Forest management

At Flying J in Conifer the Forest Management Project re-opened trails on the north side this summer. Now the south side is closed most weekdays and the project still has a year to go.

The project goal is to reduce wildfire risk, promote more aspen trees and reduce confier overcrowding. Unfortunately walking the trails it is hard for me to see the big picture. Seeing trees that are beautiful cut down and lying on the ground hurts. The squirrels are more visible as they run across the horizontal trees dragging off pine cones and pieces of branches to make their winter nests.

Hopefully as I continue to walk the trails I will get use to the new more open look. Hopefully the project goals are met and I will have many years to see what changes occur.

Why I hike

I grew up believing exercise was not meant to be fun, involved lots of sweat and caused some pain, but was good for you and needed to be done. Because of this belief I took a jogging class for one of my physical education classes in college in Denton, Texas.

First day in class I was excited when the teacher said after this class we would want to continue jogging for the rest of our lives, that the high you feel jogging is addictive. Hearing that anyone, not just professional athletics could get an adrenaline rush I was hopeful I’d enjoy this new sport.

Day after day jogging remained torture. I did my best to keep up with others in my class, and kept waiting for the jogging addiction to kick in. I did not give up because I needed the class, but I never became a jogger and when the class was over, I threw my jogging shoes away.

Fast forward thirty years and I’m no longer living in Texas. Now I live west of Denver, Colorado in the foothills of the Rockies. I started hiking to learn the wildflowers and to see wildlife. I let go of the voice in my head that said I was a wimp for not feeling pain and found hiking is my sport.

Walking outside is the perfect way to start off my day. After a walk my soul has been fed and any tension has flowed away. It’s as if I feel myself sink into all the beautiful, fun things Mother Nature shows me.

Evergreen Lake

I love early morning to walk Evergreen Lake while it is still quiet.It attracts a lot of visitors, particularly in the summer, but visitors and even most locals wait until mid-morning to show up. This is the time to watch the animals, listen to the birds, and enjoy the mirror like images on the surface of the water.

Near the lake house I found a small group of elk enjoying the water. Walking slowly through the water which reaches the top of their legs, they are not bothered by the ice cold water. They give me a glance and continue on their stroll.

A red-winged blackbird perches on the reeds behind the lake house. The small flash of color contrasts against the light straw color of the reeds and the bright green of the golf course beside the park. It flies from one perch to another, occasionally hidden from sight as it dips into the reeds.

Canadian geese follow each other while periodically calling out. Soon they will be joined b their chubby little chicks.

A cormorant swims near the boat docks. At first I watch the bird expose its body and then sink into the water leaving just a small dark head. Then I watch the bird disappear underwater, playing hide and seek. It is amazing how long it stays down and how far it swims while underwater.

I never know what I will see, but always know I will enjoy walk.

Elk Meadow

Yesterday I decided on a short walk at Elk Meadow about 10am. The clouds were everywhere taunting the forecast for rain after 1pm; they played along the ground adding cold heavy moisture to a hike that is usually hot and dry.

Today I took the path that comes closest to Evergreen Parkway. I enjoy walking in an open area and being able to see cars on the nearby highway. It’s a wonderful turnabout where you hear the birds and enjoy nature just within sight of the man-made things you are temporarily escaping.

In the middle of the path and sprinkled through the grasses on either side were Sand or Star Lilies. They drape beautifully along the ground, the delicate 2-3″ flower looking elegant.

More flowers were appearing under trees along the path. Their bud heads still tight, hiding their identity.

The colors of the flowers and trees were vivid from the moisture and contrasted strongly against the sandy earth and grasses.

I stopped at a lookout to see the Ponderosa in this photo. The tree framed the view of the meadow and competed for attention with the bright oranges of the scared trunk.

Marshdale hike

Yah! Found the trail behind Marshdale Elementary in the Denver Mountain Parks Conservation Property that goes to the top of the rock outcropping. I’ve been looking for two months, but with the snow I lose the trail and a large housing development adjacent with private property posting has been the only constant.

From the top the views are wonderful. The Barn Chapel in Evergreen Memorial Park is visible to the south. To the west snowy peaks line the horizon, and the view of Conifer Mountain is clear.

Along the trail flowers are starting to appear; stark white petals contrasting against dark green leathery leaves. Small gullets lining the path, and fuzzy Mullen leaves sprouting.

First flower

First Pasqueflower of 2019. Each day it opens to show the light lavender color inside, and moves following the arc of the sun. Each night it closes and the silvery hairs covering the flower stalk and sepals catch water drops which glisten in the early morning sunlight.

Spring Break Hike in Conifer

This week I visit Flying J to hike. Here the snow from two weeks ago still lies heavy in the many shaded areas under the trees. The shadows, dead grass and animal tracks are all that change the white landscape.

I enjoy the crunch of snow mixed with ice hiking early. By 8am mud is already taking over the areas in the sun. Each day the islands of open ground expand under the trees. The moist brown mulch from the pine trees draw my attention to the tree itself. In warmer seasons the ground and trees meld together and it’s all the trees, the forest I see.

This park is home to many small, black Abert squirrels. They are shy so instead of seeing them sitting on a log, usually they appear in motion, running from tree to tree. Today I didn’t see one, but I saw the remains of their meal on the trail, Ponderosa needles and little pieces of bark.

Next week work starts again, and I will walk in the afternoons. Then I will enjoy the difference a few hours can make watching the shadows as they close the day.

Buchanan Recreation Center

Evergreen has two recreation centers. Being across from Elk Meadow Park this one has beautiful views. Trails surround the center and Bergen Park.They connect under the highway to Elk Meadow and many miles of trails.. The hiking trails are hidden from the highway by trees. Walking you notice nature instead of roads.

There are two ponds in front of the center that don’t quite freeze because of pumps that keep the water moving. The reflection of the center in the water of the open areas is beautiful. This is a view the business complex on the other side of the pond enjoy daily. And in the summer families fish these stocked ponds and play on the sculptures on shore. There is always something to see from the rec center and office windows.

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