Back to Golden Gate Canyon State Park, this time with a friend. We started at Panorama Point:
Then we hiked the Snowshoe Hare Trail. Some snow was on the ground–not much. In bird life, we saw crows, two hawks (one was certainly a Red-tailed Hawk, and the other may have been, as well), lots of Mountain Chickadees, a few Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a pair of Clark’s Nutcrakers. The temperature was 29 degrees at the start, 57 degrees at the finish, and we hiked perhaps five miles, all told.
This morning a friend and I took a few hours to drive the Old Fall River Road at Rocky Mountain National Park. According to the National Park Service, this road was opened in 1920 and was the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park offering access to the park’s high country. Unlike the Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road is a one-way, gravel road, just eleven miles in length, ending at the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass. In bird life, we saw a Townsend’s Solitaire, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, and a Dusky Grouse hen and five chicks. Some views from the Old Fall River Road:
We took the Trail Ridge Road back down to the Bear Lake trailhead. On the way, we spotted Red-breasted Nuthatches and a pair of Red Crossbills. Here’s one of the latter:
Then we hiked to Dream Lake. We heard chickadees along the way, and we saw Red-breasted Nuthatches, Steller’s Jays, and Clark’s Nutcrackers. We saw least chipmunks and a lot of golden-mantled ground squirrels. Showing very little fear of the steady stream of hikers, the ground squirrels dotted the edge of the trail, steadily munching down seeds in preparation for hibernation. We watched one break to take a dust bath.
This morning my better half and I hopped on our mountain bikes and rode out to Green Mountain via Bear Creek Lake Park. From the Rooney Valley Trail at Green Mountain, we saw elk grazing: a cow and calf, three other females, and a very large bull. The ride was quicker than last Saturday’s, but a little shorter and a little less taxing: 26 miles in two hours and forty-five minutes, with 2,200 feet of climbing.
After we got home, I watched this Western Wood-Pewee hunt from a hook for the hummingbird feeder. Again and again, it sallied out, nabbed an insect, and returned to its post.
Yesterday my better half and I went mountain biking at Buffalo Creek. Thirty miles in just over four hours, with 3,792 feet of climbing (Nice Kitty–Buffalo Burn–Little Scraggy–Colorado Trail–Redskin–Gashouse–Homestead–Charlie’s Cutoff–Homestead–Sandy Wash). We saw three mule deer, least chipmunks, pine squirrels, Mountain Bluebirds, and Dark-eyed Juncos. My better half also spotted Abert’s squirrels.
Today I went hiking solo at Staunton State Park. Hit the trail just before dawn, and covered slightly more than twelve miles in a bit over six hours. The route was Dines Meadow–Mason Creek–Bear Paw (with stops at Catamount Overlook (9,402 feet), Pikes Peak Overlook (9,209 feet) and Eagle Cliffs Overlook (9,579 feet))–Mason Creek–Border Line (with a stop at Staunton Rocks (9,410 feet))–Marmot Passage–Scout Line–Staunton Ranch. Temperature at the start was 48 degrees, and 68 degrees at the finish.
I hadn’t been hiking long on Mason Creek when I was startled by the alarm calls of a pine squirrel behind me. I walked back twenty feet on the trail and spotted it maybe fifteen feet above me on a branch. For a small creature, its alarms are loud, especially on a very quiet morning in dim light.
But pine squirrels can’t make alarm calls when their mouths are full:
Also on Mason Creek (before I veered off on Bear Paw), I saw two female mule deer. Here’s one:
Here are two views from Catamount Overlook:
As I continued hiking throughout the day, some pine squirrels sounded the alarm and others, living up to their name, were much more interested in green pine cones (pine squirrels had the numbers today; I saw only one least chipmunk and one golden-mantled ground squirrel):
Of the three overlooks on Bear Paw, Eagle Cliffs Overlook was the best. A spur trail off Bear Paw leads hikers up a steep, rocky section to a commanding view of Lions Head.
While at the overlook, I saw several Clark’s Nutcrackers (quite far away–due west of the overlook, but distinctive), and, closer by, a couple of Dark-eyed Juncos, and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
On the way back down the spur trail, I finally got a good glimpse of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, whose plaintive, single-note toots I’d been hearing all the way up. I also heard something behind me, and turned around to spot three female mule deer, not far off the trail. And below me in the forest there was a buck. As I wound my way downhill, joining Mason Creek trail again, I kept catching glimpses of the buck. He was hounded by the alarm calls of pine squirrels.
After turning back onto Mason Creek, I walked through an aspen forest that was alive with birds: a Pine Siskin, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and chickadees (which I heard but did not see–they were probably Mountain Chickadees).
Before I left Mason Creek for Border Line, I spotted a male American Three-toed Woodpecker:
While hiking Border Line, I climbed up to Staunton Rocks and took in the view:
But, to me, the more exciting view was right behind me, a Brown Creeper–the first time I’ve spotted one!