Emerald Lake Crested Butte, CO

Emerald Lake

Well my friends we are nearly half way through another week here in the U.S. And fall is lingering just around the corner. In fact, there have been a few early mornings and late evenings recently that felt like fall had arrived here on the Western Slope of Colorado.

Emerald Lake Crested Butte, CO

After the incredibly busy summer we’ve had (with work) and the approach of cooling temperatures we have spent nearly every extra minute exploring the beauty outside our front door. So I am a little behind on sharing the adventures I’ve been on the last couple of weeks. Emerald Lake is one of my very favorite alpine lakes in our area. Though they all are of immeasurable magnificence, Emerald has a special effect on me. The energy is undeniable and if you have read the Celestine Prophecy you would understand it is one of those places that has a certain charge and gladly lends visitors some of it.

Emerald Lake at dusk Crested Butte, CO
Sunset at Emerald Lake Crested Butte, CO

Emerald Lake has a rich color true to its name. Surrounded by fragrant pines, rocky mountains, and seasonal wildflowers this alpine lake ignites all senses. The color alone is absolutely mesmerizing. I find myself here at least once every summer.  You can access Emerald from a few different routes all of which are old mining roads. Although most are well maintained, I would recommend an experienced driver and a 4×4 vehicle with a high enough clearance for large rocks. For those interested, Slate River Road, Gothic, and Washington Gulch will get you there. If you are unfamiliar with the area, terrain or basic backcountry knowledge always seek help from local guides or opt to take a shuttle tour. Places like The Alpineer, Crested Butte Anglers, Chamber of CommerceAlpine Express, and Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle are good starting points to get your adventure on the go.

Emerald Lake Gunnison CountyHigh alpine lake in Crested Butte, CO

Emerald is a perfect place to spend a day by the lake with a nice picnic, a paddle-board, and your pup. Or take a photograph and a skinny dip while cruising through the mountains on a warm summers day. I will warn you the water has never felt what I would consider to be warm but always exhilarating and always worth it. We passed by Emerald last weekend when we visited Colorado’s Iconic Crystal Mill in Crystal, Colorado. It was on our way home down a twisty, narrow, dirt road. All routes are the scenic routes in Colorado it seems, at least in Crested Butte.

Emerald Lake high alpine lake at dusk

Do alpine lakes tickle your fancy? Would you take a dip in Emerald? Or do you prefer warm oceans?

I like a bit of both myself! 

As always, thank you for joining me here!

And remember you are so appreciated ♥

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p.s. Was anyone on the path of totality for the solar eclipse yesterday? We had partial effects but not complete darkness.

Crystal Colorado Iconic Historic Mill

Colorado’s Iconic Crystal Mill

Hi friends! I went on an unexpected break from posting last week but I’m as excited as ever to share what I’ve been up to! First, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to those of you that continue to support my adventures, endeavors, and matters of the heart as well as welcome those who have joined me on this platform in recent weeks. It is a pleasure to connect with you all! So let’s get to it shall we?

This past weekend we made one of my bucket list items a reality!  I have been dreaming and talking about visiting Colorado’s iconic Crystal Mill for years. Just ask my husband who (we’ve spent hours talking about it) was arguably more excited to cross this one-off the must-do-queue. If you’re unfamiliar, the Crystal Mill is a famed spot for photographers and explorers alike. In the 10 years I’ve been around Colorado, I have seen captures of the mill from every angle and in each season, except winter now that I think about it.

Old Hotel in ghost town of Crystal, Colorado

You can access the mill from either Marble, CO or Crested Butte, CO via Schofield pass. Both routes require 4×4 vehicles, experienced drivers, and/or the endurance to hike it yourself. The roads are single track, dirt roads from the mining days and are not for the faint of heart. The gnarliest part seems to be the rock crawl that runs parallel to Devils Punchbowl where the drop offs are completely unforgiving. I, however always opt to hike, even while knowing our truck could handle the travel, my anxiety cannot. We were the only people we saw on foot and most seemed to think our decision to hike to the mill and back in one day was far out.

Cabin in Crystal, Colorado

The Crystal mill is approximately 9-10 miles roundtrip when starting from the top of Schofield pass. It’s a moderate hike, almost entirely downhill to the town of Crystal, and after a lunch/photo break, the 5 miles uphill isn’t excruciating by any means. Not to mention your walking in a jaw-dropping canyon, lined with emerald hued waters and cascading waterfalls. The town of Crystal was founded by miners in the 1800’s and sustained by local silver mines. When the town was booming there were a few hundred residents and now it seems to have a dozen or so seasonal residents. It is indeed considered a ghost town and certainly felt like a walk through time as many of the structures have been there since the first miners. I pondered all the stories they might tell if they could.

Historic cabin in Crystal, Colorado

It takes only a minute or two to walk through the town before you start down a small incline where The Crystal Mill sits just above the Crystal River. Even though I had seen countless photos beforehand, it did not discount the utter amazement and awe I felt upon seeing it for myself. Weathered wood surrounded by the contrast of the dark green pine trees, bright green aspens and the Crystal river flowing alongside. Picturesque would be an understatement. What you can’t see are the swarms of flies and crowds of people who trickled in and out. The people, not the flies. They were consistent. Most folks seemed to be on their Sunday drives in their buggies, stopping to appreciate the historic mill for a few moments before moving on.

