Free Entrance Days in the National Parks

National Parks @ Three Cornered Hug

February 15th-17th happens to be a free weekend at many of our national parks (including the nearest and dearest to me- Rocky Mountain National Park!). Many are already free, but this will include those that typically charge an entrance fee.

Check out their website to see other free dates throughout the year:
http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm
So get out there and enjoy yourself!

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104,185 Square Mile Playground

This is my backyard.

Rocky Mountains @ Three Cornered HugWell…..sort of.

Now that we’ve been in Colorado over two months, I’ll testify that this state is one humungous playground. And it’s a good thing- the people here love the outdoors. They thrive on fresh mountain air.

Opportunities to sniff this goodness abound. Even in the middle of the big city of Denver, there’s beautiful park space, and young people can be found taking walks or playing football at lunchtime. In the suburbs, there are huge open spaces planned right in- the one near us is about 40 acres. There you can enjoy the playground, or paddle boats while quacking at the ducks in the lake.  You can walk or take a bike path–all the way into Boulder if you’d like! But then there’s the mountains. Nothing like them, and no limit to the activities to be found there. Snowshoeing, skiing/boarding, hiking, and more. Recently I found out that you can even drive a dog sled!

One of the places we like most near home is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal wildlife refuge. (That’s actually what’s shown in the picture above) This wonderful preserve just about 10 miles from us, is home to so many different kinds of animals. The highlight for me are the many eagles that come to spend the winter there. Bald and golden, you can find these majestic birds sitting together on the ice or in the trees.

Bison: Rocky Mountain National Arsenal @ Three Cornered HugAs you drive through you can watch as the little birds fly from one bison’s lumpy back to the next. You can chatter back to the little prairie dogs who pop out of their homes to scold you. A mule deer might be watching you from behind some brush just a few feet away as he nibbles on his dinner.

There are some areas where you can get out and hike the trails here. One evening as I knelt down in the grass along the road to take a few landscapes, I heard the eerie sound of a coyote calling to his friends…and then their answer.

After a few minutes I hopped back in the car and we drove down the road a bit. Like a flash, a coyote darted across the road in front of us. Looking to our right we could see the herd of deer he had been stalking. The huge buck who had apparently driven him away was watching to make sure he wouldn’t return.

What a wild and awesome state we’ve come to. It’s difficult for me to believe that all of this beauty, all of this wonder is all around us. Hard to believe this is all my big backyard.

Evening Over Denver @Three Cornered Hug

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Beat Summer Boredom: Bird Watching

BirdwatchingBirdwatching is something you would typically think of as an adult activity, but not so. In fact, it was my toddler son who first piqued my interest in birds. One of his first phrases was “Lookittabirds, lookittabirds!” He was especially fascinated in the fall and winter when large flocks keep together and take off when spooked.

As the years have gone on and he’s matured, so has the hobby. We’ve found out that birders usually keep a life list and add to it when they spot a new species, so that was a must. He spends time on The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website listening to calls, and checks out books from the library about the world’s most bizarre birds (and believe me, they’re weirder than you think). When we travel to other places, he looks around for birds we don’t see at home. On a trip to Colorado earlier this year, we had the pleasure of seeing several bird strangers. He was able to use the birding app on his ipod to call them in close, and as they perched nearby and danced around, they held a kind of little “conversation” with him.

One tool he really enjoys is the monocular he got for his birthday this year. It’s handy to and light to tote around. A bird book from the library is equally helpful (although a good birding app will serve the same purpose). Still, you don’t have to have any fancy schmancy things to enjoy birdwatching. Just a few minutes, and some patience will do. See if your kids will get hooked, too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find out if I have the proper spelling of schmancy 🙂

Stellars Jay at Rocky Mountain National Park