Mesa County Exploring

As many of you know, we recently bought a home in Colorado.  So, it’s only fitting to share some images from some of our early days in town … whether still scoping a home  or after we moved out.

No one can talk about western slope and forgo the mentioning of the Colorado National Monument.   “The Monument” is a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) made up of canyons  etched in the sandstone and granite red rock formations.   One enters the park either through the east (Grand Junction) or the west (Fruita) and drives along the 14-mile high desert road, which features amazing landscapes like these._DSC2900-EditWhile some of the views overlook the valley floor below, some illustrate the grandeur of the landscape and the unique formations it possesses._DSC2905-Edit_DSC2237The Monument is home to a variety of trees, plants, insects, reptiles, birds and of course mammal wildlife, such as my favorite desert bighorn sheep.  We often find them grazing on the landscape and have even seen them congregating together and participating in some early sparing.  Believe it or not, when they ram heads, it echoes throughout the canyon.DSC_9501-EditViews from the pullouts are varied by the turn, by the season, by the time of day, and the weather.  So far, no day has been the same as another._DSC2156Even the birds have been different for me.  DSC_4436Of course, familiar bird “friends” also have shown up … like the osprey and bald eagles.DSC_4331A bit more surprising for me to see is the great blue herons also flying around.  They’re not on every corner like they are in Florida, but they’re also not unusual to see.  DSC_4357While out and about one morning, I heard a familiar sound … a meadowlark … but a western meadowlark.DSC_0416-Edit-EditNot to be confused with the horned lark, which was a new bird for me.DSC_0431Often seen are the rabbits which roam about and the prairie dogs which are seemingly everywhere.DSC_0403Yep, this is my new home … somewhere … out there … under that rainbow._DSC2201Next up:  More burrowing owls … so cute I can’t stay away (or forget)  🙂

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Expected & Unexpected Adventures

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog posts with an important message …. we just bought a house in Colorado!  Yep, that’s right, this Florida girl will now be following her heart and spending some more time out west.  ❤

To say that it has been a wild adventure is a massive understatement.  I’ve learned so much along the way and at times, have wanted to pull my hair out and scream, but it will all eventually sort itself out and be just fine (or so I keep telling myself – LOL).

It started out almost 2 months ago, when Tom, his son Tyler, and his good friend Todd, along with the help of another good friend Dana, loaded up a 26-foot Penske (OK, maybe there were 2 Penskes involved) and prepared for the long drive out to Colorado.  Yep, 2 Penske 26-foot trucks, a tow behind with one vehicle, and another being driven out there by itself.  Yep we traveled light, as evidenced by the fact that Tom’s van and other things were still remaining in Hollywood.
IMG_4276-2As they pulled out to start their journey, I had no idea of what would lie ahead, but I knew that it would be an adventure of a lifetime.  :-OIMG_4281-3See, though many thought that Tom had the hard job, with the drive and all, but I had the task of flying out with my mom and step-dad … oh, and an outdoor cat we inherited years before whom had never been put in any situation close to this one.  The only thing is that the veteranian gave me tranquilizers for him … but what would keep me sane, I wondered.IMG_4341-3Alas though, we all made it out there and the reward were things like this view out of our backyard in Fruita.IMG_4361-3Fruita, CO is a small town, outside of Grand Junction, CO, which in itself is a small town.  Fruita has an avid cyclist community, so it’s easy to see why Tom was rooting for settling down there.  It wasn’t long before Tom set out on his inaugural ride, with mountain biking being the most popular, but also lots of safe roads for road cycling as well.
IMG_4367-3Of course, for me, I just couldn’t wait to get myself up on the Monument, though to my surprise, it POURED when we visited for our first trip up.  It was fascinating to see the usually dry and arid landscape, all washed up in a heavy downpour, with the resulting “mud falls”.IMG_4404-3This home is set on an acre of land and irrigation waters, so that meant a lot of yard for Tom to mow.  It wasn’t long before he found himself a new toy … the riding lawn mower.IMG_4441-3After which he wasted no time catching a quick snooze in his hammock (a Father’s Day gift from Kelli and Mitchell) set up under the shade of the pergola.IMG_4413-3For the first few weeks, I struggled immensely with the lack of office furniture out here, so after an eternity of complaining, Tom improvised one for me.  LOL   Actually, it did the trick!IMG_4417-2More trips to the Colorado National Monument followed every so often, to break up the monotony of the endless unpacking.  I mean, with views like this, how could you get sick of it … or not feel rejuvenated.IMG_4434-3IMG_4433-2IMG_4405-3Our first visitor to Fruita was our son-in-law, Mitchell, who was nearby in Denver for a work seminar on the business of making spirits and distilleries.  Tough, huh?IMG_4475-3They were able to get some mountain biking in on some of the amazing trails nearby.  I on the other hand, got a break from unpacking, though shhhh … don’t tell Tom.  😉IMG_4461-3YIKES!  If I didn’t know better, I would swear that gremlins would come in at night and regenerate boxes and boxes to unpack!  I’m not sure we’ll ever get through all of them.IMG_4454-2My mom and her husband just love being outdoors in the sunshine and adore the views of the mountains and Monument in the distance.  Not sure how my step-dad will enjoy it when the winter rolls in though.  I guess we’ll find out soon enough.IMG_4446-3I celebrated my birthday since I last blogged … and it was a bittersweet one.  My daughter brightened my day though with these fabulous flowers.IMG_4600-3After about a month or so, it was time to head back to Florida.  First though, we had some unfinished business with some mountain goats on Mt. Evans.  See, 2 years ago when I visited the road was closed due to road repairs and I couldn’t see the mountain goats I had yearned after for so long.  This time, I conquered that item off my Bucket List.  More on that to come.IMG_4623-2Once home, we were taking care of business, as they say, when all of a sudden we learned of an unexpected, and uninvited visitor.  Her name was Irma and she was packing quite the fury.  Of course, I’m referring to Hurricane Irma, a Cat 5 hurricane that had it’s sights on south Florida … and the entire state of Florida.  Before long, I boarded a flight on out of there and Tom loaded up yet another Penske (16 footer this time) and began to head out as well.IMG_4808Tom’s journey back to Colorado was supposed to be a “solo” affair, but it seemed like 6.3 million other Floridians were on an evacuation plan of their own.  If anyone knows Florida well, you know that there are generally only 3 ways out … I-95, the Florida Turnpike, or I-75.  Everyone was in “frenzy” mode too and supplies and gas was getting short in supply.  Then, the unthinkable happened … I got a call at 2:30 am in the morning, that the Penske had broken down in the middle of BFE.  The differential had froze, pieces  flew out, and by the time Tom got the truck pulled over and stopped, the drive train was hanging on and dragging on the ground!  Thankfully no one was struck by the flying shards of metal … and that Tom was safe as well.  Tom had to sit on the side of a highway, in the middle of the night, and wait almost 8 hours until he was on the road again.  What an ordeal!