Colorado's iconic Crystal MillColorado'd iconic Crystal Mill along the Crystal River

When in operation, the Crystal Mill was called the Sheep Mountain Power House. It housed a compressor which was powered by water running down the ladder like structure also known as the penstock. The compressor powered the machinery used to bore the nearby silver mines. The turquoise waters made me believe that must have been how the Crystal River got its name but I have no real insight as to whether there’s any truth to that or not.

Historic Sheep Mountain Power House aka The Crystal MillVictoria Lise in vintage couture dress at iconic Crystal Mill

Last year a dear friend of mine had gifted me a dress of her mothers. It was vintage couture and tailored just for her mom. The dress happened to fit me almost as if it were made for me and I was so touched to have been given a dress with a story that I wanted to do something unique to showcase such an extraordinary, one of a kind piece.

Victoria Lise sits on Crystal River in vintage couture dress

I packed the dress along thinking The Crystal Mill may just be the place I envisioned shooting with the dress. To my delight it was perfect. The colors of the water and the dress complimented each other wonderfully while the dress and the mill shared a timeless essence.

Victoria Lise sits in Crystal River with iconic Crystal MillVictoria Lise in Crystal Waters next to Crystal Mill

It was harsh afternoon lighting and not the most ideal for shooting but the pillow-y clouds made for an interesting shade when partially covering the sun. It wasn’t a challenge to make the best of an already sunny situation. Although I can check it off of my bucket list, I don’t know that once was enough. I already have an aching to venture back again, a longing to swim in the pristine waters and the desire to capture the Mills magnificence in a new light.

Crystal Colorado Iconic Historic Mill

If you’re interested in reading more about The Crystal Mill itself you can find background and preservation information here.

And to find a gallery of incredible captures simply Google: Colorado Crystal Mill!

Thank you all for joining me here and until next time, 

Happy trails ♥

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Summer Days And Sunflowers

The first weekend of August brought with it our 1st wedding anniversary. Yes, 365 (now 367) days ago we celebrated our nearing 9 years of love, commitment, and friendship surrounded by family and friends who made the adventure to Colorado and braved the rain. It is really hard to believe August 5, 2016 is already filed into memories dating back an entire year! I sound like my parents when I say “it feels like it was just yesterday” but truly it does. Last year brought buckets of rain while this year brought fields of sunflowers and infinite rays of sunshine, whatever the weather we’re in it together.

Victoria Lise in Paonia Sunflower field

We took the whole weekend off from work and ventured outside of our 9×9 town to visit the even smaller one horse Rocky Mountain town of Paonia. The appeal: vineyards, organic farms, and warmer temperatures. We were thrilled to taste foods grown right from the soil we were standing on and without the use of unnecessary and often harmful herbicides and pesticides.  Alex (my husband) and I, are largely into natural farming using indigenous micro-organisms, composting and amending soil, and living as close to natures way as we possibly can. So you can imagine how giddy we were to explore the farms where the majority of our food is grown.

Victoria Lise and Husband on 1st Wedding Anniversary

After tasting fruit fermented ciders and swaying like kids on a rope swing across the lush meadows, we took the scenic route home so we could appreciate this massive field of sunflowers said to be planted by an 11-year-old kid! Although many of the flowers were passed their zenith it certainly did not take away from the magnitude or the wow factor. Truly an impressive work of nature and an 11 year old person.


Moonrise over Highway 50 Colorado

As luck would have it we took a drive on a road that led us right to the moon! No spaceship required. What a sensational experience that was, haha. The full moon or almost full moon appears very large in the Western Colorado sky.  It is surreal and often feels like you could reach out and grab it, it looks that near. As if sunflowers, sunrays’, fruit tasting, cider sipping, and a full weekend with my husband wasn’t enough, the moonrise was the cherry on top of a perfect day well spent.

Wester Colorado MoonriseAn almost full moon above golden foliageWestern Colorado Moonrise Early August

We even watched the sun set over amber fields of foliage and the moon rise over the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Both the light of the day and the light of the night met in the sky  readying themselves for the coming eclipse. If you read my last post you know how sought after time off was for my husband and I.  This weekend was just what we needed and this life, well, it’s just so damn good!

Moonrise and Sunset over Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

That’s it from me today friends. If we’re connected on Instagram you’ve probably already seen a sneak peek of our anniversary weekend and maybe you caught a few of our wedding photos in my insta story. If not and you’re curious to see a few snaps from our unique DIY wedding ceremony click here.  

In the coming weeks victorialise.com will be undergoing some exciting updates and changes. Condensing, organizing, and a fresh new feel to foster growth and expansion. I would love your much appreciated feedback once it’s underway but until then tell me what I should know before switching themes? In true beginners terms if you will because WPbeginner is like trying to understand a foreign language for this technologically unsavvy lady. (Though I must give myself credit for all that I have learned through trial and error.) I welcome any and all advice from you savvy, sassy souls. 

