The Wildlife in My Wild Life – Photo Essay

Since I live in Colorado, I’m always on the lookout for wildlife. I’ve spotted them on hikes, while skiing, or through a car window. Prehistoric porcupines, bear, elk, common deer, bighorn sheep, you name it. But this year, my wild life has gotten wilder. Several otherwise elusive creatures have made appearances in the most unlikely of places: My home.

Bullsnakes have made their way into my home twice. A newborn made its way through a light fixture since I found it on top of my flat file. It became a pet for the winter. The kids released it the following summer. The other must have pushed its way through the doggie door. I thought it was one of the rubber snakes from downstairs carried by our Bichon, Roxy. Nope! I put it in an aquarium until the weather warmed up and then let it go. The one in the picture was full grown (about four feet long) when I found in the garage. I picked it up and released it into the garden.

bull snake in yard

Several families of owls love to perch on and around my house. As the sun sets every night, I can hear a couple hoo-hooting to each other.

owl hanging out on roof

Two weeks ago, something hit a window. I rushed to my back door to see. A baby owl sat on the stoop. I waited until he flew away to be sure he didn’t become dinner for one of several hungry predators who lurk in our yard at night.

Last week, I heard the most annoying screeching sound. When the dog went nuts, I ran to the window. A huge owl stood on a planter screeching, “Good morning.” Ha! Worst sound ever.

Click to see the video –

While in Europe after a disastrous water leak from a demon washing machine, our wood floor guy, Nick took pictures of a lynx! Yes, this is our deck.

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According to my neighbor, two bobcats hung out at the front door while we were gone. Make yourself at home, why don’t ya? Of course, I never saw them after returning from our trip. Gah!

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In April, an enormous gold “housecat” walked around the pond. Later, I found out a young cougar has made our neighborhood its hangout. Unlike the lynx in the photo above, its tail is long. It’s a yearling and still pretty small, but the doggie door is shut until further notice. Poor Roxy.

Remember Roxy and the Coywolf? I don’t trust that she’s learned her lesson. She got lucky when that beast laughed and released her from its jaws in 2015. This time too.

Roxy in the window

As I’m typing this, I’m at a desk in the window being totally distracted by the backyard view. You never know what might take a shortcut through our property…

Our family had an unexpected visit last Sunday up in Breckenridge. I’ve seen them at Brainard Lake, at the bottom of Peak 7, but not in my neighborhood!

My husband, Danny, rushed toward me as I walked out of the kitchen. He had an insane look on his face. My first thought was whatever he would say next would be completely sarcastic. “There’s a moose in the driveway!” he screamed. Yes. SCREAMED!

Stained glass windows flank the front door. I saw a massive black shadow beyond. Instead of running for my camera, I rushed downstairs and shouted to my son who talked with his girlfriend on the phone.

He ran upstairs and used Facetime to show her the incredible sight. Right outside our picture window stood a full-grown male moose complete with wicked cool antlers. A yearling grazed nearby. We trapped the dogs in the basement to keep them from frightening the pair.

When my wild life meets wildlife

Click to see the video –

After taking a few photos, we caught our breath. Minutes later, another shadow graced our front doorway. The cow brought up the rear of the little family.

Incredible!

As the sun sinks lower in the sky, I’m still waiting for my glimpse of the elusive wildcats. It’s 4:30 and owls have begun their hooting chant. Another just landed on our roof. The raccoons will scout and a pack of coyotes may send out an eerie cry.

I love where I live. There’s plenty of room for all of us.

Click for more of my Wild Ride.

Related posts:

What was she thinking?

The Moose is Loose!

Not in My Neighborhood!

Taking It to New Heights – A snake encounter…

Have you seen any unusual wildlife? Has your life gotten wilder lately?

Backpacking Challenge in the Rockies

When the opportunity for a backpacking adventure in the Rocky Mountains arose, my thoughts raced back in time to when I hiked with a group of friends from Snowmass right outside of Aspen. My girlfriend had pointed to the peaks way out in the distance and said, “That’s where we’re going.”

