the sheep hadn’t visited in a week.  We waited for two hours, anyway, before giving up.

This “I Saw an Elk in the Rocky Mountains” hand towel was a gift from friends who knew how excited I was to finally see some elk.

We were returning from our second no-elk trip from RMNP, when friends texted me that there were seven bull elk lounging right outside our condominium building! My friends seen one or two elk before, but the elk had always eluded me. On our way to the condo, we saw a large herd of elk — females led by a big bull elk. They were so magnificent.  There were elk all over the town of Estes Park!  We went from visual famine, to visual feast.

The elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, in the world, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Northeast Asia.

This bull elk groomed himself after rubbing his antlers against a tree near a condominium parking lot in Estes Park, Colorado, in early November. The rutting season was over, and this guy missed out on romance, but he’s keeping himself in shape and looking good. Maybe next year he’ll find success. In the meantime, he’s hanging out with his other male friends.

In early November, the rutting season was over, but these two bull elk decided to spar a little. They apparently didn’t attract any lady elk this year, but it doesn’t hurt to practice for next year’s mating season.

In Estes Park, Colorado, elk graze in neighborhood yards and freely travel the streets and highways. In the lower right photo, a bull elk bugles to his herd of females to follow him.

A herd of female elk, plus one bull elk, rest on a traffic island in Estes Park, Colorado. I took this photo through the car window, so it’s not that great, but it does give you an idea of how much the elk feel at home in the town.

 

Bull Elk Bugling, Estes Park, Colorado Photo Print

Bull Elk Bugling, Estes Park, Colorado

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“There’s Tourists in Them Thar Hills”

A stage coach in Silverton, Colorado, waits for riders.

A stage coach in Silverton, Colorado, waits for riders.

If you want to get high, the place to go is Silverton, Colorado, and I’m not talking about anything you smoke.  I visited this gorgeous very high-altitude Rocky Mountain town in June 2015. John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” song would be an appropriate soundtrack to this post.

Silverton  is a former silver mining town that now mines tourists, who visit the charming historic town with its Wild West and Victorian ambiance in a spectacular mountain setting.

With a mean elevation of 11,240 feet (3426 meters), Silverton is in San Juan County, which is the highest county in the United States. It’s also the county with the smallest population in Colorado. Most or all of Silverton is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District, the Silverton Historic District. Silverton is linked to Durango by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a National Historic Landmark. Tourism provides the gold and silver in Silverton, not mining. Also supporting the population is maintenance of US 550 (which links Montrose with Durango via Silverton), mine pollution remediation, and retirees. In 2002 an extreme ski mountain, Silverton Mountain, opened near the town.

The Durango Silverton train arrives in Silverton, Colorado.

The Durango Silverton train arrives in Silverton, Colorado.

Tourists arrive by car, motorcycle, bus and train.  I drove, trying to keep my car on the road while peeking at the scenery as we climbed the steep narrow highway from Durango.  It also rained from time to time, adding to the thrill of mountain adventure.  This trip I skipped traveling the section of the highway north of Silverton, called the Million Dollar Highway, which I like to call the Million HOLLER highway, because it truly is scary.  I’m sure I screamed a lot on that trip, something I almost never do, not very helpful to the nerves of the driver, my husband. Even though it was years ago, when we traveled on the Million Holler Highway  in the dark, in the rain, my heart still hammers thinking about it.

I first heard the quote “There’s gold in them thar hills” years ago, and never knew where it came from.  Now, I’ve learned that the saying is associated with the  first major gold rush, which was in the United States was in Dahlonega, Georgia, in 1828.

Wikipedia entry about Silverton, Colorado.

San Juan County Courthouse, Silverton, Colorado Postcard

The San Juan County Courthouse is in Silverton, Colorado. San Juan County has the highest average elevation of any county in the United States and the smallest population in Colorado.

Shady Lady Restaurant

This house built in 1888 was the last brothel in Silverton, Colorado. Madam Jew Fanny closed shop in 1947. This restaurant is right by the railroad stop, so it’s periodically very crowded. People in period costumes urge tourists to come inside. We didn’t eat there. The reviews for the most part weren’t favorable, and it doesn’t take credit cards.

Animas River in Silverton, Colorado

In this photograph from June 2015, snowmelt and heavy rain combine to produce the rushing waters of the Animas River which flows through the Silverton area, shown here, to the city of Durango in Colorado. The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad travels 45.4 miles each way along the Animas River from Durango to Silverton during our summer season May through October.