2.5 days later, Tom made it back and all was good again.  🙂IMG_4863-3So that’s what my life has been like lately … and why the blog is so late … and why it wasn’t about burrowing owls, as indicated earlier.  Rest assured, burrowing owls (lots of them) will be coming to the blog … and lots more too, so stay tuned.  As I said, it’s been a crazy ride and quite the adventure.  But then again … isn’t that what makes life so interesting?  LOLIMG_4857-2Next Up:  Let’s try again for some Burrowing Owls

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Monument & Grand Mesa

Much of our free time towards the end of 2016 was spent in Colorado … for numeorus reasons.  Part of it is the efficient flights between Ft. Lauderdale to Denver … inexpensive (if timed just right) and nonstop is possible (always a bonus).  A big part of it is the beauty of Colorado … that great mix of wildlife and natural outdoor recreation and gorgeous landscapes.  It’s a state that I feel I have only recently touched the surface of, though I have visited numerous times.

There’s something really special about Colorado National Monument, a frequent location to visit when we’ve been out there.  The most prominent resident on the Monument is the desert bighorn sheep … a smaller version of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  We were so excited to see a family of sheep.  The females have horns, though not the curls like the males possess.
dsc_1217 A young one was following not far behind, with the male close behind.dsc_1215 The male bighorn totally fascinates me … their magnificent stance, their penetrating stare, their stillness, except for the chewing that seems to be ever-present.  The curls of the bighorn “talks” to the experiences and encounters that they have seen.  So fascinating!dsc_1231 Of course, Colorado has lots more than bighorns.  In the fall, mule deer can be spotted sporting their antlers.  Most of the time, they’re a bit shy, but once in a while, you get a cooperative subject.dsc_1292 dsc_1306 Birds are also out and about there, like this beautiful white-crowned sparrow, who was conveniently perched on the vegetation.dsc_1390 Some of the cutest, most curious chipmunks can be found atop of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado too.  So very cute … and so very fast!dsc_1432I believe that this is a female house finch … but don’t hold me to it.  LOL.  I’m far from the best bird identifier … even in my home area.
dsc_1487 Almost every day ends back up on the Monument … can’t get enough of these desert bighorn sheep.  Who could?dsc_1673 And the views ain’t too bad either!_dsc1836Then when the sun sets, it lights up the Bookcliffs across the valley.  A perfect way to end the day … and the blog post.  🙂
_dsc1866Next Up:  Back to the reality of home … more birding

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Grand Junction Hospitality

When in Colorado, Grand Junction specifically, one of the first places I want to go is to visit the Colorado National Monument.  A unit within the National Park Service, the “Monument” consists of sharp canyons of sandstone and various types of rock formations high on the desert land of the Colorado Plateau.  Tom loves it for the exceptional cycling that it offers … I love it for its amazing photographic value and it being a place to get away from the city of Grand Junction which resides at its base.

