The last day of 2010 in Pueblo Mountain Park!

The last day of 2010 ends with a couple of inches of new snow and an Arctic blast of cold air with temps in the single digits -- perfect conditions for a wintry walk in the park. A weak sun was trying to work its way through a thin and persistent cloud cover, but by mid-day it didn't look or feel like it would be very successful. The park looked lovely in white. Here are a few photos of the morning walk Helene and I took...tracks are from a fox, probably a red fox, in a pattern that indicates it was trotting.


A little bit of snow!

The anticipated foot of snow did not materialize...a bit over 2" greeted first light this morning, and it's been flurrying all day since. This storm adds 3" to the season's snowfall, bringing the total to only 6". It's lovely outside anyway - the little bit of snow, the grey sky, the cold air - I love it all. Here are a couple of photos of this afternoon's chilly landscape - looking towards the park from my home, and a few of this summer's sunspots (yellow daisies) in the snow.


Waiting for Snow!

I've been watching the news clips of all the snow and winter weather that so many are experiencing. Then I look outside at the dry landscape of this little part of the world. Beulah is in the grasp of a months-long drought -- we've had only 3" of snow so far this snow season and around 1" of total moisture since the latter part of August. We've also had many days of 50s and 60s -- easy weather to enjoy, but too warm and dry for the season. So, yesterday's forecast of up to a foot of snow between last night and tonight was very welcome news. We woke to just an inch on the ground this morning, but the grey skies are holding back so far today. The little bit of white and temps in the 20s do make it look and feel more like December, but come on snow!


A relatively quiet fall day at MPEC!

A delightfully cool mid-November Saturday in Pueblo Mountain Park saw the labyrinth be brought very close to completion. A small but dedicated group of volunteers completed, but for a few finishing touches, the final outer paths by laying the last few hundred stones while I cemented in four beautiful wildlife stones carved by Beulah artist John Clay. Meanwhile, the pond appears to be on its way to putting on its winter cover of ice...if the chilly nights persist, that is. Time will tell. The changing leaves are losing most of their color as fall grows older. A great day in the park. ~Ranger Dave


MPEC wins El Pomar Award for Environment!

Last evening was a fun time for MPEC at the El Pomar Awards Banquet at the Broadmoor International Center in Colorado Springs. We went to the program as one of 3 finalists in the Environmental Issues category and wound up winning the award, which comes with $15,000. In the tough economy, I can say that this will be be put to very good use in continuing MPEC's good work in 2011. Click on Pueblo Chieftain to read an article on the event that ran this morning. Here are some photos from the celebration (Board Member Susan Finzel-Aldred and her husband and MPEC volunteer Archie Aldred were also at the event but unfortunately didn't make it into this batch of photos). The group picture, seated from left: Kim Toman, Operations Director; Beverly Samek, Board Member; standing from left: Greg Smith, Co-Program Director; Dave Van Manen, Director; Helene Van Manen, founding Board Member and volunteer; Mary Twinem, Board Chair. Other photos: Elaine Lopez Pacheco, found Board Member and Development Coordinator; Cindy and Greg Smith.


CO Trail Fund-Raising Dinner Program a real hit!

This past Saturday evening, around 100 folks showed up at MPEC for some great food and Ranger Dave's musical slide program on his progress on the Colorado Trail Backpack for Nature Education. Several delicious soups, salad with MPEC's special home-made dressing, breads and deserts started off an upbeat evening at MPEC. Then Dave told the story in pictures and live music of his 267 miles along the trail this summer. Check out the hike blog at http://www.rangerdavehikes.blogspot.com/ for more details on the Colorado Trail Fund-Raising Hike. Here are some photos from Saturday's program (staff and volunteers in the kitchen; cooks extraordinaire Mary Porter and Bernie Abrahams with some of the homemade breads; warming up the crowd before the program; MPEC's happy members Barbara Blake and Michael Wenzl).


The making of a labyrinth!

A dedicated group of MPEC members have taken on the labor-intensive yet joyous volunteer project of building a labyrinth in an unused corner of the Horseshoe Lodge's front yard. In case you are wondering, a labyrinth has its roots in many ancient and traditional cultures, and is a maze-like path, usually circular. Unlike a maze with path options along the way, a labyrinth has only one path that leads to the center. The path of MPEC's labyrinth is being outlined with many, many rocks, and will incorporate a few of the cement posts that mark the perimeter of Pueblo Mountain Park. If you are interested in helping out with this wonderful project that will be unfolding over the next several weeks, please contact me at 485-4444. Here are a few photos from last Saturday's efforts. ~Ranger Dave


A very colorful autumn keeps hanging on!

What an unusual October...last year we received 30" of snow over the month, this year we've had less than a half inch of rain, we haven't had a hard freeze yet, and it's already the 27th. It has been a wonderfully colorful season in earthy leaf tones that just keep going and going. I stepped out a little while ago to take a few photos to accompany this posting and practically stumbled over these two bucks. It is certainly cooler outside today, and tonight will likely bring our first hard freeze.