Getting Around in Silverton, Colorado

Many tourists get around in Silverton, Colorado, after arriving on the train, but you can also take a stagecoach ride or rent a bike.

Silverton, Colorado, Train Depot Postcard

Silverton, Colorado, Train Depot.

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Moose in Colorado

This moose stared back when I was taking its photo in Colorado.

This moose stared back when I was taking its photo in Colorado.

Swedish photographer Björn Törngren posted some photographs of moose in Sweden on his blog, which reminded me that I hadn’t posted my moose photographs from a trip to Colorado in 2012.

When my husband and I visited the Brainard Lake Recreation Area last year, we were surprised to see moose in Colorado.

Moose are relatively new to Colorado.  According to the National Park Service, historical records dating back to the 1850s show that moose were probably only transient visitors to the area that is now Rocky Mountain National Park.  In 1978 and 1979, the Colorado Division of Wildlife transferred two groups of moose (a dozen each year) from the Uintah Mountains and Grand Teton herds to an area just west of the Never Summer Range near Rand, Colorado.  The moose have prospered in Colorado.  There are now more than 2,300.

All of the moose we saw had antlers, so they were all males.

Wildlife enthusiasts set up to photograph a herd of moose at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

Wildlife enthusiasts set up to photograph a herd of moose at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

A boy keeps a fairly safe distance from moose grazing near Brainard Lake in Colorado.  Moose are dangerous and unpredictable and often charge.

A boy keeps a fairly safe distance from moose grazing near Brainard Lake in Colorado. Moose are dangerous and unpredictable and often charge.

This is one of my better shots.  The moose were far away and were eating most of the time in tall vegetation.

This is one of my better shots. The moose were far away and were eating most of the time in tall vegetation.

A herd of moose line up to graze in a marshy area at Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

A herd of moose line up to graze in a marshy area at Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Colorado.

Herd of moose graze near Brainard Lake in Colorado.

Herd of moose graze near Brainard Lake in Colorado.

National Park Service Information on Moose in Colorado.

Story about moose in Colorado.

Wikipedia: About the Moose.

Drunken moose ends up stuck in Swedish apple tree.

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Historic Theaters

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

It was love at first sight when I saw The Rialto Theatre.  I was introduced to this old beauty when I visited my friend Jan in South Pasadena, California, in the 1990’s. I’ve taken many photographs of “The Rialto” since then, but may not get the chance much longer if it isn’t saved.  This venerable theater opened in 1925 but it is now closed and in danger of demolition, as are many old theaters.  A scene in Robert Altman’s movie film “The Player” was filmed in The Rialto’s back alley.  “Scream 2” also featured The Rialto.

The Rialto is beautiful even in its decay.   Like so many old theaters, it was decorated grandly.  It has a fanciful Moorish, Egyptian and baroque motif. When I wrote an article for the Kansas City Star’s magazine about Orval Hixon, who photographed vaudeville stars from 1914 to 1930, I saw photographs of many glamorous theaters that have now fallen into ruin or are gone.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the “old days,” an evening spent in the theater was a beautiful experience beyond what was being performed on the stage or shown on the screen. Some of the first movies I saw as a child was in The Orpheum, a gorgeously decorated old theater in Wichita, Kansas, which was originally built for vaudeville shows. Like many entertainment legends, these old theaters needs more than face lifts to keep them alive.  Sometimes only the marquee sign is all that’s saved from an old theater.

Some of the theaters, such as the ones in Hawaii that I photographed, might not be grand, but they have their own charm. Farm workers and U.S. servicemen were among their clientale.

It’s bittersweet seeing these old cinema relics, whether they are grand cinema palaces or more humble screens. I’m grateful many of these historic theaters are still standing, but who knows for how long? People watch films on their computers and even on their phones these days.  When people do go to the theater they want a great sound system, recliner seats, cup holders and even 3-D screens.

Jan and I and our husbands planned to see a movie at The Rialto in the early 2000s, when the theater was still open, but when we got to the box office we were told that the projector was broken.  So we walked across the street to a video store and rented a VHS movie to watch at home. Sadly, I never saw a movie at The Rialto before it closed.

Here’s a slide show of theaters I’ve photographed in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan and Missouri.  There is information about each theater when you click on the photo.  CLICK ON ANY THUMBNAIL PHOTO TO BEGIN THE SLIDESHOW AND SEE THE PHOTOS FULL SIZED.

