Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moose...hunting?

    We don't hunt. Just never have. But we love hunting. Hunting for us involves a camera of some sort and of course adventure.
     Living in Colorado, the news often involves animals. Usually the ones on the wild side. They're my favorite. Except for my dog. One day the news reported that the moose population in Grand County had increased substantially. That's exciting. Moose aren't the common critter out here, but occasionally in the northern regions of the state you'll spot one. If you're lucky. (Although I understand they are now moving south.)
     So Saturday came rolling around and we thought it would be a great day for moose hunting. Packed up a picnic, asked the dog if he'd like to go for a ride, which of course is a stupid question for our adventure seeking, energetic eleven year old Aussie/Chow mix, and we headed northwest.
     The news report stated that the moose were all over in the town of Grand Lake. We got there in about an hour and a half and searched the streets of the community. Over by the lake, in the woods, checked the marshy areas...nothing. Disappointment only determines us all the more. Being so close to the west entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, we figured that was our next best bet. We had found a very large one there years ago, and if I ever find those photos (pre-digital age) I'll share them.
     Okay, I have to digress and tell that story.
     Adventure again found us on the west end of RMNP. There are some marvelous flat walking paths on the lower end of the park. We decided to go for a leisurely walk this time. We eventually made it to the creek, but a lot of bushes and trees stood between us and the rushing water. Being the explorers that we are, we trudged through the thicket ducking away from slapping willow branches as we went. We wanted to be fairly quiet in case there was any wildlife around. Finally making it through, we were able to stand upright again. We both rose about the same time and found ourselves 20 feet away from a adult bull moose. His huge antler dripped with water from his foraging in the creek for goodies. He looked over at us...chewing.
     We froze! This was a full size boy moose close to the season of the rut. Thankfully, not in it yet. He was a monster. One thing anyone with moose knowledge knows, is don't mess with a male in the rut. They've been known to flip cars up in Minnesota. Just because it was there. Glad it was early in the fall.
     When we realized he could care less about us, we started snapping pictures. It was an amazing experience. I've got to find where those photos are. If he moved, we hid behind those sturdy willow branches as if that would benefit us in any way shape or form.
     So now back to the present. We drove into the park with ever watchful eyes. Another tip if you are in Colorado, if cars are stopped on the roadside, LOOK AROUND. They probably see something you want to see. Such was the case with about five cars parked and all the people were heading into the meadow. Being the sheep that we are, we grabbed the cameras, leashed the dog and followed.
     Everyone walked gingerly over the long grasses. Gus was happy. We moved as a group, some pointing, until the oo's and ah's were whispered on the wind. There stood Momma Moose with a youngster. These photos I have.
      That's what I'm talkin' about. This was what we came for. This time we had sturdier Ponderosa Pines to hide behind. I'm not messing with a momma watching over her baby. Nope. Zoom!
We gave her all the room she wanted.
Camera hunting of wildlife is a marvelous past-time, but they have to be respected. They have to have their space. Not only for your own safety, but for them too. If you get too close, you don't get to see their natural behavior. Even from a distance, they know you are there, but if they don't feel bugged, they are fine.
     So we watched. The other people sharing this experience, were in as much awe. I don't know how long we hid in our spot, just watching, observing nature. Blue skies up above, puffy white clouds, green trees (some long dead still stood gray against the skyline), tall grasses. Peace.

Can you see them back there?

     More folks had joined us out there in the meadow. Sometimes there's some that come along and take chances that could certainly jeopardize the situation. Momma starting getting nervous when she spotted a few almost circling around, so she had had enough of her audience for the day.
     Off they went to find a more private area to graze.
     I couldn't help but wonder that day, what was God thinking when he created the moose? They really aren't the most handsome creature, bulbous nose, huge ears, lumpy back, yet we found such delight in finding them that day. I think it is one of those things where God showed his sense of humor. But it did get us the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, much to my son-in-law's delight, so they aren't all bad.
     Regardless, I'm glad God created these creatures to add to the deer and elk family. They are a fascinating lot. Yep, I like moose "hunting". I'll go looking for that adventure again when I hear another news story.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Unexpected Adventures

  Thinking about past adventures lately reminded me of one really cool time when we were just out for a drive. Every now and then, when life is coming at you from so many directions, you just need to get away.
   For us, that means a mountain fix. It doesn't really matter what the destination is, just head west and get up in the mountains to reboot the brain. That is the beauty of living here in Colorado. You sure don't have to go far to find that mountain experience.
   One of the easiest trips for us is to just hop on I-70 westbound. Afterall, hasn't adventure for 200 years meant "Go west young man"? Heading up on a busy but well maintained highway, it is more about the views. You pass by mountain towns filled with charm. Old, abandoned gold and silver mines scar the surrounding hillsides. Look up high to see the tailings left behind from forgotten dreams of wealth beyond description. Rusting remains of mining buildings along with the broken, decrepit piles of timbers that once formed a flume to get water where they needed it. Depending on the time of year, snow capped peaks come into view. In the winter, you can see the frozen run off near the highway building into a thicker blue-ish mass of ice desperately clinging to the rock wall. An occasional waterfall frozen in time, or at least for the winter months, hangs over the edge.
    Just a get way.
    One particular day, we had driven up past the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels, explored around Lake Dillion, then headed home again. Just a day trip. A few hours of thinking about nothing but God's creation. Mountains. Ah.......
   We got past the Loveland Ski area. I was just gazing over at the rocks on the west bound side. They were more interesting than the dead trees on my side. Suddenly I saw them. Well, whenever you see wildlife in Colorado, you usually see their butts first, since they are usually lighter in color and more noticable. Lots of butts. A nice size herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep were perched here and there on the rocks. I, of course, screamed, scaring my husband Ron again, and pointed. He forgave me soon enough when he saw what I was screaming about. So we took the next exit, and headed back west.
   As we neared, he pulled off as far as we could off the highway, thankful there wasn't a highway patrolman around. I think they frown on this sort of thing. But these animals were so beautiful. Where we pulled off, had me twisting around with the camera to get the photos I so desperately wanted. Turned out to be quite a photographic jackpot. I was able to get one of the best photos I've ever taken out here.
   It topped off our day of a get away adventure. My mother always told me a poem and when she gave me a gift of an oil painting kit one year, she had the poem attached inside. The title of it was, "Take Time to See". I have never forgotten it and I will always take the time to really see what is around me. It's worth it.







Lucky shot!

Monday, July 4, 2011

God in the Fourth

   Fourth of July weekend is wrapping up today after a weekend of events around the state and country I'm sure. Here in Colorado, fireworks have been going off Saturday, Sunday and especially tonight. I love fireworks. Especially while listening to our national anthem. There's just something about remembering the history of our great nation, hearing the words, "bombs bursting in air" and seeing those brightly colored enormous shapes exploding into the night sky. Every single spark reminds me of all the men and women that have given their all, and sometimes their lives, to maintain the freedom we have in the United States of America.
     From the very beginnings of this country, freedoms had to be fought for because there are so very many people that will attempt to take those freedoms away from us. Our founding fathers had all the right ideas and God has always honored our country for following God's word. A nation established according to Scripture.
     But I fear we as a nation we are slipping.
     Saturday night we enjoyed the adventure of watching Jet Cars at Bandemere Speedway in Morrison. Other cars raced for the best times as well, but I love to experience the jet cars. It isn't something you just watch.
video     As they fire up those jet engines, you can close your eyes and feel like you are standing on the deck of one of our air craft carriers as the jets wind up to shoot off into the sky above the sea. Ear plugs are an absolute necessity because that noise can blast its way right through your ear drums. You don't want to go there. Then as they inch forward to their spot at the starting line, there is a pumping thunder that pounds into your chest as the barrier of air against you is broken. Whoomp, whooomp, whoooomp. Smoke billows up behind these machines hiding everything behind them. You feel it, you smell the jet fuel, you still hear the thunder through the ear plugs, you watch as these land jets shoot off when they get a green light (and hopefully don't red light). The crowd goes wild, everyone on their feet. Exciting! Two hundred and eighty one miles per hour was the highest speed we saw that night. This video was shot when they reached 255mph. Amazing!
     More amazing than the rockets flying down the racetrack, was the fact that prior to every race event, the folks at Bandemere still ask for everyone in attendance to bow their heads and pray with them for the safety of their drivers. Most join in. Some choose not to. That's up to them. I find it so refreshing that, with the arguements in some court rooms these days, we still do have the right to pray in Jesus name and it is done. If you don't want to, you don't have to.

     They also honored our military recognizing a wounded soldier, acknowledging all veterans and active duty in the bleachers by having them stand to a rousing round of applause, cheers and whistles. The honor guard marched out, hats were removed and the Star Spangled Banner was sung.
     It was an adventure of the heart Saturday night. Heart for our country, heart for our military members, heart for our Lord God-whom this country was founded for, heart for being with good friends.
     Ah.....adventure!
    

