Thursday, December 31, 2009

Frosty breath & sparkly snow

Couple of inches of snow yesterday. I awoke to the sound of Walter (the great guy who plows the roads and watches our house when we're not here) plowing our driveway at 6:15 in the pitch dark. Energetic guy!
Gorgeous blue sky and sun for the last day of the year. We're off to Crested Butte for the torchlight parade soon. Love that town, it's so quaint.
So who can guess what the funny looking thing in the photo is? None of my family may guess - they were here for the unveiling. This was part of Mark's Christmas stocking present from his secret Santa (Chris). Okay, it's a hyper lip single elk call. I'm sure you all guessed correctly. Oh, yes, Mark now has a gadget to attract elk. Not that he is planning on hunting them (at least for now) but just wants to see them... The instructions came with exercises too - The chirp, the mew, the estrus call - which all seem to be variations of "EE-OO" using a big breath blowing in this thing. I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fantasy land around us & fantasy in the theatre

Another great day in winter wonderland. We have snow flurries in the air happening right now. More snowshoeing today and new animal tracks appeared in our path overnight. Nice we made a highway for the animals... New tracks around the house as well - we think maybe there was interest in Mark's grilling last night. Can you believe it - grilling at 0 degrees. Hearty man!
I shake my head over the horses & cattle out in extreme cold that we drive by almost every day. They seem perfectly fine - just need their hay. So that's what all that haying was for this fall...
We went to see Avatar at the new movie theater in Gunnison. It's at Western State and very nice. The movie was amazing and I recommend it if you haven't seen it. The special effects are terrific and it's a great story. (And, we got to wear 3D glasses).
Can't believe the year is almost over. We plan to go up to Crested Butte on New Year's Eve to watch the torchlight parade that skiers do coming down the mountain. It seemed very appropriate. This is the busiest week of the year on the ski mountain so we should be there with lots of company.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Brrr it's cold

We went for a fun drive today up to Taylor Reservoir. Hardly any cars out and we watched the temperature drop to -14 by the time we got all the way to the reservoir! And there were a couple people fishing (as in standing in the river - brrr)on the way and a few ice fishing on the reservoir. There were snowmobiling tracks on the ice too. The snowy photo on top really is the reservoir. Can you believe it?! Mark doesn't think he wants to participate in these activities at this time. Can't say I blame him...
The photo with what looks like a baby pine tree has something else in it as well. Don't know if you can see it, but I caught a weasel next to it. They turn white in the winter - definitely great camouflage. We also saw a bald eagle soaring up and down the canyon. I tried, but couldn't get the photo.
Did more snowshoeing today and it was easier than last time. Some of our tracks still remained, which is a lot less effort than the trailblazing part, and coyote or fox tracks appeared in them as well. I guess they decided it was easier to walk in too. We see so many tracks and so few animals. Good at hiding... I think we'd have to stage a middle of the night raid to catch them.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas Story, baking and eating

Christmas was wonderful, and sadly, family is gone, flying back east as I write. We had loads of fun, and have eaten so much food (all the kind that you're NOT supposed to be eating - the kind that's great) that we'll need to go into recovery mode. Tiffany, who just completed her 20 week pastry cooking class, baked up a storm: croissants, miniature quiches, toffee, and gingerbread cookies. She also knows how to enlist assistants - Chris & Mark jumped right in. Fabulous - all of it.
It's been cold, cold (minus stuff), lots of heavy wind, but sun shining with stark white & bright blue skies. We relaxed with big fires, cozy blankets, and activities of choice.
Oh, Christmas Eve we all watched A Christmas Story. Can you believe it - neither Mark nor I had ever seen it. No one could understand how we missed it. Red Ryder BB gun anyone?
Never has a week gone by so fast. Fun had by all, and for those who have seen the caves across from our house - a coyote was seen coming out of them yesterday!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Swooshing, sleigh bells, and sparkling snow

