The Things We See

To my faithful readers - I am very sorry. I am WAY behind on blog posts. I have had a combined problem - a laptop on its last leg and more work than I know what to do with. Both ended up for the good - lots of work translates into enough extra income to buy a new and improved laptop. So, my best intentions include returning to weekly posts!

One of the most common questions we hear from guests is, "Where and when is the best time to view wildlife?" Of course this is a perfectly logical question since most of our visitors are here to enjoy the natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and incomparable serenity in which the Centennial Valley specializes.

However, I was pondering this question as I enjoyed a rare walk a few mornings back. This time of year is not the 'best' wildlife viewing time. At least not if you are hunting a glimpse of big game - which most folks are. However, I still found myself stopping, stooping, and speculating over the things I was seeing. From my speculations on this hike came the fodder for this post.

Early summer and late fall can offer incredible and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities, especially to those willing to search quietly and diligently. However, these seasons only make up a fraction of the time we spend in the valley. Nonetheless, I never find myself bored on my hikes. Why? It certainly is not because I always see wildlife or even something most folks would even notice.

What keeps me intrigued and makes each hike an adventure is the ever changing world through which I trek. It often is not the BIG things or even the things most would consider 'noteworthy'. In fact, if I shared everything I find intriguing about the world around me, some of you would probably think the summer heat had gone to my head!

But, I'm not the only one who sees value in what is often overlooked. There are the wildflowers, of course. But why limit it to flowers? What about the trees and the grass and the 'weeds'? Each one has its own life story to tell if we are willing to watch.

But, why stop there? There are the tracks. Even when the ground has turned hard and dry, there is usually some sign of what has passed through the area before us. And, it doesn't take a well-trained tracker to learn to watch. In fact, it doesn't even necessarily require you to walk. My hubby ran across a black bear sow and cub's (little tracks - must be a first cub) tracks while riding his motorcycle up the road toward Hidden Lake.

But, that is not all. What about scat? Scat? What is scat? To put it bluntly - poop! I learned a lot about the fox who spent the winter in our vicinity just from their tracks and scat on and along my ski trails. Of course I'm not the only one to have decided 'poop' is worth looking at. Some creative person has written an interesting (and informative) little book, "Who Pooped In The Park?" based on the Yellowstone area.

Then there are the birds which, I think, are overlooked by many because they are too 'common' in our world. Yet I get as much pleasure from the common House Wren singing outside my bedroom window as I do from glimpsing most of the wildlife I see on my hikes.

Wait, that is not all! This time of year there are the butterflies. I have been told butterflies are a sign of a healthy eco-system. Whether or not this is true, they certainly add color and variety and offer learning opportunities as I hike. But, don't stop there! Even the insects are interesting, although, not to worry, I'm still not a bug enthusiast. (NOTE: The gorgeous Dragonfly photo above is courtesy of David Slaughter, one of our wonderful repeat guests - and a very talented photographer.)

All this to suggest we often miss more than we see when we hike. So, next time you take a walk, regardless of where you are, take a closer look around. Even non-mobile objects like rocks and trees and ridgelines offer learning opportunities if we are but willing to look.


Long Lazy (Well, Somewhere) Days Of Summer

For those of you who have been following this blog for awhile, you know this blog is at least a week old since all blog posts are first posted on our web page. So, if you are reading this here, this really is 'old' news.

Actually, this is REALLY old news because I have been unable to post for nearly a month. To my faithful readers - I am very sorry. I had a combined problem - a laptop on its last leg and more work than I know what to do with. Both ended up for the good - lots of work translates into enough extra income to buy a new and improved laptop. So, my best intentions include returning to weekly posts! - So to my actual post from July 24th.

I think our ‘real' summer has finally arrived, at least for the next few weeks. While there are thunderstorms forecast for this weekend, and the last rain we received was this past weekend, the past few days have reached or topped 80 degrees. To us, that feels HOT!

Wildlife sightings remain generous this summer. I assume it is courtesy of the wetter, cooler weather. Deer. Elk. Bears. Cougars. Moose. And, of course the birds have been abundant and varied.

I think the wild flowers, however, have garnered more comments than anything else. Not only do the colors appear deeper and the flowers more abundant, but there seem to be more varieties this year. I can not count how many people have said something about them.

Furthermore, the fishing has just started to slow (and not very much, at that) here at Elk Lake. Of course that means we will probably only have about 4 weeks where the fish are ‘down deep.' This is good news to the fishermen, I am sure.

Best yet, the bugs have not been too bad. I suspect the late frosts (the last one probably only two weeks ago) have kept them bit back. That always improves the pleasure I derive from my walks (kayaking I don't seem to run into too many).

Speaking of walks, hiking has been wonderful. The only challenge has been coming back ‘un- soaked.' With grass up to my waist (and arm pits in many places) and the regularly cool moist (with dew) mornings - I have come back wet more than once.

However, as I said, wildlife sightings and the profuse wild flowers has made every hike an adventure. And, while we have had a black bear sow and cub (based on tracks, not sightings) pass by the south side of the resort - and a grizzly sow and two cubs sighted just a couple of canyons away - and a lone grizzly sighted just up the hill - and a lone black bear sighted at Hidden Lake (all that within the last three weeks), I have not seen anything more than scat.

New this year is a cougar sighting. Craig had the first look one morning about a week ago. He was kayaking and noticed something just across the bay from the lodge. It pulled away from the water's edge as he approached but stopped just a few yards up the hill to check him out. Then, a couple days later - late morning - some guests (also on the lake) spotted a lone cougar walking in the shallow water north-east of the lodge.

No wolves around, though. At least not that we know of. However, we did hear of wolves killing some sheep just outside of Ennis a week or so ago - so they are around (probably closer than we think).


All in all, despite what our summer help would likely term ‘less than summery weather,' we have been enjoying a wonderful summer at Elk Lake. I trust, wherever you are - you are having a great summer too!

Lady of the Lake