As always, thank you for joining me here♥

And until next time, Happy Trails to you…

Living Journey’s Summit Hike Crested Butte, Colorado

Happy August friends, I hope the transition to a brand new month has been joyful and smooth for you. It has been another hectic start here but the good news is we refrained from all things work this past Saturday. It truly felt like a miracle. Even with a lingering (condo remodel) deadline (yesterday) we managed to enjoy our first entirely free day, a first of the summer! Like anything, owning a business has its pros and cons. While the good totally outweighs the stressful we still have had to master our skills of carving out enough play time. All work and no play is not the way. We set our sights 12,162 feet above sea level and climbed to the peak of Mt. Crested Butte for the annual Living Journey’s fundraiser hike.

Mt. Crested Butte peak under heavy cloud coverage

July of each year a peak hike is organized by Living Journey’s, a financially and emotionally supportive organization aiding families faced with cancer in our valley.  The summit hike is a fundraiser in which participants raise donations beforehand and hike Mt. Crested Butte as not only a celebration but as an honoring of those whose lives have been touched by cancer. My mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor and Living Journey’s supported her in many ways during treatment as well as during her recovery.  It has become a special tradition in the last 4 years to climb Mt. Crested Butte with her and my husband. My mother-in-law is devoted to paying forward the goodness that was gifted to her in time where support was a lifeline. And we feel extremely privileged to do so beside her.

Victoria Lise hiking Crested Butte mountain trail

Each year draws me to reflect on what an incredible blessing it is to have our health, our loved ones, and these moving, memorable moments with one another. It grounds ones perspective to the importance and impermanence of life.
Clouds form over town of Crested Butte
Saturday morning brought heavy clouds, steady rain, and with that the uncertainty of a mountain hike. The precipitation subsided but left thick, puffy clouds draped over Mount Crested Butte. It made for quite the enchanting landscape and created a moody feeling from a film scene. The peak (as seen in the first photo above) was engulfed in cloud coverage, at times the only thing visible were the mountain we were on and the other people on it. If you’ve ever wondered what being in the clouds is like, well then, there’s a glimpse.

Slate River and Whetstone Mountain from peak of Mt. CBAlex Theaker stands on edge of the world atop Mt. CB

If you live around or frequent the Gunnison valley it is likely you have climbed, biked, skied Mt. CB or at least ridden one of the ski-lifts. It is the most accessible mountain in our valley. Having the option to ride the lifts means most ages and abilities can endure the short 1.3 mile climb to the peak from the SilverQueen chairlift. This is a great advantage for those not looking to go deep into the back country on a lengthy excursion. Crested Butte Mountain Resort maintains the trail like the Ritz Carlton maintains their standards. The trail is wide and unobstructed and ropes line the edges for those needing extra stability.  Informational signs are placed along the path educating visitors on wildflower species, alpine animals, and mountain manners. It is a 11.5 mile hike roundtrip starting from the foothills however, the well-kept dirt roads and defined trails make the journey less extreme. If you’re wondering, we took the lift!

Peak of Mt. Crested Butte looking down valley

From the peak one can see our whole 9 block town and surrounding developments. The winding slate river, long lake, and West Elk mountain range are hard to take your eyes off of.  Having climbed CB somewhere around 6 times I can assure you the view never gets old. And if you’re wondering why we would hike the same mountain so often it’s because other than the yearly Living Journey’s hike (which is the same mountain annually) when loved ones come to visit and wish to climb a mountain this is where we take them. Except for my mom who we took into the backcountry on a more gritty adventure.

Fox makes eye contact on peak of Mt. Crested Butte

Each year proves to be deeply inspirational. Sharing a mountain with kids in their first year of life and adults in their 80’s from all walks of life, with all different stories. Hiking is an already exceptional part of living yet the addition of a cause elevates the experience even more so. I think its safe to assume the fox agrees, despite challenges life is utterly remarkable!  p.s. How beautiful a creature is that fox?!

Red fox above town of Crested Butte and Slate River

Thank you for joining me on yet another adventure!

I greatly enjoy connecting with you all ♥

Until next time, happy trails…

Find me on Instagram and Pinterest for day-to-day musings x

Victoria Lise Wilmington Delaware City line along Christina River

Christina River Wilmington, DE

My friends, we are almost through another week. Summer is cruising by making me want to jet-set off like the surfers in Endless Summer. This summer has been an exceptionally quick one leaving just moments to take in the warm air, the birds sweet songs and the whimsical, short-lived wildflowers. My husband and I have been blessed with many projects and long hours of work this season (shoot, I say that every season) leaving very little time for all of the adventure we have had in the seasons passed. Everyday is an adventure but not always the one at the top of our list. Our busy, busy season will begin to fizzle out shortly, giving us more time for mountain expeditions and arctic lakes. Nonetheless we’ve sun chased and moon-danced each moment, capturing stills as often as we can. So while visiting home just a few weeks ago, I was able to visit the river I spent countless hours on. I am always thrilled to have a look at a place through a different lens. And watch a sunset from a different angle.

Victoria Lise Wilmington Delaware City line along Christina River

My teen years (14-18) were spent primarily on this river. 4-5 days a week practicing with my 8 woman crew, and every weekend we raced in early morning regattas. When you spend that much time with a place you develop a level of intimacy, a relationship of sorts. It was a bit nostalgic, in the best way, to walk and be present in a place I once knew so well. Like an old friend, we had plenty to catch up on.

