Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Two New Trails

View from the summit.  Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park is visible in the background.
Last Friday, August 31, I helped the Trails Committee for my community install some rock steps on a particularly steep portion of one of the trails that threads through the open space in our community.  I had not yet walked this trail, and I was impressed with the scenery, so I returned yesterday (September 4) to walk this trail (called Maroon Bells) and another trail I had not previously explored, the Asbury Trail.

The view from the top of the Maroon Bells Trail is spectacular.  The Mummy Range, off to the south and across the Poudre River canyon, is visible in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Some of the Mummy's slopes still have a little snow from last winter.

Ranch and forest land adjacent to the open space in my community.
The stone steps the Trails Committee volunteers installed last Friday on the Maroon Bells Trail
At the eastern end of the Maroon Bells Trail, I picked up the Asbury Trail, which I had not previously walked.  This rocky, difficult trail travels along the contours of a steep hill with a full southern exposure; it was hot and challenging.
Cairns marking the Asbury Trail
As I rounded a bend in the Asbury Trail, I startled three magnificent mule deer bucks in full velvet.  One deer ran off, but the other two allowed me to capture their picture.  Since there's no hunting in our community, the deer are fairly tame and don't run long distances even when caught off guard.

Two of the three mule deer bucks I startled along the Asbury Trail
I took these images with my cell phone and enhanced them with Canon's PhotoProfessional program.  The originals are relatively low density images, so there's only so much improvement the program can make.

Shambhala Mountain Center Open House

Detail of the Great Stupa, south side
Last Sunday afternoon, September 2, Kali and I visited the Shambhala Mountain Center, located about seven miles from our house.  The center has an open house on the first Sunday of each month to introduce visitors to the center and its programming in meditation, Buddhist studies, and massage.  Kali and I know next to nothing about Buddhism (we watched the two-hour PBS series about the Buddha), so we were open and receptive.

We first had lunch in a large tent, joining participants from some of the center's organized programs.  After lunch, we walked to another tent for an introduction to meditation.  Kali had had had instruction in meditation on several previous occasions, but this was my first time.

Following the meditation instruction, the large group of open house visitors walked two-thirds of a mile to the Great Stupa, the reason most people come to the center.  A guide briefed us on the basic tenets of Buddhism and the iconography of the stupa.  Kali and I agreed that the entire experience was much more engaging than either of us had anticipated and that felt like we had made a good investment of our time that afternoon.

By the way, I took the images accompanying this post with my cell phone, then enhanced them with my Canon PhotoProfessional program, but there is only so much that can be accomplished with inherently low-density images.
Open house visitors walking to the stupa
Approahcing the stupa from the north
Approaching the stupa
More detail of the south side

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Volunteer Wildfire Mitigation

On Saturday morning, September 1, I volunteered with the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) for a third time to help with a wildfire mitigation project.  This project is located on the Ben Delatour Boy Scout Ranch in the Roosevelt National Forest in north-central Colorado.  The WRV crew consists of experienced sawyers who fell small diameter (12 inches or smaller) ponderosa pines, and "swampers" like me who gather up the limbs, branches, and bucked-up trunks and place them in piles (which I like to call pyres) that will be burned when there is snow on the ground.  This is really strenuous work carried out on very steep slopes, so I'm exhausted when the day is over.

The image accompanying this post was taken at our staging area.  This area was subjected to a prescribed burn in 2017, and some of the trees behind the vehicles were damaged in the fire and may die.  The area where we were working on Saturday is visible in the background of the image on the steep, wooded hillside across the Elkhorn Creek valley.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Wisps of Smoke

 A few days ago, I noticed that a dry, exposed hillside above my house had taken on a new appearance. On closer inspection, I saw that the shrubs on the slope were covered with incredible whorled winged seeds. My naturalist neighbor informed me that this was mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus; Rosaceae), which gets its common name from the shrub's hard, dense wood. She said that the appearance of the whorled seeds was a sure sign that autumn had arrived on the mountain. A horticulture book I have (High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants) says that the plumose seed-heads resemble wisps of smoke in the leaves.

