Still High In/On the Rockies

I’ve been in Colorado for more than three weeks now, and it almost feels as though I’ve moved here.  It’s strange to be away from my RV for this long, but I am glad I decided to leave it behind in Sedona. Although most of the roads have been clear, I have dealt with some pretty slick and icy conditions too, and during those times I was glad to be in my trusty little AWD Honda.

The other advantage of traveling without my home is that I’ve been invited to spend time in the homes of a few friends along the way. The girls and I were delighted to stay with my friend Carol (mentioned in a Sailing the Mountains of Colorado) while in the Aspen area.

My previous post took me into Colorado, through Durango and Telluride and then to Aspen. From there I headed toward the Vail and Breckenridge areas in search of more subjects for The Mountain Dogs of Colorado. Capturing the images for this book is a little trickier than The Dogs of Central Park. Not that there wasn’t a whole lot of work and travel involved with that project, but all I had to do was go into the park, especially before 9am, and the dogs were everywhere.

With this project I’m moving from one community to the next, and although there are plenty of dogs, they’re not necessarily standing in front of the iconic Colorado backgrounds I’m seeking, and if they are… it may be the wrong time of day. I’m rising to the challenge though, and it’s been fun connecting with the dogs and dog owners along the way. While in the Breckenridge area I contacted Good Times Adventures Dog Sledding and was invited to come out and spend the morning photographing their dogs. I was greeted by Sarah, who took me by snowmobile out to the “dog yard”… home of more than 150 Siberian Huskies. Standing in the midst of so many “wolf-like” dogs might have been a little intimidating, but none were in the least bit aggressive. On the contrary, they were all quite friendly and the biggest challenge was “sharing the love” with so many dogs while carrying my camera. Most of the adults were spread throughout this large compound, each with their own shelter and chained just far enough apart to keep them separated but with plenty of space to move about.

I got to play with one adorable four week old puppy… far too cute for words. And there were quite a few older pups too, separated by litter in large runs, eagerly awaiting their turn at the sleds. I have no idea what’s involved in training these dogs, but I have to assume it’s a pack thing. When a new dog is introduced to a team they must learn pretty quickly from the rest of the pack. One thing is for sure… they LOVE their jobs!

While there I enjoyed another horse encounter. Those of you who have been following my journey for awhile know my love of horses. (I Heart Horses) Right next to the Dog Yard was a corral of horses who pull passengers on local sleigh rides. Three of them were near the fence and friendly enough as I walked up to see them. The fourth stood back among the trees… quietly watching. I took a few pictures, but mostly just stood watching her in return.

After awhile she slowly started walking my way. This beautiful animal was BIG… a draft horse, one with a hint of fear or flight in her eyes despite the fact that she was allowing me to touch her. Her ears were back, then forward, then one back and one forward, then back again. She was obviously a little conflicted about the encounter. I stood with her for a long time… sharing the space, quietly talking to her and stroking her muzzle when she’d let me. It was clear she didn’t want me to go because when I finally started moving back toward the dogs she followed me along the fence line. After photographing a couple teams coming in and calling it quits I walked back past the corral, where she waited at the fence, and shared a few final moments.  When I said my good byes and headed down the trail she stood quietly… watching me go.

From a pet friendly motel in Silverthorne I worked my way between Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Frisco (cute town!) and Vail area. My last evening there I made arrangements for the following morning to photograph the Avalanche Rescue Dogs at Beaver Creek and four “Newfies” in Minturn, both west of me, before moving on to Fort Collins in the other direction. Unfortunately I woke up to I-70 closed in both directions after a heavy snowfall the night before. With my day disappearing on me and westbound still closed I decided to head on east. It was a white knuckle drive on ice and thick slush all the way to Denver and thankfully a little clearer from there to Fort Collins. There I was greeted by the smiling faces of my friend Tony and his lovely new wife Beth. My girls and I spent almost a week enjoying their wonderful hospitality, their boys Zach and Tyler, and their cool old black lab Reggie.

Tony put me in touch with several of his friends who owned dogs and I was able to meet up with most of them while there. I met Kathy whose dogs (and those of some friends) were practicing for field trials they had coming up the following weekend. This was a new experience for me. Trying to keep these dogs framed and in focus as they were running through the tall grasses, WHILE walking quickly on uneven ground with a camera in front of my face, was challenging to say the least.

Before I had a clue what was going to happen, this dog jumped HIGH while scaring up a bird.

The following morning I joined Tony’s friends Sue and Matt and their dogs Taku and Ollie for a beautiful hike at Gateway Park, just outside of Fort Collins.

And later in the day his friend Vern picked me up for a long, beautiful drive up Cameron Pass to photograph his dog Koda. It was extremely windy at the top, with gusts we were guessing to be near 70mph, causing white out conditions as it blew the new snow around. The three of us braved these nearly unbearable conditions just long enough to get some great shots of Koda, the best of which were between the gusts.

The next morning I drove to Loveland to meet Tony’s friend Stephanie, who was kind enough to bring her two young children and their dog Brisco out for a bone chilling morning shoot.

After saying good bye to Tony’s family I took a detour through Estes Park on my way to Boulder. I found a few beautiful dogs in Estes Park, one being the largest dog I have ever encountered, a Giant Alaskan Malamute by the name of Mukluk. This big pup weighs in at nearly 200 pounds! I mentioned this breed a few posts back after meeting one for the first time in Jerome Arizona. He was, at the time, the largest dog I’d ever seen. I never dreamed I’d meet one even bigger!

That afternoon I arrived at the home of my second cousin, Anne Sabott, who I knew best when I was small girl in Nebraska. Since my family’s move to Washington I’ve seen her only a handful of times, but none the less the girls and I were welcomed with open arms (and dog treats). Anne and I were in the midst of getting caught up on the years gone by when her husband, David, convinced me (without a great deal of effort I might add) to go with him to their condo in Breckenridge for a day of skiing after their best snowfall of the year. Seriously… how could I pass up that offer? Friday morning we woke up to fresh snow and sunshine, and although the blue skies were quickly replaced by cold wind and more snow, we had a marvelous day skiing together. We arrived back in Boulder (Lafayette actually) early enough on Saturday for me to get a little more time with the rest of the Sabott family, and a few more dogs, before departing on Sunday for my final Colorado destination… Steamboat Springs!

The Sabott Labradoddle, Scarlet

Because my days have been so full, and my movement from town to town almost constant, it has taken me several days to get this blog post written. I finished my final day of photographing the dogs of winter on a beautiful day in Steamboat Springs and am stepping out the door to Moab now.  A few more images from beautiful Colorado…


Jazzy loving the snow!

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