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There are, definitely, great advantages to napping.

I’ve been blessed with the uncanny ability to nap at any time, in any position, at any moment’s notice.

I’m sure many people have wondered if I was napping as they talked to me—even though my eyes were open and I appeared awake.

Not so many years ago, as I fished one April morning along the Poudre River in the northern Colorado Rockies, all I heard were trout laughing at me. Well, some giggled, too.

A merganser female (left) and male on the Poudre River. Photo by Edie Palmer, taken from her backyard in the lower Poudre Canyon.

A merganser female (left) and male on the Poudre River. Photo by Edie Palmer, taken from her backyard in the lower Poudre Canyon.

I came upon a deep pool fed by whitewater rapids, and decided upon the most productive, the best and the most logical course of action. I stepped over to a grassy shelf of soft, pillowy wild grass jutting out a bit into the pool.

Nap time: I laid down. With creel to one side, fly rod to the other, the back of my head comfortably on a flat rock, I gazed up at a sky as blue as a delphinium flower. The temperature was in the magical realm where neither heat nor cold could be felt. The air smelled so fresh that I took deep, meditative gulps through my nostrils.

It was perfect reclining there, slipping into what I do best: napping.

Sometime later I was awakened by loud grukking. The sound resembled off-key music made by a sharp-toothed orangutan blowing spit through a twisted copper pipe. In other words, indescribable unless you hear it yourself.

I had heard such sounds before, in the springtime when a dozen or fewer mergansers annually return to the Poudre for the summer. There are so few of these ducks that not many people have ever seen them, so any sighting is a blessing.

The mergansers hang out for a while along this stretch of the river and get acquainted before heading upstream to create baby mergansers.

By getting acquainted, I mean the lady does the choosing, and the guys do the strutting to gain her favor.

Beautiful babe: From my reclined position, I saw a female merganser move quickly down the rapids. She reached the bottom and swam into the middle of the pool, not far away from me.

I knew if I moved, even twitched my nose, she would take flight. Mergansers are skittish.

Her sleek body was replete with feathers of shades of brown and white. Her head was crimson, her topknot feathers wild and glorious.

All in all, a stunning babe.

And then came the source of all the grukking.

What ensued next was a classical look at the ways of many members of the animal kingdom, even humans and more specifically, unfortunately, some male humans.

The Three Stooges: Three male mergansers, each grukking boldly, cascaded down the rapids. With their black top feathers and white feathery bottoms, they bounced like fishing bobbers through the whitewater and onto the pool.

They hurried over to Babe, encircling her, dashing around and around, keeping her in dead-center.

She wasn’t having none of that.

She broke through the entrapment, hurrying away, leaving the surprised guys staring blankly at each other.

My childhood memory of Moe, Larry and Curly on TV came to mind as the guys grukked angrily at each other.

If they had hands rather wings, they surely would have slapped each other silly. As it was, they nipped at each other. Mergansers are diving ducks so they have sharp serrated bills for catching and eating fish. In contrast, mallards, often seen on the river, are puddle ducks with less vicious bills; they typically feed by tipping into the water rather than submerging.

Screaming out a world-class gruk, each of the Three Stooges reared up on their webbed feet, necks outstretched, chest feathers puffed out, and freight-trained across the surface of the water straight at each other.

The three ruffians collided with a calamitous gruk and bounced back, stunned. Necks flopped askew. Bills twanged. Bodies teetered this way, wobbled that way.

Babe’s escape: Unimpressed, Babe took a short run over the surface of the water, as ducks do when they are taking off, and became airborne.

She was gone from sight by the time the Stooges recovered. They looked around every which way, and I could feel their thoughts form:

Where’d that beautiful dame disappear to?

Finally, one of them geared up, sprinted across the water and flew downstream—just guessing on Babe’s flight plan, I suspected.

He let out a grukking raspberry to his two competitors.

They were having none of that.

Within moments, all three Stooges were speeding in flight downstream–in the opposite direction of Babe’s upstream journey. She was safe.

Back at my grassy riverside spot, I was having some of that: three bullies outwitted by a lady. I decided it’s always good to take a nap.

You never know what you’ll discover when you wake up.

 

To learn more about mergansers, read the March 26 poudreriver.org blog.

To contact this blog’s writer: GaryKimsey@yahoo.com. Cell: 970.689.2512.