A couple of budding pond ecologists!

A couple of weeks ago, the Palmer Land Trust sent a film crew (Cloud Foundation) to capture some of what MPEC does to present at the awards dinner last evening (and as soon as I can figure out how - or get someone to do it, we will post the clip here and/or at the MPEC website). The production assistant Makendra Silverman took a bunch of photos of a group of students immersed in pond study. As I looked through the photos, I was just delighted with this sequence of photos of a couple of students that do a wonderful job of capturing the enthusiasm of these 5th graders. This is what MPEC is all about, and I am thrilled to see that these programs that I started over a decade ago are still going strong in facilitating the Nature/child connection! ~Ranger Dave

MPEC receives Stewardship Award!

Last evening, MPEC had the honor of being in the company of some terrific individuals and organizations in receiving a Conservation Award from the Palmer Land Trust. At a delightful presentation event held in Colorado Springs, MPEC was presented with the Stewardship Award "in recognition of exceptional environmental stewardship" for our Nature-based education programs and ecologically aware management of Pueblo Mountain Park. Other award recipients were Reeves and Betsy Brown of the the 3R Ranch in Beulah, Judy Sellers of Colorado Springs, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, also of Colorado Springs. We are pleased that so many MPEC members, employees, board members, volunteers and supporters attended the well-attended program held at the Antlers Hotel. Pictured here: MPEC Director Dave Van Manen, founding and former Board Member Helene Van Manen, and Reeves and Betsy Brown of the 3R Ranch with the beautiful awards designed and created by Pueblo artist Jean Latka; and Palmer Executive Director Scott Campbell presenting the award to Dave. MPEC is in good company as we work hard for conservation and ecological literacy, and it feels good to be recognized for our good work!


Another delightful drum circle!

A very warm and gentle evening and a rising harvest moon accompanied a dozen of us as we drummed in the change from summer to autumn at MPEC. Note that we have a Harvest Moon/Autumn Equinox Full Moon Hike scheduled for this Wednesday, the 22nd, at 7pm. Happy Fall, Ranger Dave



September arrives gracefully!

There are several hints that fall is just around the corner. One is the blooming flowers in the park that say "autumn" quite loudly. August's 3.76" of moisture have many of our fall wildflowers in great shape. The acorns look to be in pretty good shape as well, meaning that our bear neighbors should have some nutritious food this fall. Photos: The yellow flower is stiff goldenrod and the light purple is smooth aster - both members of the sunflower family. In fact, most of the blooms out there are sunflower family members. Fall is a great time to get out and enjoy Nature, so I encourage you to make the time to get out!


August brings the rains!

I went for an evening hike yesterday evening to enjoy being out in a rich and alive midsummer landscape, and to cut out a couple of trees that had fallen across the trails- one at the beginning of the Devil's Canyon Trail, the other a ways up the south part of the Northridge Trail. The choke cherries are enjoying a bumper year, and the golden asters clearly say that summer is slipping by, as they typically kick in past midsummer. Yes, summer is slipping by, and this awareness certainly had much to do with why I was out there. There was a thunder storm brewing as I moved further into the park's undeveloped parts, but the sky's relative brightness and the storm's position that seemed quite a ways south of the park felt like it was OK to be out. As I was finishing up on the 2nd tree (with a bow saw I had strapped to my pack), the thunder's intensity told me that it was time to head back and not continue the trial's full loop. Well, to make a long story short, that storm proved my original projection wrong, because it seemed to track right into the park - with lots of lightning . I was wet and out of breath from some quick travelling when I finally got to a safer place to wait out the storm. It didn't produce a lot of rain (o.18"), but the electricity was prolific. Speaking of rain, the park has received nearly 4 1/2 inches of rain the last 10 days (and only received a bit more than 2" in the previous 2 months), so the monsoons are in full swing.


It's hot out there!

Summer is happily spreading its hot wings these days. Sitting here in my office, a slight breeze offers a bit of relief to this toasty afternoon. The outdoor thermometer reads 93F at 2pm today, not unlike many recent days and what's predicted for then next several days. This is my 35th summer as a Beulah resident, and my recollection is that the thermometer seldom climbed much above 90 in those earlier summers. Not any more! It's still usually about 10 degrees cooler than Pueblo up here in these ponderosa hills, but it's still pretty hot, for Beulah. I spent some time this morning doing just what this hot day calls for - sitting under a shady tree and listening to the birds (I was merrily enjoying this with about 15 toddlers and their folks at our Nature Toddlers group).

I am off for a few days along the CO Trail - where, hopefully it will be a bit cooler...more details at www.rangerdavehikes.blogspot.com

Stay cool,

Ranger Dave


Ranger Dave hikes the CO Trail for Nature Education!

Ranger Dave has hiked 117 miles for Nature Education so far (here's one of the many great mountain scenes from along the trail). Check out Ranger Dave's CO Trail Hike blog at http://www.rangerdavehikes.blogspot.com/ and read all about about Dave's fund-raising effort for Nature Education!!!

