Summer flowers

This has been a special summer. Spring provided lots of snow and rain to get the flowers started, but something even more unusual happened when rain appeared frequently in the afternoons each week.

Most summers by the end of June the dry heat shows ups by mid-morning and doesn’t stop until late afternoon as the sun sets and the temperature drops. This year late afternoon showers have continued into August. Sometimes the rain is steady and hard, with thunder and lightning thrown in for a little extra punch.

Because of all of the moisture the flowers line the trails as if spring were still here. The colors are strong, and the sun stays behind clouds enough in the afternoons for moisture to have a chance to hang around.

The mornings are dry and the temperatures dip to the high 50s so morning hikes are guaranteed.

In the afternoons sitting on the deck waiting to see how much rain will fall the birdfeeder is full of birds such as the Western Tanager that is flying through and the many kinds of woodpeckers in the Ponderosa and Lodgepoles. The smaller woodpeckers take turns chasing each other around the trees in their jerky little dance while the larger Flicker intimidate with just their size.

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- part 2

Besides celebrating finding the path to the top I enjoyed finding some of the first green of spring.

Heading up the path were plants with tiny white flowers and leathery green leaves growing very low to the ground called kinnikinnick. The leaves and bark from this plant have been used for smoking and the berries for bladder and kidney problems.

On top of the ridge was what appeared to be a large bonsai tree. The branches were twisted and one side had a low branch seat perfect for surveying the sights.

The ridge just out in several directions. Looking from one rock wall to the next you see trees growing out at angles, hanging at times as if suspended in mid air.

Mullein plants were beginning in the crevices along the path where water runs down the hills. They were just fuzzy leaves. Next a shoot will appear and the stalk will be topped with little yellow flowers. The leaves of the plant have also been used to smoke, and in this case help with respiratory problems.

We’ve had a lot of snow so the plants are fresh, without blemish. They are showing up where moisture was heavy. As summer comes the heat and dry will take its toll and the plants will blend into the arid landscape.

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.

Snow disappears

The regular snow falls of 2019 have kept me inside far too long. Today I visit Elk Meadow and happily discover finding a patch of snow is almost impossible. Living in an area in the foothills where snow can appear and disappear within hours means a lot of surprises.

Lots of people are out today walking. Many have dogs with wagging tails. They seem to enjoy the warmth from the sun as much as me

Walking in the open meadow at the north end of park the grass has sprung back up after being packed under snow. It looks more like fall than spring.

By next week green may be breaking free, and it will be looking like spring.

Bomb cyclone

March 13 the bomb cyclone hit Evergreen. It rained early morning, then snow started to get heavy mid-morning and continued into the night. The thing I noticed most was the high winds that whipped the snow and left visibility only a few feet. Lucily the original forecast changed; we missed the heart of the storm. After several hours of wind and snow it was nice to know the storm was not staying, that we might not lose power. School was cancelled but this was not the weather you could enjoy.

March 14th we alternated shoveling and playing outside with the dogs.Snow ranged from one to two feet; the winds were gone. School was cancelled so roads would have time to be cleared.

Three days later mounds of snow still border the roads. How wonderful this winter has been for moisture. There’s a good chance wildflowers will appears that have been dormit for years. And even better news is the extra moisture will ward off springs fires.

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