They have once again returned to the Poudre River—the mergansers. It’s a sure sign that spring is headed our way in northern Colorado.

If you believe in weather lore—how wild animals might predict the coming weather—the time of their arrival may speak volumes about the next six months.

A male merganser (left) and female lounging on a boulder in the Poudre River that flows along my backyard.

A male merganser (left) and female lounging on a boulder in the Poudre River that flows along my backyard.

I started tracking the mergansers about three decades ago, and I’ve noticed how the timing of their arrival seems to predict the amounts of rain for the coming summer: a mid-March arrival may mean a summer of average rainfall; earlier than mid-March, more rain, and thus a wet summer; and later than mid-March, less rain, an abnormally dry summer.

In 2000, for example, when the mergansers arrived extremely late—six weeks beyond their average mid-March arrival—northern Colorado had its worst-recorded summer drought.

Back then, the mergansers may have mysteriously and magically known that dry times awaited them at their summer home, so they continued hanging out wherever it was that they wintered over. Or they may have taken a short vacation to some other wet area before journeying to the Poudre.

A miracle: There are so few of them—a tiny, tiny handful of these members of the duck family—and they blend in so well with the river’s whitewater rapids, sun-reflecting ripples and deep greenish-blue pools.

Given those conditions, it’s a miracle the mergansers are noticed at all.

But they are. Residents living along the river where it passes through the mountainous lower Poudre Canyon 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins, Colo., keep watch for them.

This year, in mid-March, Bill Sears and Edie Palmer were the early ones to spot the mergansers. The news was relayed to Steve Den, a Poudre Park resident and retired Poudre School District teacher who writes a popular weekly Mountain Messages blog about local Poudre people and things. Steve alerted others by email.

Usually, the mergansers arrive almost with the uncanny accuracy of the famous swallows flying back to Mission San Juan Capistrano. As a rule, as many as 34,000 swallows return March 19 to the California mission. Their annual return from wintering over in Argentina is considered a religious miracle by some observers since the arrival takes place on St. Joseph’s Day.

Things are a bit different along the Poudre. The merganser population is fragile. Usually only six or seven mergansers show up. In some years, there may be as many as a dozen.

Few people even know about the mergansers. The birds are tough to spot.

Lazily drifting: The males are 23 to 28 inches long, about the length of two shoes heel-to-toe of a big-footed man. The heads of male mergansers are black with an iridescent green gloss. Their backs are coal-black. They have thin orange bills and—here’s the great identifier—lower sides of snowy-white feathers. Their wings are partly white and partly black.

Females are about the same size as males, with the same bill color. But their heads are rusty red with feathers of a mod ragged style. Females have a grayish brown body and off-white chest feathers.

The ladies blend in with the river’s shifting shadows. Males are easier to spot because of their white feathers. The males resemble big, white-bottom bobbers as they float with the current.

If you’re quick-eyed and lucky, you may see them lazily drifting on the river in early mornings. In the afternoons, they often tend to hide out—or, as I would, nap—in riverside foliage. They come out again before dusk.

Chances are you’ll spy a male, thanks to his bobbing whiteness. Look closely. There’s likely to be a female with him, but she’ll blend in with the water and you might not see her unless you specifically search for her.

The mergansers hang out for a while—resting up, feeding, courting, gossiping—along a 4-mile stretch of the river that goes from Picnic Rock, the first picnic area just inside the canyon, to the first bridge that spans the river.

Some of the river curves away from the road (Colorado Highway 14), requiring an easy bit of footwork to get to the stream. But there are some long rippling stretches and still pools where mergansers can be seen from the adjacent road.

Once they are rested and mated up, the mergansers head upriver to nest and hatch the next generation.

Fancy drinks, sunglasses: The mergansers on the Poudre are Common Mergansers. Colorado also has Red-breasted Mergansers and Hooded Mergansers, but they live in other areas. The famous bird artist, John James Audubon, went on a quest in about 1820 to paint every bird in America. The Common Merganser was one of his subjects; he called it a Buff-breasted Merganser.

Some mergansers winter on Colorado Front Range lakes where the weather is mild enough for ice to be sparse. Others head to the warm climates of Mexico or Central America, where I’m sure they wear sunglasses and sip fancy drinks with tiny paper umbrellas stuck in them.

That’s what I’d do if I were a merganser, of course, naturally.

