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I’d seen the signs a few times on the drive from Boulder to the Denver Airport. Since I was shuttling my beloved to the airport on Sunday morning I packed my camera gear and finally stopped by the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on my return trip.

I arrived before the visitors center was open, but already a couple other photographers were gathered in the bison area with their big lenses.

Shooting out of the car on this cold morning was a great way to settle in for an hour or more and let the bison wander around us.

I finally left the bison and headed to the rest of the refuge’s roads and spotted many of the other mammal species that call the Arsenal home.

Lake Mary was also a worthwhile stop with its floating boardwalk and plentiful bird life.

The white tail and mule deer seem to largely hang out around the eastern roads in the refuge.

This place isn’t really too far away (closer than the Wild Animal Sanctuary) and I hope to visit again, probably in a different season.


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Good friends joined us for a weekend in Estes Park at the YMCA to hang out in a cabin. A little miniature golf started out Saturday morning.

Then a two hour horseback ride with Jackson Stables.

We passed the Fern Lake fire.

Back at the cabin was another excellent meal.

And a roaring fire.

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My brothers were running the Epic Relays Rocky Mountain Relay for the second time and needed to supply volunteers. That’s why Tara and I found ourselves driving up to Buena Vista after work, barely finding a campsite at Ruby Mountain (yes, I should have reserved a site), grabbing a quick dinner and trying to nap before our shift. About 10:30p we “woke up” and drove into town and took over the duties of recording team exchange times at the 23rd exchange. Said brothers showed up just after us to check in.

Their first vehicle then drove off to the 24th exchange to get some sleep before their other team members caught up.

Tara and I set about trying to keep the exchange organized: keeping runners from loitering in the parking lot entrances, getting times and team numbers for each group, bugging the Texans about wasting fuel and not idling their engines forever. Yes, we ran a tight ship at exchange 23.

That was until we got bored waiting for some of the last teams and things had slowed down enough that we took a couple long exposures with the lighted wand. When a cop pulled over to ask if we were okay we decided to return to acting serious.

Finally, a bit after 2am we rolled back into our campground and got some 5 hours of sleep.

The idea of rafting after so little sleep seemed ridiculous now, but we were already registered and committed. Next time, we’ll just plan on sleeping in and doing a lazy drive home.

The Arkansas River wasn’t flowing very big, which was entirely expected for this time of year after a dismal snow year and early runoff. But easy is what I wanted for my first rafting trip.

Our guide Dan was full of stories and jokes to keep us entertained between the short rapids of Browns Canyon.

The scenery wasn’t bad either.

Tara, Dan and I were placed in our own boat, and the other 6 clients went into the second raft.

Towards the end of the float, we passed a cliff perfect for jumping off and watched as another group was just cajoling their last jumper to make the leap.

Nearly all of our group made the leap as well, a couple of us going twice – which may have been pushing my luck as my glasses came off when I hit the water the second time and sunk to the creek bed. Thankfully we were able to retrieve them so I could still see.

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Given another stormy forecast, Tara and I decided to chance a trip out to the plains to visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.

Tigers were the first major animals we saw from the 3/4 mile long walk way above the enclosures. Lions, black bears and wolves came next.

The stories of these animals’ rescues were disheartening, but it’s wonderful there’s a place like the Wild Animal Sanctuary that can provide them a safe home to be rehabilitated and to live with others of their own species.

The orange-shirted volunteers were also extremely friendly and shared a wealth of knowledge. We learned we’ll have to come back on a feeding day (Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday), visit again in the evening when they’re more vocal and active, and come after a snow.

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After our Kilimanjaro climb and safari we were ready to really relax. Off to Zanzibar we flew and were over the island when we learned a disabled plane was blocking (only?) runway at the airport and we couldn’t circle long. Plan B was to land in Dar Es Salaam, refuel and return for a second try. At least it was only 30 minutes away and so a little delayed we finally arrived. Local transportation met us at the airport and drove us across the island to the Zanzibar Retreat hotel – perfect we’ll take it.

The weather wasn’t perfect for sitting out on the beach, but the local fisherman had a picturesque collection of boats anchored and the bar was right outside our door.

We spent a whole day doing much of nothing. Well, Georgia and I did wander out through the corals and sea urchins to the reef and breaking sea.

We could have easily spent more than 2 nights here, but were on a schedule and had a night in Stone Town before starting our journey home.

Tara and I decided to sign up for a spice tour at one of the mom and pop plantations while the others got a jump start on exploring Stone Town.

Besides seeing nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon and more in their original form the guide made us a few new fashion accessories.

Tour over we returned to the Dhow Palace hotel and promptly crashed for a couple hours before rallying and walking around town. Then we met up with the rest of our crew for a final dinner at a Indian place. In the morning I took a few shots around the hotel before we began a seven flight and 48-hour odyssey back home.

Complete Zanzibar photo gallery

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Despite loving our accommodations for the evening, we were all willing to get up early and make the most of our last day of safari. We had a moment of doubt when we read the breakfast menu before realizing that everything was in motion and we’d be eating our picnic breakfasts in the jeep. Driving down from the crater rim we started spotting animals well before arriving inside the crater bottom.

For a while we drove in the slowly lightening gloom before finding a pride of lions on a zebra kill, surrounded by hyenas waiting a turn and a herd of cape buffalo milling about.

Possibly out of boredom with the wait, the hyenas attacked one of the buffalo, tearing the flesh on its rear end and threatening to bring it completely down. A few other herd members rallied around the wounded buffalo and slowly escorted back to the herd. Would it live?

The lions had by now eaten their fill and moved off the kill and started to walk our way. A creek was behind us which the lions slowly made their way to, walking right between the collected jeeps (by now we weren’t the only tourists taking an interest in the scene).

One lion was practically napping under our jeep.

We watched them drinking and cleaning one another off before deciding to move on and see what else the crater had to offer.

Wildebeest, a very distant rhino and a wide variety of bird life were spotted.

An additional detour took us to a small pool of resting hippos.

Heading out of the crater we drove through huge herds of grazers and then spotted a cluster of jeeps.

What were they watching? Eventually we spotted her – a female lion in the tall grass not 100 feet from the jeeps keeping tabs on a small group of wildebeest. It our eye it looked like she missed a few opportunities at some closer animals and we were stealing up for the decision to continue back to Arusha when she burst out of the grass and followed a lone animal that was separated from its herd members.

I didn’t take much video on this trip, but was glad I was ready for the action this one time.

Amazed by what we had just seen we made one more bathroom break and drove out the crater – seeing a sleeping pride of lions just up the road from where we’d stopped to use the facilities.

Complete safari photo gallery

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The first day of our safari after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was a driving tour through Tarangire National Park. Along the way we stopped and payed some young Masai boys for the chance to take their photo.

Here’s a few of the day’s photos:

After leaving the park we spent the night at the Tarangire Roika Tented Lodge where the Masai act as bag boys and protect you from while animals as you walk from the main lodge to the cabins.

I thought the protection offered by the Masai to be a bit over the top, until we were dropped off at our cabin after dark and told there was an elephant in the brush nearby. Tara and I paused on the porch only long enough to confirm the sounds of something very large in the forest nearby before retiring inside to listen to the monkeys run across the roof.

Complete Safari photo album

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