Victoria Lise Sunset reflection on Christina River

If you’re local to Delaware or frequent the area often, The Wilmington Riverfront is really like an oasis in the concrete desert. It is a wonderful 3-ish mile (back and forth) stretch along the Christina River luring visitors to admire the softness of the river, the city skyline, and the lush landscapes manicured in recent years. Along the riverwalk you will find shops, a boathouse, an interactive park for kids, wetlands for bird watching, and restaurants offering palatable and pleasing cuisine for all. You might even catch a few crews stroking the river, in fact it is pretty likely you will. The Riverfront also hosts a free summertime concert series, is home to the Kalmar Nyckel as well as the Blue Rocks baseball team. You can learn more and find a slew of other activities and fundraisers on their website.

Victoria Lise Wilmington city skyline along Christina river at sunset

Well, that’s it from me today friends. I hope your week has been full of wondrous moments making you brim with happiness. If not, there’s always tomorrow! 

As always, thank you so much for joining me here ♥

Until next time, find me on Instagram and Pinterest 


Victoria Lise walks mountain trail as untraditional wedding aisle in MinkPink dress

MinkPink Clothing Atop Gothic Mountain

This time last year my husband (then fiance) & I were just a couple of weeks away from our wedding ceremony among our family and friends. Wow, a year already? Time flies! We have always had sort of our own way about things, call it untraditional, but we had wanted to have an intimate exchange between ourselves before the whirlwind of a grander celebration.  But really what could be more grand than hiking a mountain and exchanging love notes?! Or vowels as some call them. We hiked Gothic Mountain (12,631′ ft) and at the peak we set up the camera/tripod duo, I changed into a white MinkPink dress I had purchased from Revolve (being naked on the peak for a bit is exhilarating to say the least), and exchanged handwritten, heart-forward love letters brimming with meaningful intent. Before filming our summit celebration we took a few practice shots to ensure we would end up within the frame and capture the magnificence of our surroundings. Below I’ve collected a few of my favorite captures and/or stills from our ceremonial summit.

Victoria Lise stand atop Gothic mountain in MinkPink white lace dress

12,631′ Above Sea Level

Luckily (for me) this was our 3rd time ascending Gothic so I knew the endurance needed and the intensity of the journey ahead. The first time we accepted the challenge took us nearly a whole 9 hours (roundtrip) to complete. Not only was that the first time hiking Gothic but my first mountain, well, ever. If you’re anything like me and didn’t spend your childhood or any part of your life at altitude, let alone climbing mountains, then you understand where I’m coming from when I told my husband (then fiance) that I would need a helicopter to get off of that mountain. I did however make it down the mountain on my own two feet and ever since, I’ve loved the thrill of a new peak.

Victoria Lise walks mountain trail as untraditional wedding aisle in MinkPink dress

Taking Love To New Heights

The views are just breathtaking in every direction! Like gazing into the oceans infinite expanse, once you reach the peak it’s a panorama of cloud gazing mountains, deep blue sky, dark timber pine forests, whimsical aspen clusters, and winding rivers.  Gothic holds special meaning having been not only my introduction to mountain climbing but also our dear ol’ senior dog bear who summited at 15 years, as well as Styx, who is pictured with me here. ((Self admitted proud dog mom.) )  Adding our own momentous and somewhat spontaneous. honoring of our love on top of those already immeasurable milestones makes Gothic Mountain like a cornerstone in our story.

Victoria Lise on summit of gothic mountain with dog, Styx in black and white.

MinkPink Rum Diaries Dress

In total Tori fashion, I bought a few white dresses for the week leading up to our larger wedding ceremony. With family and friends flying into Colorado from all over I really wanted to be prepared for whatever occasion arose. Plus, living in the mountains and having a black furry dog doesn’t make wearing an all white outfit a very viable option so sure I took advantage. This MinkPink dress from Revolve was an absolute dream. The fabric is soft, lightweight, and the fit is well-tailored for those on the taller end of the spectrum. It has a sewn-in half slip with a delicate but sturdy lace overlay.  I highly doubt it’s still available yet it was perfect for our mountain celebration and I look forward to getting more use out of it however long it can endure the rocky mountains.

Victoria Lise walks peak trail on gothic mountain in MinkPink lace dress

On The Other Side

5 or 6 years ago I spent a lot more of my time on the other side of the camera. I spent as many hours modeling as I did for whatever other job I worked at that juncture in my life. I worked with start-up (bikini) companies, gallery photographers, small business advertising, website marketing and others I’m unintentionally leaving out. It is one of those creative pursuits that continues to cultivate a flame in me. Before I met my husband he, like myself, had taken photography classes and so by the time we crossed paths his interest in shooting had developed. Unbeknown to me, he would photograph me while I studied and did random other things until I grew comfortable enough to knowingly be his subject. We are still refining our craft of shooting together, I’m still a little headstrong with the camera, think Taurus the bull, but because our connection is rooted in creativity, we have a merry good time.

Victoria Lise in lace MinkPink dress atop gothic mountain Colorado

I traded the runway (and the traditional wedding aisle) for trails but still enjoy mixing the two.