Surely, the whorls help with dispersal.  However, I picked off one of the seeds and dropped it; it fell straight down.  I expected to see the seed spin like a maple samara back East. 
The mountain mahogany hillside on Mt. Moriah (shrubs in foreground)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Hike to the Continental Divide

Yours truly at Thunder Pass--the Continental Divide--with Rocky Mountain National Park behind
Five members of the Red Feather Lakes Library (Colorado) Hiking Club (including me) climbed 1,502 feet in Colorado's State Forest State Park on Monday, August 20 to explore the American Lakes basin at treeline.  We started our five-mile each-way hike at 9,840 feet and turned around at 11,342 feet at Thunder Pass--the Continental Divide--at the northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our group on the American Lakes/Thunder Pass Trail approaching the American Lakes basin (extreme left of image)
Yours truly at Thunder Pass with the Nokhu Crags in the background
The American Lakes are also known as the Michigan Lakes.  They form the headwaters of the Michigan River, a modest stream that flows 69 miles out of the Rocky Mountains northward as a tributary to the North Platte River.  The American/Michigan Lakes lay at the foot of a glacial cirque that holds a much larger and deeper lake called Snow Lake.  Snow Lake discharges down a steep scree slope and feeds the American Lakes.  Several members of our group climbed up to barren, rocky Snow Lake, but I decided to join two others to ascend to Thunder Pass and the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park.
American (Michigan) Lakes, with the Snow Lake cirque in the background
Along our route, we spotted six moose (including five bulls) browsing in the alder and willow thickets at lower elevations.
Bull moose
Mountain Gentian
Elephant Head (the flowers, on close inspection, resemble a miniature elephant head)
This trek was a beautiful and dramatic experience that I'd like to repeat again.  The scenery was spectacular, the weather was perfect, and the company was great.  This was my second-best day so far since moving to Colorado.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lady Moon Redux

I hiked the Lady Moon Trail in Roosevelt National Forest last week and liked it so much I got Kali to accompany me on a return visit on Thursday, August 16. She agreed that this likely will become our "go to" hike, although she did fall and scrape her shin pretty badly when the loose grit on the trail slipped from under her and sent her tumbling. We came across two fellows on the trail who live just up the street from us, and we met three representatives of the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers, an organized group of civilian rangers who look out for the trails in the national forest; one of them took our picture.
Kali at Disappointment Falls on Elkhorn Creek
On Lady Moon Trail
Cattle cooling off in the aspens
It's a banner year for currents; the bushes are producing a bumper crop everywhere

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

High in Colorado

Approaching the summit of Middle Bald Mountain
I joined the Red Feather Lakes Library (Colorado) Hiking Group on a short hike to the summit of Middle Bald Mountain ("Middle Baldy") in the Roosevelt National Forest on Monday, August 13.  The hike was short; we drove most of the way to the top, then climbed a few hundred feet to the summit.

The drive to approach the summit was long and challenging.  The route was almost completely on dusty dirt roads, and as the roads ascended, their quality deteriorated.  We ended up driving much more than hiking.

Nevertheless, the 360-degree view from the summit (11,002 feet) was spectacular.
View southwestward from the summit of Middle Bald Mountain
The best scenery lay to the southwest, where we could see snow patches in the mountains of the Rawah Wilderness and a portion of the Cache la Poudre River canyon.
Lunch at the summit.  North Bald Mountain (not bald) is in the distance at the right.
North Bald Mountain and South Bald Mountain (11,003 feet) were each about two miles away.
Yours truly (top left) at the summit with fellow hikers
Yours truly at the summit.  The deep cleft just to the left of me in mid-distance is the canyon of the Cache la Poudre River that rises in Rocky Mountain National Park

View eastward from the summit of Middle Bald Mountain
The east scarp of Middle Baldy is a dramatic, sheer drop of several hundred feet.  It was windy at the top--and more than a little scary to be at the edge.

The distance in the images is hazy because of the fires burning in California and, to a lesser degree, further west in Colorado.
Orange lichens; there were neon chartreuse lichens, too
A pasqueflower in bloom near the summit.  As its name implies, this should be blooming around Easter
After lunch at the summit, we hiked back to the trail and road that brought us near the peak.  This portion of the national forest is criss-crossed with very rough tracks used by off-road vehicles.  We decided to walk one of these woods roads for a short distance, but soon came across several noisy off-road vehicles in the forest.  Our group got discouraged and we retreated back down the mountain--a harrowing repeat of the drive up the mountain a few hours earlier.  Hikers hate ATVers.

Despite the short distance we covered, the view from the top made the trip worthwhile.