Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Bears By the Cottage Door

Welded bear sculpture and shed door

Welded bear sculpture and shed door

Construction on the east side of 30th Street at Pearl has made the walk from my house down to Walnut Plaza a bit of an obstacle course. So I’ve been doing a bit of “urban bushwhacking” instead–going off sidewalks, out the backs of parking lots, sight-seeing in the industrial mini-districts of near-east Boulder.

Today I followed the train tracks south from Valmont. These bears are sitting beside the tracks on the south side of pearl, in a lot I tend to think of as “The Gay Stoner Shipping Yard.” There used to be a pale blue shipping container sitting here, labeled with low-tech block stick-on letters that spelled out something like “GA STONE” or “GAL STONE COMPANY.” Some wit with a paint can made the obvious alteration.

The shipping container is gone, along with whatever company it pertained to. Now there are bears: Welded iron bears with glass stone eyes. And a bunch of free-standing shed and yard equipment that may have escaped from the Sutherlands yard or perhaps from somewhere more exotic.

Bears! One of the many wonders brought to you by Feet!

Welded bear sculpture

Welded bear sculpture

Bear Visits Our Foothills Home

Black Bear eating birdseed in Morrison/Evergreen, CO

Black Bear eating birdseed in Morrison/Evergreen, CO

Thursday morning at 2:00 am, my wife pushed me out of bed when one of our bird feeders crashed to the ground.  I am a deep sleeper and didn’t hear a thing, but I dutifully got up and walked groggily to the window to see what was up.

I found a bear crouching on the edge of our patio scooping up all the bird seed.  With my heart racing and adrenaline pumping I checked the sliding glass doors which we sometimes leave open.  Fortunately, they were closed and the bear didn’t seem to care about me.  Then I went for the camera and was able to get this photo before my wife told me to stop taking pictures and get that bear out of her garden…

I am not much of a match for a 400 lb black bear, but I grabbed the first thing I could find – a broom – and started to open the sliding glass door.  Fortunately, the bear was more afraid of me than I was of him.  He hopped over the wall and climbed a big pine tree about fifteen feet away.

By this time, my whole house was up and gawking.  One of our dogs got out and was racing around our deck barking her head off (fortunately, she never got close to the bear).  We all watched the bear watch us from the tree for the next 15 minutes.  It kept snorting and huffing – I assume to warn us to stay away – although we didn’t need much encouragement.  I kept my eyes on him while I made a few short dashes out to collect our bird feeders and sweep away the remains of the bird seed that he had started eating.

Finally, he climbed down the tree and ambled away.

We have lived in the foothills of Conifer and Evergreen for fifteen years and have seen several bears and even a mountain lion.  We just returned from a trip to Alaska where we saw lots of black bears and brown bears eating salmon, but this one was a little close to home.  I haven’t started looking for a realtor yet, but you never know.

Bergen Peak Trail – Elk Meadow Park Open Space

We enjoyed an excellent hike today at the Elk Meadow Park, a Jefferson County Open Space Park.  Although the park was a little busy, we found that the higher we went, the fewer people we saw.  We ended up hiking a total of seven miles in about three hours.

The snow and rain over the last couple of months has really done its job.  Everywhere we looked was green and moist.  It almost makes you wonder if you are still in Colorado.  We saw a number of wildflowers and flowering bushes.  Lots of yellow, white and blue to highlight the green.  In addition, we were amazed by the amount of white quartz.  Some huge specimens that almost glowed.  In some places, it looked like snow was still holding on the hill.  One of the most beautiful pieces of quartz that I found had veins of red and even some of the white quartz looked a little cloudy with the red.

And the views were tremendous!  We were watching the whole time as the clouds moved in, but it made the views look even more dramatic.  Unfortunately, the thunder and impending storm kept us from getting to the top of Bergen Peak, but it still was an excellent workout.  The good news is that we had made it back to the bottom just as the rain really started to come down.