I hope you all enjoyed this post! As always, thank you for joining me here! ♥

 Until next time, happy trails to you…

Find me on Instagram and Pinterest

Tyson the Shelter Dog

Tyson’s Tale

The Legacy of A Shelter Dog

This is Tyson’s tale, one of the many shelter dogs to have changed my life. Tyson’s story ended to soon and it should have been written much differently than it will be today. In fact as I write this with tears streaming down my cheeks, Tyson’s photo sits in an 8×10 frame just to my right. It’s time his story is told.
As I finally sit down to write this, I wonder where do I even start? I’ve realized I don’t talk or write about one of my highest tiered passions nearly as much as I think about it, not even a fraction of how often and how heavily it occupies my heart. My sensitivity to the subject plays a large part in that, in addition to it not being a popular dialogue and often not knowing how to approach the conversation. Tyson’s story is one I have been meaning to tell for some time. Maybe I was hoping for a different outcome, an alternative ending to blossom into reality. What I found was an opportunity to change the outcome for other dogs like Tyson, an opportunity to bring awareness and advocate for the forgotten ones.


A Brief Background

In 2013 a little black senior dog came waltzing into my life. She was 14 1/2 and had been abandoned along a highway in the dead of winter. It was one of those happenings that was larger than life and completely unexplainable, written in the stars if you will. She lived a year and a half with us which truly felt like a lifetime. In that time I started to learn about the lives animals endure on the streets, in shelters, in test labs, and so on. (You can read more about Bear, here.) All that I was finding was pretty hard to swallow and once we had adopted, Styx who was on the euthanasia list at a high kill shelter in NM, I began learning about the dysfunctional shelter system set up in our country.

I learned enough that I wanted to get involved. I didn’t have the property to start a sanctuary (my dream) or a van to begin transporting animals from high kill shelters to no kill rescues (another dream) so I started volunteering with a local shelter.  I started out photographing the animals for the website and media sites and quickly moved onto the adoption team where I was responsible for screening potential adopters, observing meet and greets, and completing the adoption process.


Tyson the Shelter Dog


Meeting Tyson

Tyson was my first relinquishment or owner surrender, meaning the owner chooses to give up their animal companion for whatever reason.  Tyson’s family could not care for him properly or give him the training and patience he required. He was 8 months old when he was surrendered to the local facility but you wouldn’t have thought so by looking at his size. He was huge and because his family did not have the proper resources or knowledge to handle him he was brought to the shelter with a self-made wire harness that was digging into his neck. We had to use a tool to free him from the wire harness.  It was visible how stressed, unsure, and full of energy Tyson was.

And because dogs are pack animals, Tyson had already formed a bond with his family regardless of how he was treated. It was obvious which out of Tyson’s family members had formed a connection with him. Not only was it obvious but it was heart wrenching. Animals innately use their intuition. That gut feeling we get that tells us the answer whether we chose to listen or not, that is not lost in animals and naturally they listen. Tyson knew he was being left before the gate even closed.

The woman of the family sobbed from a place so full of pain that I too could feel the abyss from where her emotion stemmed. She spoke Spanish but that didn’t keep us from communicating. She walked Tyson back to the outdoor kennels, turned him out, and closed the chain linked gate. Tyson squealed, bellowed, and barked a broken bark. It took every bit of strength I had not to burst into emotion myself. So I embraced the woman and I promised her I would find Tyson the perfect home and care for him unconditionally. I tried to gently encourage her decision to give Tyson a better future.

As a fellow human I did not feel called to judge her or her family. I did not see the productivity in doing so nor could I see how that would help Tyson’s transition to the shelter. She mentioned she would come back to make a donation since she was unable to do so that day and she really wanted to give back to the shelter in any way she could. The other volunteers scoffed in disbelief at her gracious gesture having already judged her poorly for her decision. Personally, I thought it to be a pretty honorable offering considering the family’s situation as well as the courage it would take to come back and see Tyson.

Tyson a terrier mix at shelter

Team Tyson

Weeks passed and Tyson was not getting what he needed from us at the shelter. Many of the volunteers were afraid to walk him because of his size, strength, and lack of obedience. On my shifts I often noticed the volunteers favoring the other dogs and leaving Tyson to watch from his kennel, receiving hardly if any interaction at all. A few of us on the adoption team started what we named ‘Team Tyson’.

A team of volunteers unafraid and committed to Tyson’s rehabilitation and journey to finding a forever home. We met with a local trainer to help us, help Tyson. Now let me be clear in stating that had Tyson not been the size he was, he would have been easier to handle and less intimidating for volunteers. He displayed pretty normal puppy behavior, jumping, love bites, not wanting to go back in his kennel etc. But it was his large, strong stature that made him overwhelming, not the dog himself. This is no fault of the dogs but large dogs often feel the brunt of fault for their size and strength. Team Tyson seemed to disintegrate pretty quickly and the communication between team members suffered greatly which meant, so did Tyson.

I had inquired multiple times with a member (who was directly in touch with the trainer) in regards to scheduled training sessions as I had wanted to be present. I felt that offering as much of myself and my time to Tyson was going to be the most effective and most productive to his journey.  I had never received an answer and to my knowledge only one session with the trainer took place. Another member from the board started to show up to walk Tyson and would often comment on how well Tyson was on the leash making it hard for him to understand why Tyson wasn’t receiving his fair share of walks from other volunteers.