Learn more about common mergansers:

Watch for the next poudreriver.org blog on March 31: Merganser love on the Poudre

To reach Gary Kimsey: GaryKimsey@yahoo.com. Cell: 970.689.2512.

Nights along the Poudre River are full of mystery and wonder, and maybe even a vampire or two.

We’re fortunate in Poudre Park, a tiny mountain hamlet along the river in the northern Colorado Rockies, to live without bright city lights. Two-thirds of the U.S. population unfortunately cannot clearly see the Milky Way, if at all, because of light pollution.

I’m outside at various time late at night, keeping guard on my dog Amber when she goes out to do her business. Amber is a 29-pound sweetheart, a perfect snack for any mountain lion that might wander by. I’m unsure what I would do if a mountain lion did come for dinner, but it’d probably involve a lot of yelling and screaming.

On clear nights, the stars are twinkling gems that seem so close I should be able to jump straight up and grab one. But my grasp never exceeds my jump, so safe are Cassiopeia, Cepheus the King, Orion and the Seven Sisters.

On a clear night right before the start of a Feb. 21-22 snowstorm, there was what astronomers called a dance in the sky. It was a rare occurrence. Venus, Mars, Uranus and the crescent moon were all visible together, to be seen by the naked eye. Mars was a glittering ruby.

moon_owl_300WThe owls

Regardless of the time of night or the season, Amber and I are invariably greeted by the hooting of Great Horned Owls in the nearby pine forests.

Often, owls perched in a half-dozen different locations carry on a hoot fest at the same time. Each has its own pitch and intensity of sound, and intervals between hoots. This has something to do, I’ve read, with mating, hunting and warning away interlopers. Owls mate for life, so sometimes spouses talk back and forth.

It’s the orchestra of the night, and the owls don’t even seem to care when I join in. Their hooting pauses for a few moments and then picks up again. I suspect some of their hooting is their way of giggling over my stupid hoots.

There have been a few times—when the moonlight is just bright and right enough—that I’ve seen an owl suddenly swoop out of the darkness, headed straight for me, and then veer away at the last moment to avoid crashing into my face.

It’s an owl’s maneuver to protect territory. And, for a human, it’s a formidable encounter. Great Horned Owls have wingspans up to four feet, and they make no sounds as they descend upon victims. They arrive out of nowhere.

The vampires

When these sudden events occur, my wits shatter, primal fears take over, and my terrified thoughts always race straight to Bela Lugosi, the Count Dracula of the 1931 vampire movie.

Compared to today’s standards of cinematic horror, Bela Lugosi’s vampire was a cuddly kitten. Nonetheless…Bela_Lugosi_300W

I remember—as a young kid in the mid-1950s—sitting on the living room couch, scared and shaking, as my mother and sister screamed in fright when the big, flying vampire bat suddenly transformed into the fanged count, evilly stepping forward, his black cloak enveloping his next victim.

Since then, somewhere in my mind, the sudden appearance of a big, flying creature in the black of night equates to a Bela Lugosi vampire. Oh, how random thoughts twist together so wildly.

There are bats along the Poudre—gentile, unintimidating Little Brown Bats with short wingspans—but they fly only in warm weather. In the winter, they hibernate away.

They are not scary. Bela Lugosi would enjoy their cuteness.

Out of the blackness of night

When I was a young man, I went cross-country skiing at night on a trail farther up the Poudre Canyon. The snow was soft powder, coming up as high as my knees. The trail meandered through meadows and forests. The full moon was low in the sky, at an angle that cast black shadows off trees.

I was about a minute ahead of my companions. I crossed a meadow—the terrain was smooth and graceful—and I was almost into the thick shadows of the forest when what my mind imagined was a giant vampire bat swooped straight out of the blackness, aimed directly for me.

Bela Lugosi, come to drain my blood!swooping_owl_400

I was so startled that I lunged to the left, plunging head-first into the snow.

It’s always awkward getting up with cross-country skis on, but I quickly managed it with all sorts of grunts, groans and curses, lest my companions catch up and have a good chuckle over my clumsy predicament.

The moment I stood, my balance teetering, another vampire bat darted out of the black shadows, coming straight for me, Count Dracula again.

This time I ended up face-first in the snow to my right.

As I lay there, tangled up in skis, snow wadded into my nostrils and icicled into my eyeballs, I knew good and well that the second damn Great Horned Owl was the same as the first damn Great Horned Owl. It had just circled around and come back, trying to scare me away from its territory.

