Anyone who’s been following my blog for awhile knows of my infatuation with Colorado. In my earlier years it was skiing the dry Colorado snow that drew me here in the winter. Later it was to reconnect with friends I’d met while traveling who happen to share my love for nature and the outdoors. I flew out several summers ago to do some backpacking with Carol, who I met at a photography convention in Vegas. And when my friend Tony, who I met at a convention in Wisconsin, offered to teach me to fly fish… with turning Aspens in the Colorado mountains as the background… I leapt at the chance! Colorado was my first stop outside of Texas last fall, and my second. I literally had to force myself to get on up the highway!
There’s no wondering why I chose Colorado as the background for my next dog book! It’s an amazingly beautiful place! The book project brought me full circle through the state for the entire month of February to gather the winter images for my book, and I’ve just wrapped up another six weeks of traveling throughout the state gathering my summer images. While here I had the pleasure of spending quality time with some wonderful friends. Some of those friends I’ve known a long time, while others I’ve met along the trail. As I’ve mentioned before, these encounters are a part of the blessings of this journey. Each one is special, and I carry the memories along with me… like precious gems in my pocket. Or maybe a better analogy would be like charms on a bracelet, each representing a special memory.
So… picking up where I left off, and wrapping up my last several days in Colorado…
My cousin Anne had generously offered the use of their condo in Breckenridge, and I had a safe place to leave my RV with my friend Carol, so the girls and I went by car to spend a few days in the Vail-Breckenridge area. Every time I drive through Glenwood Canyon along the Colorado River (I70) I am completely entranced. And as many times as I have driven both directions through this area, I have yet to get past the longing for some good turn-offs along the way. There are a couple of rest stops, but none in the most picturesque places. Seriously, when the light is bouncing dramatically off the walls of this canyon will take your breath away.
I photographed several wonderful dogs while in the area, but again… can’t share them all. I assure you though, that between the amazing dogs and stunning backgrounds, the book will be beautiful and worth the wait! I did come upon some canines I can share though, a mother fox and her one kit. These two were fun to observe for awhile.
Many of my dog images are captured spontaneously, but some are scheduled, and planned around iconic Colorado backgrounds. One of the dog owners met me way up a mountainside for this spectacular view of Breckenridge.
Breckenridge was very busy with tourists while we were there, as were the other communities we hit while in this part of the state… Dillon and Vail. Since I was running a full week behind schedule I was perfectly content focusing on the dogs I found along the way, and avoiding most of the packed streets and trails. After a couple of days away we were back in the Aspen area for the 4th of July. Thankfully fireworks were banned pretty much throughout the state, but the girls and I enjoyed a free concert in the park alongside hundreds of other locals and tourists. It rained a bit while we were there, but with wildfires raging throughout the state, it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit one bit!
There’s a wonderful memorial to John Denver along the river in Aspen, with many of his songs engraved on boulders throughout. We strolled through on our way back to the car, and I found myself singing his songs along the way. No need to read the words. I know most of them by heart.
In addition to all the other cool dogs I photographed while I was here, I managed arrange a morning with the Krabloonik Sled Dogs in Snowmass. Since it is off season, and also unseasonable warm for the area, I did not get to see the dogs in action, but enjoyed a tour through the compound and some time with a littler of pups. This is undoubtedly a great place to experience in the winter!
The following morning we were off to our final Colorado destination… Steamboat Springs! On our way out though, we made one last stop to photograph Dante, who we met along with his owner, Amita, at the Farmers Market in Basalt. With my RV (and car) parked safely off the highway, we hopped in the truck with Amita and Dante for a ride up to their “little spot of heaven” where they had an outstanding view of Sopris!
While in Steamboat Springs for my winter shoot, I was amazed at how helpful the dog owners were at suggesting other dogs (and owners) I might like to meet. One dog led to another, and before I knew it I was traveling all over the county photographing some marvelous dogs. Susan Shoemaker and her herding dogs, Ringer and Babe, were among those I met. She has a wonderful property with an old barn that made a perfect background for her dogs. During my short visit with her last winter she invited me to bring my RV out and sit tight for awhile when I made it back to town. I can’t tell you how touched I am by the graciousness of strangers as I travel. Of course I said yes!
Before arriving Steamboat I sent a note to all the dog owners I’d met previously, letting them know I was heading back to town and asking for suggestions on more dogs. One of those dog owners, Rich Landon (who introduced me to Susan come to think of it) offered to bring his dog Belle out for a second shoot. We made arrangements to meet at a little country store several miles out of town near Steamboat Lake, and go from there. Belle, who has only three legs incidentally, is the gentlest dog you’d ever meet but you’d never know it by this humorous shot I got of her. Since she looks like she’s viciously stalking me I could never use the image in my book, but it made me chuckle (knowing the true nature of this dog) so I have to share.
After meeting with Rich and Belle I hopped over to Steamboat Lake where I found a few more dogs, enjoyed the scenery, and wished for time to drop my kayak in the water.
I resisted the urge to kayak on this peaceful lake because I was on a mission to meet “Spike”… the man known by many to have the finest herding dogs in the county. I was not surprised to find him out working the ranch when I arrived. Since we’d never met and I was pretty sure he had not received the message I’d left earlier that morning, I lurked for awhile… until his lovely wife Libby and their two adorable kiddos, Emmitt and Josie, came out to meet me on their 4-wheeler. Again, I was not surprised when Libby said, “Hop on! I’ll take you out to meet him!” I had too much fun with my time out there to care one bit about all the fresh cow poop I was stepping in!
And once again, I was taken with the beauty of Colorado!
The following day we hiked up Fish Creek with another dog owner I met in February, Donna Segale, and her dog Bacci. This is the waterfall from the Coors label. Interestingly, it’s brewed in a completely different part of the state.
Between thunderstorms the girls and I enjoyed hiking across Susan’s ranch and found all kinds of things that made us stop and ponder for awhile.
I have to admit to a bit of a melancholy feeling as I packed up to leave Colorado. I have spent much more time here than any other state on my journey so far. Three times I’ve journeyed through, and all three times I felt almost overwhelmed by the beauty… and the feeling that I needed more time. People ask me all the time how long my journey will last. Right now I don’t know how far I will go, or how long it will last, or where I will land. I just trust that I’ll know when it’s time to stop. If it happens to be in Colorado, I’d be very content, because I really could happily call this place home.
A very special thank you to all of the dog owners I met throughout the state! It was wonderful connecting with you and your wonderful pets. I’m sorry I am unable to share all of them here on my blog, but they can all be seen the Mountain Dogs of Colorado gallery on my website… www.franreisner.com