Wednesday, December 27, 2006
A walk between weather
We're actually having a winter this year! As anyone who tried to get to, through, or around Colorado last week knows, we had a VERY white Christmas. There's another storm working its way here for tonight, so I decided it was finally time to take the walk that has been neglected for several days.
I've a regular route, from home to Sands Lake, up the river, past the fish hatchery, around Frantz Lake, up the mesa and back home. It's about 3.5-4 miles, depending on how many detours I take or how quickly the weather drives me home.
Every walk is different, despite the fact that I travel this same path several times a week, all year long. My trailmates change with season and time of day... early summer mornings it's often just me and the birds. Today it was me, birds, slush, ice fishermen, families, mule deer, fat squirrels, a road grader still scraping snow from the last storm, and the ominous clouds that signal the next round of white stuff.
Dippers chattered and kingfishers rattled and chickadees chicka-dee-dee-deed, but the stars of the winter are, for me, the ducks. Sands Lake stays open all winter, and starting in late November the surface fills with the waterfowl glitterati: common and Barrow's goldeneye, bufflehead, wigeon, teal, gadwall, scaup, redheads and ringnecks and mergansers. Already the males are flirting with the females and jousting with each other, their buzzing and trilling and feathered sweet nothings reach my ears even before the lake is in sight.
Last winter Sands Lake stood empty. It's the settling pond for the hatchery upriver, and every ten years it must be drained and dredged. It was a lonely, lonely season and I found it difficult to get out and walk past the open wound that was once duck party central. But it's true, that old phrase about absence and hearts and fondness. A full lake, a full quorum of waterfowl, and a full heart add up to a great start for a new year.