(This is the second in a series of posts about our Colorado vacation.)
After a two-day drive from Wisconsin to Colorado, Mr. M and I arrived at Snowcatcher and the Lizard's house on a Wednesday afternoon. This was our first vacation in years, and we wanted to have a few days to relax before the rigours of Bike MS weekend.
Thursday morning dawned beautifully clear, and we hit the road for a short ride before the heat of the day could set in. (Though not participating in Bike MS, Mr. M brought his bike so he could enjoy a bit of Colorado cycling.)
Mr. M and I hadn't ridden together for years, due to health constraints on his part, so it was a great treat to be on the road with him again.
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Thursday afternoon I felt the need for more exercise, so I decided to take a walk in Waterton Canyon, a favourite haunt of Snowcatcher and the Lizard.
Waterton Canyon is owned and maintained by Denver Water, which operates a dam and reservoir 6.5 miles above the canyon mouth. The canyon's wide, smooth trail and gentle grade appeal to walkers, runners, and cyclists alike, while the South Platte River, which runs next to the trail, draws fishermen of all ages. The canyon is also home to bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, black bears, rattlesnakes, and various bird species. (Though hoping strongly for a glimpse of bighorn sheep, I saw none.)
What first caught my eye, at the start of the trail, were rocks and wildflowers. Here we have both:
(An internet search suggests the yellow flower may be Dwarf Golden Aster.)
These Very Large Thistles were just coming on to bloom:
I know thistles are invasive, but what a glorious colour and shape!
I thought at first these flowers were knapweed...
...but research suggests they may be Creeping or Canada Thistle.
This tiny white flower has me baffled - can anyone ID it? Edited to add: it's probably Old Man's Beard (Clematis ligusticifolia).
Enough flowers for the moment - let's get back to the rocks. And very handsome rocks they are, too:
Many of the rock walls are marvellously angled, fissured by time and who knows what pressure of the earth:
When I looked over my shoulder, I saw this:
From rocks we turn to water. Here is the South Platte, tumbling by a viewing platform:
The wide trail winds ever upwards along the rushing river:
In the middle of the river sat a curious-looking bird on a rock. Any idea what it might be?
I made it nearly two miles up the trail before turning around and heading back. I wanted very much to climb higher, but I'd told Mr. M I'd return by a certain time, and didn't want to worry him.
More fascinating rock:
The black, cream and rose put me in mind of liquorice, vanilla and strawberry. Saltwater taffy anyone?
Here are more of the golden flowers, growing out of another angled rock wall:
And one last photo, taken just before leaving the trail. A blooming thistle, beautifully stylised:
Back in the car, I realised I hadn't seen nearly enough of Waterton Canyon. Someday I'd like to come back, with a bike, and make it to the very top.
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For some truly amazing photos of Waterton Canyon's flora and fauna, visit Snowcatcher's SmugMug page here.
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