Friday, September 25, 2009

The Elk Show, Rocky Mountain National Park

After 3 days on vacation, Jim and I finally set out together in search of elk. Jim's wildlife photography class had already spent a couple of days in the field photographing elk, so we had a good idea of where to go.

The elk are usually most active around dawn and dusk. We headed into the park at about 5 pm.

In Horseshoe Meadow, there were easily over 100 elk - and even more park visitors watching the elk.

Park rangers and volunteers were on hand to make sure people and elk were all safe.

We got excellent views of male elk sparring from less than 50 feet (15 meters) away.

In the fall, the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, descend from the high country into meadows where they form fall herds with one male and a group of females.

The males fight to defend their herd - although the females have a choice in the matter as well and will sometimes head off to join a different herd.

We were lucky to be in the park tonight. There were at least 36 males in our view at one point. When there are that many male elk together during breeding season, there are sure to be lots of elk antics.

The elk tend to choose sparring partners about their same size. I love the two little "spikes" standing side by side. Sometimes they'd spar. Sometimes they'd eat. It will be a few years before either of them is big enough to have his own herd.

The elk bugle to attract females and defend their harem from other males.

The elk in RMNP have a high pitched bugle that carries well in the open fields where they group. In Yellowstone, the elk rut occurs in forested areas, so elk watching isn't as simple. In Yellowstone, the elk bugle is lower pitched, which carries better through a forest.

These two males are big enough to be contenders for their own harems. They shed their antlers every year. A rack of antlers like this weighs approximately 55 pounds (25 kilos).

This male is bugling, as if to tell his cows to gather round, and to chase off that other male who's in his territory.

Watching the elk interact reminded me of watching a sporting event. There were a lot of tactics, with various males trying to free females from other herds.

As darkness settles, I hope the male elk gets to rest at least a bit. The males with harems lose up to 20% of their body weight during the rutting season because they're so busy defending their harem that they don't have much time to eat.

We definitely hit the elk jackpot on this visit!

The Stichin' Den, Estes Park, Colorado

On my way to pick up Jim from the end of his wildlife photography class, I stopped at The Stitchin' Den downtown. I took exactly one picture.

How could I have missed my chance to take photos of so much?
  • 2 shop dogs with knitted striped scarves around their necks
  • Great sample projects
  • Beautiful Colorado yarns
  • 3 or even 4 rooms of yarn, fiber, stitchery and fun
Sheesh!! Where was my brain???

In my defense, I knew we'd be in Estes Park for a few more days, and Jim's class got out about 15 minutes early. I didn't get to spend enough time in this great yarn shop.

I had low expectations for this store, thinking that it would just be very touristy and small. I loved it though. They had great projects that would really fit into my life well. The two that still haunt me are some felted slippers with very thick soles and a cross between a cardigan and a jacket knit in very thick wool. Both of those projects would have totally fit into my life in NH.

Unfortunately for my yarn-loving self, we were so busy with hiking and wildlife watching the rest of our time in Estes Park, that I didn't make it back to this shop, and didn't get to buy anything.

So sad!!

Tyndall Gorge Walk, Rocky Mountain National Park

One thing I love about national parks are the park rangers. At most parks, there are free ranger programs throughout the day. Rangers have taught me many things about nature over the years. I always appreciate a park even more if I understand it better.

I chose a ranger-guided walk for Friday morning, while Jim was at his photography class. I felt very comfortable in the group even though I was basically traveling alone today.

The bend in that tree is called a "snow knee". When the tree was young, deep snow pushed against it and curved the trunk.

There are three types of pines in Rocky Mountain National Park: lodgepole, Ponderosa and limber pines. These are lodgepole pines.

The brown, dying pines are infested with pine bark beetles which have periodically infested the pines of the Rockies for at least 300 years. Cold winters with long periods below 0F (-18 C) tend to kill off these infestations, but the Rockies have not had a cold winter in about 20 years.

The trail we hiked this morning covers beautiful ground, and continues to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake.

