21 October 2014

Stardate 2014.805

I 'm not sure what this plant is, yet.  It's pretty cool though.

Rusting Waterton

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!

Sumac, sporting lots of red, intermix with the Gambel oak of Waterton Canyon, Colorado.

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.

The rustic rusts of Gambel oak, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

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.

Tis the season, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

"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.

The rustic rusts of Gambel oak, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

More shades of rust.

Singletrack blends in with the scrub oak (i.e., Gambel oak).

In places, it's hard to make out the singletrack.

More singletrack fun in the vicinity of  Waterton Canyon, Colorado.

In other places, it's not hard to make out the singletrack.

Oak brush, scrub oak, Gambel oak, it's all the same, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

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.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Looking down the South Platte River as it winds its way through Waterton Canyon.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

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.

Sumac, oak brush and rock, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Vibrant sumac shares rock with still-green scrub oak.

South Platte River, Waterton Canyon, Colorado

A reach of reflective slack water along the South Platte River teases for a picture.

Rusting Gambel oak, Waterton, Colorado

I never tire of the old and rusty hill slope.

Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Waterton Canyon has some nice rock formations scattered along its length. I thought the yellow kind of highlighted the cat ears.

Sumac peppering a hill slope in Waterton Canyon, Colorado.

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.

Until next time...



  1. You really got some stunning pictures this outting. Of course, the leaves and ideal temperatures helped, but my goodness have you captured nature at its finest!

  2. It's very beautiful there in fall. We have a lot of the same rusty colours at the moment - though most of them have been blown off the trees and are now cuddling up to houses and fences.

    Your "sub-group" made me think of the Fearsome Foursome.... :)


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