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In Search of Mountain Goats(Colorado)
- [second draft]
Saturday was great for pictures
at Mt Evans, but Sunday had to bring warmer weather and different photos.
I hoped to reach the area around 14,000ft sooner this time, and have daylight
at the summit too. Seeing mountain goats was only a bonus, a big maybe.
The skies weren't pure blue as
i wished for, but there was definately more sunshine. I stopped at just
about all the hotspots of yesterday, partly because i knew where to pull
over, but mostly because i again saw picture opportunities. And even from
the same location, the pictures are never quite the same. By the time
i reached GOAT spot, i just wanted to eat. Sitting outside i noticed a
little furry chipmunk-like animal within 30ft of me. From the list of
animals around Mt Evans I knew it had to be Pika. She seemed curious and
might have gotten closer for a better picture -- but my camera was warming
up in the car. While getting up and bringing it back, pika was gone. A
few minutes later i thought i saw in the distance -- a bird, just wind,
or something else? Noooooo, is it? It was a mountain goat! Just her head
peeking from behind a rock maybe 60 yards away. I took a few more bites
and headed on a trail, above where the mountain goat was. The trail was
wide enough to fit a car, but the entrance to it was blocked by big boulders.
As i neared the goat, i lowered my body and approached the edge to see
I headed towards the mountain
goat in a circular motion, closer to her but not too close. She let me
get within 20 feet, then showed me her butt and moved on. I took closeup
pictures that i could, but wished for sunshine to paint the rugged terrain.
There is a compromise between quantity and quality -- if you wait for
the perfect shots you'll get nothing, but pictures of animals walking
away are not worth taking. The head needs to turn, looking at you or sideways,
and the closer the animal is the better. "There is my leading lady...
you lead, i'll follow". I followed her but not directly, because
that would just scare her off. My best pictures happened when it looked
like i cornered her and to keep going in same direction she had to approach
me a little. I was surprised that she did approach me as i sat motionless,
my eye behind the camera. I took pictures of her as she walked up towards
me. Where she went next i couldn't follow -- she hopped across a bank
of incline snow and out of sight. Wow, what a mountain climber. I tried
circling and finding her from another viewpoint but no luck. The irregular
harsh terrain blocked her from my view. Hesitantly i headed to the car
and up the road.
Marmots were only showing off
but not posing today. I saw them in several spots in perfect spots just
on the edge of road with decline below. I don't like taking pictures from
the car and when i got out they were gone. I didn't reach the summit until
after 6pm somehow. There were too many nice opportunities below 13,000ft
and then the light just wasn't there anymore. At the summit the sun was
hiding behind thin clouds, but that was a good thing for allowing photos
of the west. When the sun did peek through, it painted eastern scenery
with warm golden colors.
I wasn't hoping for anything
on the way down. Just a slow drive in 1st or 2nd gear, and in the opposite
lane of traffic. Driving downhill from 14,000ft on a road with no barrier
to stop you if you slip off the edge... Middle of the road is the best
place to be -- oncoming traffic permitting. I stopped once but the light
just wasn't there. And then, just ahead of the braking truck in front
of me -- i saw 3 goats by the roadside. And they were ignoring the stopping
truck. 3 mountain goats! 2 little teenage sized more goat than mountain
goat looking creatures, and one big furry real mountain goat. I didn't
like the road showing but took the pictures i could. Mother goat was about
10 yards from her kids when she walked toward them and charged them slightly
-- trying to make them follow her, away from here. The little goat just
stood firmer and put her head down too, as if challenging her mother (by
the way all mountain goats are female in this story
because i said so).
And so the mother goat crossed
the road and ran downhill out of sight, in a way only mountain goats can
in a rough terrain like that. The kids ignored it or didn't notice while
munching on the grass. Then they decided to cross, looking both ways before
crossing... of course. There would be no need to look, because the few
cars stood in the middle of the road and watched. All 3 goats were now
20 yards below the road level, and i decided to follow them.
It was around 7pm and sun was
behind the mountains. I had to get close and use flash for good pictures.
I was able to get within touch of the kids, but only temporarily. They
would munch on grass for a minute or so, tolerating my presence, but then
running off at least 20 yards away. They kept running downwards everytime
they ran. I circled them to be able to shoot upwards, and also to delay
their escape. After their last escape they ran far below and out of sight.
I slowly followed on the steelp slope, aware that slipping would be disastrous.
I couldn't see the goats, but a few minutes later I saw not 3 but at least
12 goats, including 3 babies, maybe a week old. It would take me half
an hour to get there IF i could find a way. The only passage i saw had
step-like layout with grassy earth and boulders. Just one slp and I would
be rolling head over heels for many yards, braking all my bones. Ropes
would offer a lot of peace of mind.
It wasn't an ideal setup especially
because there was very little daylight left for pictures. Right place
but wrong time; I headed uphill. I had no idea how high my car was, but
I roughly knew which way to go -- straight up. 1 minute walk, 1 minute
catch my breath ... 2min walk, 1 min rest -- very nice cardio workout.
"Above treeline there is only 40% of oxygen available at sea level".
It took half an hour to backtrack 400ft elevation difference. When I was
10 yards below my car, I lied down and watched the sky as my breathing
returned to normal.
(8 rolls today.... 8 rolls yesterday)
The following pictures are from August