The ranger stopped just short of Dream Lake. He turned back, but told us that we could continue to lakes further up, or walk back with him.

Since I could see the lake, I had to continue!!

Jim had our good camera, so my landscape pictures with my pocket camera aren't really bloggable.

I did get this picture of a Greenback Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus Clarkii Stomias) hanging out in Dream Lake. It's all catch and release fishing here, so the trout are happy and bold.

Isn't Dream Lake beautiful??

This walk was pretty tiring for me. I covered 3 or 4 miles, but we were at 9400 - 10,000 feet (2865 - 3048 meters) above sea level, and I'd only been in Colorado for a couple of days. I definitely got winded really easily on the ascent because of the high altitude. Plus, because I thought it was just a ranger walk,I didn't have any food and I was hiking long past lunch time. Poor tired, hungry Sue!

The trail was very well-traveled. Otherwise I wouldn't have hiked alone with so little in the way of food or emergency gear.

Luckily, Jim and I returned to this spot to hike it together on Sunday - with both cameras. I'm glad I got to do it twice! (You'll be glad too when you see those pictures!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boulder History Museum

My last stop in Boulder was the Boulder History Museum. The museum is housed in the Harbeck-Bergheim house built in 1899 in an eclectic style.

Beautiful architectural details included this fancy front doorknob

and stained glass window.

When I was planning my trip, I somehow got the idea that they had a lot of textiles or costumes or something cloth-related at the museum. I didn't get that quite right, but it was an interesting museum - and I did find one bit of cloth that was probably handwoven. (I should note that despite looking around this entire display, I didn't find one word about this cloth. I'm telling you everything I know about it!)

By the end of all of this exploring, I was too tired to make my planned trip to historic downtown Boulder, or to Gypsy Wools. Maybe next time!

Photos with permission from Boulder History Museum.

Navajo Weaving at University of Colorado

In Boulder, I visited the exhibit of Navajo weaving at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

©University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

They hold an important and extensive collection of southwestern weaving. There will be three different groups of textiles on display at different times as part of this exhibit.

©University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

One large room is devoted to this exhibit. In addition to the textiles, they have books, a video and a loom that visitors can try.

The examples of Navajo weaving were beautiful. One highlight of the exhibit is a weaving that has a completely separate front and back. Different colors, different designs, just joined at the selvedge. Very interesting and very unusual.

©University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

I was able to take pictures of the exhibit, but am not permitted to publish them (online or otherwise). If you have a particular interest in Navajo weaving and aren't able to visit the exhibit, please let me know and I'll see if I can show you the pictures. There are also more images available at the museum website.

Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder, CO

Of course, given a day on my own, I needed to visit somewhere with yarn! I chose Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins as my first stop in Boulder.

I did get to do a side by side comparison of the Flip and Cricket looms. My niece, E, is interested in a small loom after our fun weaving at the beach this summer. The Cricket is high on her list.

They had a Toika Liisa set up, so I took pictures just to have more Toika information available.

Right now I don't really do anything to group or store my heddles - and I don't have those lengthwise strings tied around the shafts on my loom at home.

I wonder if the vertical pieces next to the treadles are treadle spacers or if they're some kind of treadle locks. (Again, my loom doesn't have parts like this!)

Here's a shot of the tie-up from the back of the loom. I'm hoping this photo will give me courage as I expand the number of shafts on my loom at home. It looks like they're doing the same tie-up method I am. This is the first time I've seen that in real life! (Well, except for the two shafts I've set up on my loom.)

I didn't do a great job photographing the store. I got distracted after I looked at the looms. They have one room with looms, classroom space, and weaving yarn. Plus, a second room (the main room of the shop) full of all kinds of glorious yarn. It's a big yarn selection with a good mixture of both east coast and west coast brands of yarn. (How do I know there are brands from either coast?? I've purchased yarn on vacation in California before, and had trouble finding additional skeins in the east.) Yak, cashmere, silk, bamboo, cotton, wool, and more.