And it was having a good laugh at my expense, too.

My companions arrived. “Trouble standing?” one asked wryly.

I swallowed the snow that had taken up residency in my mouth, and mumbled, “I just saw Bela Lugosi.”

 

Poudreriver.org is written by Gary Kimsey, a guy who likes bats, except for those that transform into Bela Lugosi. Gary’s email: poudrewolf@aol.com.

As a way to usher in a New Year, I like to rise early to take stock of the world outside.

The first dawn of 2015 found me—bundled in warm clothes—wading through five inches of snow that carpeted Poudre Park white on Christmas.

The mountains surrounding this northern Colorado hamlet were splotched in dawn grays. The air was fresh and frigid. It felt like ice crystals formed in my nostrils with each breath.

The first places I visited were the bird feeders in the front yard. The feeders hang from poles about six feet tall. The morning, though, was still too early for the American goldfinches, mountain chickadees, juncos and other types of birds that come feeding during the warmer parts of the day

The snow under the feeders was packed down and marked by hundreds and hundreds of tiny, needle-thin cross-hatches of tracks left by yesterday’s visitors.

Life and death in the snow

When there is snow on the ground, I shovel away a large patch where I can spread around millet, cracked corn and sunflower seeds favored by doves, Stellar jays and other ground-feeding birds.

This morning—a foot or so away from the cleared patch—there was an impression in the snow about the size of my hand if I spread my fingers wide. The edges around the imprint were fluffy.

It took me a moment to realize this was likely a spot where one of the Great Horned Owls that live in the mountain forests swooped in during the night to capture a mouse. Most likely, the mouse was feeding on the nearby seeds and, sensing danger, tried to escape by scurrying under the snow.

It didn’t work. Great Horned Owls have remarkable hearing. Ornithologists say the owls can hear a mouse moving around under a foot of snow.

Stealthy visitor

Our backyard is edged by the Poudre River. The stream is largely frozen over, save for a narrow channel. Farther down the river, as well as up the river a ways, the Poudre freezes over completely. This creates a mass of ice that can be traversed to get from one shore to the other.

For the last couple of years, a bobcat has lived in a den somewhere among the trees and rocky crags of the huge mountain on the far side of the river. Local residents have spotted the cat strolling along the ice-covered shores in the early mornings. Others have heard it screech in the night. I’ve never seen or heard it.

This morning, however, it was clear the bobcat came visiting in the night.

The tracks are easy to identify in the snow. A bobcat’s hind legs sink into the snow and make what looks to be a small handle at the back of the print.

The tracks came down along the river bank and turned up into the backyard. They went straight to an old sawed-off tree stump that’s about a foot tall.

There, the bobcat hopped up on the stump for, I imagine, a better view of the night terrain.

It had been a clear, starry night. The moon is in what’s called the Waxing Gibbous phase. The word Gibbous dates back to the 14th century and is Latin for humpbacked.

In this phase, on the first night of 2015, the moon was more than 80 percent illuminated, but it wasn’t yet a full moon.

For a bobcat, it meant good moonlight for spotting the next meal or identifying lurking dangers.

I wondered: Did the bobcat just pause for a moment on the stump? Or did it stand there for a while contemplating the world, the same as I was doing as the morning light grew brighter?

By Gary Kimsey

For the last year, Mother Nature has reminded those of us living along the Poudre River that she does what she does regardless of whether humans and our trappings of civilization are about.

Nothing new about that message, of course. But it helps remind us of a sharp, biting lesson. Our presence really means nothing in the scope of things when it comes to such forces of Nature as forest fires, floods and mudslides.

Photo above: The Poudre River behind our house on Sept. 13. In comparison, the photo below shows how the river there typically looks at this time of the year. The two boulders seen are completely inundated in the photo above.

Photo above: The Poudre River behind our house on Sept. 13. In comparison, the photo below shows how the river there typically looks at this time of the year. The boulders in the photo below are completely inundated in the photo above.

Last summer the lightning-caused High Park Fire destroyed 87,000 acres of northern Colorado mountain forests. Residents of the Poudre Park hamlet where Patty Jackson and I live were evacuated for three weeks.