Click on Cinema Treasures for a guide to more than 30,000 movie theaters from around the world, including theaters that are now closed.

Click on I’m Not Ready For My Close Up to read about my brief appearance on the Big Screen in the movie “fling.”

Here’s a blog that documents grand old theaters, many sadly in advanced decay.  After the Final Curtain

About the theaters featured in slide show:

The Rialto, South Pasadena, California

Friends of The Rialto

Friends of The Rialto Facebook Page.

Sebastiani Theatre, Sonoma, California.

Michigan Theatre, Escanaba, Michigan

Gem Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

Aloha Theatre, Kainaliu, Big Island, Hawaii

Honoka’a People’s Theater, Honoka’a, Big Island, Hawaii

Honomu Theater, Honomu, Big Island, Hawaii

Na’alehu Theatre, Na’alehu, Big Island, Hawaii

Park Theatre, Estes Park, Colorado

Screenland Crossroads Sign from old Isis Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri.

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The World’s Largest Key Collection, Estes Park, Colorado

This photograph shows part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, which is thought to be the world’s largest key collection. The Baldpate Inn is south of Estes Park, Colorado.

Friends gave us a list of six restaurants we should try in the Estes Park, Colorado, area during our too-brief visit this summer. One restaurant on the list was The Baldpate Inn, which was described as “a soup and salad bar and great desserts.” Wow, was that description inadequate! I love quaint, historic, charming, quirky and unexpected. The Baldpate Inn was all that. Plus, the food was great. My grandparents ran a hotel in Sturgis, South Dakota, built by my great grandparents, which we often visited, so I have a great fondness for old hotels and inns.

The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Inn is seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.


The Baldpate Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the home of the World’s Largest Key Collection. The inn also attracts as many hummingbirds as it does diners. Hummingbird feeders are hung outside of the dining porch as well as on other porches at the inn. I love hummingbirds and was lucky enough to be seated next a feeder, which was mobbed. Hummingbirds are territorial, but these hummingbirds made temporary peace as they dined.

A hummingbird visits a feeder outside the dining porch of The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

We wouldn’t have searched very hard for The Baldpate Inn, because it was just a soup and salad bar, after all, but fortunately we happened to drive by the sign to the inn on our way back on Highway 7 to Estes Park from Brainard Lake. The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is also a bed and breakfast. The inn is built from hand-hewn timber from the property, so the inn has a rustic mountain ambiance. After the delicious lunch, we ordered rhubarb pie with ice cream for dessert. We usually don’t order dessert, but we wanted to linger a little longer to watch the hummingbirds and admire the mountain view. (I love home made rhubarb pie, so it was no hardship.)

From The Baldpate Inn website: “The Inn was named after the mystery novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by Earl Derr Biggers, who upon visiting the property stated that the inn was so similar to the heretofore “imaginary” Baldpate Inn, that the Mace’s hotel would become the “real” Baldpate Inn. In the novel, each of seven visitors traveled to the closed-in-wintertime hotel, and thinks that he or she has the only key to the Inn. In keeping with the story line of the novel, the Mace family gave each visitor to the Inn their very own key.

Hummingbird feeders hang along the dining room porch of The Baldpate Inn. There’s a crowd of humans on the inside looking at the crowd of hummingbirds on the outside.

This tradition continued until the outbreak of World War I, when the price of metal became so expensive that the Owners were no longer able to give keys away. The loyal guests who returned yearly were so disappointed that they began their own tradition of bringing a key back to the inn with them each year. It is said that the competition between guests became so fierce to bring the best and most exotic each year that the Maces decided to begin a display of all the keys.

The Baldpate Inn’s photography collection features autographed photographs, taken by the original owners, of presidents and celebrities.

This was the beginning of the world’s largest key collection. The collection boasts over 20,000 keys including examples from the Pentagon, Westminster Abby, Mozart’s wine cellar, and even Frankenstein’s castle to name a few.”

In the dining room you can see The Baldpate Inn Photograph collection, which features autographed pictures of U.S. presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Bush), movie celebrities, (Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, Roy Rogers), captains of industry (Henry Ford, Randolph Hearst), folk heroes (Wild Bill Cody, Weston the Walker), and world renowned figures (Thomas Edison, Tetrazinni, Jack London).

