Indian Summer continues to bask us in unrelenting fall warmth. It can be tough at times. Yet, there is a remedy, a mountain bike ride up Waterton Canyon. Autumn has reached Colorado's lower realms, and it's been a good one. Snowcatcher and I are on it!
Upon entering the canyon, one of the first things to catch our eye is sumac. Vibrant red sumac and scrub oak tend to go hand-in-hand.
Gambel oak may be found throughout mountainous Colorado between 6,500 and 8,000 feet. Common aliases are oak brush and scrub oak. It's very difficult to bushwhack through, and in this part of the state, it hides plenty of rattlesnakes.
"The Boys are Back in town, the boys are back in town..." I think there's a song in there somewhere. Bighorn rams have arrived for their annual rendezvous with the ladies; it's a month-full of head-butting debauchery. I rode by them hoping to get a better shot. They all turned their backs on me.
Rams live 9 to 12 years, while ewes live 10 to 14 years. Snowcatcher and I have been observing the Waterton herd for more than 10 years now. Ten years ago, there would have been a sub-group of four very large rams whom we labeled Gigantor, Broken Horn, Mutt and Jeff. They didn't hang out much with the other rams and were quite dominant. The group of four is no more. However, we think we can identify offspring from Gigantor and Broken Horn. It's been fun to observe their life cycle.
More shades of rust.
In places, it's hard to make out the singletrack.
In other places, it's not hard to make out the singletrack.
As may be seen, no trail means a lot of scratchy work. Also note how easy a mountain lion, bear or rattlesnake could maintain stealth in this environment. I occasionally see bears and rattlers; I've seen only one lion. Apparently there's a good population of lions in the vicinity.
Looking down the South Platte River as it winds its way through Waterton Canyon.
This shot is in the narrows of Waterton. During the summer, portions get several hours of sun. During the winter, segments get no sun at all.
Vibrant sumac shares rock with still-green scrub oak.
A reach of reflective slack water along the South Platte River teases for a picture.
I never tire of the old and rusty hill slope.
Waterton Canyon has some nice rock formations scattered along its length. I thought the yellow kind of highlighted the cat ears.
As we headed out, we spied more sumac peppering a hill slope at the mouth of the canyon. Waterton can be busy at times. However, it can absorb a lot of people. Kudos to Denver Water for allowing us to enjoy the canyon's beauty, wildlife and fisheries.
As a final note, access up Waterton Canyon is along the old Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad. This is the same narrow gauge railroad I wrote about in my Alpine Tunnel and St. Elmo posts.