July 19, 2012 … away from all the world

Yesterday was a comparatively low altitude day.

You may be surprised, as I was, to  know that almost a third of the state of Colorado is not mountainous. Along with Wyoming to the North, Colorado appears on the map to be almost perfectly rectangular. The Rocky mountains run North/South and everything to the West of Boulder is of an alpine character.

So, let’s see what lies to the East. With Mary still at the conference, I set out along US119 which, since it seems to be one of the few roads in the state that is not aligned with one of the four cardinal points of the compass, is also known as “the Diagonal Highway”. Obvious, really.

At Longmont, I saw no obvious reason to pause, so kept going. This was a mistake, of which, more tomorrow. Fort Collins was further North than I wanted to go, so I turned West onto Highway 66 (not “the” route 66, but one that heads from Longmont  to Lyons). Some way along that road, in wide open spaces, but with the impressive front range of the Rocky Mountains dead ahead, I was distracted by a sign that pointed to “Hygiene”. How could I resist?

It turns out to be more of an idea than a physical town, though there are a few shops and a café at an intersection. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be as “a state of mind”.  I have no idea where the mythical town of Mayberry was supposed to be (think of the late Andy Griffith), but this could be a candidate. I stopped in at some local lakes in the hope of seeing birds or other wildlife.

The people were almost as fascinating as the wildlife I was seeking. I don’t know if they think of the outside world at all, but in their little piece of paradise, there would be few reasons for them to do so, if you see what I mean.  And so you get a big handful of images today.Heron lake, on the Pella Crossing trail near Hygiene, CO

People were pulling up in their pickup trucks or SUVs and unloading their belly boats, a rod and a net, and then paddling out into one of the several lakes in pursuit of bass or catfish, and to heck with war, politics or taxes. They were in the water and catching fish within minutes of arrival. The man in the picture below on the right with the orange life jacket was very helpful in telling me where to look for birds.

Two young women fishing from belly boats on Sunset lake, near Hygiene, COA friendly man fishing from a belly boat on Heron Lake, near Hygiene, CO

According to the local rules, artificial flies are the only permissible lures, and all bass must be returned alive, to the water.

Some fairly large fish were being caught, photographed and returned to the lake. A good catch on Heron Lake

The two men in the image at the left were using a larger boat. The posted rules say it must be unpowered, so I suspect the electric trolling motor on the transom is probably outside the rules, but it was silent. And that’s a pretty good bass.

Grasshoppers were hopping, cicadas were singing ( a strangely different tune to the ones at home), and there were birds about. For me, this was the dream time.

I strolled around the lake in about 90 deg F pausing in the shade of trees to  see whatever there was to see. A family were enjoying a picnic.  Several people walked their dogs.

Some lovely bulrushes caught my eye and as I approached a loud “ribbit” and a heavy splash marked the panicked departure of a large frog which I never saw. But the  next visitors obligingly held still to be photographed,   and I am grateful to my son David who located their proper identities on the website of the Boulder County Audubon Society.

Eight spotted skimmer (Libellula forensis) on Sunset Lake near Hygiene, COWidow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) on Sunset Lake near Hygiene, CO

These flying jewels were a joy to watch, and relatively easy to capture on camera since they seemed to rest quite often.  But the real treasure for me was to be found on Heron pond. Pausing again on a seat under a tree and contemplating the simple pleasures this park afforded its community I saw a large bird approaching. 

 It had the slow stately flight of the heron family,  and though I am not 100% sure of the identification because this bird has yellow feet, I think it is a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). It might also be the Little Blue Heron, but it seemed much bigger than that,  It was at least twice the size of our own white faced herons, and bigger than the kotuku. 

It hung around for a while and then, just like its New Zealand cousins, got nervous and flew away.  It was just beautiful,

probable Great Blue Heron on Heron lakeThank you, residents of Hygiene for allowing me to share your special place.