Wow, have we been having fun! Skiing and snowboarding went well, although Heather decided to switch back to skis, which she thought might come back to her - it did! And can you believe it,I actually got on skis for the first time in 18 years. Definitely nervous about it, took a refresher lesson, and did have "muscle memory" come back - to some degree anyway. Mark also had not skied for 18 eighteen years, but had no problem jumping back on the slopes (that's a guy for you).Jay opted out for a quiet day at the house and Tiffany and Chris were doing great skiing on their second day.
Last night was our Christmas surprise from the girls & guys. We went on a horse drawn sleigh to a ranch for a fabulous dinner. It was spectacular! They said bundle up, and, boy, did we need to do that. It was FREEZING, but there were blankets on the sleigh, and we loved seeing the stars and mountains at night. What a wonderful present!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas tree adventure

Here is our adventure in the snow finding the perfect tree.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Huffing & puffing in the snow

Part 1 of two -Further adventures in the snow. We (Mark & I) finally did some snowshoeing today. Oh, my, yes to everyone who said it was quite the workout. Of course, it took half an hour just to figure out how to put the things on and get all the correct clothing on. Winter is work! We blazed a trail on our own property through the woods in two feet of snow. Coming back on our track was easier, but I think I will be sore in some places tomorrow. It was FUN.
Don't know how the girls & guys did yet with their lessons on the mountain. They're on their way back now.(part two)
Christmas is nearing and packages are being thrown in the snow by our community gate. At least they're getting here!
We had dinner in Gunnison last night at a restaurant we like called Sugah's.Good food and cute Xmas lights on Main St...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter a la magnificance

I'm back!!! We're here for the Christmas holidays with the family and lots of snow! My worries over all of us traveling to Colorado in winter were justified, just backwards. No weather in CO at all, but a HUGE snowstorm in the northeast caused big concern for the girls & guys. They made it okay, and except for a lost bag (Chris - which he got this morning) all is terrific.
It's a minus temp every night here, animal tracks all around the house, and we've already had an adventure. We went out for the Christmas tree cutting. It was deep snow and we laughed & lurched around a bit, but got a good tree. I may have a video to post later.
Ski & snowboard lessons tomorrow for the guys & girls. Wish them luck!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dazzling snow

Oh my, more snow overnight, this time an inch. Whee! We did our usual walk and saw elk this morning, but they are so skittish they moved out of sight in the blink of an eye. No photo for me...

Lots of tracks in the snow today. Rabbit, chipmunk, deer, elk, coyote, and fox. Coyote tracks were up our driveway and close to the house underneath the deck. It seems so quiet but evidently there's a whole world of animal activity going on out there.
Speaking of animals, you remember the lost horses roaming here? Well, they're not gone, as a matter of fact, seem to be hanging out fairly close to the old mining cabins. Someone obviously has put them in here, but I can't figure out why. As soon as the winter really hits, they will not be able to find food. I can only assume that their owner will come take them back - probably soon.
Our highs are now low 50's. This little bit of snow that keeps appearing every morning may be yet another new pattern. All I know is twice as much snow shows up in November as October. Which reminds me I have to go and spread my remaining packet of wildflower seed in our one flower bed we lined this summer. Snow is the great insulator for them.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Animal evidence

We did a little exploring in a neighbor's pine forest yesterday. Don't worry -all aboveboard - he's said he does snowshoeing there and we're welcome. The rumor was that elk were hanging out there. Alas, no sighting of elk but lots of elk scat and tracks. Either elk or deer were very busy scratching antlers on tree trunks. There were lots of marked trees.

This morning we awoke to a half an inch of snow on the ground. Not much, but the most we've had so far. When we walked through the woods there were various animal tracks. I think these are elk - there was a moment when we thought possibly bear...

Our rodent problem is not solved. Every other day there is a dusting on the living room floor of chewed insulation in the same line. Not sure why the activity isn't consistent, but we'll just have to wait and see if it finds its way to the bait.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Had an interesting adventure this morning. Mark found out last week that the hatchery (Roaring Judy) is doing a free kokanee salmon giveaway on Fridays. If you're in line by 9am you'll get fish. So off we went and got in a very long line at 8:45. They had 1200 fish to give away and based on how many fishing licenses are in the car, its 5 fish per license. As you know, I don't fish, so we were one of the few "1's". Cars in line had multi coolers and jammed with people. You drove up to the water with the fishery people pulling out huge netfuls of salmon and then a lot of kids were putting 5 at a time into big paperbags. Hmmm, school is in session, not sure how they got out of that... Anyway, the salmon are BIG and we brought a little cooler (who knew). They flung the paperbag in our car and off we went with the bag making lots of noise hopping around in the back.