I must have been distracted by the shop dog, who had just been rescued from some difficult conditions. She was a sweetie. That's my excuse for not remembering to take photos in the very large room of yarn that makes up the store!! They also have a nice reading nook for looking at patterns, and all kinds of knitting and weaving tools and accessories.

I did have a little trouble finding the store, once I was in the plaza where it's located. I took this exterior picture in case you decide to visit!

History Talk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Despite sleet, rain and snow on my way to the history talk, I was glad I persevered. The talk was held indoors (it's usually outdoors), and I even got to sit in a very comfortable rocking chair!

The talk covered the settlers and visitors of European descent - who arrived in this part of the Rockies in the 1850s. They were often involved in trade and tended to build cabins and stay for only a few years.

I did ask about whether there were abandoned cellar holes in Colorado, like there are in New Hampshire.

The answer was no - in part because there haven't been permanent dwellings for as long in Colorado as in NH. Also, wood decays much faster in NH - so a cabin in the woods would rot, leaving the cellar below. In CO, old, abandoned cabins are still standing.

It was also less common to build a cellar in Colorado. I'm guessing from my short time there, that a cellar wasn't as necessary for keeping things cold. (We did see snow in the Rockies in September - while in New England snow wouldn't be widespread until December.)

By the time the talk ended, the weather was looking better - so I can show you a glimpse of the view during the talk.

Moraine Park, the name of this meadow, was formed by glaciers. This area is popular with elk, especially during the evening and early morning hours.

Going our Separate Ways in the Rockies

Today Jim and I are pursuing our own interests.

Jim will be outside from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. (basically until all light is exhausted) photographing wildlife with a class.

I will be taking a guided history walk with a park ranger - have I said yet that I love park rangers?

This afternoon I'm heading to Boulder on a fiber visit.

There is a lot of wildlife in Estes Park. This morning, in the 20 minutes it took to drop Jim at his course, I saw a coyote leaving the Safeway grocery store parking lot, and I was shocked to find a giant elk with huge antlers just off the road across from our condo. (I was doing a U-turn after driving right be our it was stunning to see an elk just feet from the front of my car!)

No pictures....still too sleepy!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Preparing for a Rocky Mountain Winter

On our first day at Rocky Mountain National Park, we headed to a ranger walk where the park ranger explained how animals in the Rockies deal with winter.

4 strategies: Migrate, Hibernate, Tolerate, or Terminate.

(I think I do a combination of tolerate and hibernate - with the occasional short, temporary migration to escape!)

Weasels turn white in the winter, but keep a blakc tip on their tails. Predators, like owls, tend to attack the black tip of the tail - allowing the weasel to have a better chance of escape.

Pikas harvest and dry plants, even creating a blend of plants to retard growth of mildew and mold. When they go below ground for the winter (which had already happened in late September), they have about a half a bale of hay worth of dried plants to eat during the winter.

The ranger also took questions, so I learned a lot about elk, the pine bark beetle infestation, and a few things about trees.

Ponderosa pines are one of my favorite western trees.

When they are young, their bark is deeply fissured and rough.

As they age, their bark becomes smoother. (I kept wondering if aging Ponderosa pines long for the rough bark of their youth.....or perhaps they admire and revel in they enjoy the smooth bark of age.)

Aspen follow a pattern more similar to humans. Young aspen have smooth bark.

As aspen age, their bark becomes rougher and more scarred and textured. (I'm ignoring that elk for now....more on elk another time!)

After the walk with the park ranger, we settled into our condo. Look at the view out the window!!

Some Mexican food might have been involved too!

I didn't notice at the time, but that Mexican restaurant wall looks a lot like my Tuscan sunroom walls.

I saw my first magpie for the trip. In New Hampshire, crows are the roadside scavengers.

In Colorado, we saw ravens and magpies filling that niche. This particular bird was in the visitors center parking lot, landing on parked cars and eating insects off the grills on the front of the cars.

So far our trip is looking like it will be great!

Elk on the Golf Course

I live in southeastern New Hampshire. It's fairly rural here.

