Betasso Nature Preserve
Last week I was able to tag along with my husband who was attending a training in Boulder, CO. I've never seen the Rocky Mountains before, so I was very excited. As you might imagine, April weather in Colorado is pretty varied. I was prepared for cool temps and even wintry conditions, making sure the vehicle we rented was equipped with 4-wheel drive.
We drove up to Estes Park, the eastern gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park after he finished training on the first day. It was beautiful, but too cold for hiking. We drove along enjoying the scenery and the wildlife. There was still plenty of snow on the ground, and eventually we did have to turn around because the road is closed off during the winter. We had some flurries, but no accumulation to speak of.
I wanted very much to drive myself back up there the next day, but having been admonished by more knowlegeable folks about mountain lion and grizzly bear sightings, I knew I couldn't go alone. I decided to see if there was a hiking guide service or maybe even horseback riding. I found a stable that is open year-round and booked a two-hour ride for Friday. We had been watching the weather and a blizzard was predicted for the weekend, beginning Friday night, so I figured this was my only opportunity to get back to the park before the snow hit.
Friday morning came and the weatherman announced that a foot of snow had already fallen in the mountains and 8-10 more inches were expected. It wasn't snowing at all in Boulder, but my husband didn't want me to drive up there and get stuck. Bummer. I had to cancel.
Well, I was determined to go hiking somewhere and get some wildlife pictures. So I picked up a guide of local trails in Boulder and set off to see what I could see. (Let me just interject here that Hertz Never Lost is worth the extra cost. I love that you can type in where you want to go and she will get you there.) I found a marsh trail, perfect for shooting bird photos. Tune in tomorrow to see some of those.
I drove to another site and watched two magpies building a nest, but couldn't find the trailhead. I drove up into the Flat Iron mountains on Canyon Drive to see Boulder Falls. Unfortunately, there was a huge rockslide some time ago and you can no longer see the falls. I drove back down and saw a bird of prey circling above and wondered if I could get up to the top of that mountain for a better view. Just around the bend, there was a side road and I turned off.
I really enjoy turning onto an unfamiliar road just to see where it leads, so this was going to be fun whether I achieved a better view of that bird or not. What I found at the top of this road was Betasso Nature Preserve, a beautiful mountain-top area with picnic tables and trails. I did see the bird, but it was still too high to identify. No matter, I started walking along the path to see what else I might find.
I didn't get very far, and it wasn't because of the altitude. What stopped me was a sign warning that this was mountain lion territory! It went on to explain what to do and what NOT to do should I encounter one.
Well, that last admonition did it. These lions are able to take down an elk for their dinner, and I didn't see any elk around. I didn't feel like being a subsitute, so I turned around and got back in the SUV.
I was able to get some lovely scenery shots before I saw that sign, though. And I thought this one was perfect for Skywatch Friday.
The snow did come later, and I never did get my horseback ride, but that just means I have something to look forward to next time. I definitely want to visit this place again.
For more beautiful skies check out SkyWatch Friday.