We drove up to a place on the river that Mark fishes, so he could clean the fish (as they were too big to fit in the cooler). It was 30 degrees outside and I don't even know what the river temp was (35?) Mark nearly had frostbite of the hands. Next we will do this differently - possibly wetsuit type gloves and a bigger cooler. And if you're wondering why the hatchery was giving all those fish away- the salmon have spawned and that's it for them - they just die. Nature is interesting...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creatures where they're not supposed to be

In contrast to my last post, it is not sunny, quite the opposite. We had pea soup fog this morning and now snow showers this afternoon. A day for staying inside by a roaring fire, which is where we are now, but did go into town to do errands and have lunch at one of our favorite places - the "W" cafe. It's a throwback with good, inexpensive homecooking, and decor hasn't changed since the 60's, I think.

One of the errands was to pickup more rodent bait. We have a new issue in the house. I heard scratching/chewing noises in the ceiling, looked up to where the noise was coming from, and fine little pieces of chewed insulation drifted down to the floor. GREAT! We have no attic and no crawl space up there, just solid insulation between ceiling and roof, so no access. How this thing got in I have no idea, but the two pest control people I have talked to, basically scratched their heads and didn't have a solution. We're putting down bait on the main floor in case it finds its way out of the ceiling.Maybe it will just go back out the way it came in??
One of our neighbors brought over salmon he caught in Alaska. He's a semi-retired surgeon in Alaska, but spends as much time here as he can. We don't see neighbors much since we're all spread out here, so it was a nice gesture. We cooked it a couple nights ago and it was fabulous. Had enough leftover to add to scrambled eggs for breakfast the next morning.
Photos are one view from the side of our house and the other, a great view that Mark took of the runaway horses.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Enjoying sunny days

Elk & deer beware - hunters everywhere! We went on a drive to do a little fishing (Mark), a little painting (me) and had a picnic lunch on the upper Taylor above Taylor Reservoir. I've never seen so many hunters in my life, all with camouflage outfits, orange fluorescent vests & hats, and ATV's on their pickup trucks. We found places they weren't heading to and enjoyed the fabulous weather. It's been 65 and not a cloud in the sky the last couple of days.

After a couple weeks busy with other pursuits, Mark is back fishing. The rivers are lower than he's ever seen, but had success catching good size fish. How low can the water go - we don't know.

With the deer & elk hiding out, our wildlife sighting today was a coyote and a fat and sassy fox. Did catch a picture of the fox...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thin air and mountain majesty

Lots of physical work going on here. We put the snow fence up (only covers 100ft and is an unattractive green plastic thing) Our neighbor told Mark it was a waste of time. The snow will get very high and spill over. We, of course, paid no attention what so ever. Why would he know what he was talking about - he's only lived here for 13 years.

Had a cord of wood delivered too. You may be asking why, when I had already discussed how we have enough downed aspen to keep us in firewood for years. This is a mix of wood. As it turns out, aspen is very soft and burns up really quickly. Anyway, they don't stack it, just dump it, so we spent some time making neat piles. Small world, the long-time wood guy used to work in the mines here - really! The mines were still open until 1945.

On our walk this morning we saw elk again back deep in the woods. They are very skittish with it being hunting season and difficult to see. I took a picture but you can barely make out the forms. We talked to the man who maintains the roads here, and he says that the elk start coming back in here in force as the winter comes in, since you can't hunt in our community. We'll see...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

White stuff or not

Preparing for winter is going ahead full steam! In the past couple days we have purchased snowshoes and poles, a snowfence, and a ski rack for the car. You'd think there was a blizzard predicted any moment, but in truth, there is no snow around except on the high peaks. The picture of the snowstorm in our aspens was yesterday morning. By the time we got down to the main road - nothing... We truly have a micro-climate up here at our 8800 feet.