We are so lucky that Jeffco has spent the money and resources to develop the open space system.  Do yourself a favor – take advantage of it!

Mountain View from near the Top of Bergen Peak

Mountain View from near the Top of Bergen Peak

Why We Love Snow!

After the famous “blizzard of ought-nine”… we went to the mountains!  We took the kids to Breckenridge.  They are both good skiers, but decided to learn to snowboard.  Apparently, they are pretty good – at least for novices.  They spent the day in a lesson and still had enough energy to catch a lift up right before closing time so they could get in one last run.

Of course, they learned a lot about anatomy during the day and over night – in fact they are still learning this morning – “the top of my right calf hurts”, “my tailbone used to stick out, now it is pushed in”, “I can really feel my abs”….

Diane and I chose to avoid the aches and pains – we went snow-shoeing.  We followed some cross-country ski trails most of the way and went through some beautiful woods – no traffic noise, no houses or condos.  We spent some time watching a squirrell chew through a pine cone like it was an ear of corn.  It looks like the pine beetles are having a feast too.  I wonder if there will be any trees left in five years…

We didn’t have quite the same aches and pains as our kids, but we felt it too.

Thankfully, the hottub was there at the end of the day.  Oh, what a pleasure it is to soak and watch the sun go down.

And today, we’ll do it all over again.

Just a note about the ski area – long lines (of course it is Spring Break – the weekend where Denver and JeffCo school area spring breaks overlap and we just got hit with “the blizzard of ought-nine”…).  We did hear a lot of complaints about the lines.  I guess the recession isn’t hurting the ski industry quite as bad as I thought it might.

I am sure the drive back down the hill will be slow….  Oh well, that’s what happens when we get some good snow.

Hiking at Meyer Ranch Park – JeffCo Open Space

We went for an awesome hike today at Meyer Ranch Park – Jefferson County Open Space – in Aspen Park near Conifer.  The weather was beautiful – mid 50’s, the sky was blue, and there was just a soft breeze. The scenery was gorgeous – Colorado at its finest.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife this time.

We hiked all three loops including the loop at the top.  The hike took about 2 hours.

The trail was icy in some spots and a little muddy in others – where the ice was melting.  It was easy to manage, however.  Nothing was impassable.

We started at about 2:30 in the afternoon and only passed a few other people on the trail.

This is a trail that is well worth hiking.  It does get crowded at times, so it is good to check the parking lot at the bottom to make sure it is not too busy.  Late afternoons or early mornings are best on the weekend.  If you can get up there during the week, you will have the trail to yourself.  Check it out.  Enjoy!

One Lunch Date, Interrupted By Livestock

So my husband and I are meeting for lunch on the 16th Street Mall. I get off the Mall Shuttle, look around at our dining options, and text him:

[Me] Executive decision: Rialto Cafe.
[Him] Kk! OMW!

So far so good. Confident that it won’t take him long to get here from the 19th/California/20th/Broadway intersection tangle, I go in and order us drinks and cornbread.

Some minutes later:

[Him] Held up by cattle herd. I shit you not.
[Me] O RLY?
[Him] Yes. I has a picture, but not a great one because I was "zomg cattle!"

Stock Show Parade (1)
Stock Show Parade (2)

Well then.


common-morpho-image.jpgMy wife and I had a friend out to visit a few weekends ago. We like to take our guests someplace interesting (Casa Bonita, been there done that), so we hit up the butterfly pavilion.

I have to admit, I was impressed, and a bit grossed out. It’s not just nice pretty butterflies, it’s creepy crawlies, with 100’s or thousands of legs.

They’ve got three types of cockroach, and for once I’m glad the US is the loser in the “mine’s bigger” category.

The stick bugs were certainly cool, and the millipedes rawked.

And then we entered butterfly land… Woah!

Thousands (i’m guessing) of butterflies just flapping this way and that, it was quite impressive (I know I used that adjective already), they were everywhere.

