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Way down below the snow is an area called the subnivean zone

“February is pitiless, and it is boring. That parade of red numerals on its page adds up to zero: birthdays of politicians, a holiday reserved for rodents, what kind of celebrations are those?” – Tom Just to the left of the snowshoe hare print are some tiny mice tracks!Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


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.


In the Woodpile

While splitting some aspen on Sunday I came across a perfect circular hole the diameter of my finger in one of the cut ends. A strike with the maul and the wood split along the hole. Inside was what looked like a green leafy cigar divided into six sections. In each chamber a leaf-cutter bee larva (genus Megachile) is overwintering. Inside it is nourished by pollen ball provided by the female who dug the cavity, cut the leaves, and laid the eggs. Leaf-cutting bees are solitary bees unlike hive forming honey bees and yellow jackets.


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.