Saturday, February 28, 2015

End of the Road

There is something special about living at the end of the road. For one thing not many people drive by this time of the year. The county road leading up to this point is less than ideal but from the Dead End sign on it degrades rapidly into a rock strewn, two-track path. A couple of summer cabin residents travel by when they are here. The folks from Trails End Ranch, which wraps around this area on the north and west sides, access the south end of the ranch from this road. Occasionally a Sunday afternoon tourist, neighbors on horseback or illegal hunter passes by, but that's about it. 

Of course there are always a few people every year who are not convinced by the Dead End sign and plod forward only to get stuck in the snow, lost, or find themselves having to back out a quarter mile or more. In fact that's the reason for the little sign below the Dead End sign - No Forest Access, No Turn Around. Just trying to save people from themselves. 

There's another special aspect of being at the end of the road and that's the spiritual one. It's good knowing that beyond this point it's more about the woods and the animals that inhabit them than people. And it's about our conscious decision to live beyond the reach of most things, to live quietly and in harmony as much as possible, to work together to accomplish a simple yet beautiful life.

I am reminded of the famous poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. I think the final lines say it best.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - 
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So true.

From Fleur Creek Farm

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cats of Our Forest

Heading into the woods after a fresh snowfall is one of my favorite things to do. It gives me a chance to see who has been out and about. Last week's four inch wet snow was perfect so I laced up my hiking boots and headed for the woods. 

It didn't take long to come across numerous tracks of a bobcat (Lynx rufus). Since bobcats are generally solitary the tracks were probably from one animal moving back and forth across the area in search of food.

Bobcats hunt by stealth, relying on surprise rather than a lengthy chase. Opportunistic, bobcats will feed on practically any prey including mice, chipmunks, squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits, porcupines, small birds and even deer. Bobcats are active all year and most of their hunting occurs at night or at dawn and dusk. 
Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Bobcats favorite habitats are pinon-juniper woodlands and montane forests making them quite at home in our forest. In fact just after I took the photo of my foot and the bobcat track, the long-legged cat ran across the clearing in front of me and disappeared into the trees. 

After enjoying my personalized visit by "Bob" I continued on, studying the tracks of all the little creatures of the woods. There were the tiny tracks of a deer mouse and the hopping tracks between trees of the pine squirrel (Chickaree). Since the snow cover wasn't very deep I also came across the tracks of a raccoon. 

Just as I was about to turn back I noticed the tracks of the largest winter predator of the forest, the mountain lion (Felis concolor).

Seeing these tracks gave me both a thrill and a chill. This elusive and solitary cat is rarely seen. Lions mainly prey on deer but this time of year the deer have moved to lower elevations and the lions are left with rabbits, porcupines, raccoons, mice, an occasional young elk, and around here, wild turkeys. 

Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Over the years I have found the remains of several lion kills and I am always reminded that with respect to the lion, we are not the top of the food chain.