Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Something exciting is in the air....

Or, as in this case, on the ground, then in the air.

The greatly anticipated arrival of the Padulas was here  

                                  and they were some road weary warriors.  Despite that, they agreed to hop back into their truck and return to Gunnison for dinner (Anejo, where else?).

On the way home (Sophie riding with me), something on the edge of the road caught my eye.  I stopped and backed up, only to find myself nearly eye to eye with a Snowy Owl.  The large bird acted as though it were injured, as it sat staring at me from the strangest position.
 As I, frantically and unsuccessfully, searched for my phone to take a picture, the bird jumped further up the hillside by about 5 feet.  A moment later he repeated this movement.  I now abandoned the idea of catching a photo and remained fixed on the bird.  Seconds later the Owl took flight, lifting gracefully through the beam of my headlamps, back into his own nocturnal element where he is most happy.  Despite the absence of a photographic record, and the fact that this amazing event all took place within seconds, it will forever be perfectly etched on my internal hard drive.  (NOTE:  I have since learned that Owls can be "stunned" by car headlights, and become momentarily disoriented.

As I write this passage, Bill is beginning to "pull" the Bar B Que chicken (16 breasts) that he and I spent the early morning hours assembling and setting to simmer.  The house is now filled with the aroma of the blended sauces.  Rich BBQ flavors in the air.  Yet, the "volunteer" potluck it is to be served at, remains a distant 4 hours away.  We have invited the Padulas to join us, and it promises to be a fun beginning to our final 3 week countdown here at Curecanti NRA, before we head back up the dusty trail to our beloved fam and peeps   :-)

The scent of the BBQ was apparently making more than just Bill and I crazy...Bill and Rachel, our Ranger friends who make their way  up here to see us about once/twice a week, had a rare and exciting encounter about a mile from the entrance  to our campground on Soap Creek Road.  A large black bear ambled down
the slope along the edge of the road, and crossed directly in front of their vehicle.  They were thrilled they were able to have this experience  it reminded me of the time, a year ago, that Bill and I chanced upon the same thing while en-route to meet up with James at his hunting grounds in the mountains near Dillon.  I remember how thrilled we were, AND, that I was able to get a picture.

Setting the scene :  Soap Creek Road, approaching the entrance to Ponderosa Campground, a curve, a large rock sitting about 4 feet off the roadway, about 3 feet high.  As we drove around the curve we saw, perched on top of the rock, a full size Golden Eagle (maybe 30 inches or more in height).  It is quite rare to see one of these beautiful birds, with the rich, dark reddish brown feathers, so very close to the road.  At that moment the bird took flight and swooped along past our truck, eye level with me.  It was an amazing sight, leaving me too mesmerized to grab my camera.  I felt like I could have reached out and touched his wingtips.
That said, we were able to capture the "young" Golden Eagle that frequents the Ponderosa Pine near the Dam.

THEN the next day, while on the Morrow Point Boat Tour with the Padulas,  the resident Bald Eagle, often seen flying high over the reservoir during boat tours, was spotted by Joey, taking a respite.  It made for a great photo op!

Friday:  Padulas left this AM and we decided to take it quiet and restful today.  Not that the Padulas wore us out, not by any means, but I has been busy over the last 3 weeks for us overall, and we decided some downtime was in order.  

So, after walking our morning rounds (2 hours, 3.5 miles, 800 foot elevation change), in the name of health and exercise, the balance of the day was spent  working on the picture files and....Bill: working on his new painting.  To work on the painting, Bill takes his portable easel down over the edge of the bluff overlooking the canyon and settles in about 150 feet down, amongst the Scrub Oak and Pine.
 There he sits, quietly developing his newest production on canvas, when he hears a series of deep breathes.  At 1st he thinks I have loosed the dogs to come and find him, but he quickly dismisses that idea.  Keep in  mind his easel drawer is open and blocks his ability to stand up quickly, so he slowly turns in his chair, but sees nothing.  Easing the drawer back into its closed position, he finally stands and scans the area around him.  He again sees nothing, but HEARS the clear and distinct sound of movement in the underbrush and breaking twigs.  Whatever it was, now sounding as though it was headed downhill in the direction of the river.  We likely will never know for sure what was there, though we do know we live in Bear, Coyote, Mountain Lion and Bobcat country.  I have recommended Bill take one of the dogs with him from here on out.

One of our campers reported seeing a Bobcat slightly less than 1 mile from our campsite today.  He reports it was stalking a small deer.  I wonder if the dogs would alert on an animal like that?

And, in other animal sightings, I FINALLY saw my 1st Sage Grouse in the field yesterday :-)  They are VERY shy.

 It would be neat to see their "mating dance", which they display in April/May, but that is a VERY rare occurrence to be witnessed by humans.

AND, before I forget, The Bar B Que chicken was a HUGE success at the volunteer picnic!  Our "boss" also gifted us with nice "volunteer" sweatshirts and neat, ventilated, wide brim Savannah hats!  We had seen these hats earlier in the summer and asked if we could buy a couple of them.  Jude kept putting us off, saying "Oh, I forgot to check into that".  The whole time he had them on order AND kept a straight face about it :-)
Jude, BTW, is also a volunteer and hails from the state of Kentucky, where he still  maintains a home.  He spends his limited free time sightseeing in his "Bambi", a petite (18 foot) Airstream, and his dogs.

 The exciting week would not be complete without a trip into town ( 75 miles round trip).  Well worth it this time, as we were able to experience a bit of Heaven on  Earth.

Our final 2 weeks here will pass very quickly, and we are making preparation 
Lois, Becky and me enjoying the music.
to head back to Chi town on September 3rd.
  Our biggest regret is that we will miss the memorial service for our dear friend LOIS CHARLETON by a scant 2 weeks.  Lois was a lover of 2 of my favorite obsessions:  The Lord Jesus and Country music.  I was honored to be asked to assist Becky (her daughter) in escorting Lois to Country Thunder 2 years ago, and that day is noteworthy as one of my "top 10" most FUN days EVER!  Maybe we will have another chance in Heaven?

And Lois can teach everyone her fabulous whistle technique:-)  Vaya Con Dios Lois!

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