Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Walk in Waterton Canyon

(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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  1. Nice pics of Waterton! I'm glad you got to visit the area. I'm not sure why the sheep were shy. Maybe they weren't on their watering schedule, or, perhaps something in the area had them spooked and they were cautious with the new little ones.

  2. Sue, thanks so much for sharing your really great photos! I don't have any names for your mystery subjects, but the bird is especially striking. I am so glad your husband was able to ride his bike with you! xx

  3. Good for you taking a few extra days to enjoy Colorado and your friends. I loved the walk you took us on.

  4. Sounds like you're having (or had a good ) vacation. I remember the Platte River, my husband and daughter use to fish in it.

  5. I think you saw more of Waterton Canyon in one walk than I have seen combined in 15 years! You have the most amazing set of eyes! I am not sure I realized that was your first ride with Mr. M since way back when. What a marvelous treat!

    I will look up the duck, which I think might be a canvasback, in my bird book when I get home. I should know the name of the flower, too, but not right now, of course...

  6. Wonderful pics Sue, thank you - the rocks are beautiful, especially the rose and cream mottled variety, and I really enjoyed having a look around with you. It's so good that Mr M can join you in some of your exciting adventures - all the very best to you both, happy times! xoJoy

  7. Lovely pictures. That rock was so beautiful with all the color variations. Glad Mr. M was able to ride a bit with you.

  8. These photos are wonderful, Sue. I love it there, it's such a beautiful state. I happen to really like thistles, so thank you for those very nice photos of them. :)

  9. Beautiful pictures ~ looks like a really interesting walk! It's awesome that you got to ride with Mr. M again, too. I didn't realize that it was Bike MS weekend, I think it's amazing that you did that, it's such a great thing to do. :)

  10. What a wonderful hike! Such a beautiful and desert-y landscape. I love the thistle photos. Very nice that your husband is feeling like riding with you. Enjoy the ride! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  11. How lovely to go on a trip with your husband with both your bikes. It seems you are visiting a beautiful area far from home. Well done for your ride for MS. The atmosphere of all those cycling companions must be wonderful.

  12. I wish I could ID that bird for you, but I am not familiar with the birds out west at all!
    My sister who is moving back to Colorado tells me that the wildflowers are beautiful there. Hope to see them myself one day!

  13. wow you prepared well for the rid.e TO be able to ride so far in new altitude is so impressive

  14. Thank you for sharing all your beautiful photos, the geography of that area is so interesting. Mother Nature is such grand! I am wondering if that bird is a Merganser? We have them here and I usually recognize their red heads.happy day to you Chris


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