Saturday, October 28, 2017

Red Rocks Park - Garden of the Angels

Garden of the Angels

By the end of October in the Colorado foothills, the birds have slipped away, the first snow has loosened and most of the leaves have fallen. Luckily, lower down near Morrison there’s still enough color to brighten your day.

On a gorgeous, golden morning at the Garden of the Angels, autumn’s palette is composed from red, yellow and orange. The little creek that flows gently through this geologic wonderland is still lined with lush cottonwoods.

With the world famous amphitheater set as its centerpiece, this unique state park is currently known as Red Rocks. It’s a surreal place where sandstone slabs are tilted precariously, thrusting upwards towards a deep, blue sky.

Stair-stepped trails weave through the preserve, offering a fresh viewpoint at every turn. If you’re able to position yourself at just the right angle, you’ll see pale foliage set against dark shadows, creating a striking contrast of color and tone.

The search for a last bit of this year’s vibrant hues has ended in the transitional zone where the plains meet the mountains. Historically a sacred spot revered by native peoples, this heavenly hillside still feels like hallowed ground.

This year the temperatures are warmer than usual but a cool breeze blowing down from the white peaks gives you a chilly forewarning. Each successive day is supplied with gradually less light so now it’s time to start preparing for that dreaded season of darkness.

Color to brighten your day

Autumn's palette

A geologic wonderland

Cottonwoods line the creek

Sandstone slabs are thrust upwards

A fresh viewpoint

Pale foliage set against dark shadows

A transitional zone

Hallowed ground

Prepare for the season of darkness

Saturday, October 21, 2017

American Kestrel - Heart over Height

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is North America’s smallest and most widespread falcon. This pocket-sized bird of prey is extremely adaptable as she can be found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere from Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

The most colorful of all the raptors, she is distinguished by brown wings as opposed to the male’s beautiful slate blue. Perceiving her identity is practically unmistakable while she’s perched on a small pine scanning the grassland for her favorite food; grasshoppers.

She owes much of her success to a broad diet that includes almost any insect, lizards, snakes, mice and voles. She’s a ferocious predator that has the ability to take red squirrels and small birds especially sparrows while still on the wing.

She’s the fearless matriarch of a tight-knit group as both parents are equally active in rearing the young. Often, the whole family will go out on a hunting foray as it’s an effective way to teach the fledglings how to stalk prey.

American Kestrels nest in cavities but they lack the ability to excavate their own. They rely on old woodpecker holes, natural tree hollows, rock crevices, and nooks in buildings and other human-built structures.

With plenty of available resources, this sparrow hawk is a permanent resident of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is her home and she’ll spend her entire life here, flourishing happily even during the region’s cold and snowy winter.

Despite her small size, this little bird is a courageous warrior so don’t dismiss her diminutive nature. When it comes to the physical attributes necessary to survive in this crazy world, I’d take her heart over height any day.

The smallest and most widespread falcon

A colorful raptor

Scanning the grassland

A ferocious predator

A fearless matriarch

The sparrow hawk

A permanent resident

Flourishing happily

A courageous warrior

Heart over height

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bear Gulch - A Dragon's Den

Bear Gulch

Bear Gulch is a steep ravine knifing through the forested foothills of Genesee Park, Colorado. Once you enter into the forbidding chasm, a rocky trail goes downhill all the way.

Upon leaving the land of brilliant light, this seedy underworld is thick with thorny brush and tangled trees. A murky creek cascades quietly through the secluded gorge.

Further in, the trek heads down a slippery slope where every step must be taken with extreme caution. A misstep at this position could result in a fall filled with painful repercussions.

At the soggy bottom, water falls over black boulders and broken logs. The sun’s rays barely make it to the base of the canyon but where they do, autumn bushes glow with yellow when set against the somber shadows.

Closed in by rock and mud, the narrow crevasse is cold and damp. You’re separated from the sky and sunny topland but there’s still a bright side to being stuck inside this complicated scenery.

The consolation garnered from descending so far into the dark depths of this smoldering dragon’s den - there’s nowhere else to go but up.

Forested foothills

A seedy underworld

A murky creek

A slippery slope

Water falls over black boulders

A narrow crevasse

The sunny topland

Complicated scenery

A smoldering dragon's den

Nowhere else to go but up

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Butterflies and Bison - Beauty and the Beast

Painted Lady Butterflies

During a sunny Saturday while searching for the elusive Genesee bison, a seemingly insignificant insect stole the show. In one day, we must have seen a thousand painted lady butterflies perched on purple thistle and yellow rabbitbrush.

The painted lady prefers the warmer climate associated with the desert southwest and Mexico but after an especially wet winter, they have migrated north en masse. During the hurried return south this fall, their population has exploded.

Fueled by favorable weather conditions and abundant food, they are churning across the American landscape like a cloud of orange smoke. This rare phenomenon is one of nature’s great spectacles, containing an air of mystery and unparalleled beauty.

As for the beasts, we found the buffalo grazing peacefully on a steep hillside near the forest’s edge. At one time, more than a million of these impressive animals roamed without hinderance across the vast Great Plains.

With their numbers greatly reduced, the bison are now confined to public preserves or private ranches. On the other hand, the painted ladies are currently prospering as they can cover 100 miles per day while traveling freely across the entire continent.

These small creatures look fragile but they’re actually quite resilient as the race across our rugged foothills at nearly 30 miles per hour. They don’t have much time to waste because their brief lifespan only lasts for about fourteen days.

During their short existence on this earth, the painted lady butterflies flutter about with a joyful enthusiasm. When contemplating the impending future, take your cue from these fun-loving insects and always try to live your life to the fullest.

The Genesee Bison

Perched on a purple thistle

They've migrated en masse

The population has exploded

Unparalleled beauty

Grazing peacefully

An impressive animal

Painted ladies are prospering

They travel freely

They look fragile

They're quite resilient

They don't have time to waste

A joyful enthusiasm

Live life to the fullest