wild gift from turkey
Despite the scattered evidence of beavers’ handiwork, I recall the tranquility of this spot. We didn’t see any beavers that day, but their lodge is visible where the water comes to a V at the center of this not-great photo.
That was a good hike and beautiful day with Zippy and Emma, and I’m grateful for the memories.
It’s snowy and gray out my window, so I went in search of a little color and warmth. Enter the Queen’s Crown.
I photographed this on a hike at Square Top Lakes and am warmed by its colorful and intricate self. My identification research tells me that the succulent leaves turn red in the fall and you can just see the tips beginning to turn. This wildflower is very lovely, but I’m glad we’re currently headed into spring rather than autumn.
We cut our neighborhood walk short today due to rapidly falling temperatures. When we left the house, it was about 39 degrees. Approximately ten minutes later, it was 28 degrees. At least, that’s what Zippy’s phone said when he checked it. As for me, I couldn’t see much of anything because my cold nose was buried in my neck gator which then caused my glasses to steam up. All this to say, I’m craving warmer weather right now and making due with looking at summer hiking photos.
Here’s some flora and fauna from a Square Top Lakes hike:
Ahh, I can practically feel that sunshine on my shoulders.
Here’s a little color for anyone who needs it right now. These photos were taken on July 15, 2021, on the Oh Be Joyful Trail outside Crested Butte, Colorado. I don’t have the energy to research the first two species (so if anyone knows, educate me :)).
This last is Fireweed which I first grew to love while living in Alaska.
Another hiker was crouched next to a patch of them along the trail that day, photographing the blooms with the biggest smile on her face. “This is my favorite flower of all,” she said.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant. ~ Emily Dickinson
Was Emily the original spin doctor?
Nature sets the stage
with perfect purple placement
take a bow, Mother
Some days are a slog
each step a muddy struggle
bull-headed or not
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?
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.
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.
Oh, to be joyful and filled with gratitude.
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:
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.
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.
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. The 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!
against aerial gliding
or good policy?
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
rock sculpture and trail marker
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:
The wild asters were more abundant than we’d ever experienced, but this wild rose also caught my eye.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!