This is the final post about my bike ride last Saturday. The first gave an overview; the second provided some of the landscape contrasts that struck me. Life along the trail, and what you can notice and participate in, is very different from the experience of driving from one side of the city to the other.
Of course, I see more when I’m walking, and even more when I’m sitting quietly. But biking’s pretty good.
I’ve got a few snapshots of critters that I saw, although my tendency with wildlife is to watch and not photograph. I didn’t get a picture of the best thing that happened: right in the middle of the city, what looked a whole lot like a red-tailed hawk flew about six to ten feet above my head. I’ve seen these hawks that close before and from that angle, but never both at the same time, so I’m not going to vouch that I’ve identified the bird correctly. I was pretty shocked.
I not going going slowly enough to catch sight of muskrats, which I most often find on a portion of the trail system west of where I was on this trip.
I didn’t see any foxes, either, although we see them pretty often even in our neighborhood. I caught sight of one crossing the Target parking lot a couple of days ago. They’re red foxes. Some are quite slight, and others look like they’re almost as big as our dogs, in stature if not in weight.
Whenever I see a fox, I am reminded of many nice things. One is a favorite book, City Foxes, by Susan Tweit. Another is a former soul mate of mine, an Australian Shepherd named Heather, who was so mellow that she and I, when out walking, could sit together and watch a fox near its den from probably twenty feet away without alarming the fox.
(An auto parts store has been built where that fox lived. And now the dirt is being scraped away for more retail space where a family of foxes lived near the main post office. In past years, caution tape was put up around the den when the kits were little so the group wouldn’t be disturbed. I hope they’ve all found a new home in some of the open space that won’t be built on.)
And yet another nice thing I’m reminded of is the photography of Wendy Shattil. I’m almost certain it’s one of her foxes I see when I fly Frontier Airlines. Her photographs combine with Susan’s words in City Foxes, although I encountered Wendy’s work first about seven years ago, when I was working a heritage preservation project in Park County, Colorado, and we were looking for images for assocaited publications.
Back to Saturday and my bike: the following critters are in the order in which I saw them on the return ride.
I saw a few ducks, mostly because I heard them splash down behind the curtain of trees along the Poudre River:
I didn’t have my binoculars and my eyes aren’t sharp enough right now to get past "one of the mallard–shaped ducks in female-mallard-type colors." Not goldeneyes, obviously, nor buffleheads. Nor anything else likely to be in this region that’s distinctive enough for me to i.d. at a glance. (When I lived near the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I was great at knowing which ducks I was looking at, but I’m out of practice. And there were more fancy ducks there, which made it fun to learn to recognize them.)
What we have here that wasn’t there is prairie dogs:
When I’m not in the car, I hear prairie dogs before I see them: they make a chirping sound. When I’m in the car, I see the dirt mounds at the openings of their burrows and then look for the upright-standing creatures. They often stand vertically on top of their mounds. The one above is scurrying along, probably to another burrow opening.
Horses live right in the middle of this city. There used to be a sign on the fence near this pasture that said something like, "Beware: The horses bite." It’s not there now.
And here are some sheep at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital:
They’re very close to one of the major cross-town roads, although you can’t see them (or the horses, cows, or llamas) from the street. In fact, you could live here for years and never know the hospital consisted of anything but buildings. You can see them all quite well from the bike path.
And that’s part of what I like about riding a bike around town: I get in touch with a much more diverse and less homogenized environment.
Many houses here have six-foot privacy fences around their back yards. It took me a while to get used to driving down streets lined with vertical cedar boards.
There’s also much less interesting architecture here than there has been in other places where I’ve lived—Midwest, Northeast, Northwest. There are interesting buildings. There just aren’t as many of them, and there are a whole lot of subdivisions that contain variations on a single theme. Many of them have covenants that require the residents to paint their houses in a specified narrow range of colors: generally beiges and grays.
When I first moved here, it took me a while to realize I needed to look at the sky, which changes every day.
I love walking, which is one way to experience my surroundings.
My bike has given me access to an additional set of intriguing things to look at and ways in which to see them.
Saturday was a good day off.