After a couple of months Tyson wasn’t showing signs of much progression but could you blame him? Animals must exert excess energy just like we need to. When we’re stressed or anxious, movement is one of the most productive ways to rebalance and find clarity.  Animals need the same and most shelter animals only get interaction and outdoor time 3x per day some get none at all. This does not encourage a content state of being or build a foundation for positive growth.

Tyson’s Fate

It was mid to late June of last year (2016) I was readying myself and my camera equipment for my shift at the shelter. Each weekend we would be given an updated list of current animals in the shelters care, whether or not they were ready for adoption, any medical notes and so on.  I was told I would just have one canine and a handful of felines leaving me to wonder, where was Tyson? I asked just that “where is Tyson?” “he’s not with us” was the response I was given.

Still unsure and thinking he may have been transferred to another shelter, something very common among shelters to help animals get adoption interest, but even if this was the case I should have been notified beforehand as I was on the adoption team. The whole adoption team should consult before anyone makes a final decision. I asked again as I was actually confused by such a vague response. “Where’s Tyson?” a couple more times of “he’s not with us” and finally “he’s no longer with us”. I grasped for my breath hoping it didn’t mean what I felt it meant. But it did. Tyson was euthanized or in reality, he was murdered.  Apparently, Tyson was out on a walk with one of his favorite volunteers when he bit down on his hand and didn’t let up with ease.

That caused Tyson, a 10 month old puppy, his life. The alternative would have been to quarantine him for 10 days (another system set up to fail the animals) which means he would have not been allowed to leave his kennel for 10 days, no exercise. In that time arrangements could have been made for him to be transported to a different facility more equipped to handle Tyson’s needs or create an actual program for Tyson’s rehab like was outlined in the beginning.  I was told a couple of calls were made, one of which couldn’t accommodate Tyson at that particular time. So the decision was made by someone to use the convenient alternative. And when I was told he was no longer with us it was followed up with “and this is not public knowledge at this time” which I have since found to be illegal but that’s a point for a different post.

A plethora of emotions came over me. I was completely heartbroken for one, angry for two, and felt helpless for three. Helpless because if given the opportunity I would have spent hours calling places to inquire about the best route to go with Tyson and/or the potential of moving him to another shelter or even sanctuary.  But it was all too late at that point and Tyson was gone. It haunted me for a while that I broke my promise to the woman who trusted us with Tyson’s life and to Tyson himself. And she did come back while Tyson was still alive and donated $10.00 of her hard-earned money.

I think of what could have been all the time, the life that could still be here. Tyson never had the chance to play with another dog but would always get so excited when one of his own kind trotted passed his kennel. I remember when he started to feel at home at the shelter, I would walk by his kennel and he would be laying on his bed with his favorite ball. I imagined that’s what he would look like one day on his own special bed in his forever home. I pray that he left knowing he was so incredibly loved and if nothing else he left behind his purpose. One that I chose to carry on.

Moving Forward

I chose to leave my position at the shelter though it was not easy leaving behind my friends, I felt called to do work beyond the local rescue. I did sit down with the president of the organization to discuss my experience and ultimately my decision to resign. While it was civil and we shared a connection we did not see eye to eye on Tyson’s tale. It was her belief that humans come first, mine was that it is not up to us to choose and a bite should not end a life.

I have since begun building ‘Bears Mission’ in which I network between high kill shelters and no kill rescues. In my spare time I communicate between organizations and people to aid in an animals safety. For instance you may have seen my post on the at risk dog, Audrey who was given 72 hours to find rescue or get adopted before she was euthanized. She had been in the shelter for over 6 months (which is a really long holding time for high kill shelters) when the shelter was at max capacity. She was rescued hours before scheduled euthanasia which is a huge victory. There are also many instances where a dog is ‘rescue only’ meaning they can only be saved by a legitimate rescue organization not an adopter.

Usually because they have demonstrated some sort of behavior during their temperament test that makes them available to rescues only. This can be anything from lack of interest in humans, tail between legs, food guarding or others. Again these implemented tests fail the animals at great costs. There are also animals entering shelters daily that need extensive medical care in which case donors are urged to pledge an amount of money to aid in that animals care + recovery. I voluntarily add these pledges together and send totals to rescues to encourage the organization to save the animal with the safety of financial backing. Then you have to contact everyone that pledged to make sure they honor their donation and that it goes to the correct organization.  It doesn’t always go smoothly but its a means to keep it all going!

I may not have a sanctuary or transport service just yet but I have a mission. A mission I feel honored to embark on and uphold. It’s my way to honor Tyson’s life and all of those who crossed my path, and altered my life. Bear may have sparked the inspiration for the mission but it has grown to embody the message of every animal to grace my life. I will forever be on Team Tyson.  ♥

Tyson Terrier Mix with Favorite Ball at Shelter

If you made it this far, thank you so much for sticking around to read one of the greatest matters of my heart. It was not easy for me to write about sweet Tyson but I’ve always wanted to tell his story to bring him some sort of justice. He meant something to me, like they all do. 