I love seeing wildlife....and have seen deer, coyotes, foxes, and a moose in my neighborhood. It never fails to thrill me.

When we decided to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the main reasons was to see wildlife.

We weren't sure we would see much of anything, but we had high hopes.

We needn't have worried.

As we drove to our rented condo, we saw this group of elk on the golf course in Estes Park. ( These elk remained on that green for the entire 6 days we were in Estes Park. They spent the middle of one afternoon on a hillside across from the golf course....but other than that, they were on this one green.)

This group of elk contains one bull and many cows. We were in the Rockies during the elk rutting season or, as the park ranger called it, "the elk social season". The elk come down to lower pastures in September and October to form herds and mate.

The dominant bull gets all the cows.

Isn't he handsome??? (The large antlers, his general strength and robustness, his age - probably 6-8 years old, his high pitched bugle or call, and the way he's been wallowing in muck to make his legs and belly dark and smelly - that's what the cows go for!)

A female with a calf from this year. (I think this collar is part of research being done - which might include a study on elk contraception. Hopefully she was in the control group receiving the placebo).

The female elk in the Rockies usually have a calf every three years. In areas with more food and less harsh weather, the elk may have a calf every two years.

The male elk bugles to remind everyone that this is his territory and his harem, and to entice other female elk in the area to join him.

These are dejected younger male elk on an adjacent green. No cows for them.

And this handsome elk was chewing his cud right next to the doorway to the visitors center.

I really didn't need to worry about whether we'd see any elk!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heading West

A few notes from the journey....

First snow of the winter in the 20,000 feet. I was napping for part of the flight. Suddenly, I woke up to a glimpse of white streaking by out the window. It was snowing at elevation, although when the plane landed in Denver, it was just rain.


One thing I've noticed during our day in transit is how much more visual I am now that I've been blogging for almost a year. I want to photograph so many of the things I see. Taking pictures of things that are beautiful, interesting or inspiring to me so frequently has increased my capacity for enjoying those things - and for enjoying life.


At the car rental agency, a small patch of grass, no bigger than our living room had at least 15 rabbits grazing on it. I love spotting bunnies because we see them so seldom in NH. Bailey would love to hang out and chase them!!

I just wish I had pictures of the snow and the bunnies!! But when I'm in transit I'm a bit of a zombie!

Travel Tips

Three of my favorite travel tricks.

I love renting a condo or cabin instead of staying in a hotel. Whenever we're staying somewhere for more than a few days, and definitely if we're traveling with our dog Bailey, VRBO (Vacation Rent By Owner) helps us find the perfect accommodations.

We've used this website for rentals in the US and abroad and had nothing but good experiences.

For this trip, since we'll be in the Rockies for at least 4 nights, we found a small condo to stay in for about the same price as a hotel.

Handheld Scale

You know how each airline has strict luggage rules about how much each bag weighs.

We got this nifty little handheld scale from LL Bean (but any handheld scale is a good idea).

That way, when we were packing at home, and when we were packing to return home, we could easily weigh the luggage to make sure we weren't over the limit.

Much nicer than shuffling heavy items from one suitcase to the other at the airport to avoid paying extra fees.

Plus, I keep thinking I could use this scale on a yarn buying mission. Picture me, in the warehouse at WEBS weighing cones to find out how much a prospective bargain would cost.

Nuvi navigator

When Jim bought a GPS for our car, I really thought it was silly.

I was so wrong!!

For this trip, when I did the planning in June, I put our destinations into Nuvi (our GPS navigator).

As we booked hotels (or condos), I put those addresses in.

We landed at the airport, and all I had to do was press "Favorites" to find a list with our first night's hotel.

The next day, I had favorites for our condo and for Rocky Mountain National Park.

There might even have been a few yarn shops programmed in. Love it!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Colorado & Utah Trip

We're heading west on a two week trip to Colorado and Utah.

Why now?
  • We scored free tickets on Southwest last fall that we must use by October 19 this fall.
  • We held onto those free tickets all winter thinking we might desperately need a break. But we didn't.
  • Earlier in the summer, I had a weaving conference to attend, then we had a family vacation at the beach in August.

