We’re having our deck ripped out and replaced. The deck is where we kept our hummingbird feeder. We were warned early on not to leave it out overnight because the bears would come for it.
I forgot it out there a few times and nothing ever happened. This might be because that particular corner of the deck put the feeder about 15 feet off the ground. If a bear wanted at it, it would need to come at the deck from the other side and hop the railing. Bears up here do that, but it’s likely none ever caught the scent of the feeder.
This week, Project New Deck started. The old deck has been ripped out. So I moved the hummingbird feeder (and a seed block) to a tree out front. Tuesday night, I remembered to bring it in.
Last night, I was messing around with the grill (also moved out front), going back and forth, saying “I’ll grab the feeder on the next trip.” I never grabbed the feeder.
Guess what happened.
It almost looks like Mama Bear was holding everyone back behind the construction dumpster and then gave the signal, “Go go go!” Everyone scrambles to the tree. I think the moment when most of them split is when we rushed to the bedroom window and were, “Hey you darned bears, get off my feeder.” (Actually it was more like, “I can’t believe you forgot the feeder. We talked about it. You probably did it on purpose.” In my defense: Not THIS time.)
But if you look closely, you’ll see one of the cubs climb the tree. He skipped the hummingbird feeder and went for the bird seed block. (It’s got berries and some kind of fat in it.)
I went down, turned on the lights, and he eventually climbed down. Then after a while — a long while — I went back out and grabbed the hummingbird feeder and the seed block and was not eaten by a bear. This time.
Woke up this morning to go to the bathroom. Around 4:45. Got back into bed. Just as I was about to drift off, I heard a loud cracking sound, a branch breaking out front.
I’ve watched nine deer walk through the yard so I figured it wasn’t deer. I reached for my phone to see if the Ring camera had picked up anything. No alerts. So I put it on live mode.
You can check out the video above. Gray pre-dawn light. At first glance, nothing. You Ming notice the top of one of the aspen trees rocking back and forth, despite an absence of wind. It’s just to the left of the column. Keep your eye on that spot. There! Did you see it? Something black moving. And a branch falling over.
I hopped out of bed and went to the window. There was definitely something moving. But between the light and the trees I couldn’t quite make it out. Then I noticed movement closer to the road. An elk. About medium build. I looked back to the original spot and it finally stepped out into the drive.
An impressive bull. Full rack. I’m going to guess 600 pounds. And he’d been almost impossible to spot due to aspen trees with trunks maybe three inches around. I wasn’t the only one fooled. The Ring camera still hadn’t gone off by this point despite him being in full view in the driveway. Maybe it’s because they move so slowly.
A third elk came into view, this one closer to the road as well and drifted through the yard without a sound. This one was a male as well, which makes me think even the big one was still on the young side and this was a group of juveniles. (I’m not an elk expert. I might be mistakenly applying mule deer habits to them. But the young mule deer bucks rove around in groups this time of year, like young punks on the prowl. The only thing they’re missing is cigarettes, tattoos, and the deer equivalent of a sneer.)
Finally, as the big guy made to leave, the Ring picked him up. You can’t see him all that well, but when he lifts his head for a moment at the start of the video you can see his antlers.
Today is garbage day. This involves me dragging two heavy cans up the drive. Because I am a manly man I usually drag them both at the same time. But because I am getting old and my body falling apart, this morning I dragged the regular garbage up, came down and grabbed the recycling and dragged that up. Walking back toward the house I was surprised to find a young buck nibbling in the garden.
And by surprised, I mean I almost crapped myself. It took me less than 30 seconds to drag the recycling up and head back down and he’d managed to sneak in there during that time.
(If reading isn’t your thing, you can just skip to the video down at the bottom)
Seeing that he wasn’t afraid of me, I decided to do what anyone would do: stop and observe this wonderful moment of nature.
Just kidding. I whipped out my phone and started recording. And then he started walking. Right toward me. I backed away slowly. He was tiny, but still a buck, and I didn’t know if now was the time he was going to prove himself a man by ramming a human in the junk. I moved toward the garage.
And he followed me.
I stopped. Whatever happened, I didn’t want him inside the garage where he might panic. I made some shoo-ing motions to no avail. So I headed back toward the yard. He watched me. I took a couple more steps and whistled. He followed.
He started eating grass at the edge of the deck and I slowly went back into the garage and hit the door button. I used the side door of the garage to go into the dog run. He walked over and considered the gate as if wanting to be let in. I didn’t let him in. I didn’t pet him, either, though I really wanted to. Eventually, he moved on.
Maybe someone around here has been feeding him. Or his mom — her name is Deerdra — just recently gave him the talk and told him to be on his way. Maybe the poor guy was just feeling lonely.
Either way, I hope he makes it. Here’s some video.
Had the day off today so decided to waste only the first half of it binge watching garbage on Netflix. Then I drove out to Pine Valley Ranch for a three-mile hike. Fun fact: The river in these photos is one of the ones I was standing in last fall and fly fishing.
If you, like me, are new to fly fishing, there are a few words that are crucial to your understanding of the sport. In fact, there appear to be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand of these words. And that’s simply for trout fishing in fresh-water rivers. These words don’t simply fall under the subject matter of “fishing.” No, we have words dealing with gear, hydrology, ichthyology, and with insect life both real and fake. Yes, we have a whole etymology of entomology.
