Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side

Introductory Note
In the 1980’s I wrote articles for the HP Sportsman’s Club Newsletter. The Sportsman’s Club was open to all HP employees and since I worked with one of the ring leaders, I was constantly bombarded with talk of guns, hunting, trap shoots, etc, etc. I was one of the few female members of the Sportsman’s Club and eventually edited the newsletter. The location of the shooting range was south and west of Windsor, Colorado. High on a hill and up a rugged road, HP had purchased (or leased) the land for its gun toting employees to have trap shoots and other events. Now the whole area has developed into a ritzy neighborhood with ½ million dollar houses. I wonder if they ever find a few shell casings in their yards? At any rate, I wrote this story for one of the newsletters and it brings back pleasant memories so I wanted to share it with you. It is a “good old days” story.

A Walk on the Wild Side
Once in a while a person accidentally runs across an exceptionally nice experience and this one happened to me early in May. I would like to share it with you, so you can enjoy it too.

Now, what has walking to do with the Sportsman’s Club? Actually, nothing unless your sport is going for a nice long walk in a place that sets you back in time and gets you close to nature.

The place is the Northern Colorado Nature Center and its located in Fort Collins, as far east as you can go on Drake Road and then about ¼ mile north.

When I found it, it was early evening and the sun was seriously thinking about going to bed. My husband and I got out of the car “just to read the signs” and see what this place was all about. Then one thing led to another and before we knew it we were crossing the little suspension bridge over the Cache la Poudre River. At that point we were hooked, just as surely as a fish is hooked with a fat juicy worm.

There are several trails and we took the one that skirts the outer perimeter of the Nature Center. The folks that are in charge of the place have done an excellent job of marking with logs and piles of stones along the trail. Jim Bridger should have had it so good.

We walked along, thoroughly enjoying the wonder of a new place. Especially a place as naturally tranquil as this one. It’s like it must have always been along the river. Thick brush, tall, old Cottonwoods, Elms, and Maples. Yes ---- Maples in Colorado!

For a short way the trail becomes part of an old road bed. I imagined it must have been the remnants of the Overland Stage Road that followed the Cache la Poudre River to LaPorte in the middle 1800’s. A little south of the Center is the Strauss Cabin and the Overland Stage Road crossed the river there then traversed northwest. As I stood there, I could imagine the thundering sound of the stagecoaches interrupting the peacefulness of this area. However, I was also a witness to how nature perseveres and with a little help, a place like this survives.

As we walked along the river we saw signs of beaver, their readily identifiable gnawed marks on the pointed tree stumps. Some beautiful red breasted black birds performed for us. The last rays of the sun made their red breasts look iridescent as they flew overhead.

The trail led us around an old ranch. All there is now is the remains of some troughs and a loading chute covered with vines as nature reclaims her own territory.

As we completed our walk and the little suspension bridge was in sight, my husband stopped me and pointed at something. A Blue Heron was rising out of the water and skimming across it. As he became airborne he turned and with the background of the setting sun his silhouette was beautifully outlined. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful experience – at least we THOUGHT this was the end!

We crossed the bridge and headed for the parking lot, vowing to return with a picnic lunch someday soon. As we neared the car we noticed a fenced in area east of the picnic shelter. Being naturally nosey people we had to investigate. By this time it was almost dark, but there was just enough light to read the information on the sign – and then we looked beyond the sign to see a huge, beautiful Golden Eagle peering at us from a high man made perch. This was an injured Golden Eagle that will never fly again. He was luckily (or unluckily depending on your point of view about Eagles) rescued, mended at CSU and placed here in this make believe aerie. This was sort of a sad thought, but not entirely sad. I have never been that close to a Golden Eagle and I didn’t realize what an awesome bird they are. So even though he will never fly and be free again, he is a survivor, and is serving a purpose.

The Northern Colorado Nature Center is intended for educational tours for groups of school children grades K-6. However, it is open for “older” students too. For an enjoyable, easy to get to, respite from the everyday stress and strain – I recommend this place. patj

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