Usually, we start off with a sunrise from the top, though on this day it was lacking cloud formations which always enhance a sunrise.  Still it’s a great way to spend a morning, as seen from this view of Independence Rock._dsc1334-hdr_dsc1298Similar to that which can be said of the lighting on the Palouse farmland of eastern Washington state, the scenery is fascinating from every viewpoint and angle and the views are ever-changing with the light and shadows._dsc1370-hdrThe breadth of the views are amazing … as seen from this vista overlooking Monument Canyon and looking a bit north._dsc1427_dsc1449It’s not all about landscapes though.  There is a considerable amount of wildlife to be found up there, but I’ll save that for another post.  After enjoying the sunrise and a delicious brunch, we decided to head to Vega Lake, a Colorado State Park in the town of Collbran._dsc1453There, we made our way to Vega Lake, which is a high mountain lake surrounded by lush meadows, which were colored beautifully for the fall.  Sitting at an elevation of ~8,000 feet, it was so incredibly beautiful.  We walked the beaches for quite a bit and then I saw it … lots of flat rocks laying on the sandy beach, just waiting for someone to come play.  See, every year Tom and I make a cairn on our wedding anniversary, which is at the end of August and usually celebrated in Alaska, but in 2016 we were unable to get away, therefore we never got to celebrate sufficiently.  So it was like 2 lightbulbs that went off simultaneously … let’s build one here … and so we did.  A 19 + 1 for good luck rock cairn signifying one rock for each year we’ve been together and then one more to seal the deal for the next.  ❤_dsc1483While there we saw deer and the fattest red fox I think I’ve ever seen, but he wouldn’t stick around for images … guess he didn’t want to be famous.  😉

It was such a fabulous day so far, but no day would be complete without a return to the “Monument” for afternoon light and ultimately the sunset.img_2553

Tom and I took our also obligatory shot of us and our feet overlooking the scene.  Having a fear of heights, you can’t tell but I’m grabbing on to his pants for dear life!fullsizerenderSunset finally arrived … it was fabulous, though it also lacked the clouds.  I guess I have to bring them with me next time.  LOLimg_2590Then it was on for some fabulous – yummy, yummy, sushi and some wine/beer.  Such a wonderful day, beautiful sights, fun celebrations, and most of all, the best of company.  It doesn’t get any better than that!img_2023Next Up:  A bit of touring … and 4-wheeling  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Early Bird Gets the Worm (& the sunrise, too)

What better way to start a new day than with a sunrise from Colorado National Monument!  After the amazing day I had yesterday, Amy was kind enough to agree to meeting up, very early, to situate ourselves up on the monument to capture the sunrise.  The clouds showed up as well, which only adds to the atmosphere of the shot.20150714-DSC_5272-HDROK, so there was a very light sprinkle along the way, but that only added a beautiful rainbow (stop looking … it’s not in this blog).  It was behind us and though I shot it, I was still so amazed at those deep colors emerging in the early morning’s light and subsequent sunrise.
20150714-DSC_5285-HDR Often, when the sun rises, the sunrise shooting is over, as the sun’s light gets too bright and harsh.  However, when the light get shrouded behind a cloud or mountain peak in the distance, it can be fabulous.  Love the sun burst on the horizon.20150714-DSC_5346-HDR 20150714-DSC_5351-HDR I was having so much fun just watching the changing colors in the sky, that I would find myself forgetting to click my shutter!  LOL20150714-DSC_5315-HDR 20150714-DSC_5436-HDR More rays of light shiny down on the city of Grand Junction.20150714-DSC_5381-HDR Of course, Colorado National Monument itself is quite fascinating in its varied terrain, red rock formations, green brush cover, and prominent textures.  We looked, but didn’t see the bighorn sheep that Tom & I ran into the night before.20150714-DSC_5448 We did however, see a whole colony of chukkars scurrying around on the rocky landscape.  It was fun to see them somewhere new … as I had first seen them earlier in the winter at Antelope Island SP in Utah for my first time.  They have the most interesting colors and features.20150714-DSC_4887We also toured a few areas near GJ, including an Audubon Nature Preserve (I hope I got that right Amy).  There I got to photograph several Western Kingbirds, perched and also flying around, on the area bushes.  I think it was a first sighting for me.
20150714-DSC_5013 Now, when speaking of amazing and interesting features, we also spotted a Gambel’s Quail perched nearby the road.  What a fancy looking thing too!  It simply sat there, observing us, as we photographed away.  Not one to do much flying, it did finally take a quick and short flight to the landscape below after some time.  Again, it was another first for me.  20150714-DSC_4980 One last bird for my “new” list, was this immature blue grosbeak.  I know that this is far from a stellar shot, but hey, it was a new one.  I have never taken the time to create my “life list” of birds seen, but after this trip and with lots more travel planned in my retirement from my “day job”, I might just start one now.  🙂20150714-DSC_5044The last 2 days of touring Grand Junction, with the “insider’s advantage” was made possible by my friend, Amy (“Happy Photographer” on Flickr – easy to see where she got that user name).  Thanks so much!  Can’t wait to come back!20150714-IMG_2777 No town visit is ever complete without a visit to their local sushi restaurant for a celebratory dinner, which didn’t disappoint either.  Yummy!20150714-IMG_2779Next up:  Idaho Springs, CO and another meet up with an old friend and photographer for some mountain goats and landscapes!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography