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Vacation Wildlife Sightings

I looked forward to seeing wildlife while vacationing with Daughter’s and Son’s families in Fraser and Winter Park, Colorado.

            As soon as I sat on our condo balcony, a hummingbird swooped a little too close.  A robin perched atop a blue spruce and looked like a topper on a Christmas tree.  An iridescent black bird that looked like a crow, marked white on its wings and body, squawked as it flew past. 

            He’s the cousin of a crow and raven: a black-billed magpie.  Magpies were everywhere I was for five days.  On hiking trails in the middle of the forest.  At a concrete skate park in downtown Winter Park.  Among the natural undergrowth and trees surrounding the condo complex.  Magpies were easy to identify, and I sometimes heard their loud, harsh cries before I saw them. 

            Early one morning while I sipped my first cup of coffee, two female mule deer grazed nearby.  Their long ears turned toward me when I stepped outside, but obviously not feeling threatened, they lowered their heads to pick the wild grasses.  I sat quietly watching these animals that have broader chests and are more stocky than the white-tailed deer here in Tennessee. 

            Another morning, deer wandered from a cluster of trees and sauntered near the condos for their morning feed. Then they turned, walked toward the trees, stopped, kneeled to the ground under a large bush, and tucked their heads. Was this their daily routine?  Their feeding lot? Their place for daytime naps?

            The only moose and elk I saw stood perfectly still on the sidewalks of Winter Park.  Huge metal statues.  The moose was dressed in a red and white coat and blue pants to celebrate Independence Day.  Maybe, I thought, I’ll see wildlife while riding home with Daughter’s family for two days across Kansas and parts of Missouria and Kentucky. 

            After a nine-hour ride we checked into a hotel in Topeka, Kansas, and I put on my tennis shoes to walk outside and stretch my stiff body.  A few steps from the hotel’s front doors, I saw wildlife that marks this trip. 

            A doe and four kits waddled from under tall shrubs and trees about five parking places from where I stood.  I froze in place.  I never expected to see a stench of skunks!  (Yes, a group of skunks is called a stench or surfeit.)  Momma Skunk led her babies from their protected hide-away onto mowed grass, toward the paved parking lot.  The kits, following Momma, tumbled over each other.

            At the concrete curb, Momma stopped, sniffed, raised her nose, sniffed the concrete again.  She turned around facing her kits, then stepped through them and ambled toward the bushes.  The kits followed.

            I hate the stink of a skunk’s spray, and never want to be near one, but seeing the doe leading her kits and watching them play, I hoped no one would find their hiding place.  Skunks eat rodents, beetles, and larvae, and scavenger animal carcasses so that busy intersection in Topeka should be varmint-free, unless skunks are considered varmints.

Colorado’s Natural Playground

For a week, Husband and I explored parts of Colorado with Daughter and Son and their families. “First stop tomorrow is the Poudre River,” Son announced and the Grands giggled. 

     “Did Uncle Eric say pooter?” eight year-old Elaine asked, then she put her hand over her mouth and giggled.

            “Actually, it’s the Cache La Poudre (pronounced pooh-der) River and you’ll like it.  It’s a good place to throw rocks.” After breakfast the next day, six adults and eight children, ages 4-14, loaded into three vehicles.  One carried bicycles on top so Son 2 (aka son-in-law) and the four older kids could ride the Poudre trails and the rest of us prepared for a fifteen-minute walk along a dirt path toward the river.

            Carrying water, snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellant, we adults walked in front and back, and the two youngest cousins, Ann and Jesse, held hands as they walked.  Ann, who has visited the Poudre River many times, said, “We get to walk on the wiggly bridge!”

            Six and eight year-old cousins Neil and Elaine paired up and rocked the wooden suspension bridge from side to side.  “This is more fun than walking!” said Elaine.  She and Neil hopped across the bridge.

            The Poudre ran full and swiftly. Its shoreline was covered with rocks, from small gravels to rocks big enough to sit on.  A large willow tree with exposed roots and low branches grew beside the riverbank.  The Grands immediately threw rocks in the water and challenged each other.  Who could throw the farthest?  Whose rock made the biggest splash? Who could throw five rocks at one time?  And Elaine and Neil often said, “Watch me throw this rock in the Pooter,” and then laughed.

            After a bit, the four kids wandered from each other.  Jesse, age five, found a walking stick and walked the tree roots, nature-made balance beams.  Four-year-old Ann collected the shiniest, tiniest rocks.  Neil and Elaine threw leaves and sticks in the river and then tried to hit them with rocks. 

            Husband and Son skipped rocks and all four Grands counted loudly the number of skips across the water’s surface.  The kids were determined to find perfectly flat rocks and master skipping.  Over and over they slung rocks into the water and when one skipped, even once, all celebrated with applause and cheers.

            Another thirty minutes passed before Daughter and Daughter 2 declared it was time for snacks and water and a second sunscreen rub down.  Afterwards, Jesse used his stick as a shovel to dig softball size rocks from the ground.  The same size rocks lay on top of the ground, but with Ann’s encouragement, Jesse dug several and then together he and Ann made the biggest water splashes or so they claimed.

            A different trail from the river led us through marshland and the Grands stopped and squatted to watch ants scurry around a huge anthill.  Back at the parking lot, we met the bike riders and our eight Grands talked at the same time.  All were sure they’d had the most fun.  They were wrong.  I did, but I didn’t tell them.

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