Posted By shefisher

Trail in Salida Today's warming sunshine is welcome. It has been an unusually cold winter here in the Upper Arkansas River valley of central Colorado. Bone-chilling nights have usually alternated with windy, or at least breezy, days that sustain the night's shivering chill even when the sun shines. By contrast, today's 30-something degrees fools one's body into feeling comfy in just a light jacket.

That is not to say that it has been especially snowy this winter. In fact, as of last week our snow pack measured 89% of average annual levels. The last 36 hours has boosted that percentage a little. Every couple inches helps in high mountain desert such as this. Visual beauty of the fresh white blanket is only part of the impact. Today's snow is spring and summer's life-sustaining river flow.

Fat Spring Robin Today also marks the end of a 2-week stint of house- and pet-sitting in Salida. Nothing like a dog who needs to walk a few times a day to make you get outside no matter the weather elements. A walking and biking trail bisects Salida, its western end  paralleling this subdivision. Every day, the old yellow lab and I walk out and back. On her good days, we make it to the end, celebrating her effort with a symbolic circling at the terminal snowdrift.  Along the way we variously encounter Canadian Geese, juncos, deer, foxes. Just before yesterday's snowstorm, a flock of robins had arrived, huddled in the barren trees wondering why they'd started their northern migration quite so soon.

Salida's most prominent symbol is "S" Mountain, a conical hill across the river to the north. We see it on our eastbound return. Even set in a mantle of snow, the large letter "S" is visible both day and night. White lights in the S shape alternate with red lights in the shape of a heart. You can't miss it. The S, of course, stand for Salida. Right now, I like to think of it as promising Spring. Robins are the heralds. In the river, stonefly nymphs are stirring, BWO mayflies will follow, caddis won't be far behind. The fish know this.

Spring. It's coming.

Snow on S Mountain


Posted By shefisher

Elk at HeckendorfToday brought a case of winter blahs. There isn't enough good snow for snowshoeing or anything else fun. The river is bordered with just enough ice to make wade fishing a precarious proposition. I finally dragged "The Guy" out of the house for a drive to somewhere.

"Somewhere" turned out to be north to Clear Creek Reservoir and the little huddle of buildings called "Granite." The only wildlife we saw at Clear Creek were ice fishermen scattered across the frozen reservoir, peering hopefully into their targeted holes in the ice.

Bighorn Ram Granite proved more rewarding. Across the river on the downstream end of town, a herd of about 40 Bighorn Sheep reclined in a ragged row along a low ridge. Ewes folded themselves around their bellies, showing the beginnings of the wait for spring lambing. Seven rams wandered and watched over their herd on the rocky slope close above their harem. They ranged in size from good-n-healthy big to magnificently massive.

After watching a couple of hefty brown trout lounging under the Granite bridge, we headed back south. On an off-highway detour, we spotted a small herd of elk in a meadow at the base of 14,000' Mt. Columbia.

No more 'winter blahs' on such a lovely day visiting our neighbors here in mountain paradise.

Bighorn Sheep herd


Posted By shefisher

Railroad Bridge in snowThe temperature is finally inching up into the double digits. This has been a week in the deep freeze, with a foot or more of snow and single digit temperatures. Venturing out on snowshoes, I got a workout cutting trail through a couple miles of foot-deep powder. The view over Chalk Creek and the sight of frosted rails pointing to the river just beyond the horizon made the effort worthwhile.

Once the snowing stopped, icy, high-speed winds plunged wind chills below zero. Fluffy fresh expanses of white were sculpted into drifts, mounds, and waves.

Snow contours While fishing has not been an option this week, other wildlife has offered a lesson in surviving arctic conditions. Hawks and a falcon cling to high thin branches, watchful for unaware field mice. A coyote competes in the search as he trots across the same open plain. Once the storm cleared, a bald eagle perched on the dead snag over the river, perplexed as to how to pluck out its sushi between ice patches sliding along in the current.

The best visual treat has been the large herd of pronghorn just across the road. There must be close to 80, and they've hung out here for 4 days now, grazing, resting under the trees, running across the wind-crusted snow. They are camera shy, however. Photos had to be taken from quite a distance. The occasional driver stopping alongside the highway for the photo op sent them up into the trees or to the safety of the next ridge.

My fishing fix will come in Denver this weekend where I will join my Colorado Women Flyfisher friends for our annual Holiday Party. We'll swap stories and pictures of the just-passed year of fishing adventures, and share hopeful plans for the upcoming new year's destinations.

Merry Christmas to All!

Pronghorn herd


Posted By shefisher

Early December Snow Yes - Snow! Beautiful, fluffy, classic Colorado champagne powder. The view out our window at 8 a.m. tells the story. Normally, the backdrop beyond the bird feeder, the highway and ridge is a sweeping view of 14,000' Mt. Antero.

Flyrods are tucked warmly in their cases, leaning together in the corner. It looks like the snowshoes' turn for action. They're already out there raring to go.

Oh, Baby, it's cooooold out there! But a snowshoe walk will keep the warm blood flowing. And there is always a hot cup of tea when I get back.Snowshoes



Posted By shefisher

Rock and Mountain The mornings are frosty, but by midday the warming sun is shining in the intensely blue sky of the central Colorado mountains. After several days of face time with the computer, it wasn't hard to get talked into spending some quality time hitting the trail into the high ... er, higher ... country.

We started on the familiar ATV track from Ruby Mountain. Six miles later, up and over the main crest, we took a left turn heading toward a narrower track that I'd never been on. Twisting, turning, rolling, then up and up we went, to the narrow gateway at the fence. The sagging barbed wire borders private land that hosts narrow, rugged public tracks. Posted signs warn the unwary of  this forbidding Chinaman Gulch, rock-crawling heaven for extreme jeepers. We chose to walk the upper reaches. Not so the 3 jeepers who happened by. They were still working on getting the first jeep over the boulders when we left.

Sunlit bush seeds Having just seen the only other riders out there, we had the trails, the sky, the spectacular views all to ourselves. The low-angled November sun backlit fuzzy seedpods adorning skeletal bushes. A golden eagle soared overhead. Deer were everywhere. Singly or in small groups, they all eyed us as we drove by, watchful but never scared. As we skirted a long, high rocky slope across the way, I spotted a golden tan shape in a cavern opening. Was it a rock or an animal? Then I saw it move! In the moment that a passing bird distracted me, the mystery animal disappeared. Likely a mountain lion. At least that's my story.

How many angles have I seen of Mt. Princeton? How many pictures have I taken of the views? But I never tire of seeing it. Every vantage point, every angle, shows its powerful, dominating beauty. One vantage point displayed an unusual rock obelisque, seeming to stand at attention before the valley's Prince of Mountains. A couple of ridges beyond that, we had lunch on a high outcropping of rocks, basking in the warmth of the noon sun. Three tiny nuthatches tap-tap-tapped as they sought out their own lunch under the pine bark. All this with a stellar view to Mt. Princeton. My husband only takes me to the best places for lunch.



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