Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Aspens on the Trail
On our last full day of exploration, we decided to head up to Summit Lake, having seen an article praising its beauty. The road turned to dirt quickly, and as we went higher and higher, the rocks and ruts got bigger an bigger. Even though we had a Jeep that could handle it, when we saw the sign saying "4 more miles to Summit Lake," we decided to turn around and head back down to Dry Lake. A passing Forest Service ranger told us where to find the trailhead, and we strolled between the aspens, into the soft loam under the conifer forest, then out into areas of exposed rocks. This trail had more variety of habitat than any we have seen this week. But it was not at all marked so you knew where to go.

Fire-fighting Helicopter
The views were wonderful, as always. A large helicopter made several trips overhead, and we later learned that it was fighting a forest fire in nearby Wyoming.
All week, we have seen hundreds of thousands of dead pine trees, victims of the pine bark beetle and it's deathly fungus. Sometimes the patterns drilled by the beetles are very beautiful. People in town are taking the holey wood and making furniture with it.
We crossed over several clear creeks, tumbling down to the Yampa River below. Under the spruce trees, the ground was so soft and loamy it felt like you were sinking into marshmallows.

Dusky Grouse
Finally found our one and only life bird for the trip - a Dusky Grouse. They look like big brown chickens, and are reputed to be the dumbest bird around. They stand still and think they are invisible!
Mountain Chickadee
Red-tailed Hawk Soaring Overhead
 Other birds were a little harder to find. Both Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees flicked around in the conifers, joined by little Red-breasted Nuthatches. All three chirp and cheep, but stay in the shadows and inner branches.
Bracken Jungle
We haven't seen many ferns in these mountains, but found ourselves pushing through 5 foot tall brackens today. They covered the trail, grabbing at our feet. We needed machetes, but only had hiking sticks to cut our way out.
Black and White Moth
Ah, here's a different little butterfly, I thought. When going through the photos in the evening, I found it had feathery little antennae - the sign of a moth, rather than a butterfly.
Colorado Summer
With the help of some experienced hikers, we finally returned to the car. Thank Goodness! Did you know that your cell phone can give your exact coordinates and elevation, as well as compass directions? I'll always remember the beautiful Colorado blue skies!