Twofer Tuesday: known and unknown

Funny how something is an instant “known” and then, upon closer examination, can turn into an “unknown.” For example, this insect I photographed back in August while visiting the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Clearly a grasshopper, right?

August 20, 2021

Well, I just went down the proverbial rabbit hole in an attempt to more specifically identify the type of grasshopper. I’m admitting defeat. Apparently, there are over 100 species of grasshopper in Colorado and to my eye, the markings on their legs are quite similar.

On the other hand, this immediately “unknown” insect was quickly identified via an online search as Tetraopes texanus, otherwise known as the Milkweed Beetle. Oddly, this particular beetle is not on a milkweed (and no, I’m not even going to try to identify this plant).

On this cold, damp, gray November afternoon, I’m basking in the warm memories of that visit to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge where keen eyes reap intriguing rewards.

 

Thankful Thursday

It might be nearing the end of the day, but it’s never too late to share gratitude. Today I am grateful for a productive critique session with my critique group last night.  As always, the Writing Roosters had good insights and offered suggestions that will make my beloved novel shine.

And to celebrate, here’s a bouquet of wild asters  that remind me of a fireworks display. I photographed them last summer as we hiked the Oh Be Joyful Trail.

July 15, 2021

Oh, to be joyful and filled with gratitude.

Sunday Confessional: we were lucky

Last week we drove two hours from home for a two-night camping trip in the White River National Forest. We hoped to get a first-come-first-served site at Cataract Creek Campground, in large part because of the multiple hiking trails there. Minutes before we arrived at our destination Zippy exclaimed, “Oh, that’s not good!”

He’d just realized he hadn’t brought any shoes. All he had were the Tevas on his feet. He didn’t want to drive back to Silverthorne and shop for shoes because he didn’t want us to miss out on getting one of the five camping sites. So, we went ahead and were fortunate to claim a great site. This was our view:

Misty morning on September 29, 2021

After getting settled at our site, we hiked around Lower Cataract Lake where we saw the moose. It was about a three-mile hike, mostly level, and comfort-wise, Zippy had no problem wearing Tevas (with socks). The biggest issue was the worn-out velcro on the straps that required frequent readjustment.

September 27, 2021

The next day’s hike, however, would present more of a challenge. We’d planned on hiking to Eaglesmere Lake which was about an eight-mile round trip from the campground with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet. Zippy insisted he could do the hike so we got ready by late morning and headed out . . .at the same time it began to sprinkle. The rain wasn’t a problem because the early part of the hike was in the forest. So on we went, me lagging behind Zippy and Emma because I couldn’t refrain from taking photos. Everywhere I looked there was yet another beautiful sight.

September 28, 2021

We encountered a couple from the campground as they headed back. They hadn’t hiked to the lake but turned around partway there. We chatted and continued on. And on and on and on as it sprinkled rain, off and on.

“How much farther?” I asked.

That’s when Zippy remembered that he’d printed out trail info before leaving home but had forgotten it in the van. Cool. We’d also neglected to use his phone to take a photo of the trail map at the trailhead. I’d photographed one the day before with the camera and that image was now buried below many, many photos I’d taken since. Who had time to look for that? Zippy did remember the info saying that there was a downhill before the lakes.

Eventually, Zippy had had enough and sat on a log. (He didn’t tell me until later, but the pad of his foot was blistered below the skin.) I, however, was determined to make it to that damned lake. We’d come so far and I wasn’t going to miss out.  So we divvied up the trail mix, I replenished his water bottle from my camel back, and we synchronized watches, noting the time I left. Zippy said he and Emma would wait there 20 minutes. What wasn’t discussed was whether he’d head back to the campground or follow me.

On I went, hiking fast and hoping each curve in the trail would reveal the downhill taking me to the lake. As I cruised along, I came upon a sign post. I checked it out (but didn’t photograph it then ) and continued to bear left where there was a visible decline on the trail.