We had to drive the hour and a half to the nearest town that has some national stores to buy some of this stuff. Took advantage of the area to drive back through a part of the Black Canyon. What a breathtaking canyon it is - this picture does not do it justice.

Lastly, as we came back home yesterday, we realized we had new visitors. Three loose horses roaming around our community. We think they got out from the neighboring ranch and are probably safe back home now. Haven't seen them today. Mark got a great closeup photo - they were very friendly, obviously enjoying their great escape.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Magnificant mountains

It's gotten very quiet here. Our deer have gone away for the most part. No more around the house, but we do see a few in the woods. Thought the bear might be already in the "big sleep" but bear scat was on the road in the woods when we walked this morning. Maybe they wait until the big snow starts?

We went into town and ate at the Secret Stash pizza place. Yes, Lisa, finally made it! Heard about it for some time, but hadn't fit it in. Great unusual pizza with a crazy decor. Well worth going to, and in the summer, be prepared for a long wait. It's so quiet around that we got right in.

Drove back over Ohio Pass. Gorgeous as usual. Snow in lots of places including some on the road. Wow! It closes Nov 15 and not back open until May 30. It's so narrow in places, I can't imagine anyone wanting to try going over it in real winter.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Warming by the fire

Chillly here today - evidently Oct is a transitional month - up and down with the temps. We had little bits of snow flurries yesterday but nothing stayed. We've officially been here 4 months. It's gone so fast!

Elk hunting season starts tomorrow. We've heard elk bugling but not seen many. And for those of you who are distressed to hear about hunting, let me just say that there is an overpopulation of elk here due to ,of course, the interference of humans (they got rid of the elk's natural enemies - gray wolves and grizzly bears) Just some thoughts...

We've had lots of fires going in the fireplace, trying not to use the electric heat that much. For some reason electricity is very expensive here. Also love, love the ambiance of a wood fire. We had gas before, not at all the same. Another new term I heard over the summer was "off the grid". There are evidently quite a few homes close to town and more isolated in the mountains that are built to be self sustaining (ie not using the power companies) using solar,etc. Can't imagine if that works well or not.

Lots of cowboys and cattle moving around our valley. We never know if a road is going to be blocked by mooing animals. That's our traffic jam! I guess it's time to put them wherever they're supposed to go for the winter. Some of this is still a mystery to me - the world of ranches...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Lots of preparing for the winter to come. Mark put down new grass & wildflower seed yesterday. These are natural grasses not lawn. 40lbs of grass seed was equal in cost to 3 lbs of wildflower seed. Crazy!

Buying a snow fence next week. This will attach to our existing fence on the windy (west) side. Both our builder & fence guys said we need it. Otherwise the snow will blow huge snowdrifts over our driveway. "Blown in" is another term used around here. It's clearly what we don't want to happen.

We thought the deer had gone, but this morning they were back all around the house. The fawns are definitely getting bigger - hopefully good for the winter survival. Photos courtesy of Paul again. He brought a digital SLR with a very long lens. The compact cameras are great, but they can't beat these kind of closeup pictures...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Season fun

Back after a few days away. We left when the aspen were peak, and came back to almost all bare trees. he speed of things around here is nuts. The mountain peaks have had snow and the Castle Mt photo shows a lot of snow on those mountains. We think that snow will be there until next summer. We drove back over Monarch Pass yesterday coming back from Denver running right into a full blown snowstorm with the temp 24degrees at the summit. Snowplows were out and 18 wheelers all off the road putting on chains. Absolutely crazy! Of course it was all gone by the time we made it over the pass and down in the valley.

Had a great time visiting back east. Nice wedding, fun running around (shopping in a dept store -whoo), nice family dinner out, and went with Tiffany & Chris to an apple & pumpkin picking farm. Those pumpkins are heavy! Fall is just starting there as opposed to a few weeks until winter here.

We saw elk on the way back to the house yesterday. A big bull & a few cows. Remember the elk male can have a harem up to 60 in the fall. This male must not be the hottest one in town.