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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Hall Ranch

April 7th, 2012 · 1 Comment

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The sun was just coming up over Hall Ranch Open Space when Sharon and I got there a little before 7 yesterday morning. In the sunshine at the top of a juniper tree was a Black-billed Magpie. Then it flew:

A Black-billed Magpie in First Light

A Black-billed Magpie in First Light

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Our hike was off to a promising start. Hall Ranch Open Space is a Boulder County park that is 25 miles north of my apartment in Boulder. It is a large park, and we hiked almost from one end to the other.

We wanted to start by hiking up the steep and little-used Antelope Trail. But we didn’t want to return that way. I always prefer to climb up — not down — a steep trail and to hike a loop. The only way to do that was to do something we hadn’t done before.

We took two cars and left one at the main trailhead while driving around to the Antelope Trailhead and hiking in that way. We immediately saw a herd of mule deer and during the rest of the day saw at least a hundred more.

A Doe and Her Fawn

A Doe and Her Fawn

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We saw many more deer and birds than we did people. On the outbound part of the loop, where hikers share the trail with bicycles, we met up with about a dozen cyclists. Returning by way of the Nighthawk trail, where the park doesn’t allow bicycles, we encountered 11 hikers in four parties, six horseback riders in two parties, and three separate runners. We went hours without seeing anyone else, which was pretty wonderful considering the weather. While the first hour or so of our hike was cool, the skies were completely clear all day. The wind came up during the last couple of hours, and in fact we appreciated the cooling breeze.

Sharon’s sharp eyes spotted some movement in an area of dense brush. “Wild turkeys!” she exclaimed. “Moving to the right.”

I moved to the right too and as fast as I could in the terrain. When I caught up with them, I could see three of them.

While these are far from being the most attractive birds, they are some of the most interesting to me. These are colorful birds.

This Wild Turkey Sure Has Colorful Feathers

This Wild Turkey Sure Has Colorful Feathers

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Ironically, we saw the most beautiful birds in the least natural area of the park. We made a detour off one part of our hike, the Nelson Loop, to visit the Nelson home.

The Setting of the Nelson Home

The Setting of the Nelson Home

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Closeup of the Nelson Family's Ranch Home

Closeup of the Nelson Family's Ranch Home

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An Englishman named Richard Clark homesteaded this land in 1890, and the Moore family build this house about 1918, selling it to 26-year-old Chris Nelson in 1921. The Nelson family lived here for 21 years and sold their home and land to Hallyn and June Hall. For more than half a century the Hall family kept this land as a working ranch until Boulder County Parks and Open Space bought it in 1993.

The photo above of the home’s setting shows a ponderosa pine at the right in open country. This is prime Mountain Bluebird habitat, so Sharon and I looked for these beautiful little birds.

We Found this Mountain Bluebird Male on a Rock under a Ponderosa Pine by the Ranch

We Found this Mountain Bluebird Male on a Rock under a Ponderosa Pine by the Ranch

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Then, we stopped for lunch. I feasted on sacha inchi seeds and the remains of my morning coffee. Sharon suggested that we look inside the abandoned silo to see if any birds had nested there. We didn’t see any birds inside, but then I looked up through an opening in the silo. Perched at the very top was this Mountain Bluebird female.

A Mountain Bluebird Female in the Window

A Mountain Bluebird Female in the Window

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Where female Mountain Bluebirds go, so go males. A quarter turn around the silo was this little fellow.

A Mountain Bluebird Male on the Silo

A Mountain Bluebird Male on the Silo

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Mountain Bluebirds are uncommon. A bird we see in Colorado much more often is the American White Pelican. But these are water birds, and Hall Ranch has no lakes. So what a surprise to look up and see a large flock overhead. They were probably headed toward Button Rock Reservoir a few miles to the west. Here are a few of the pelicans that we saw.

A Pod of Pelicans

A Pod of Pelicans

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At about that point in the hike the Button Rock Trail branches off to the reservoir. We are saving this hike for another day, but took the trail for a while, because I remembered the great view that it offers of Longs Peak. At 14,259 feet this is the highest mountain in northern Colorado and the most famous. We can see it from Boulder, but we were much closer to it yesterday.

Mount Meeker, 13,911 feet, at Left, and Longs Peaks, 14,259 Feet Behind It

Mount Meeker, 13,911 feet, at Left, and Longs Peaks, 14,259 Feet Behind It

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The Diamond

The Diamond

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This photo shows a closeup of “the Diamond,” the triangular dark rock that is sheer east face of Longs Peak. The Diamond is more than 900 feet high, and no one had ever climbed it until 1960. Even though it’s within Boulder Country where I intend to hike as many trails as I can, I rather doubt that I will attempt to scale the Diamond.

Yesterday I didn’t hike any trails new to me, but a ranger told me that the loop trail we took was 9.4 miles long. Together with scampering through the bush after the Wild Turkeys, chasing after Mountain Bluebirds at the Nelson ranch house, and making an excursion on the Button Rock Trail to view Longs Peak I figured we hiked about 10 miles yesterday before we got back to the car at 2 p.m. What a wonderful way to enjoy wild nature!

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Posted in: Photography

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Tim // May 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Great pics! I use them for background pics on my computer. I’m also a ketogenic diet fan, been doing it since Jun 11.

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