I had laughed.

We had started in a dense forest and emerged above treeline. Several miles and thousands of feet in elevation later, we scrambled over boulders as big as Volkswagens straddling deep dark crevices between. Near our destination, we all took baby steps while sucking in the thin air. We were over two miles above sea level.

That night, we camped in an otherworldly atmosphere next to aptly named Moon Lake. Some of the campers woke early to climb a 14er, (a peak 14,000 feet above sea-level.) I was happy to get a few extra hours rest (I doubt that I slept), to build reserve energy and strength for the trip down. It had to be so much easier with gravity pulling and oxygen increasing with every step, right?

When we hit the boulder field again, I found it super challenging to scooch over those enormous rocks while wearing an exterior frame pack. The metal “feet” caught the rock and threw me off balance. A few times I steadied myself to catch my breath while gazing down at those gaping crevices. I breathed a lot easier once we entered the forest. When we reached the car, I dropped my enormous backpack and vowed to never go again. It was too hard.

On our way to a backpacking adventure

Decades later, I jumped at the opportunity to backpack to Sawtooth Mountain. What had changed? I’ve been weight training since March and figured I could carry twenty-five pounds a couple of miles. My husband, Danny, and daughter, Courtney, and I wouldn’t be in a race and we could rest on our way up. I looked forward to the challenge!

Danny had planned the trip. It would be a four-mile hike up to Coney Flats. Right.

“I can see Sawtooth from my house,” I said in a Palin-like voice as we packed up the truck. We would camp below its crest. It would be cool to see it all up close and personal after all the years of admiring it from afar.

When we arrived at Camp Dick to park the truck, Danny informed us that we would take a different route. We would hike six miles. Whoa! It was too late to back out now. What were two extra miles anyway? I could do it.

I picked up my pack, surprised by its weight. Large and unwieldy, I needed help putting it on. The climb would be steady but the final destination name, Coney Flats, relaxed me, somewhat. I figured the hike would flatten out.

A rocky climb

At first, we strode up the trail along with many young families. Watching little kids trucking on their short little legs inspired me to keep up a quick pace. After a couple of miles, my pack dug into my shoulders. It didn’t fit my body properly. I discovered that reaching behind and clasping my hands behind me lifted the bottom of the heavy pack above my shoulders.

Courtney and I resting after the first two miles.

Sawtooth adventure Susie and Courtney

Courtney used GPS and tracked our progress. We hiked two miles in forty-five minutes. At mile three, our pace slowed. I couldn’t wait to take off my pack and set up camp. Three more miles.

After another mile, we realized the bad news. It would take us another four miles to reach the summit. Eight miles to Coney Flats. EIGHT MILES! I’ve never been a quitter. I sighed and we continued to hike up the mountain path.

Backpacking Challenge in the Rockies

We crossed a river and hit a gravel mining road. It was hard to keep from slipping while navigating the treacherous, gravel, uphill climb. From there we thought the lake would be around the corner. Nope. We found the wilderness trailhead and then continued through a bog.

Sawtooth Danny and Courtney

When we made it to the sixth mile, Courtney gave us the bad news. We still had a long way to go. GAH! We zigzagged through the muck while swatting at various nasty pests. Finally, we hit solid ground and re-entered the forest.

A few day hikers traipsed down the trail toward us.

“How far is it to Coney Flats?” I asked. I was out of gas after hiking for four hours straight. I prayed he’d say it was around the corner. It had to be.

“About another hour,” said a young hiker.

NOOO!!! My pack felt like it held bricks instead of a sleeping bag, tent, and clothes.

The group passed and a young woman brought up the rear. She must have overheard her friend. “It’s only twenty minutes to the lake, but the river crossings are tough.”

“Thank God!” I could do this.

We marched on until the trail met the river. We had to cross it by walking over the trunk of a tree. I used a walking stick for balance. The second crossing wasn’t as bad.

tree crossing

The third was insane.