The Baldpate Inn Dining Room.

These photographs are primarily the creative work of two of the Mace brothers Charles (one of the Inn’s original owners) and Stuart Mace, both professional photographers.

The next time we return to Northeast Colorado, I want to stay at The Baldpate Inn so that I can explore every nook and cranny, investigate the key collection more thoroughly, look at every photograph, enjoy the view, eat more pie, watch the hummingbirds, attend the plays in the outdoor theater and just hang out.

The Baldpate Inn Website.

Here is a small part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s Largest Key Collection.

A sign for theater productions is displayed on the porch of The Baldpate Inn. You can also see a hummingbird feeder. In cooperation with the Estes Park’s Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies, The Baldpate Inn presented live theater perfomances of two romantic comedy stage plays this summer.

The Baldpate Inn library looks like a cozy place to read in the cool mountain mornings and evenings. Stone fireplaces keep the inn pleasantly toasty.

The Baldpate Inn Dining Porch.

Hummingbirds are territorial, but they made temporary peace at this feeder at The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

This giant key is part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s largest.

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Bighorn Sheep in Colorado

A bighorn sheep ewe, on the right, prepares to lead the herd on its trek across a highway in Rocky Mountain National Park. The ewe waits until most of the herd members line up and then she begins the procession. The sheep make the journey each day to and from two lakes in a meadow in the park.

Not far from Estes Park in Colorado, bighorn sheep graze in a meadow near two lakes, “Sheep Lakes,” in Rocky Mountain National Park. The herd makes its way to the lakes from the mountainside each morning and then returns to the mountainside in the late afternoon. It’s a beautiful commute. Park rangers and volunteers manage the tourists and the cars on the narrow highway to allow the sheep safe passage.

When the bighorn sheep are ready to cross the highway, park rangers and volunteers clear the road. The sign says no walking, but it also means no parking. This Hummer driver was confused!

My husband and I were among the gawkers in early August for the sheep’s late afternoon procession back to the mountains. I joined the paparazzi jostling for a view from the packed parking lot. Because we had to stand well away from the sheep, I envied photographers with big lenses. One woman pointed to a female sheep hurrying back across the meadow to the herd at the closest lake. Where had the ewe been? What had she been up to? Her lamb ran out to her and then trailed after her. “Mommy, where did you go?”

In the mid-1800s, thousands of bighorn sheep lived in the Estes Valley, but their numbers were decimated by hunters, by degraded environment and by diseases introduced by domestic sheep. At one point it was thought only about 150 sheep lived in the park, high in the mountains. The bighorn sheep in the low-lying areas were gone. It wasn’t until recent decades that through conservation efforts and reintroduction of new bighorn sheep that the population started to increase. About 600 bighorn sheep live in the park now. The herd near Sheep Lakes seemed to be all female adults and their offspring. You can read more about the RMNP bighorn sheep in a link below.

I saw one sheep move up the hill from the lake, and a few stood behind her. Soon, most of the herd was behind her. She waited there, alert, watching us silly humans in the parking lot. Even though we were probably a hundred yards away (I’m bad at estimating distances), she was wary. The rangers and volunteers make sure humans stay back because sheep can be easily stressed. However, later, we saw bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the highway along Big Thompson River, butting heads and knocking each other into the road. They didn’t seem bothered by the traffic at all. I was worried for them!

Eventually, the entire herd at Sheep Lakes gathered behind the lead ewe and then the sheep made their way across the road, where traffic had been cleared. Of course, just as with humans, one grazing sheep was oblivious to the departing herd. She looked up, saw she was alone, and then bolted to catch the herd.

You can click on all of the photos to get a better look. You’ll need to backspace to return to this page.

A bighorn sheep lamb nurses from its mother as the herd lines up and prepares to return to the hillside after a day in the meadow.

Bighorn sheep graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.


A crowd gathers to watch and photograph the bighorn sheep as they graze at Sheep Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. The most popular time is when the sheep migrate to and from the hillside over the meadow, which they do once a day.


On the left, a ewe hurries back across the meadow to the herd. In the upper right, her lamb rushes out to greet her. “Mommy, where did you go?” In the bottom right, the lamb follows after its mother.


Bighorn sheep graze on the hillside along the Big Thompson River in Colorado.


About Bighorn Sheep in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here is a section of a map showing the Sheep Lakes area, where a herd of bighorn sheep graze every day.

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