Since then, with trees gone and little ground-cover to waylay rain on steep slopes, water pours off the mountains during rain storms, picking up soot and dirt, creating mudslides that have closed the canyon road (Colorado Highway 14) more times than I can recall.

The most recent storm started Sept. 11. A huge system stalled over much of Colorado’s Front Range, causing terrible flooding in Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Estes Park, Fort Collins, Lyons and other communities. Newscasters said the storm has produced “biblical proportions” of rain.

The Poudre Canyon wasn’t left out of the storm’s grasp. More than 12 inches of rain fell within two days. As a comparison, note that the annual rainfall average is 17 inches, so the current rain came within reach of doubling the average amount that falls throughout a year.

Photo taken in early September, prior to the flooding, by Kelly Champagne.

Photo taken in early September, prior to the flooding, by Kelly Champagne, Patty’s daughter who was visiting us from Independence, Mo.

The river rose from the low, clear stream that it typically is at this time of the year, almost shallow enough to wade across, to a wild torrent, black with soot that flowed out of the High Park burn areas. News reports cited experts saying the river’s flow was more than a hundred times higher than it typically is at this time of the year.

Logs—the remains of charred trees that fell during the High Park fire—were swept off mountainsides and into the river. As the current carried them by Sunnyside, our home, the logs looked like Tinker Toys amid the river’s mad rush.

At one point, a 10-foot metal culvert, washed into the river somewhere upstream, suddenly popped straight up out of the current, like Moby Dick spearing out of the dark ocean, and then plunged back in, gone from view.

The heavy rain pushed boulders and rocks down into gulches and then shoved them into the river, where they built up peninsulas that reshaped the stream’s channel.

The presence of the canyon highway, which runs alongside the river, made no difference. Within a few hours, many parts of the highway were buried by deep mud, boulders and logs.

Right now, Poudre Park is cut off. The highway in both directions—east into Fort Collins and west farther into the mountains—is covered with mudslides or undercut by the river.

Our neighbors—there are about 30 homes scattered throughout this tiny mountain valley—are doing the same as we are, hunkering down and waiting for the Colorado Department of Transportation to undertake the hard task of repairing the byway.

Near Picnic Rock, at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, the flood-swollen river undercut Colorado Highway 14. Photo by Diane Sanford of Poudre Park.

Near Picnic Rock, at the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, the flood-swollen river undercut Colorado Highway 14. Photo by Diane Sanford of Poudre Park.

We have plenty of food. The Internet works. TV, too. It’s an afternoon of sunshine today (Sept. 14), occasional clouds, a few sprinkles of rain. Folks are out cutting their grass. Patty is pulling weeds from our flower gardens. Our dog, Amber, is asleep in shade coming off one of the spruces in the front yard. Early this evening we’ll gather with our neighbors for a potluck dinner in the community center across the dirt road from Sunnyside, a time to commune and hear news updates about the floods coming out of the Poudre, Big Thompson and other Front Range streams.

All in all, as we wait, life is normal, except, of course, for the endless background roar of the river running high at the edge of our backyard, a reminder that we may think of ourselves as residents but, in reality, we’re just visitors in Nature.

Postscript: I wrote the blog above on Sept. 14. The news at the potluck dinner was good–the highway into Fort Collins was to be temporarily opened today (Sept. 15), with the state police leading vehicles past the washed-out part of the road (see photo).

However, this morning we received word that problems arose during the night and the damaged part of the highway is now impassible.

Rain began again last night. It’s continued into early evening. We’re still cut off. Still waiting. And still thankful that at least we have homes to wait in, unlike many in Colorado who have been driven out by the floods.

Related:

The runners arrived in different styles and different speeds, 1,150 of them in the annual Colorado Marathon along the Poudre River. A few were speedy. Some, steadily fast. Most, just jogging along. Some walked. Some limped.

One runner was blind. He kept on track (and on a good pace) with a string connected to a friend running alongside him.

The youngest: 14. Many older runners participated in 2013. Two were 74.

{Click on the video to view the activity at the Friends of the Poudre water station: water-bearers: Jerry Aiken, Bill Bertschy, Patty Jackson, Bill Sears and Charlie Wrobbel.}

All breathed hard and, when they glanced away from the road ahead, they saw the river at a scenic best, small whitewater rapids and dark pools waiting for the high rise of the spring runoff that will come later in May.