Soon, I heard water and figured the lake must be fed by a waterfall. Down, down, down I went until . . . a creek. No lake and no sign of the trail. It’d just ended. I stood there on the rocky outcropping above the water, exclaiming WTF over and over, as I thought about how I’d just given myself a whole lot more of uphill. There was nothing to do but turn around and head back up the trail. Several minutes later, there were Zippy and Emma coming to find me! I was very happy to see them. Zippy wasn’t sure which way I’d gone at that sign post but decided it was correct to bear left. He started to worry I’d gone to the right but then saw my wide toe-box footprints and knew he was on the right track.

I told him I’d since realized I should’ve turned at the sign post, but we both agreed there was nothing on the sign to indicate Eaglesmere Lake. Wrong! When we got back to the sign, Zippy noticed the faded white arrow pointing to the right. Aargh! I still wasn’t willing to give up on seeing that damned lake so we went up the trail a ways until it was obvious there was still a long way to go. They sky was darker and thunder had been rumbling off and on throughout the afternoon so it seemed extremely foolish to push on. We agreed we’d come back next fall and do the correct hike.

We hiked miles back to the campground, rain pelting us. The one and only smart thing we’d done was bring rain coats and gloves. Emma, however, got water in her ears and had to shake now and again. By the time we made it back, Zippy and Emma had gone about nine miles and I’d hiked ten. We were wet, muddy, and cold. But in light of all the stupid things we’d done, we were very lucky that was the extent of our discomfort.

We’ll see Eaglesmere Lake in 2022!

Taking refuge

The love of Nature, again, helps us greatly to keep ourselves free from those mean and petty cares which interfere so much with calm and peace of mind.
~ SirJohn Lubbock

Wild Aster along Oh Be Joyful Trail.  July 15, 2021

Oh Be Joyful

We did end up going to Crested Butte last week and were blessed with rain almost the entire four-hour drive. That much-needed precipitation cleared the air of wildfire smoke and the drive over Cottonwood Pass was absolutely delicious. Green-green-green with a smattering of wildflowers.

We spent one of our nights at Oh Be Joyful Campground and hiked partway in on the Oh Be Joyful Trail. Here’s a taste of what we saw:

July 15, 2021

The wild asters were more abundant than we’d ever experienced, but this wild rose also caught my eye.

Zippy and Emma

The five-mile afternoon hike was balm for our souls. And after running three-plus miles that morning, we eagerly welcomed bedtime.

Especially the short-legged doggo who  could barely keep her eyes open after we returned to camp.

A truly joyous experience.

Hot on the trails

This morning we opted to take our daily walk on the trails and headed out when it was a mild 70 degrees. I didn’t bring water because I didn’t think we’d need it. And at the time Zippy took this photo with his phone, Emma was still handling the heat pretty well. (Telltale sign: tongue flopped forward rather than dangling to the side.)

Emma and a clump of Blanketflower in Hayden Green Mountain Park. June 22, 2021

But by the time we’d walked about 2.5 miles and stepped back on a neighborhood street, Emma was done. She collapsed in a full sploot on a patch of shaded pavement. She absolutely did not want to move and I thought I might have to carry her home. There was precedent for this behavior and I most definitely should’ve known better.

Fortunately, the three of us did make it home without having to take turns carrying each other and, once inside, I immediately set my water holster next to my trail shoes. A pointed reminder in case I somehow (again) forget her overheated sploot. I owe it to my sweet little doggo to keep her hydrated.

A perfect maiden voyage

We returned yesterday evening from our trip to John Martin Reservoir State Park.  We had a glorious time and I highly recommend visiting this park. We spent zero time at the reservoir, but explored Lake Hasty which is below the dam and also hiked the Red Shin Trail. Yesterday morning I was up at 7:00 (quite early for me) and ran around the lake (and then again in reverse). The sun was shining as the geese honked and the ducks quacked and paddled. I grinned pretty much the whole three miles.