Why here?
  • We looked at where Southwest flies and what we like to do and came up with the idea of wildlife watching in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Then we added on a side trip to Moab, Utah to revisit Arches National Park, and see Canyonlands for the first time.
At one point I read that Santa Fe, New Mexico was only 5 hours from Denver. I made a giant loop out of the route, but that trip would have needed about a month because of all the driving to see things along the way.

Here's the route we're planning to cover: (Hindsight really is 20/20!)

View Larger Map

PS: Just a quick note. This trip happened in late September and early October. I'm blogging about it in order and posting on the dates that events actually occurred. But in Google reader, the posts come up like the trip is happening now. Sorry if this is confusing!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Autumn in the Garden

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Berries

Arisaema triphyllum

Remember when I noticed green berries, or when this plant was blooming?

Three sets of berries on one plant

I had no idea that Jack-in-the-Pulpits produced berries. The berries are not edible, and in fact can cause burning and itching (according that what I've read).

Autumn Joy Sedum & Asters

Much as I might try to believe it's still summer, chilly nights, crisp days, and autumn flowers are convincing me otherwise.

I have much to do to prepare for winter!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Overly Enthused?

The New Hampshire Weavers Guild meets in the spring and fall months - leaving summer to play and winter to hunker down and weave.

Today was the first guild meeting of the fall season.

We have 2 hour workshops in the morning, lunch break, a business meeting and an afternoon speaker. (Plus there's a library, and the yarn table...two more highlights!)

Color and Weave

My morning workshop today was on Color and Weave by Beth Guertin, a weaver and teacher from Waltham, MA.

Blooming Leaf Shadow Weave Scarf in Chenille
from Handwoven: Design Collection 19, Scarves & Shawls for All Seasons

Shadow weave, log cabin, stars, pinwheels and houndstooth are some of the most well-known color and weave effects.

Log Cabin

Color and weave can make a simple structure (like plain weave) look much more complicated.

Color and Weave Gamp

Beth has experimented extensively with different color and weave effects. Ever since I made those star dishtowels from Handwoven, I've loved color and weave.

I feel inspired to experiment with it more!

Yarn Shopping

Huge Amount of Yarn

Last night I promised myself I'd only buy fancy fibers today....say no to cotton or wool.

And yet, I still managed to bring home a lot of good stuff from the yarn table today. Silk, linen, cottolin.

There was some Peace Fleece - one of my favorite wool knitting yarns - and a wool that matches the blue in my living room. So a little wool did creep into the mix.

The alert photo sleuth can also see part of a pool cover for use with felting. I have a big nuno felt this is my small test piece of pool cover for my felting experiments.

I am so excited by this yarn.....I moved it up to my studio and I keep going up there to take a peek at it again. Project ideas are whirling through my brain. At least some of it will be used for knitting. So much fun!! (Have I mentioned that the design phase of projects is my favorite?!)

I'm promising myself that by mid-October I'll get into a better routine with more weaving time! (And I guess, by saying that here, I'm promising you too!)

Mixed Warps (AKA Garbage Warps)

Mixed warp including cotton, chenille, possibly bamboo and ribbon yarn

The afternoon lecture, on "Garbage Warps" was also by Beth Guertin. She covered lots of ideas for projects you can make using small bits of many yarns.

Striped wool scarf from leftovers

This topic is extremely apropos for me for several reasons:
  1. I just bought a huge amount of mixed yarns - and tend to do that whenever the guild yarn table has good stuff on it!
  2. I am a frugal Yankee, some might even call me a yarn miser, so I like the idea of using every last bit of my favorite yarns.
  3. I want to weave some blankets this winter, and I don't want it to cost me a fortune.

Blue and White Blanket

I'm interested whenever I see weavers combining different yarns, as opposed to purchasing all of the same yarn for a project. Today's lecture had many beautiful examples....including many blankets.

I am totally motivated to head up to my studio and design away. See you later!!!