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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Likness

Hawks and rocks: the Colorado Springs adventure

My daughter's birthday is early January. My son-in-law is currently overseas on a deployment, so I decided to fly to Colorado Springs so that Lizzie didn't have to celebrate her birthday alone. The closest airport to me is in Eugene, Oregon, a short 90-minute drive through mountain passes that is usually pleasant but can get dicey in heavy rain and winter conditions. I headed out mid-morning. The weather transitioned from light rain to mist and finally ended with sunshine. I arrived at Colorado Springs in the evening.

The Medication Dilemma

I thought I was being incredibly proactive by pre-packing all of my medications for each day. I used pill container designed to hold a week of pills. I remember measuring out pills, dropping them in the daily slots and then packing my pillbox with a satisfied smile. Only, I messed up. I have no clue how this happened, because my memory says I packed it correctly, but when I opened the pillbox on day 2, I realized I had not only forgotten my thyroid medication, but two types of Parkinson's Disease medications that I take as well! So much for being proactive.

What did I do? I always have a backup plan. You never know when you might get stuck somewhere due to weather, injury, or other unforeseen events. For this reason, I always bring a zip lock with extra medications. I usually measure it out for 2 - 3 days but for this trip I just tossed in a bunch of pills of each kind that I take without counting them. It turned out I had enough in my "backup supply" to cover for my shortsightedness, as long as my trip wasn't delayed. Thankfully, it wasn't.

Together for Sharon Interview

I want to write a quick "thank you" to "Together for Sharon" for all that they do to raise awareness for Parkinson's Disease. I was interviewed about my Parkinson's Disease advocacy. I enjoyed the process and appreciated the final result. If you have or are impacted by PD, check out their Parkinson's Disease interview list. I was overwhelmed (in a positive way) when I first saw it. So many people from those with PD to doctors and therapists who specialize in PD have shared their thoughts and stories. What an awesome resource!

Celebration in Colorado Springs

The first night looked like it might be clear, so I set up my portable astrophotography rig and aimed it at the target my daughter picked: the Orion constellation. Unfortunately, a thin layer of clouds rolled in and obscured most of the photographs. The next morning, I was about to step outside for a walk when a delivery van pulled up. The driver stepped out with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for Lizzie from her husband.

A bouquet of flowers
Happy Birthday Lizzie!

After delivering the flowers to Lizzie, I went back outside and caught the sunrise reflecting off the snowy slopes of Pike's Peak.

A pink mountain
"I do declare, you are a rose."

Because of the low probability that I would be able to do any astrophotography on the trip, I decided to practice some other techniques. Here are some of the close-up photographs I took of rocks, trees, and a post.

My constant companion during the visit was their dog, Willie. During our first visit to Colorado Springs, Willie was unsure of me and growled anytime I moved. He's since warmed up to me and was a bundle of body-wags and sloppy kisses. He also did not hesitate nor hold back on posing for a few photographs.

We celebrated at Trinity Brewing Co. with beer, vegan pizza and vegan wings. That evening, it began to snow. Lizzie took me to the Garden of the Gods for my first nighttime visit. We were there a few hours after sunset and the skies looked completely dark. With the help of a tripod and some long exposures, I was able to capture these images of the intricate rock formations that lurked in the shadows.

I love how the image of multiple peaks becomes fainter as the peaks go farther out and are obscured by the falling snow.

The next day was our "chill" day of just hanging out. We did some shopping, and I picked up some new clothes and a scarf to surprise Doreen with. We found an excellent billiard hall named Bijou Billiards and had a great time shooting pool, nibbling on food and listening to music. We finished the evening with a stop by the Westside Cantina where the food is great, the vegan options are awesome, and the margaritas taste excellent.

The next day, we slept late, and I woke to a clear, sunny day and captured this view of Pike's Peak from her house.

A mountain range with sunlight reflecting from the snow
Pikes Peak, evening of January 3rd

We drove to Boulder, Colorado to hike the Flatirons.

A pathway of stone steps
A set of stone stairs on the Flatirons

I took this panorama of the jagged rocks that define the skyline there:

A long ridge with jagged rock outcroppings
The Flatirons near Boulder, Colorado

I had to lower the resolution and size of the panorama for this blog post, so I created this gallery of cropped highlights from the panorama so you can see the high-resolution zoomed views.

I also took this mosaic.

A series of sharp triangular peaks
The jagged top

Here are some other rock features we saw.

I paid attention to the little things as well. A fallen tree that looked like displaced driftwood. A spiky plant. A field of red blooms. Pinecones and pine trees beneath the clear blue sky.

Whenever we are that close to Denver, we like to visit the restaurant that sets the standard for "vegan comfort food": Watercourse! We have enjoyed eating there since our first visit years ago when we summitted our first 14ers.

On the last day we started with a decadent breakfast courtesy of Fern's Diner (tip: the caramel sauce goes great on their coffee cake) and went back to the Garden of the Gods for a presentation about hawks. The birds are amazing and beautiful. We saw four different species, each with a unique appearance. A few of the birds were talkative and had their own distinct cries and "songs."

The visitor center has a beautiful view. This panorama includes a popular rock formation known as the "kissing camels." Do you see them?

A contrast between bright red rocks and distant snow-covered peaks
Garden of the Gods by day

Here's a hint!

A rock formation that looks like two camels facing each other.
Kissing camels

Here's a closer view of another area.

A red ridge
Rock feature with "kissing camels"

After the park, we stopped by Phantom Canyon Brewing, enjoyed some of their excellent beers and delicious snacks (soft pretzel and hummus plate), and played more pool. We also paid a visit to Frozen Gold for some vegan ice cream to close out the day.

If you enjoyed the images in this post, browse them directly in the Colorado Springs photography gallery.

We spent evenings watching a mix of movies and series both old and new. Lizzie and I are both fans of John Cusack, and she has never seen Better Off Dead. I fixed that. We re-watched Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2. I suggested we watch The Vanishing with Kiefer Sutherland, but it wasn't available, so we rented the original 1988 Dutch film Spoorloos instead and loved it. This ended up being a very strange coincidence: it was immediately evident to us that a particular scene in Kill Bill Vol 2 was written as a homage to Spoorloos because the camera angles, character actions and plot (or at least subplot in the case of Quentin Tarantino's film) are almost identical. I can't describe the scene without giving up spoilers.

I can't think of a better way to kick off 2024!

Here comes the sun

I'm also starting the new year with some new gear. This photos in this post were all taken with a Sony A7R IV. I have a new HyperStar component that may revolutionize the way I take wide angle deep space images, but it's going to take a few clear nights to test it out. I also received a new dedicated solar telescope uniquely designed to capture the details of the solar surface. I have only had a few days to test it out, but the initial results look very promising.

Thanks for being here with me on this journey!

Jeremy Likness

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