Summer 2010 Camps at MPEC!

Summer camps are going well as July kicks in. I had the pleasure of leading a K-2 Camp last week, along with Ranger Ashley Samek (and Tyler's Mom, Amy). We all had a great time hiking, playing Nature games, searching for creatures in the pond, singing lots of songs, and playing in the creek. Ah, the joys of summer camp!


Hiking the South Creek drainage!

Nine MPEC hikers enjoyed a great day along the South Creek trail on Saturday as summer was about to begin. Lots of wildflowers, some great views, a cool start over at the beginning of the trail, and a warming day all made for a terrific hike. Pictured here is a happy group of hikers, a lovely shooting star flower, and the treat that Dan Clements and I had on our drive back over to the Trailhead to pick up the van that we drove over in the morning. This huge chocolate colored Ursus Americanus was in the middle of the road and ran up into the trees as we approached. I zoomed in and got a few photos - a really big bear!!! ~ Ranger Dave


MPEC is now a better neighbor to the park's bears!

It is common knowledge among wildlife aficionados that wild animals, especially bears, and people's trash should not meet. It is not good for bears or people - a "trash bear" becomes less afraid of people and more likely to get into trouble (hence, "A fed bear is a dead bear"). For so many years I've been observing way too many occurrences of bears successfully getting into the park's trash cans. When MPEC took over management of the park just under 2 years ago, I said to myself that we are going to remedy this situation.
I am so pleased to say that day has arrived -- Pueblo Mountain Park is now becoming a much more bear-friendly park. Thanks to a generous grant from the Johnston Foundation, MPEC recently purchased 26 beautiful Bear Saver trash receptacles that will replace the old green trash barrels throughout the park. (Can trash receptacles really be "beautiful"? Well, the bears they are meant to protect are!) We are still in the process of installing them, but the park is well on its way to being the responsible bear neighbor that I always knew it should be. Here are a few photos - unloading them, and one installed in front of the lodge.


Devil's Canyon Trail getting better all the time!

Strong winds and less volunteers than expected did not stop MPEC and the great Denver-based organization VOC (Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado) from making a significant upgrade to the Devil's Canyon Trail this past weekend. Improved creek crossings, a 900 foot new trail re-route that brings the trail out of the rough, rocky and sometimes water-filled drainage into a lovely sun-dappled forest above the drainage, and closing off the old section of trail made for a busy weekend in Pueblo Mountain Park. The outcome is a wonderful improvement to the park's system of trails. While the adults were putting their sweat and muscle into the trails project, MPEC educators facilitated a "Young Stewards" camp for the youngsters. (Photos: VOC volunteer Glenn Ward instructing volunteers; moving a large rock into the creek bed; a happy volunteer digging new trail tread; where that large rock wound up as part of a new creek crossing.)


Colorado Trail here I come...

In the morning I begin my Colorado Trail fund-raising hike for Nature Education...learn more about it at www.rangerdavehikes.blogspot.com.

Ranger Dave


Spring is exploding in Beulah!

MPEC Board Member Mary Twinem, who lives across the Beulah Valley, emailed this morning that she was listening to the song of the black-headed grosbeak in the soft morning light. The black-headed grosbeak is an attractive migrant that has apparently just returned from its winter grounds south of the border. Its song is one of my favorites, long, sweet and very melodious. The last few May mornings have been magical - plants are greening, trees are beginning to bring forth their leaves, and birds are busy with breeding behaviours: pairing up, claiming or guarding territories through song, nest building, and bringing the sounds of spring to the days. Wildflowers coming into bloom include Nelson larkspur, creeping holly grape (mahonia), and I've been seeing lots of mountain candytuft. May is a lovely month in Pueblo Mountain Park and a great time to pay the park a visit.


A delightful spring afternoon hike!

The temps were not that warm, it was kind of breezy, but yesterday's afternoon solo hike in Pueblo Mountain Park was still a delight to all of me. I first hiked to Devil's Canyon to see some major spring runoff. The video of "Devil's Dribble" (the name of the occasional creek that runs through the drainage) shows the waterfall at about as full as it ever gets (not counting floods from major storms). I then headed up the Northridge Trail. Blooming flowers I spotted along the trail included mountain bladderpod (pictured here), kinnikinnick (with more blossoms than I can ever recall seeing), spring beauty, golden smoke, and mountain candytuft. I sat up at the top of the canyon for about an hour and watched turkey vultures floating by, enjoyed a strengthening sun, and spotted (I heard it first) a yellow-rumped warbler, a migrant that just arrived from wherever it spent the winter.

We have a trails weekend scheduled for May 22/23 where we plan on doing some more work to the Devil's Canyon Trail. It's a great way to spend a day or a weekend, and it is being led by the wonderful folks at Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. Please sign up at www.voc.org - find your way to the Mountain Park Environmental Center project.

Happy trails, Ranger Dave