Friday, July 1, 2011

A beginning adventure

I love adventures. Whether reading them, writing them or experiencing them, I love them. One of the things my husband and I love to do is sharing Colorado adventures with people. Living in this state, we tend to get lots of company. We are a vacation destination after all. Colorado has so much to offer. Through this blog I hope to share those adventures and encourage readers to get out there and experience their own. Along the way, I hope the reality will be for you: Life is an adventure created by God.
Good old Webster describes adventure with several meanings:
-the encountering of danger
-a daring, hazardous undertaking
-an unusual, stirring experience, often of a romantic nature
-a venture or speculation in business or finance
-a liking for danger, excitement, etc.
            Adventures don’t have to be dangerous, although it does make it more exciting, but much greater care has to be taken. We go on a lot of four-wheel drive adventures here in Colorado, but we’ve also traveled to islands for some tropical adventures, snorkeled with Stingrays, hike in cougar territory, climb some rather tricky rock areas to get a great photo of a ram or Mountain Goat, once I even willingly got into a pen with Mexican Gray wolves just to take photos of them. When an opportunity comes along that you wouldn’t ordinarily get, I like to take it on. Most of the time. I always see those opportunities as gifts from God, so I don’t want to pass it up.
The view at Castle Lakes Campground
            Our most recent adventure found us four-wheeling up to Cinnamon Pass in Southwest Colorado from the Lake City side. We were staying at Castle Lakes Campground, which by the way, is one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve found, and right on the southern route of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.
We took off early in the morning, the cooler packed, our dog Gus hanging out the back window waiting for his own adventure. The day started out with sunny blue skies, comfortable temperatures. When the sun shines in Colorado, the temps are always comfortable. Dressing in layers is the key. Soon the road turned to where you really needed four-wheel drive and up we went. The higher in elevation we went, the more snow piled here and there. In mid-June, anything is possible for snow depth. But the road was passable so that’s all that mattered.

It was a bumpy ride, but fascinating to see the small, delicate alpine flowers popping through the places where the snow had given way to spring. Photo opportunities abound in the high country. We spotted several marmots, a large woodchuck-like creature common to elevations. Even the Pika came out to pose for photos. Our love for photography goes hand in hand with our love for adventures.

We reached the top of Cinnamon pass, 12,640 feet above sea level. Amazing views surrounded us. Standing there on top of the world (practically) you could turn around in a circle and see nothing but snow covered peaks. No civilization, no traffic, not anything other than God’s creation. Oh, and two other cars that had stopped up on top of the pass as well. We of course had to all visit only to find out one couple were our “neighbors” at our campground. The other gal was also staying at the same place but in a cabin. We laughed at the irony.
Being up that high, with nothing in sight, we all decided to stick together as we headed for Engineer Pass to make the loop complete. Now if you don’t know anything about Engineer Pass, let me put it this way….there are T-shirts that say “I survived Engineer Pass” with a cartoon of a bug-eyed couple with arms flailing on steep narrow roads. Panic stricken faces. Yep, that was our goal for the day.
We took off with our three vehicle caravan and got roughly two hundred feet when the couple behind us caught up rapidly honking the horn madly. Hmmmm…Houston we must have a problem. Hubby stops, gets out, sure enough, a problem. On a rocky, narrow road at twelve thousand feet, a flat tire. The gentleman behind us watched it slowly let loose of its ability to progress down the mountain.
Adjust adventure.
In all our years and all the trails we’ve taken our poor Durango on, we’ve never had a flat before. Fortunate, but now here we were. Our new traveling companions all stopped to help.
I’m not sure what we would have done without them slowing down “traffic” of other adventure seeking four-wheelers, the other man’s help with the heavy work since my hubby was still recovering from shoulder surgery, and just the moral support while hanging off a mountain to change a tire. It was a blessing. Divine appointments come in all kinds of ways. This one included. We were so very thankful for the help. The single gal even led the way down into Silverton, the only town close enough to get a tire repaired or replaced. (We did have to replace it since the flat one had quite a slice in it. Rocks are sharp!)
So safe and sound, our planned adventure changed, but it was definitely even a blessing to get the flat and change our direction. We heard from several individuals in town that Engineer Pass was in bad shape this spring. A flat might have been the best thing to have happen that day. Maybe God was steering all along. Ya think?