Day 12: May 26, 2016
- Reporting on Hikes 3 and 4: Only 66 more to go
- Locations: In the vicinity of Perry Park, Colorado (see descriptions below)
- Distance: 4.25 miles and 3.68 miles respectively
- Short Walk: See description below
- Location: Cherokee Ranch, Colorado
- Cumulative Distance: 33.83 miles
Like the famous Waldo, I am sometimes hard to find. For example, if you looked at my blog earlier this week, you would have had no idea where I was. There were no wordy descriptions of hikes I have taken and no new images from the talented camera of my husband, Curt. (Now that didn’t quite come out right, did it? I should truly attribute the photographic talent to Curt and not to his camera. If I were using that same camera, I suspect that many of my pictures would be spectacular bird blurs or my specialty, inadvertent photos of my fingers or feet! Perhaps I will post some of those photos sometime—I’m sure that you would enjoy them!) One of the reasons for the absence of blog posts this week might be the glorious blue skies, the newly green trees, and the May wildflowers that have tempted me each day. When I compare staring at the keyboard of a computer to experiencing the wonders of nature in Colorado’s great outdoors, there is no contest. Don’t look to a computer screen if you want to find me on a perfect spring, summer, fall, or winter day. Instead, assume that I am outdoors living in the moment. If that were your assumption this week, you would have been at least partially correct.
Last Saturday afternoon, my friend Barb and I walked slowly back and forth across the Hidden Forest Open Space in search of the elusive prairie violet, Viola pedatifida. This lovely purple violet, with leaves shaped like a bird’s foot, is quite different from its yellow- and white-flowered cousins that we frequently see in the spring in Colorado. It is also considered to be uncommon in our state, but due to our observations in previous years, we thought there was a high likelihood of finding it in bloom. I’m enclosing a picture of what we found…. Yes, our search was not successful—we found no leaves or flowers or shadows of the plant. We plan to return in the near future to see if the flower has just been reluctant to bloom due to snow and cool temperatures earlier this month or perhaps it is taking the year off, just to frustrate us on our diligent search. We are trying to help a talented botanical artist locate the prairie violet in bloom so that she can paint its portrait. If you see one, please let me know, but only if you are in Colorado, you are completely sober, and you can show me exactly where it is. (Note that this leisurely walk may have added to my distance goal, but it was not a “real” hike.)
Later in the weekend, Ransom and Sophie, our beloved Australian shepherds, took me on a real hike instead of just pursuing one of our normal short walks down the road to sniff out(they do this, not me) and bark at (they do this, not me) the neighboring dogs. We went wherever they wanted to go, which was apparently down an undeveloped road not far from home, into the woods in several random directions, and into a neighborhood pond (they went into the pond, not me). When we returned home, I dutifully reported to Curt that we had walked over 12 miles. He looked somewhat skeptical, and so—somewhat reluctantly—I had to admit that was the cumulative distance that the three of us had walked. My tracking device said that I had walked 4.25 miles. If truth be told, Ransom and Sophie undoubtedly ran and walked much farther than I did, since they have not yet learned the meaning of a “straight line.” I asked Ransom and Sophie if they would like to write a post about our hike, and they declined. Since none of us felt like sitting down at the computer to write, the task was postponed.
Early Monday morning, I met friends Shawn and Crista to hike to the fabled waterfalls on Bear Creek above Perry Park. Although I have lived less than two miles from this natural wonder for well over 20 years, I had never before ventured up the trail, which is on private land, although open to Perry Park residents and guests. Somehow I had assumed that there was some level of exaggeration in the descriptions that I had heard of the grandeur and beauty of this neighborhood attraction. However, Shawn—feeling strongly that my education had been sorely neglected and being appalled at my corresponding lack of experience with this aspect of the region’s beauty—had volunteered to lead us on a short hike to visit the waterfalls. Just a few feet up the trail, I started doubting where I was. The beautiful canyon looked nothing like anything I had expected to find within many miles of Perry Park. Why, I wondered, was this not preserved as a state park or at the very least, included in realtors’ descriptions of reasons why Perry Park is an ideal location for those of us who love nature? The canyon walls were verdant green and I saw plants that do not grow anywhere else within the Perry Park environs. Far below, Bear Creek, running high with spring runoff, tumbled over the rocks, releasing spray into the cool morning air.
We proceeded to travel up the steep trail until the first waterfall came into view. Indeed this waterfall is spectacular, especially on this day when it benefited from the contributions of spring snowmelt and rainfall. However, this is just the first of the waterfalls, and having been augmented by some type of dam in the distant past, it is not quite natural. As we walked just a short distance further up the trail, I much preferred the subsequent wild rapids and beautiful upper falls where nature has done all of the landscape design with no help from man. While I could write much more about this area, I will not do so now, since I expect to return often. Hopefully, the next time I come for a visit to the falls, I will have “husband-with-camera” in tow, and he can help me to record the experience more accurately than mere words can do. Visiting this beautiful area requires just a short hike, although a walking stick is highly recommended and small children and pets should probably be left at home. Part of this trail is somewhat precipitous, and a slide off the loose gravel surface into the canyon below would not be pleasant.
Returning to where we had parked our cars, we discovered with some amazement that this entire adventure had been accomplished in under a mile of walking. This would not do! By my definition, anything under two miles cannot possibly be considered “a hike.” Therefore, my companions and I proceeded to walk and talk our way down some nearby roads, and after they left I continued for a short while. Overall, this became a short hike of just 3.68 miles.
Later in the day on Monday, I was privileged to teach two classes for volunteers interested in leading hikes and participating in other outdoor volunteer activities at Cherokee Ranch. I personally love doing the activities that I was teaching, not only because they allow me to explore the beauty of this private ranch property, which is protected by a Conservation Easement, but also because they give me an opportunity to share my love of nature, conservation, and land stewardship with ranch guests. Helping to prepare other volunteers to have these same experiences is a joy. With their participation, we can work together to reach even more people to teach them about the natural treasures on Cherokee Ranch. Hopefully, we will also help to instill conservation ethics and love of the land in our youth visitors and their parents.
Tuesday I taught two more classes for outdoor volunteers at Cherokee Ranch. Again, I found that experiencing the enthusiasm of the class participants and learning about the considerable experience, knowledge, and skill that they are so willing to share with others was inspiring. Cherokee Ranch and its guests will benefit greatly from each of these volunteers.
If you were looking for me on Wednesday, where would you have found me? Yes! Once again I was at Cherokee Ranch. This time I was privileged to be outside on Cherokee Ranch land, helping to lead a group of talented Plein air artists and botanical artists up Rattlesnake Road. There they each found their own inspiration from grandiose vistas of mountains and valleys in the distance, nearby ranch landscapes and Castle views, or nature’s more intimate offerings of individual wildflowers or other plants. As I have come to understand from looking at beautiful photographs and other artwork, each of these special artists can say more with one painting than I can say with many words. And so, enough said about this experience. Throughout the day I walked 3.5 miles, but again I do not consider this to be a hike. It was not continuous, and hiking was not the focus of the day for me.
Now it is Thursday, and I am listening to dire predictions of stormy weather from news reporters and weather forecasters. When? Well, I am told that severe storms with rain, wind, and hail are possible today in the low country and snow is probable in the mountains. Then tomorrow there may be more of the same. Never fear, we are not expected to have famine or swarms of locusts. I do hope that you find that as reassuring as I do.