If you’re looking for something to do on a lazy weekend, hop over, it’s worth the 8 bucks.

The Great San Dunes, worth the drive

IMG_4352.jpgThis weekend my wife and I took a mini camping vacation to the Great Sand Dunes. Holy Mother…. What a miraculous series of natural brain farts, that place is. 8,000 feet high, nestled against the Mountains, 30 some odd square miles of desert sand dunes, edged by a river.

Incredible, barely covers it.

We left Friday afternoon around 2:00 and pulled into the camp ground around 7:00 or so. It’s amazing how long it stays light out at night down there. It was 9:00 when we started cooking dinner, and we thought it was barely 8.

We got up early saturday and went into the park, to hike the dunes. We started out a bit over dressed to say the least. Being used to hiking in the mtns, we donned our camel backs, boots, breathable shirts, and pants. Sleeves were rolled up and outer shirts were off by the first 1/3 of the dunes. Pant legs were zipped off by the halfway mark. Once we got to the top it was time for the san filled boots to come off. The sand felt great, and was only a bit hot on the sunward slopes, but everywhere else it was refreshingly cool on my feet.


We went back to camp for a nap and to relax a bit, then headed back to the dunes to put our feet in the river… along with a small city’s worth of people! There were eazy-ups in the middle, people playing football, kids digging holes, it was crazy. It was like a day at California’s beaches. We hung out for a bit, but we had no eazy-up so the sun was kickin’ our butt’s

If you’re looking for a fun vacation that isn’t too far. Definitely check out the Great Sand Dunes, a 5 hours drive from Denver, and worth every mile of it.

Why I Carry A Camera (and, incidentally, bike almost everywhere)

Early summer in Boulder. The sun is shining and I’m wearing sunscreen. The geese are with gosling, the cranes are fishing, the prairie dogs are pupping, and the bull snakes are hunting. The smell of the cottonwood blooming along East Boulder’s waterways makes it clear that the poetic phrase, “air like wine,” is no hyperbole.

The following pictures were all taken along the Boulder Creek Bike Path between the Valmont Bridge and the underpass at Pearl Street (Google Maps satellite view). I thought I’d never make it home, what with all the photo ops materializing on my route. Luckily I ran out of space on the SD card.

Crane gone wading

The crane was just standing there in the pond between Valmont and the back of the Flatirons Business Park, waiting for fish. It started wading away as I approached the shore.

One goose with gosling

Another goose with more goslings

The geese were in the usual nesting area along the shore, traveling west, just after the 55th Street underpass. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes pick up some great quill-caliber wing feathers in this spot. There’s always prairie dogs peeping away at you as you pass here. It’s a good time of year to watch the itty bitty tiny pups waddling around.

Bull snake making its escape, 2

And this here’s a bull snake. I saw a small knot of youngsters crowded at the side of the path, and I slowed down to check out whatever they were staring at. I was just in time to nearly get knocked over as the snake made it perfectly clear that it did not appreciate being manhandled for the camera. Everyone jumped back as it whipped its considerable bulk around in a powerful lunge that translated clearly to “Hands off!”

The kid’s sneaker is included for perspective, but it’s not really enough to demonstrate the size of this critter. I’d say it was at least four feet long, maybe five, and thick as a stout tree branch.

Here it is again, winding away down the path beside my bookbag. You can almost make out the way its rattlesnake-like coloring on the body gives way to dramatic black and yellow stripes at the tail.

Bull snake making its escape, 1

I can’t help wishing that I’d tried to pick it up too.

THAT Ain’t Gonna Roll

High winds Saturday prevented the biweekly practice flight, so instead of more aerial photography of corn mazes I offer this oddly color-coordinated and recycleable exhibit:

A photo of a bike full of green plastic bottles

Spotted on October 2 outside of the bike shop near the Brewing Market on Baseline and Broadway in Boulder. I was on my way into the coffee shop. By the time I came out about four hours later, the bike was gone.

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