The rushing river was much wider. First, we had to step up onto a small fallen tree and balance on its trunk to cross the narrow part of the stream. I didn’t have the strength to push up on my weak left leg with the extra weight in my pack. I found a walking stick and finally stepped up. As I crossed the stream, I lost my balance. I plunged the stick into the water. It kept me upright. I made it. But the second was a forty foot crossing. Slow but sure we all made it across.

By now daylight was fading. We continued to climb uphill. When would we arrive at Coney of Flatness? We had been walking for five hours. My pack felt like it weighed fifty pounds.

After another half hour, my legs hit a wall of exhaustion. I remembered my personal trainer, Sam, who recently competed in a Half Iron Man. He said that when you become a mouth breather, your body has used all of its energy. I fought that impulse and made myself breathe through my nose.

Sawtooth

Soon the forest broke open to a beautiful meadow. I stopped to take pictures and rest. It couldn’t be far now.

As we hiked up a knoll, Courtney hooted and hollered.

“Thank the Lord,” I said.

We had made it to Coney Flats after six hours and eight miles of hiking. It wasn’t flat at all. There was a campsite at the top. As Danny and I climbed up the hill Courtney strode down the other side. “The lake is right below us!”

I glanced up at the sun. We had about fifteen minutes to set up camp before it set behind Sawtooth. A cold breeze picked up and we hustled. Just after we staked our tents, I found a much nicer and protected site out of the prevailing wind. The tents flew behind Danny and Courtney like kites as they picked their way down the narrow trail. We set up camp a second time.

Coney Flats at Sawtooth

By the time we made dinner, it was dark.

All night long, I heard little animals foraging around our campsite. I slept for about two hours. The next morning, we enjoyed the early morning sunshine. We ate breakfast, then hiked down to the lake to filter water for the trek back home.

Coney Flats Lake

We were the only people around. It felt good to breathe fresh air and stretch sore muscles. We broke camp and packed up. My backpack seemed a ton heavier the second day.

Enjoying the elixir of the gods with an elfish grin.

Susie at Sawtooth

Just like my last backpacking trip, the hike took half the time on the way down. We entered the parking lot just as rain fell in huge drops.

Danny, Courtney, and I hit the road and talked about the trip.

“I would definitely backpack again, but only if we cut down on the miles. Sixteen in less than twenty-four hours was way too much.” We all agreed on that.

I reflected on what had changed for me. I had grown up camping and had missed the quiet solitude, being outdoors, and exploring a new area. When I backpacked years ago, I didn’t need to challenge myself. I was young with nothing to prove. If I didn’t feel like doing something, I didn’t do it.

After going through a heart ablation, breast cancer, and a partial knee replacement, I wanted to prove to myself that I had completely recovered and in some ways, was in better shape than the last time I backpacked. Challenging myself built confidence. Perseverance prevailed. Next year, I’ll plan the trip.

Click for more adventures on the Wild Ride.

Related posts:

Hiking Chautauqua: Slip Sliding Away!

The Moose is Loose!

Are You Adventurous? Take the Quiz!

Have you ever backpacked? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? Have you been to Colorado?

How to Paddleboard and What I Learned

Venice gondolierThe first time I saw paddleboarders, they reminded me of the Venice gondoliers without the striped shirts and skinny, long canoes. Then I learned it builds core, leg, and upper body strength. I’m all about exercising while outdoors. Being landlocked in Colorado, adopting a new water sport intrigued me so I reserved a paddleboard. I wondered if I would spend more time in the water than on the board. I didn’t know I would learn some life lessons too.

Union Reservoir in Longmont only allows power boats to put around and fish, so it’s a paddleboarders’ paradise. I rented a board and grabbed a paddle. I set the lifepreserver on top of the board where it taunted me. I wondered how many times I would spill and if I should put it on. I looked around at the graceful paddleboarders gliding across the lake and tensed, knowing grace was a gift given to other people. I must have been sick that day.

