Showing posts from October, 2015

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel - A Lost Soul

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel Crowned with a russet headband, the golden-mantled ground squirrel is a lost soul living at the forest’s edge. Usually stationed on a fallen log, this solitary creature lives most of his life alone, quietly observing the activity happening all around him. Always alert, he’s an inquisitive animal that seems to tolerate a peaceful approach. For this rockhound of a rodent, summers are spent lying about in the sun while fall becomes more frenzied as he must fatten up for a five month hibernation. Specialized cheek pouches allow the golden-mantled ground squirrel to gather generous amounts of food off of the ground. With all fours freed up, he is able to transport the mouthful back to his burrow at full speed. The edible cache is reserved for winter so if he wakes from hunger, he can gnaw on a mid-slumber snack. It’s also a convenient energy source that can be eaten when the sleepy squirrel reemerges in the early spring. Because they share the sam

Ornate Box Turtle - A Harmless Homebody

Ornate Box Turtle Inhabiting the arid sandhills of western Nebraska, the ornate box turtle is perfectly content to live life in the slow lane. Sharing some of the same traits as the persistent pioneers that first settled the area, he is admired for his grit, determination and perseverance. The species was first discovered in Nebraska circa 1795 and described by early explorers as occurring in “vast numbers” all across the prairie. Today, their status is uncertain but the population must be at least stable because I frequently see them during the summer. This tortoise is a harmless homebody that doesn’t require much room to roam. Active from April through October, he saunters through the brush existing in a small territory that’s just a few acres in size. By the first frost, he digs a shallow burrow and hibernates over the winter. In his small world there isn’t much competition for available food resources because this easy-going omnivore isn’t a picky eater. His favorite mea

Square Top Lakes - A Quiet Kingdom

Lower Square Top Lake Stair-stepped below a secluded thirteener, the two Square Top Lakes are connected by a streaming cascade of cold water. Beginning at the bustling Guanella Pass, the alpine trek to get there concludes at a considerably less crowded location. Bushwhacking through muddy bogs and thickets of prickly willows, it’s an uphill haul all the way. Established at such a high altitude, this quiet kingdom is defined by wide open space, clear air and a steady breeze. Upon arriving at the cobalt-colored reservoir, the vivid color contrast is simply too much for the human eye to comprehend. It’s satisfying to explore the lower lake’s lovely setting but curiosity may compel you to ascend to the next level. After scrambling up to the far ledge, you behold another quite shocking color scheme as the long, upper lake is surprisingly green. Squinting into the sun, you can see Square Top Mountain’s eastern slope slide right into the silky tarn. Dusk is an unquestionable sign

Chief Mountain - A Pedestal for Panoramas

Chief Mountain Rising out of Colorado’s Front Range foothills, Chief Mountain is a rocky pedestal for panoramas. The top juts up just above tree line and offers some of the best views in Clear Creek County. All of the area’s big peaks can be surveyed from this single spot. Massive Mount Evans looms to the west while beyond, the distinct contour of Grays and Torreys is unmistakeable. Bulky Longs Peak has a block-shaped summit that can be clearly seen to the north. Down south towards the Springs, Pikes Peak is barely visible as a ghostly apparition painted with pale blue. During this season, all is quiet so the lonely mountain is delighted to receive guests. Squawking for attention, a pair of gray jays swoop close by and mingled amongst the rocks, chipmunks scurry for cover. Traveling up Squaw Pass Road, yellow aspen are an obvious indication that fall is here. As pretty as it is now, I’d like to come back in a month or so and see what this place looks like when buried under