Settling into a Routine

Monday, my second morning at Caribou, dawns cloudy and cool. The elk that came down into the meadow last night are still here. I hear an occasional bugle and can see them at the far end, much too far to photograph. Two young bulls stand separate from the main herd and slowly munch and spar their way toward the barn.

I gather my binoculars, camera, coffee, and a chair and sit quietly in the barn with the back door cracked open, watching the bulls move closer. It is such a joy to be able to watch them that I almost forget to switch from the binoculars to the camera for photos.

This becomes my morning routine: sit quietly with binoculars, camera, and coffee, waiting to see what comes by. Sometimes I include my sketchbook/journal to catch the random thoughts that drift by on the breeze.

The valley is so quiet in the early morning and early evening I am constantly aware of the little sounds. Things like the hoof beats and panting as the elk run across the valley a half mile away, birds calling from across the meadow, even the light brushing of the grass against the fence.

Once the chill has burned off, it is time for my hike, another activity on my daily routine. This day I plan on just doing the loop up to the Switzerland Trail and around to the Bluebird mine. Nothing involved, just a short hike to get settled in. I grab my camera and take off.

Growing up in the mountains, I rarely made plans or took precautions—like bringing water, food, and bear spray—when I left the house. The mountains were my backyard, and you don’t need those things in your backyard, right? Today’s hike reminds me that it’s good to plan ahead. I wander up along the DeLonde creek, one of the trails open to the artists but not to the general public. It is a wonderful little valley with flowers still in bloom and yet the aspen are turning a glorious gold. I stop and photograph a pine squirrel busy stuffing its face. 

The trees grow denser here as I climb higher up the valley. I start to feel a little claustrophobic; trees can do that to me. I love them, but I want my space too. I want to see the other side of the valley or see the water, not just hear it. Not to mention I saw definite bear scat down at the beginning of the trail. So when I hear a grunt that I can’t identify, I wish that the bear spray was in my hands. Erring on the side of caution, I soon turn and head back down valley.

I visit the Bluebird mine and am thrilled that you can now wander through the complex. Last time I hiked up here it was off limits. Again a little planning like having my shorter lens would have been nice. Oh well, just means I will be back again. Besides my little hike has turned into almost three hours, and I am hungry and thirsty. Time to head back to the barn, my home for the week.