Saturday, June 22, 2013

Colorado Fires

Well, it seems like our area of Colorado is burning up. We are in no danger, but many of our favorite hiking spots have been destroyed.

If you go back and look at the May 18th and June 1st blogs (THIS is Colorado), you will see the region that is burning in the West Fork fire.  There is a huge amount of beetle-killed timber throughout the area, and once it catches fire there is little that can be done.  The single-digit humidity and relentless winds add to the problem.

This fire has consumed over 30,000 acres, and the town of South Fork was thought to be lost until a wind shift saved it. The entire town has been evacuated and we saw a constant stream of cars and RV's heading out of the area yesterday.

Here is the sunset view from our trailer.  That is not a cloud, it is smoke.

West Fork Fire
We hope that Mother Nature gives the firefighters a much needed break and that this fire is brought under control soon.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Camping Groundhog Park

Teri and I decided to take an overnight camping trip to a place that we'd visited last year, Groundhog Park. There are a couple of issues with that name though.  There are no Groundhogs in the area, and it isn't really a "Park" in the usual sense. In the Rocky Mountains, "Park" usually refers to a large open meadow often caused by a glacier melting.  This particular park is in the Rio Grande National Forest and is up at about 11,000 feet elevation.

We didn't see another soul the entire time we were there, but we did see plenty of birds, squirrels (groundhogs?) and other critters.

We took our backpacking tent and sleeping bags along with a few creature comforts like pillows and lawn chairs. Once we found a good place to pitch the tent we headed off on a nice hike alongside a creek.  Teri mentioned that the creek looked like a good place for moose. More on that later.

Find a level spot for the tent. Learned this the hard way...
Tent is up and ready to go.
After our hike we sat out and read.  At some point I looked over in the direction of the creek and thought that I saw a big brown cow standing there.  Upon closer inspection it was a bull Moose browsing the willows.  Further back we saw two more moose.  Over the course of the evening the moose moved around and fed in the wet area, with the bull getting as close as about 100 yards.
Bull Moose
After a cold (30 degree) night, we got up a saw that our bull Moose was at it again. As he browsed we noticed a pair of Elk enter the area and start feeding. One of the Elk decided to saunter over to where the Moose was feeding and I told Teri that this might get interesting.  Sure enough, the Moose wasn't particularly interested in sharing his spot, and proceeded to "escort" the Elk several hundred yards out of the area.

Hello Elk
Goodbye Elk!!
As we were leaving, a Clark's Nutcracker decided to perch in a tree and see us off.

Clark's Nutcracker

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Headlights and Caves

One of the bird watching memory aids that I learned long ago was "Cave Swallows need headlights but don't have them, and Cliff Swallows have headlights but don't need them".  It is a way to remember which of these similar looking swallows sports the bright white spot on its forehead.

I was reminded of this today as Teri and I worked at the Refuge Manager's residence.  She has a healthy population of Cliff Swallows nesting under the eaves of her home, and we were "talked at" all morning.

I got a few pictures of these guys, and check out their headlights!!

Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow in Nests

Saturday, June 1, 2013

THIS is Colorado!

My new camera came in this week so we headed out to the Big Meadows Reservoir to do a little hiking and try out my new camera.

I don’t know about you but when I think of Colorado I visualize beautiful, clear, trout filled streams.  This area is exactly my idea of Colorado.

We even ran into a little snow!
The entire trail is a little over 19 miles but today we hiked up 3 miles then turned around and hiked around the other side of the reservoir. 
This is where we turned around.
This beautiful area is only about 45 minutes from where we are staying.  We hope to hike the entire trail before we leave the area.