When we’d first arrived at tree-filled Lake Hasty Campground late afternoon on Wednesday, a couple Turkey Vultures casually flew overhead. Then my attention-deficit kicked in because there were SO MANY BIRD SOUNDS. I immediately got out my binoculars and Sibley, but as soon as I began to focus on one bird/sound I was distracted by another. After a while, I began feeling overwhelmed by my ignorance ** and Zippy suggested a walk around the lake. Good call. The light was incredible and I just drank it all in.

Lake Hasty

Tons of Cliff Swallows were swooping above the water and along the shoreline. I took loads of photos, many of which were photo-bombed by swallows.

Red-winged Blackbird & Mourning Dove plus fly-by Cliff Swallow

We eventually made our way back to the campsite as a few vultures floated overhead. Then I noticed something: vultures in the trees around our site. We watched in awe as one after another floated down and into the trees, their wings sounding like crinkling paper as they touched the branches.

I count eleven Turkey Vultures in this photo.

About twenty vultures roosted above us all night. We felt honored. The next evening, we returned from our lake excursion in time for me to set up the camera and tripod. We waited quietly. Two vultures settled into a tree next to us and then . . . nothing. About three minutes later, they took off. Guess they headed off to find out where the rest of the gang was roosting. Won’t lie, it was a disappointment. But expecting two nights of turkey vultures might be a bit greedy. Best to share the wealth.

** I spent the final morning focusing on birds — sights and sounds — without worrying about the camera, and made progress. I identified a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle variation) and felt immense satisfaction. I’m now going through my many poor quality photos of ducks on the water, seeing if there’s enough detail for identifications. I’ve found a Horned Grebe and a Blue-winged Teal. Woot!

Thankful Thursday: pal + pelican edition

I spent the afternoon with friend Laura at Barr Lake State Park which I’d never visited, despite living in Colorado for 24 years. It’s embarrassing, really. Tons o’ birds hang out there and I didn’t know about the park until Laura asked if I’d ever been there.

We remedied the situation today and it was a glorious three hours. I took gobs of photos, some of which I’ve already deleted. Many, though, make me smile.

American White Pelican

Throughout the afternoon, Laura wondered about the bump/horn on the pelicans’ bills. I finally took the time to pull out my little bird guide and then read this to Laura: Breeding adults also usually grown a flat fibrous plate in the middle of the upper mandible. The plate drops off after eggs have hatched.

Laura’s response: “But why? Why do they grow that?”

Well, I just did a little online research and still have no idea why breeding adults temporarily grow what appears to be enormous warts on their bills. However, that lack of knowledge in no way detracts from my gratitude for walking and talking with my friend on a beautiful, sunshine-y spring day in a bird wonderland.

Twofer Tuesday: tuckered hikers edition

Emma and I just returned from a sunny and warm excursion in the open space. We hiked up the mountain as fast as we could and then ran down. Well, we did some running. My short-legged companion doesn’t like the heat and slowed to a walk multiple times. At one point, she even did her signature “goin’ on strike” move.  She stopped and dug in to pull the leash taut, then flopped on her belly with pink tongue hanging out.

I’d already offered her water from my cupped hand when we were at the top of the mountain, which she refused. So when she was on her belly, I tried another approach: pouring water in front of her. Instead of lapping it with her tongue, she ignored it. Silly dog, refusing libation when hot and thirsty. Well, I wasn’t willing to take no for an answer and pried her jaws open to pour water in her mouth.

Worked like a charm! Emma got up and ran almost the entire way back to the street. Such a good doggo.

(Note: Zippy took the photo with the camera still set for shooting the Brown Creeper in low light even though Emma and I were in bright, bright light. I salvaged the photo via a filter. Artsy, no?)

Wild bouquet

Yesterday I felt optimistic and filled with anticipation of good things to come. Today? Those glorious feelings have already faded and I’m in need of a boost. So I went to my photo archives in search of wildflowers.

August 28, 2019

These are Parry’s Primrose, spotted while hiking to Square Top Lakes with friend and critique partner, Laura Perdew. That was a very good day and these lovely little flowers are a reminder there are more good days in my future.