By Gary Gray
The road leading to the summit is a narrow paved, and winding road that runs along the side of the mountain. For the uninitiated, it can be a little scary. With no guardrails and heavy traffic at times, it can make for a nervous ride up the hill. At the end of the road, near the summit is a parking lot with a stone structure, a viewing platform with binoculars, and restroom facilities. The goats are often found in the rocks near the parking lot but are also commonly lounging on the hillside below the parking lot and narrow switchbacks.Photographing the mountain goats is not difficult. Most of the time, they will be fairly close to you, sometimes even found walking in the road. I’d recommend using a general purpose zoom such as a 70-200 mm, or 80/100 – 400 mm zoom lens. I normally carry three lenses with me. A Nikor 24-120mm, Nikor 70-200mm and a Nikor 200-500 mm. Most of the time I’m shooting with the 200-500 mm for versatility and a little more reach allowing me to keep a distance from the animals. Light is generally good near the summit with fog and clouds being the most common adverse conditions you’ll encounter during the summer months.
I’d use a smaller vehicle if you have it. Those roads are narrow near the top and you’ll encounter quite a bit of traffic during peak seasons. A pickup truck can make it though. Your vehicle should be in good repair with a good spare tire. Breaking down on the mountain would be an expensive tow down to civilization in Idaho Springs. All in all though, it’s not a difficult drive and tourists from around Colorado travel up the mountain all the time in all makes of vehicle, including bicycles and motorcycles. Take your time and don’t hog the road.I’d recommend you take a jacket as temperatures near the summit can be cold, sometime below freezing. The wind can be strong as well at times. Carry some water and snacks with you.
A keen observer will also spot the tiny Pika. Pika are small rodent looking critters, however, they are not rodents. They are related to rabbits. Pika are very shy and one must often use a great deal of patience to get a good photograph. They live in the rocks along side the marmots and are most visible sitting in the sunrise light on top of rocks along side the road.
In addition, it is not uncommon to find bighorn sheep on the mountain. Most often, it will be ewes with youngsters, but large male rams can be found from time to time.
I’m usually through with photography by mid-morning as light becomes more harsh and the crowds begin growing to excess. After a morning’s shoot I like to stop in Idaho Springs for a nice lunch at one of the many available restaurants. If you’re planning a trip through Denver this summer, take a day and explore Mt. Evans and the wildlife that all us folks in Colorado love to photograph. It’s a trip well worth making.
And don’t forget to bring an extra battery…