In September we took our first trip to the magical Piney River Ranch located just north of Vail Village, for Emmaly & Isaiah’s fall Vail engagement photos and we had an unforgettable experience in our short time there! We traveled up the bumpy road to the ranch and albeit only a 10 mile stretch, it took us nearly an hour to traverse because of the washboard roads and large potholes. But wow, the views were well worth the time it took to trek out there!

Golden Aspens lined the valley around Piney Lake, nestled at the foot of the majestic Gore Range within the White River National Forest. The trees were in peak color, it was really the perfect time to visit. The fall scenery was breathtaking, with the golden aspens reflecting in the still waters of the lake. As we were scouting the area, we noticed traces of moose footprints that stopped us in our tracks; they were large imprints in the mud and not easily mistaken.

We were joined by their two pups and had only just begun their session when it started to sprinkle. We were caught off guard even though sweeping afternoon mountain storms are pretty common in Colorado and hoped it would pass quickly. The sprinkle turned into a downpour and we quickly ran in the rain to the waterfront where we discovered not one but two rainbows arched across the lake! Fortunately, we were working with a spontaneous couple who embraced this downpour in all of Piney’s natural beauty.

Emmaly & Isaiah were completely drenched but were still laughing and smiling amidst this crazy whirlwind of weather as they embraced in this surreal yet stunning fall rainstorm. Undeniably, Colorado’s backcountry wilderness has a special aura to it and was showing off in all its glory. We had little idea what other kind of surprises Piney had in store for us as we continued to explore this beautiful mountain retreat along the lake. As the rain dissipated, Emmaly and Isaiah changed out of their wet clothes and we continued on our way.

We were just getting back into the swing of portraits when we had an unexpected visitor. Few things would shock us more than a moose joining the session, but that’s exactly what happened only minutes after Isaiah recounted a story of being charged by one when he was younger. We were stunned and nearly shaking in our boots when the massive bull moose trotted out from behind the trees and into the water. Let us just say that a “trot” for a moose was still much too fast for our comfort level! We all fell silent as he waded into the water and began to take a few sips.

He turned to look at us and we froze in fear, fighting the urge to run. After a captivating moment of awe, we were lucky enough to capture a few frames of this majestic creature as he moved through Piney Lake. We later found out that he was named Monty by the ranch and frequented the area. I don’t think we could’ve asked for this moose to join us in a more beautiful setting or to be in a better spot when it happened!

Even after all of that, we were still able to cap off their fall Vail engagement session with a canoe ride on Piney Lake at dusk. It was easily the most eventful fall Vail engagement session we’ve had to date, but surely one we won’t soon forget. We can’t wait to see what their summer wedding has in store at Wild Basin Lodge!