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The Fox

Fox in the snow

I have been told that a fox stands atop a roof along the morning commute. Fox on a roof: a strange image to conjure, like “swimming cat” or “skateboarding dog” – the juicy stuff of YouTube. The mind is tempted to fit everything into its “place”: foxes in the woods; people in the towns; white snow on the roofs. Break down those walls in our minds and the forest creeps in.


Pine Marten

Pine Marten

Winter is here in Aspen and our first big snow fell on January 7th. Of course I was out snowboarding on the mountain. Unfortunately a few wrong moves on my first run and I found myself in a tumble. To make a long story short, I fractured my arm. It was definitely a bummer… but this blog isn’t about me feeling bad about myself. Nature always seems to have a way of turning things around for me. Just a few days later I was waiting for guests to arrive so I could lead a snowshoe tour at Snowmass.


The Tireless Toad

Toad

A few weeks ago Howie, Kevin and I climbed Ashcroft Mountain. The hike was beautiful, the views were great and my peanut butter and banana sandwich at the summit was delicious. There were tons of awesome finds along the way, what may have been a bears den, some spectacular lodgepole pines, Howie narrowly avoiding an old tree crashing into his head and then later almost stepping on an elk calf and even some big cat tracks. But on the ascent down I made a find that trumps all the others. I know... at this point you are thinking that this day most certainly cannot get much better.


Castle Creek Spring

Castle Creek

After a long winter, evidence left by local animals is beginning to show. With a receding snow pack, new animal signs are uncovered everyday.

One of the most common signs is the elk chew. When the snow is high and forage is buried, elk (Cervus elaphus) rely on the living bark of Aspens for sustenance. I can only assume this grove of Aspens off Castle Creek Road was given the attention of a herd for a good amount of time. These scars will remain far longer than the lifespan of an elk and this grove will bear the mark of a hungry herd for decades to come.


Storms (and the power of observations)

As someone who loves powder skiing, I am somewhat obsessed with weather forecasts. If it is my day to be hanging out at the ACES front desk, you can bet that there are probably multiple weather forecasts up on my computer.


Frost-free Days - Why Give a Hoot?

Living in Aspen has more than enough perks, from the incredible skiing in the winter to endless backpacking in the summer. The amazing snow and the beautiful sunny days makes you grow accustomed to the weather patterns and the climate of the area.


Winter Watering Hole

As ACES naturalists, we often get to see--and share with our guests--signs of winter animals while on the trail.  However, due to the nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) habits of many of these animals, we rarely get the chance to see them in action.  Last night I was given a rare opportunity to see one of these elusive animals on the prowl in my own backyard. 


A fresh perspective on Pine Beetles

Last Thursday at Hallam Lake for the Naturalist Night speaker series, Professor Dan Tinker from the University of Wyoming gave a really illuminating talk about some of the science and research going into the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak we are witnessing across the West. Living, working, and learning in Colorado nearly my entire life, I thought I had a decent grasp on most of the science looking at the interactions of Beetles in our forests. Professor Tinker quickly dispelled that little notion of mine.


Surprises at Hallam Lake

After almost nine months at ACES (has it really been that long?), I'm beginning to feel like I know Hallam Lake well. However, the best thing about Hallam Lake is that there is always something new to find. Last week, after a lot of snow over the weekend, Robin and I were walking around the lake, shoveling out the platforms and bridges. Coming around the corner past the big blue spruce, I saw something exciting ahead of me.


Winter Birds: Robins and Grosbeaks

Grosbeaks

While some animals hibernate all winter, and some migrate to warmer places, others are active and thriving. We have recently seen pine grosbeaks flying around the mountain ash trees at Hallam Lake! This large and rare member of the finch family is eating the fruit off the ash trees and serviceberries right along the short driveway into ACES. Thankfully Lindsay Fortier captured these birds with her camera before they flew away.