Gals see elk, pronghorns, coyote, deer, sheep on hike along Front
The roads were a bit icy with some drifting on curves, but Gail and Susan handled the driving well. After a bathroom break at the Buckhorn bar, we dropped our food for the after-hike get-together at Deva's and then met the rest of the group at Len's.
It was another hour's drive to reach the Blacktail Gulch trailhead via the Sun Canyon road. Gail and Susan earned brownie points for their driving on the super slick and snowy gravel two-lane county road. One rancher even stopped us to warn about the icy conditions we would face.
Along the way, we stopped twice to pull out our cameras and binoculars to view the 100+ elk littering the flats of the Sun Canyon game range.We also saw a herd of sheep right off the road near Wagner Basin, always a good place to view bighorns. It was a great day for animals. We must have seen over 1,000 mule deer in pastures and plains on the drive in and back as well as seeing herds of antelope, and a coyote just staring at us from the side of the road.
When we reached our destination, we had to park along the side of the road as the parking lot wasn't plowed.Seventeen hikers trekked just over six miles up the canyon on a sunny and practically windless day, a rarity along the Rocky Mountain Front. And the temps rose to over 40 degrees as the sun poked its head from behind the clouds before disappearing in preparation for the next predicted storm.
Many animals had tracked up the area with deer and rabbit the most obvious. We also saw much evidence of pine beetle, including the "blue" pitch (coming from pitch tubes the trees produce to try to stop the beetles) and trees with obvious holes and woodpecker damage (slabs of bark around a tree are an indication). The flickers and downies move in after beetle damage.
More info from Colorado State University Extension Service:
Signs and Symptoms of MPB Attack
- Popcorn-shaped masses of resin, called "pitch tubes," on the trunk where beetle tunneling begins. Pitch tubes may be brown, pink or white (Figures 2 and 6).. Under dry conditions, trees may not produce pitch tubes when infested, therefore healthy trees are not as obvious. Time may need to be spent looking for sawdust around a tree’s circumference and at the base of the tree.
- Boring dust in bark crevices and on the ground immediately adjacent to the tree base.
- Evidence of woodpecker feeding on trunk. Patches of bark are removed and bark flakes lie on the ground or snow below tree.
- Foliage turning yellowish to reddish throughout the entire tree crown. This usually occurs eight to 10 months after a successful MPB attack.
- Presence of live MPB (eggs, larvae, pupae and/or adults) as well as galleries under bark. This is the most certain indicator of infestation. A hatchet for removal of bark is needed to check trees correctly (Figures 3, 5 and 8).
- Bluestained sapwood (Figure 9). Check at more than one point around the tree's circumference.
The drive into Augusta revealed stunning views of the mountains along the Front, particularly Sawtooth Mountain, Steamboat and Haystack Butte before we hit Deva's house for her delicious soup and all of the goodies everyone brought, for example, Catherine and Ed's cardamom bread, Kathy M's wheat bread and Katie's halfway cookies.
Who went: Kathy M, Katie, Susan, Gail, Anita, Michelle, Sara. Amy and Catherine traveled with others.
Link to Kathy's pictures