As always, thank you for joining me here ♥

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Victoria Lise Rainbow Over Dirt Road in Crested Butte

Somewhere Over the Rainbow in Crested Butte, Colorado

Scenes from a fairytale are often what we are graced with living on the Western Slope of Colorado. Mid-summers usually bring afternoon rain, thunderstorms, and rainbows that make even the long time locals pause in wondrous awe. In the nearly 10 years I’ve been around this area, natures magnificence  has never ceased to amaze me and I am certain that’s what has kept me here.
Nature has always been a vital ingredient to my well-being, a nurturer and constant guide through any and all times. I haven’t found words adequate enough to describe in whole my relationship with nature, the outdoors, and animals. Its something felt through the heart language. But because I receive many questions about why I would choose to live where I do I thought I would answer the most frequently asked questions below. ♥

Victoria Lise Rainbow Over Dirt Road in Crested Butte

Q: Do you ever feel lost living so remotely and far off from family?

A: I have definitely experienced moments where I wished my family were in closer distance (the majority of my family is 1,800 miles away) and times where I’ve felt far away from the ‘real world’. Crested Butte is often referred to as never, never land and can certainly feel worlds away from life outside of the 9 block town with no stop lights, and a speed limit of 15 mph (that’s just scratching the surface).  However, in coming here (at the ripe age of 18) I had found myself and found my home. I had found a sense of belonging within myself as well as in the indescribable nature surrounding me. So I would say I was lost upon arrival but found my true north during the adventure.

Victoria Lise Rainbow Overtop Mt. Crested Butte

Q: Why would you choose to live there knowing the extreme winter conditions? 

A: To be honest this question always stumps me a little. Before moving here I would have told you I hated the cold, I was moving somewhere warm, and I despised winter. Let me tell you how glad I am that I did not allow those thoughts to keep me from experiencing life outside of what I knew. I gained a great appreciation for winter even started to enjoy it and get excited when the snow began to fall. The environment and lifestyle were so entirely different from where I was raised that I immersed myself in learning not only how to survive (ugg boots weren’t going to cut it) but learn about the weather conditions, patterns, potential dangers, and radical snow fun. It was like passing someone by in the school hallway whom you didn’t really care for then suddenly finding intrigue and eventually growing a bond with depth. And had I passed up winter I would have missed summer, fall and well, rainbow season! So I shovel, ski, and snowboard my way through winter to get me through to the wildflowers and rainbows.

Victoria Lise Rainbow Season in Crested Butte

Q: What do you like most about where you live? 

A: Access to acreage by the millions of wide open space right outside our door. That’s always first to come to mind. And something that would be painful to give up If I had to. Also, the extreme lifestyle is something that has grown on me. I would have never climbed a mountain over 13,000 ft in Delaware or shoveled 300+ inches of snow from windows and roofs. Those happenings made me stronger, more capable, and forced me to recognize that I was both. I could say much more but something I just can’t leave out are the dirt roads. If we’ve been friends on Instagram for a while or even WordPress you may have picked up on my interest in photographing western Americana roads, particularly, the unpaved single tracks.

Victoria Lise Black Crow Flies Under Vibrant Rainbow

Q: Does the wildlife scare you? “Lions, tigers, & bears, Oh My!”

A: No, not so far at least. We’ve had a bear on our deck before, stumbled upon a huge white rocky mountain goat atop Gothic mountain, walked with foxes, crossed paths with Elk and big horn sheep and had coyotes come near our fire. I’ve never felt extreme fear just startled at first and a little nervous until I recollect my breath. I am sure I would feel more than a little nervous should I run into a moose, mama bear, or mountain lion face to-face. That may change things up but as we all or most of us know that would (or very likely could) make the situation turn sour rather quickly.

Victoria Lise Rainbow Season Bird flies Under Dark Skies

Q: Is there a mall close by?

A: Close by as in 4 hours? I believe that is how close by an actual shopping mall is to Crested Butte. That is completely shocking to some but I don’t really mind. Having been so removed from consumerism here (we have one street with stores, no franchises and most sell outdoorwear) made it so I often don’t enjoy shopping in stores should I have the chance. However, should I need or want something my go to online sites are Amazon and Revolve.

Victoria Lise Rainbow Glows Over Crested Butte

I hope you all enjoyed this series of photos as well as FAQ & A’s. I certainly enjoyed capturing the transformation of light, and sky as well as answering long-standing questions! Feel free to keep them coming!

As always, thank you for joining me here! I appreciate you all so much ♥

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Victoria Lise Fireworks Wilmington Delaware

Fear, Fireworks, and Fun

Hi my friends, I’ve missed you! Please don’t mind my catching up on all of your fun adventures over the last couple of weeks (aka blowing up your spot). I had no intention of letting so much time pass but life isn’t always predictable now is it? I flew back east to my place of origin (Delaware) on a last-minute trip to be with my dad after another heart surgery.  While I could download the WordPress app (there is such a thing, yes?) well, my phones storage is maxed out leaving me no extra room to download it anyhow.

Victoria Lise East Coast Orange Sunset

My dad was in the intensive care unit for a racing heartbeat. Just 6 months ago he had two separate surgeries after experiencing a two-day heart attack over the Christmas holiday. The damage done to his heart from Decembers attack left him in need of a dual valve defibrillator. Basically it will shock his heart should it stop and slow it down next time it beats to rapidly.  It also sends readings to his doctors so they are frequently in the know about whats going on and alerted should any changes or concerns arise. I was definitely alarmed by the whole ordeal but my dad handled everything like the champ he is.  And the doctors, nurses, and staff were really wonderful in all regards. They answered my ongoing list of questions, explained how the ED operates, and encouraged my dad on his path to recovery.  I usually lean toward holistic medicine unless western medicine proves absolutely necessary as it was in this situation. So, it may go without saying but, I am beyond grateful for western medicine and the technology allowing my dad to live a quality life.  It truly is a game, I mean, life changer.

