Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grateful for where I live in the mountains

I'll take a one-post respite from Spinning to tell you a few things I've experienced the past few days that have made me very grateful for where I live up in the Rocky Mountains. In fact, they help me forget the fact that yesterday, June 11, it snowed in Vail!

Over the weekend, my husband and I took a mountain bike ride. We ducked behind a building to take a shortcut through the parking lot. I almost didn't notice it as I was lost in thought, but Jeff was pointing at something with an amazed look at his face, so I rode over there and stopped in my tracks.

It was a huge red-tailed hawk in the middle of dining on a squirrel (I think it was a red-tailed hawk, he had siena-colored tailfeathers). Now, you may be grossed out by the thought of this squirrel, but this raptor is huge, and it's 10 feet from me, and it's stunningly beautiful and magnificent and scary at the same time. It stood about 18" off the pavement, and it's huge claws were wrapped around the limp grey body below it.  He stopped eating to stare at me, his beak covered with blood, and his eyes staring me down, as if daring me to come closer. I didn't. Satisfied that I wasn't after his lunch, he went back to disemboweling the squirrel.

Though it was fascinating, my mother taught me it's rude to stare at someone while they're eating, so we left it to eat in peace. I've seen many hawks flying overhead, and I've even petted a hawk of this size at a birds of prey show. But it's different when you see them in the wild doing what wild things do. It was truly stunning.

We continued our ride up to Beaver Creek, which consisted of a long climb on pavement, followed by a steep long climb on dirt roads - a wonderful anaerobic burn for much of the last 20 minutes. We arrived at the trailhead which would take us on rolling singletrack back to our house, but a sign greeted us that the trail was closed for elk migration and calving. I had totally forgotten about these springtime closures. Since we had gotten a good workout in, I wasn't bummed; in fact I thought, "How cool is that to live in a place where you have to worry about elk calving?"

Then this morning I was at a personal training client's house to work out with them. In the spring and summer we go outside and do intervals of jogging, skipping, lateral skips and lunges about 200 feet up the steep road in front of their house. (Nothing too strenuous, she's 65 and he's 72, but very fit)!

As we started, we saw two baby foxes run across the road, nipping and playing as they ran, and then duck into a hole amongst some large boulders next to their property. My client said, "Oh, I'm so glad the foxes are back. Last year some marmots stole their den!"

These baby fox watched us the whole time. They were so incredibly cute! Mama fox was about 50 feet away, sitting and watching us as we worked out. Later, as I drove away, all three were sitting in the middle of the street, the kits rolling around and nipping at each other and their mother. 

I've lived here 15 years, and have seen lots of wild animals, but never as close or as cute as the past few days. Next I hope to see a bear (but maybe not that close)!

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