Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumn in the Colorado Rockies

I'm on vacation.  While I'm gone please enjoy these photos from the San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado.  All pictures were taken around Lake City during the month of September.
As always, click on a photo to enlarge.

Autumn splendor in the Rockies.

September View of Lake San Cristobel near Lake City.

Fall fishing in the San Juans.
Early season snowfall in the Colorado Rockies.

Autumn Forest

Crystal Lake hiking trail.

Autumn hillside near Lake City.

Aspens and pines in the snow.

Aspen Leaf on the trail.

The perfect spot to curl up with a good book.

Paradise by the dashboard lights.

Uncompaghre Peak (far right) and aspen hillside.

Want to visit Lake City and need a place to stay?  Consider renting Mountain Time Cabin; find more information here:

To view photos from a September trip to Lake City, please visit this post:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Canoeing the Rio Grande

       The sun is setting and a bruise is quickly rising where the river rocks introduced themselves to my shin—I flipped my canoe in the Rio Grande River while failing to execute a series of small rapids.  Fellow paddlers Gary, Libby and Jim suggest that we make camp on a 100 ft. wide stretch of sandy terrain on the Texas side of the river.  To the south, rocks rise straight from river’s edge and into the Mexican sky; we won’t have to worry about any illegal border crossings here.

Running the rapids—successfully this time.
       We spread our belongings on the beach to dry and erect our tents.  Gary lights his small camp stove; in a few minutes sloppy joe mix is bubbling in the pot.  After dinner we wash our dishes in the muddy Rio Grande as an inky darkness paints the sky.  At this moment, with the still night air surrounding us, it seems we’re the only four people on earth.  As we prepare to turn in at 11:30 p.m. the full moon peeks over the eastern cliffs and shines a spotlight into our canyon.

Making camp in the setting sun.
       I settle into my tent but can’t sleep in this remote and unfamiliar desert.  The heat is suffocating and my throat is parched; I crawl from my tent to find Gary sitting on a rock.  We reach into the cooler for ice chips and sit in silence—observing fine details on the rock face in the moonlight; listening to the river tumbling over the rocks; knowing that there is no way in or out of here than by that same river.  It’s magical, haunting, and a little bit frightening too.
The next morning we discover Gary’s stove is out of gas.  As eggs and bacon fry over a fire of twigs gathered from the beach we marvel at the splendor of this breakfast site.
Today’s journey is a peaceful float over a calm stretch of river and we all take advantage of the gentle current to enjoy tubing and swimming. 
Cooling off in the Rio Grande.
       We exit the river in the small town of Lajitas, then drive into Big Bend National Park and make camp in Cottonwood campground.  It’s another sleepless night for me.  Hot air envelopes the tent and a harsh wind sways the tops of the giant cottonwoods.  At 3:00 a.m. I hear voices.  A group of men from the campground are getting ready for an early morning fishing trip; I listen to the rattling of dishes, the telling of fish tales.  The noisy group leaves and stillness returns.  Several minutes later rival packs of coyotes howl from opposite sides of the campground.  A haunting, eerie chorus.  I’m mesmerized by this impromptu serenade and could listen all night long.  The coyote symphony ends and I finally drift off to sleep.
Breakfast the following morning is eaten under the watchful eyes of dozens of turkey vultures perched in the cottonwood trees overhead.  They’re waiting for scraps of food, or perhaps for our demise under the scorching sun.
We pack up, take a swim in Santa Elena Canyon, then leave Big Bend for the long drive to Houston, ending our adventure on the edge of America.

Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend N.P.

Rio Grande panorama.

Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the United States.  Have you been there?
For more information on Big Bend N.P. have a look at these websites:
If you would like to book a river trip on the Rio Grande you can find information here:

Canoeing a placid stretch of river.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Trail Ride at Tavaputs Ranch: In Memory of Tate D. Jensen

          My husband Tim and I have been on two trail rides and a cattle drive led by Rancher Tate Jensen.  Tate was the consummate cowboy—an excellent cattleman, horseman, and a gentle soul.  He had infinite patience with us greenhorns on the trail rides.  
Tragically, Tate was murdered on August 28, 2011.  Our hearts go out to his parents, Butch and Jeannie Jensen.  This re-post (originally posted in April of 2011) is dedicated to the memory of Tate Jensen. 

Forever tall in the saddle:  Tate Jensen 1980-2011

        Head ‘em up, move ‘em out.  It’s time for our trail ride at Tavaputs Ranch in Eastern Utah.  I’m here with my husband Tim, sister-in-law Anne Marie, and niece Amber.  Ranchers Butch and Tate match each of us with a horse, saddle ‘em up and teach us greenhorns the ropes.  

