Last week, after a picturesque drive up the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, I spent several days on the Grand Mesa for the first time since I moved to Cedaredge, Colorado last December. I was celebrating my 71st birthday which I wanted to do in pristine nature with diverse wildlife. It was incredibly beautiful, with numerous lakes and reservoirs surrounded by trees and vast meadows. I stopped at a few of the crystal blue lakes to take some quick photographs mostly with my compact camera.
My next stop was at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center. I spoke with a well-informed forest ranger about wildlife. She mentioned recently seeing a Black Bear on her hike and of course squirrels and chipmunks, large Mountain Lion tracks, a big Coyote who stood his ground and, Yellow-bellied Marmots. In the past, I have photographed each of those critters, but I have never observed a Yellow-bellied Marmot. I purchased this Black Bear mug at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center as a reminder of my birthday adventure and to contribute toward their work in supporting wildlife.
I checked into the Alexander Lodge and received the key to my small cabin, The family-owned lodge prepared the cabin several hours early knowing I would arrive before 3 pm check-in.
After receiving the key to my cabin I observed a large Bald Eagle flying over Cobbett Lake within walking distance. It was too high to get reasonable photographs and was beautiful to watch it soar higher and higher while looking down towards the water for fish to catch. I was told by a woman from Altitude Outdoor Adventures near the lake that the Bald Eagle visits several lakes periodically and has been observed swooping down and catching large fish from the water.
I was enchanted by an adorable friendly Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel who was missing one ear. He posed as we connected. Although I was told he was not friendly for most visitors he came out to say hello whenever I was near the lodge. He was one of the highlights of my birthday.
I took a leisurely walk along a trail adjoining Cobbett Lake and I enjoyed being in the cool mountain forest air reveling in the sounds of nature. I did get bitten by a few mosquitoes. I brought some mosquito repellent but never felt the need to use it. I applied a little witch hazel to help with the itching in the evening. I didn’t experience swarms of mosquitoes that have been reported in the Grand Mesa area, and they were more than tolerable. I embrace them as I do all wildlife, and that seems to make a difference.
While exploring Eggleston Lake, I was captivated by a large Yellow-bellied Marmot. Marmots are large rodents with characteristically short but robust legs, enlarged claws well adapted to digging, stout bodies and large heads and incisors to quickly process a variety of vegetation. Marmots are the largest members of the squirrel family. Total length varies typically from about 18 to 28 in and body mass averages about 5-10 lbs. If alarmed, the Marmot often chirps or whistles. As I embraced and connected with each Marmot I encountered, I was blessed to never have them exhibit a chirp or a whistle.
I was invited to eat at a special Polish buffet in the Alexander Lake Lodge. I sampled a little of everything, and it was delicious.
To walk off the meal I photographed wildlife at several lakes and reservoirs including Alexander, Baron, Big Creek, Island, Ward, and Hotel Twin. I walked along lush meadows of grass and wildflowers and stands of Aspen, Englemann spruce and Douglas fir.
Trees across a meadow 2019 © Stephen Bruno
I explored Trickel Park Reservoir from the boat launch. I enjoyed the old-growth forests, aspens, and meadows and took a few photographs mostly with my compact camera as I continued driving to Bonham-Wells Reservoir on the way to Collbran. I learned that unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle or at least a truck and possibly an ATV, there are limitations in where you can explore. With my car, which is very low to the ground front-wheel-drive, I pushed the limits by driving on washboard dirt roads until it became clear that it was time to turn around. Getting away from the populated areas present me with a different perspective being in the mountain, forests, and lakes with sweeping panoramas. I took a few photographs of the scenery and lakes.
I sometimes took creative photographs in between observing wildlife. This view was striking and the photograph does not do it justice
As evening approached I appreciated the cooler nighttime temperatures and I slept well in the fresh air and sound of the creek running behind the cabin.
My stay in a cabin was a memorable 71st birthday in the Grand Mesa, Colorado.
Visit Stephen Bruno Photography for more photos of the Grand Mesa adventure.