Friday, October 19, 2012

Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR: October 2012

After an early-morning parent-teacher conference Taryn had the rest of Friday off.  We didn't have time to make a trip quite like our fabulous visit to Hanging Lake last month, but there was still opportunity to get outside and do something.  We'd never been to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge so that seemed like a good choice.

Taryn seemed disappointed when I gently told her that the bison tracks in the cement in front of the entrance probably weren't real.

It took me a while of looking at the map to finally realize that the Lakes Loop Trail we had come to walk didn't actually start at the Visitor Center.  But it was only a short drive farther in, and in just a few minutes we were enjoying a stroll across Lake Mary on a lengthy floating boardwalk.

In short order we were on the shore of Lake Ladora, and watching the first wild Western Grebes I'd ever seen dive for food.  It was fun to try and guess where they would come up, even though we were always wrong.

Taryn was excited to find a ladybug on a leaf, and I was excited for her.  It's those kinds of magical moments that can create a life-long love of the outdoors.

She insisted that I take a close-up of her holding it.  I was more than happy to oblige.

I loved how her blonde hair, gold sparkles and white shirt complemented the dead reeds and cloudy skies here.

Just when I think the opportunities to shoot foliage are all gone, I get one more day of golden leaves.

I tend to be slightly snobby about my outdoors.  Man-made features are always a bit less appealing to me than natural ones.  But it was still amazing how a former chemical weapons manufacturing facility could be transformed into something as captivating as this refuge.

The lighting conditions were frighteningly -- and somewhat frustratingly -- similar to what I dealt with at Mud Lake last week.  Overcast overhead, but clear and blue to the west.  So there wasn't much in the way of dramatic foreground lighting, which I felt restricted the shots I could take.  Not that having snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background can really be considered all that restricted...

Other than some power lines to the west and north, there was very little visual evidence that we were smack dab in the middle of Commerce City.  The prairie stretched beautifully in every direction.

Surprisingly soon, we were back to Lake Mary.  I guess it shouldn't have been that surprising with the loop only being about two miles and virtually flat.  But having Taryn with me sure made the time go quickly.

We didn't see quite as much wildlife as I'd hoped -- a few deer, the aforementioned grebes plus some other ducks, a couple of kestrels, a hawk, lots of prairie dogs and an odd flock of black birds that we drove through twice.  The birds actually were so arresting that we stopped the car just to listen to their activity on the way out of the refuge.

All in all, a great day with my daughter and a place I'd happily return to.  There's apparently a small herd of buffalo here that I'd like the chance to photograph!

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