 We start through a towering aspen forest under an azure sky.  Tate is in the lead and Butch brings up the rear with his trusty cow horse; three border collies accompany us.  As we dip into the valley Tate points to the left and we turn our heads in time to see a thundering herd of elk, several hundred of them kicking up dust on their way across a distant meadow.  As we re-enter the forest we hear the elk squealing as they charge through the valley below.
Half an hour into the ride we trot down a hill to a stock pond where 125 head of cattle are gathered.  Tate turns to Butch and says:  “These cattle look like they’re ready to move up to pasture on top of the mountain.”  Butch and Tate turn to the four of us:  “How about it?” they ask, “Are you interested in doing some cowboying?”  Are we!
Butch instructs us to whoop it up and holler as he and Tate move the cattle away from the pond.  Tate stays to the left of the herd and Butch and the dogs stay to the right.  Our orders are to ride behind the cows, giving a yip and a yell to let the cows know they’re on a drive.  And so off we go, running cattle across the range.

Amber, Rancher Butch Jensen, and the dogs—keeping the cattle in line.
We run the cattle for 2 miles, cows mooing and calves bawling.  Whenever a cow or calf gets out of line one of the border collies is on its heels, chasing it back to the herd.  It’s fascinating to watch the border collies in action and also to be a part of this cattle drive.  As my sister-in-law said - who could have planned an outing like this in their wildest imagination?  Our niece is having the time of her life and and says she’d love to work, live on or own a ranch someday. 

Riding the Range
When we arrive on the mountaintop Tate opens a gate and we stop to let the cattle know it’s time to slow down and enter their new pasture.  Tate makes a final count of cows and calves and closes the gate behind them.
The horses are ready for quittin’ time.  They know the way home, turn left along a fence line and carry us back to the corral.   Anne Marie and Amber conclude that this is one of the most amazing things they’ve ever done.  I couldn’t agree more.

Anne Marie and Tate guard the left side.

One of my memories of Tate on the trail:

As we ran the cattle up through the valley one cow turned around and glared at me and my horse "Stubby".  Over and over, all the way to the top of the mountain, the same cow stopped to stare menacingly at us.  
"Uh, Tate" I said, "I'm afraid this cow is going to charge me and Stubby.  Look at the way she glares at us!"  
 "That cow?  Naw, she'd never charge you.  Don't worry—she's just bluffing."   
I was immediately reassured, figuring that Tate knew his cows much better than I did.  Now, maybe Tate was just trying to put my mind at ease and that cow actually could have charged ... but no matter; Tate's calm, soothing manner was just what I needed to finish the cattle drive with confidence.

Tributes for Tate Jensen can be found at these sites: 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials in Meeker, Colorado

Note:  The Meeker Classic is being held this week; in celebration of this event I am re-posting this story.  New followers may have missed this post which first appeared on my blog in March, 2011.   Because readers have responded favorably to my photos, I am including additional photos with this post.        

         If you enjoy watching herding dogs at work you’ll want to travel to Meeker Colorado for the Meeker Classic—a sheepdog trial event with competitors from throughout the United States and Canada.  The look of concentration in a border collie’s eyes as it brings a flock of sheep to the pen is a sight to behold.  
A border collie, focusing intently on the task at hand.
Here’s how the action unfolds:
Picture an extra-large baseball field.  In the outfield are two cowboys on horseback.  They keep the sheep there until the dogs run to get them. The sheepdog handler stands at a post that represents home plate.  He sends his dog out to the edge of the field—deep to the wall in center field—to collect a group of five sheep and bring them back through a gate at second base then around behind the handler and through a gate at third base, across the field again and through a gate at first base, and finally back to the infield where the dog encircles the sheep, then tries to herd them into a pen near the third base dugout.  All of this is to be accomplished in 12 minutes and many times the dogs fall short of their goal. 
         After a trial is over a trained border collie runs onto the course and collects the sheep to be loaded into a trailer and taken back to the edge of the field.  Many different groups of sheep are used and several outfits of cowboys patrol the field.
A handler calls to her dog.
         During the lunch break at last year’s event a behavioral geneticist spoke about his research to determine why border collies are driven to engage in herding behavior, and the implications this may have for understanding human mental illnesses.   
Several other attractions are offered at The Meeker Classic: the Mason’s Pancake Breakfast provides hearty morning fare, and other food vendors are open throughout the day; the art barn showcases original paintings of sheep herding—all for sale via silent auction; a craft tent filled with artisan offerings provides a break from the herding action; a border collie rescue group hosts a stand at the event and several border collie organizations are there as well, selling all-things border collie.  
The Meeker Classic is an entertaining event; it’s not too crowded, seating is plentiful and the spectator is close to the action and to the dogs. 
This year’s event will be held September 7-11.  The sheepdog trials field is located just west of the town of Meeker on Colorado Highway 13.
Won’t be able to make it to Meeker this year?  For more information and to plan a trip for next year go to this website:

Handler Richard instructs his dog "Paddy".
Richard has been training dogs for 70 years
and has been a participant in the Meeker Classic
for 20 years.

Richard (center) and "Paddy" take a break 
after participating in the trials.