May 5 was just right for the long run, cool, refreshing. The sky was a cloudless blue. Wild grasses on the mountainsides were greened up thanks to a 14-inch snowfall that blew in May 1. By the Sunday race day, the day of the marathon, the snow had melted away.

{The Colorado Marathon website and race results.}

As usual, canyon residents staffed a water station at Poudre Park, six miles from the start line. Members of Friends of the Poudre and canyon residents staffed a water station about 10 miles from the start.

And, as usual, those of us at the water stations spent the morning filling and passing out small paper cups containing water or goo (a delightful name for a liquid that replenishes lost electrolytes and other nutrients during extreme exercise). We served up about 50 gallons of water at the Friends of the Poudre water station.

Gracious marathoners

As in years past, the marathoners who passed by the water stations were as polite and thankful as can be—for the cups of water and goo they received from us and particularly for the volunteers who staffed the water stations.

Even after more than a decade of volunteering at the water station, I was still amazed at how gracious and good-humored the runners were by the time they reached the 10-mile mark.

They are always  sweat-covered, drawn-faced, panting, chest-heaving. But the humor remains.

“Margarita?” at least one marathoner a year invariably asks as a small cup of water or goo is handed over. Another traditional quip: “Cold beer?

runnner

The Colorado Marathon is promoted as America’s most beautiful marathon. The event also has a half-marathon, and 10k and 5k races. The full marathon goes on Colorado Highway 14 along the river through the lower Poudre Canyon, and then out into the foothills and onto the Poudre River Trail. All of the races end in Old Town Fort Collins. In total, 3,477 runners participated in the 2013 event.

At the finish line

As runners crossed the finish line, an announcer belted out their names and hometowns. This year many non-Colorado runners came from Minnesota and Texas. One hailed from Mexico City.

The three blocks leading to the finish line were lined with enthusiastically clapping onlookers. Many displayed fun signs of encouragement. My favorite:

“Kick Asphalt!”

It’s a Poudre spring of rainbow foxes and snow-covered outhouses.

As with the rest of northern Colorado, the Poudre Canyon was hit this week by two spring snowstorms.

Spring snows aren’t uncommon, although we haven’t had many in the last few years of drought-like conditions. In 1980, three feet greeted May Day. In 2003, five feet fell over two days; the snow came up to my chin.

Black fox kit with a white tail outside of its den along the Poudre River. Photo by Gary Kimsey

Black fox kit with a white tail outside of its den along the Poudre River. Photo from spring of 2012 by Gary Kimsey

This time, the first storm started April 14, continued through Income Tax Day, and left behind eight inches of snow in the lower Poudre Canyon where I live. Then came a cold April 16 night. The upper inch of snow froze solid. Then another storm wandered in, this still underway.

Delicate snow

As I type here in my warm office in Sunnyside—the cabin built eight decades ago by my grandparents and now converted into office space—I look out the window and, beyond 3-foot icicles hanging like sharp stalactites from the roof’s edge, see little but white haze as snow flakes drift down.

On the far side of the backyard, the wood fence that is angled down toward the river is topped with a thin, delicate wall of snow. The roof of our outhouse—built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps—is covered with a foot-deep blanket of snow. I’m certainly glad for indoor plumbing.

Snowplows from the highway department have worked diligently to keep the canyon road open, a tough and commendable task.

Rainbow foxes

Driving home from work in Fort Collins late this afternoon, I spotted a fox casually trotting with grace and ease over the top of the snow along the shoulder of the road.

It used to be that we had pure red foxes in the canyon, but a few years ago the gene pool got mixed into. Many Poudre foxes, like this one, are now fancifully sprinkled with rainbows of red, white, black, brown fur.

Last spring I spotted a fox kit lounging outside of its den. The kit was black and it had a white tip on its tail. (See the photo.) In the fall, as I was near the den again, I spotted what I figure was the same fox—an adolescent now, but still black and white-tipped.

This afternoon I could see the back trail of the rainbow fox. It came from a den dug into the side of a small hill.

And there I was fortunate enough to view something I’d never seen before.

Foxy play

Four fox kits were outside the den, light-footedly prancing around on top of the deep snow.

They were loping about four feet up the side of the hill, and then they slid down a narrow chute they had made over the top of the snow. The chute ended near the entrance to their den.

Sometimes a kit came down on all fours. Other times, belly slides. And even a posterior zoom flew down the chute.

It’s a playful spring along the Poudre River.

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