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Around Denver

Posted By David Mendosa On February 6, 2012 @ 9:58 pm In Photography | 1 Comment

We surrounded Denver yesterday.

From 25 miles northwest of Denver in Boulder, we first went just to Barr Lake State Park, which is 20 miles northeast of Denver. From there we went to Littleton, which is 10 miles south of Denver, where we visited the Columbine Memorial. Finally, we hiked through Roxborough State Park, which is 30 miles southwest of Denver.

We avoided the Denver city center, the hub of 2.6 million people in this 16th most populous U.S. metropolitan area. Nature is more beautiful.

We were my friend Sharon and I. Sharon had just returned from a month in Florida and hoped to see a Snowy Owl near Barr Lake. Only once [1] in five attempts so far have I seen them, and we struck out yesterday. But we intend to keep trying.

We saw other raptors and had a great time in a day of full sun and no wind. The temperature hovered around freezing all day, but it felt much warmer in the sun and the radiant heat from the snow that covered everything from the storm that had come through a couple of days earlier.

I got my first good shots ever of a Ferruginous Hawk, which is much less common than Red-tailed Hawks.

A Ferruginous Hawk Gets Ready to Fly [2]

A Ferruginous Hawk Gets Ready to Fly

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And Away It Goes! [3]

And Away It Goes!

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The reddish-brown color of this hawk is why it is “ferruginous,” from the Latin word for iron, or rust-colored. This hawk species is the largest of the Buteo genus.

It eats mostly small to medium-sized mammals, like prairie dogs that they can find here in abundance. But it also likes Western Meadowlarks.

I like Western Meadowlarks too, but for a different reason. They are so beautiful. Other people like the Western Meadowlark so much that six states have made it their state bird. This one of many Western Meadowlarks that we saw within a mile of the Ferruginous Hawk yesterday:

A Western Meadowlark [4]

A Western Meadowlark

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A Bird Formation, Not a Sketch [5]

A Bird Formation, Not a Sketch

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After several hours of looking for the Snowy Owl near Barr Lake and finding these other birds instead, we drove southwest to the Denver suburb of Littleton. Immediately to the west of Littleton is the unincorporated area of Columbine. This is the home of Columbine High School, the site of the April 1999 massacre, where two students killed 12 other students and one teacher and injured 24 others in one of deadliest school massacres in American history. We visited the Columbine Memorial [6] and found it a moving experience.

Perhaps because of such inhumanity as the Columbine High School massacre, I am more and more strongly attracted to the natural world where animals almost never kill except only what they need to eat. So we drove on to our third stop of the day, Roxborough State Park [7].

This is one of my favorite places. Here nature is at its most beautiful, particularly after the heavy snowstorm a few days earlier. We saw deer and birds, but it is the land itself that is on display here. The Fountain Formation is red rocks from sandstone and conglomerate. We hiked the 2.3 mile Fountain Valley loop trail. I wore my Kahtoola Microspikes [8] for traction on the snow and ice, and Sharon wore her snowshoes.

The View South from the Fountain Valley Overlook [9]

The View South from the Fountain Valley Overlook

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In the photo above you can see the Visitor Center, if you look closely. It is near the left, tucked into the large red rock outcropping.

In the photo below you can see Denver, if if you look closely for it. The city is back beyond the red rocks near the right.

The Red Rocks of Roxborough with Denver in the Distance [10]

The Red Rocks of Roxborough with Denver in the Distance

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[1] once: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/?p=9125

[2] Image: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ready.jpg

[3] Image: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/hawk.jpg

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[6] Columbine Memorial: http://www.columbinememorial.org/

[7] Roxborough State Park: http://www.parks.state.co.us/parks/roxborough/Pages/RoxboroughStatePark.aspx

[8] Kahtoola Microspikes: http://www.rei.com/product/774966/kahtoola-microspikes-traction-system

[9] Image: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/valley.jpg

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