Paddleboarding Paridise Continue reading

Back in the Water for #SharkWeek

Kelly and Susie Santa Monica Beach

The crashing of the sea drowned out my beating heart as I stepped into the waves with my surfboard. I would share this massive body of water with all kinds of sea creatures including sharks. The last time I surfed, the rhythmic waves in Costa Rica made standing up on a board as simple as standing on a picnic table. That board’s width and length helped too. This time would be different. The foam board would be gentle on my knee if I smacked it, but its narrow width and my still wimpy left leg would make balance squirrelly. I was stoked for the challenge. 

I have never been at ease when black water swirled around my body. I’ve spent a lot of time in lakes and had been nibbled several times. But a lifeguard stood on the Santa Monica beach while helicopters watched from their perch in the sky. I had no fear of sharks. 

What happened here? Continue reading

How to Be a Gaper – A Photo Essay

Gaper Day is a tradition at ski resorts. Even if they don’t have a party, the last day of the season brings out the gaper in most skiers and snowboarders. We drove to Vail for their closing day. They had their spring splash the weekend before, but it didn’t dampen the party atmosphere.

What’s a Gaper?

How to be a GaperThis term generally describes someone whose helmet slips back on their head creating the dreaded gap between their noggin protector and their goggles, revealing loads of forehead. This usually accompanies first time skier attire: Jeans, firefighter, camouflage or blaze orange deer hunting jackets… You get my drift.

On the last day of the season this is expanded to skier attire circa 1970-80’s or full on crazy costumes.

We went all out this year. Continue reading

First Snow, Finally – Friday Photos

sprinkler snow sculpture

It snowed for the first time yesterday, November 17th, the latest snow on record. I’ve been waiting through dry months more similar to August and September. It was 82 degrees the day before. Yep. We didn’t turn off our sprinklers before the storm. Oopsy. But it made a pretty cool sculpture.

All of these photos taken on my iPhone this morning are unedited. The colors are amazing!

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I think we can finally take down our wasp traps. In my defense, they were flying around on Thursday and I’m allergic.

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The pond has been my muse for years, but I never get tired of this view.

November first snow on the pond

The temperatures are going to bounce back to the 60’s tomorrow. You gotta love Colorado.

I’m so grateful for the change in seasons and my life in Colorado!

Stop back next week for a chance to participate in a fun Thanksgiving party. I’ll give you a hint – Make a list of simple pleasures you are grateful for and I’ll give you a chance to link up.

Have a Wild Weekend!

Is this storm headed your way?

Click for more of my wild adventures.

An Unexpected Visit from Wild and Wonderful Old Man Winter

An Unexpected Visit from Wild and Wonderful Old Man Winter

We drove up to Breckenridge last weekend, expecting wonderful weather and golden-hued fall color. I couldn’t believe it when the snow began to fly as we approached the Eisenhower Tunnel. I had wondered when Old Man Winter would pay us a visit, but I figured he might wait until the middle of October.

Only a day after the official start of autumn, he surprised us.

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I have been predicting an early winter. I’m gifted and talented in that way. There’s a slant to the light and the birds have been flocking together for weeks now. The perennials died back early, I’ve never seen so many owls hunt during the day, and the squirrels have been in hyper-drive. What does that have to do with an early winter? I have no idea. I’m not even an amateur meteorologist. Someone told me pinecones packed high on the tops of trees indicate a cold, snowy winter. YES! Must be a Farmer’s Almanac thing. Why would trees do that? Maybe if there is a megaton of snow, the pinecones won’t get buried and rot in the spring melt. Who knows? I’m ready for snow.

Wonder why I’m excited? This photo says it all…

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Yep. Those are ski runs in the hills out yonder.

It melted today (moan), but I think the Old Man is lurking. I bet there will be more surprises on the horizon. Winter will arrive early this year.

Are you ready for winter? Has the Old Man surprised your neighborhood yet?

Click for more Wild Colorado Adventures!