Victoria Lise Fireworks Wilmington Delaware

So other than doctors appointments, nurses home visits and all things post-op care, I did get the opportunity to soak up a few warm summer sunsets, catch a firework show, visit the river I spent many hours rowing on, meet my 6 week old cousin who is everything good and right in this world, and spend quality time with members of my very large family. It was everything I needed during a time of increased uncertainty and vulnerability. It is wild how an instant can alter not only ones perspective but ones life. I was reminded of our incredible resiliency but also just how fragile we are. The duality of all things.

Victoria Lise Hometown Wilmington Delaware City Line

Two days after my return from Delaware, my mom and her partner ventured out to Colorado for a mini vacation. We went boating on Blue Mesa Reservoir, drove over the slate river on Daisy Pass, watched the full buck moon rise over the West Elk mountains, road our bikes or ‘townies’ as they’re called here, explored local cuisine and most importantly enjoyed each others company.  When living long distance from family it can be bittersweet to say so long not knowing exactly when you will see each other again. Time flies and before you know it the moment becomes a memory. However, there is nothing sweeter than time well spent with those well-loved. Quality not quantity, right?

Victoria Lise On Bike In CB Colorado

So here I am excited to get back at it and reconnect with all of you here!
 I would love for you to share with me your favorite blogs/sites! Who/what inspires you?! Art, poetry, food, fashion, photography, adventure, self-exploration, advocacy, any kind of expressionism, whatever it is, please feel free to share with me below ♥
How great is it that this platform allows so many brilliant, kind-hearted, fascinating individuals and ideas to come together?!
As always, thank you for joining me here xo

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Victoria Lise Magic Hour Golden Sun over Gunnison Valley Flowers

Magic Hour In The Gunnison Valley

The summer solstice kept us outside for hours. Driving along old dirt roads scoping the best spots to pause and capture a part of summers essence in Colorado’s high country. Way, way up in the mountains as they say on our 1 of 2 local radio stations (lol). It does often feel like a were living inside an ongoing movie scene perhaps from the ‘wild west’ days or a page from a John Muir book. Though we have our daily tasks, responsibilities, and typical frustrations, one look out a window or walk outside reminds us of the epic blessing it is to live here. Many local people will tell you winter brought them here but summer kept them. So it was for me. While my nonexistent appreciation for winter grew, had these extraordinary summers not arrived after 8 months of 250+ inches of snow, I probably would not still be living here.  The enchantment of the Gunnison Valley landscape has kept me wrapped in its wondrous, ethereal spell for nearly 10 years now. Maybe you too, will see why ♥

Victoria Lise Gunnison Valley Field of FlowersVictoria Lise Magic Hour Gunnison Valley Dirt RoadVictoria Lise Flowers in Foreground of Mountainous LandscapeVictoria Lise Magic Hour on Indian Paintbrush Wildflowers

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains.” John Muir

Victoria Lise Magic Hour Sunset Over Mt. Crested ButteVictoria Lise Magic Hour Sunset Over Wildflowers and Red MountainVictoria Lise Magic Hour Sunset Over Field of Mules Ear Sunflowers

“Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.” – John Muir

Victoria Lise Magic Hour Golden Sun over Gunnison Valley FlowersVictoria Lise Magic Hour Sunset Illuminates Diverse WildflowersVictoria Lise Magic Hour Sets Over Golden Mules Ear Sunflowers

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

Victoria Lise Magic Hour Shades of Light Over Sage FieldVictoria Lise Magic Hour Over Anthracite RangeVictoria Lise Magic Hour in Gunnison County Sunset Over Anthracites and Sunflowers

Our paths crossed with only two other explorers. Riding in the dust and chasing the magic hour. We truly got far more than we expected or even hoped for. The setting sun quite literally provided us with the grandeur of the golden hour. Fields of wild Iris, Rocky Mountain Columbine, Paintbrush, Mules Ear, Fragrant sage brush, Scarlet Gillias, and those with names I’ve yet to learn blanketed the fertile earth.

Victoria Lise Magic Hour in Gunnison County Macro Flowers and Golden SunVictoria Lise Magic Hour over Anthracite Range

The sky changed colors above the Anthracite Range showing off the lingering winter snow. But it wasn’t long before the mosquitos came out with a wicked vengeance which we could only endure for 10 minutes or so without proper gear.

Victoria Lise Magic Hour Pink Skies over AnthracitesVictoria Lise Magic Hour Gunnison County Red Sunset over Anthracites

As the saying goes ‘If you’re lucky enough to live in the mountains, you’re lucky enough’. I’d say because the mountains, well, they never stop calling.
Wishing you all a wondrous, light-filled week ahead! 
Thank you all so much for joining me here x
I hope you all enjoyed this series of photos, I was so excited to share them with you all! To see more of my photography go to Behind The Lens or join me on Pinterest | Instagram