I work in digital media and marketing for a living, a field that loves to invent new words, bastardize old words, verb nouns, and visit a host of other sins on the language. But most of the words are as meaningless as the field. Misunderstanding a digital marketing word won’t get you killed. Hell, it won’t even get you laughed at because if you misuse one, chances are other people in the room either didn’t know what it meant in the first place or just assume the meaning has changed in the last half hour.
But even if fly fishing seems overly complicated and ludicrous at times, the words fly fishers use actually mean something. You can find glossaries and text books and websites elsewhere, from the basic to the not-so-basic. I’ll leave it to the experts to give you the latin name of the Caddis fly, what its larval stage is called, and the approximately six million fly patterns based on it. I’m not even going to delve into the differences between the trout species.
I’m new to all of this, so I can’t very well make you an expert if I’m still an idiot bumbling around in waders with the tags still on them. So I’ll give you a few key vocabulary words defined by my own experience and designed to give you just enough knowledge to start looking elsewhere before getting yourself seriously hurt.
(This post is rated PG-13 for strong, but entirely appropriate, language).
You’re walking down a path running along a rushing mountain river when you hear a grunting up ahead. You pause. Maybe it’s a bear or a hog of some sort. Do they have hogs in the mountains? As you draw closer, you see a man wearing boots up to his chest, a hat jammed onto his head, polarized sunglasses. He’s bent over, in some sort of distress. Maybe the nine foot pole he’s grappling with has pierced his side. There’s a pair of hemostats on the ground, almost in the water. Nail clippers, too. He’s mumbling furiously.
Closer still, you make out what he’s saying. “You piece of shit. Come on you little son of a bitch.” Over and over, weaving in worse as he goes along, sounding like The Old Man from “A Christmas Story” fighting with his furnace — except you don’t need to use your imagination to figure out the words.
You’re looking at me on my first solo fly fishing excursion.
It’s been three months since we’ve moved into our house in Conifer, Colorado. To be honest, it sometimes still feels like we’re squatting in a vacation home. Until I have to write a check for the plumber. Or the surveyor. Or the garbage collection company, which, by the way, still hasn’t given me the bear-proof garbage can I’d requested.
You hear a lot about guarding your garbage against black bears up here. They’re basically the raccoons of Shadow Mountain. In fact, while I have seen one live black bear up here (cutting through our yard on Fourth of July, much to the delight of visiting family. As one said, “That’s a big motherfucking bear.”), I’ve only seen one raccoon — and that poor guy was dead on the side of the road.
We closed on a house last Friday. A lovely four-bedroom, four-bath — that’s two each for both of us — in the foothills town of Conifer, west of Denver. It’s up on Shadow mountain and sits on two acres of sloping pine and aspen and other assorted plants that I don’t know the names of. It’s the very picture of serenity, and the close on Friday couldn’t have gone smoother except for the LAST MINUTE FLIGHT TO AND FROM DALLAS THAT CARA WAS FORCED TO TAKE BECAUSE CAPITAL ONE IS NOT ONLY THE WORST BANK IN THE WORLD BUT IS THE EPITOME OF ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH LATE STAGE CAPITALISM IN THE UNITED STATES.
But more on that later.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We moved to Colorado last fall with the intention of renting for a year, figuring out where we wanted to live, then buying toward the end of our lease — or even after the lease was up.
Then again, it wasn’t originally supposed to be like that either. We’d come to Colorado last spring with the intention of just buying a house and then moving. We checked out the mountain town of Nederland, which was full of hippies, had a semi-functional traffic circle, a few coffee shops and a lot of houses set on dirt roads where murderers, bears, and murderous bears might lurk. It was small is what I’m saying. And we’d just stayed at The Stanley, so maybe we were primed to think Colorado ghosts were out to get us.
We saw an amazing house in Nederland, one we considered out of our price range at the time (if you watch House Hunters, you know what kind of foreshadowing that is), and some not-so-amazing houses. But we learned that we didn’t know a thing about Colorado in general and mountain (or mountain-ish) living in particular. We also didn’t know what our work situations would be, so Nederland — west of Boulder — wasn’t going to be practical if either of us had to take a job in Denver. Also, trying to get a mortgage while living out of state seemed like it was going to be a pain in the ass.
So we found a place in Superior, a bedroom town between Boulder and Denver, and two hundred yards between the target and a massive open space with trails and amazing views of the Flat Irons.
When Ken and Cara moved from Brooklyn to Colorado, all they wanted was a change of pace, to trade the grind of long commutes and a dysfunctional city for fresh air and a slower pace of life. Maybe a little adventure. What they couldn’t have known was that just over two months after moving, they’d be trapped on a mountainside, tears freezing to their faces as they shivered, staring at their useless cellphones, the last light of day leaking out of the thin air.
Man. I should totally write one of those pieces for an outdoor magazine, shouldn’t I.
The biggest problem with this story is we didn’t die. Didn’t come close to it. Maybe if you ask Cara, she might tell you differently. She’ll tell you that, once again, I went out of my way to kill her. And the worst part might have been the indignity of it all. The scuba lessons I signed her up for came with about six hundred things that could go wrong and kill her. Swimming with sharks? Well, duh. They’re sharks. Glacier hiking in Iceland was a day of extremely high winds, crevasses and deadly ice caves.
But snowshoeing? You don’t die while snowshoeing. Hell, we’d been snowshoeing a couple of times before. It was a fun way to spend a day.
Outside Magazine writer: The two were about to make a number of rookie mistakes that often cause trouble for those new to winter sports, well-meaning people whose enthusiasm far outstrips their skills.