Deer Mountain Sunrise

As part of Mike's quest to photograph early morning light, we left the house at 3:30AM one August day to catch a sunrise at the spot we were married 6 years ago.

Sunrise over the plains, viewed from Deer Mountain's summit

My first hike in the dark, I think our 1 hr 45 min ascent was also a record time for me.

Longs Peak and the Divide with Moraine Park foreground
Deer Mountain will always be a special spot for us, and it was fun be up there in the beauty of morning's first light.

Mike and Susan on the summit with Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon in the background
Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon with Horsehoe Park in foreground

Mike Does Mornings

When we were in New Zealand in 2010, our home exchangers had a great refrigerator magnet:

"Not A Morning Person"
Doesn't Even Begin To Cover It

That's me. I need a couple of hours to wake up with my coffee.

But recently, I'd been frustrated with myself for not getting up and out early enough to take advantage of the early morning light. So I made up my mind to try to get out for some sunrises!

Sprague Lake at sunrise, looking west
One of my goals was to hike to a summit and be there for sunrise, and I achieved this and more. I managed to make it to Sprague Lake and Bear Lake for sunrise. Then I hiked to the summit of Lily Mountain. Then Susan and I hiked to the summit of Deer Mountain. And in September I hiked to the summit of Estes Cone for sunrise.

Looking east over Sprague Lake
In every case, the early mornings (getting up as early as 3:30am) were worth it. And I sort of got used to it, making it easier for me to do some of the other early morning activities we enjoy.

Here are some of my favorite early morning pictures.

Elk at Sprague Lake

Another west-looking early morning at Sprague Lake

Sunrise over the plains, viewed from the Deer Mountain summit


Belted Kingfisher at Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake Morning

Sunrise at Sprague Lake
A benefit of getting up early to catch the sunrise is that you may find yourself in place to observe birds and other wildlife when they are at their most active at daybreak.

We heard the first chatterings of kingfishers while it was still dark, and soon enough we saw at least two birds flying through the woods, around the lake and hunting from low, and surprisingly, high tree branches. One of them was a young female, we knew because her "rusty bra" was not yet complete.

Belted Kingfisher

Something inexplicable about these birds appeals to both of us. Wikipedia says there are over 90 species so we have a ways to go. Besides the Belted Kingfisher, we have seen only the Sacred Kingfisher in New Zealand. But I have my eye on the Laredo Birding Festival in February, as Laredo, Texas is the only place in the US where four kingfisher species have been seen (Belted, Ringed, Green and Amazon).

Kingfisher getting breakfast

Kingfishers on a favorite perch

We also saw other bird species and elk at Sprague Lake, and apparently moose have been hanging out there in the mornings, though we didn't see them when we were there. It's definitely a beautiful (and very accessible) place for a sunrise or sunset!

Yawning? Or calling out?


Morning light on the Continental Divide