Monday, February 18, 2013

The Living Beauty of Waterton Canyon

(Originally wrote this on Sunday but I am just getting a chance to post now.)

In a little under 4 weeks - March 16th,  I will be heading to Moab, Utah to run in the Canyonlands Half Marathon.  Since the beginning of the year I have been slowly and steadily preparing myself for the physical stress and challenge I will put my body through on March 16th. 

This morning I undertook one of the longest runs/walks I have undertaken as part of my training regime.  My original plan was to cover 7 miles on the High Line Canal trail near Waterton Canyon.  Arriving at the parking lot for the trail, I found it closed due to construction.  Quickly deciding upon a fall back plan, I headed to the Waterton Canyon trail head a short distance away.  Instead of covering the 7 miles on the High Line Canal Trail - I would instead cover that distance in Waterton Canyon.

The parking lot for Waterton Canyon was dramatically fuller than the last time I had been there on New Years Day.  There were probably close to 100 cars there along with half a dozen horse trailers for people who were riding their horses into Chatfield State Park.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous so I expected the trail to be full of walkers, runners and bikers.  Due to the Denver Water restrictions dogs and horses are not allowed into the canyon so I didn't expect to see any pups or people on horseback.

Moving as quickly as I could, as I wanted to get back home to Zack who was doing "puppy poop" cleaning duty in the back yard, I hurried though my run/hike preparations.  GPS turned on and satellites acquired - check.  MapMyRun app running on my cell phone - check.  Keys, wallet and camera securely in my backpack - check.  Car locked - check.  And I was off into the canyon.

There were quite a number of people for the first mile or two into the canyon.  Despite the numbers of people there was still a herd of mule deer contentedly grazing at the side of the trail about 1/3 of mile into the canyon.  They were totally undisturbed by the constant stream of people going by and I stopped to take a few pictures of them.

Briskly hiking into the canyon, I moved at a very good clip to mimic the approach that I will need to take to successfully complete the Canyonlands Half Marathon.  Before I knew it, I had put over 3.5 miles behind me in well under an hour.

Arriving at one of the bigger diversion dams in the canyon, I decided to turn back and head for the car.  Running a good portion of the way back out of the canyon, I quickly covered 2 miles before I spied some sort of commotion ahead of me.  There were a number of people congregated ahead of me blocking the entire trail.  I couldn't figure out what they were doing.

It took me about 10 seconds to come to understand that all these people were there observing a very large group of big horn sheep.  It was a very large group of big horns.  There were about 15 of them milling around in the middle of trail and then there were another 10 or more over the hill standing on the ice that covered the South Platte River.  The remarkable thing about these sheep is that they were letting people get very close to them.  In some cases the people were being reckless coming with 5 feet or less of the sheep.  This seemed a little too close to me as the horns on some of the big males looked particularly fearsome.  Even the smaller horns on the females did not look like something with which you wanted to tangle.

For the next 10 minutes I stood there with about a dozen other people in absolute awe of these magnificent animals.  They were amazing!  What was even more amazing about them was how calm and content they were even with so many people right next to them.  Even if I had wanted to move forward I couldn't as the large number of sheep pretty much blocked the entire trail.

Since the sheep were blocking the way, I stood there snapping away with my camera.  The following pictures are the best that I captured.  The light wasn't particularly good and it was hard to get a shot without another person in it, but I did my best to capture the best shots I could.

For all the times I have hiked or biked into Waterton Canyon this is the first time I have every had such an experience with these number of Big Horn Sheep.  It is something that I will remember for a long time - but I do hope that I will see a herd of sheep like this again.

It's late Sunday night and before you know it another work week will be starting.  Zack is off of school on Monday and Tuesday.  He is off Monday because of the holiday and Tuesday is a teacher work day with no students.  He is happy to have only a 3 day week ahead.

The weekend was a great weekend as we had some did some relaxing and fun things.  On Friday night, Lisa and I went out to Brooks Steakhouse which is an upscale steak joint.  We had an enjoyable time, ate some good food and shared some good conversation.  Saturday Zack and I spent most of the day around the house doing things, however we did get out an got pedicures!  I know that may seem a little odd for guys, but it was wonderful.  Lisa got me the pedicure as a Valentine gift - and it was so worthwhile!  On Saturday evening a friend of mine from back on the east coast and her family stopped by.  They are here in Colorado on a winter vacation and are staying at our condo in the mountains.  It was nice to see Lynne and meet her family.  I am glad that I was able to loan them my condo for the coming week.

Hope everyone had a great weekend and has a great start to the week tomorrow!

Thanks and peace to all ~ J.

(Originally wanted to post this on Sunday but I didn't get my photos "developed" in Lightroom in time.)

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