Sunday, August 31, 2008

Goofin' off...

Lake Verna on the East inlet sits at 10,180 feet above sea lvl.; one thousand seven hundred eighty-nine feet above the trailhead at grand lake!

Goofin' off...'Cause Im allowed to! (not that I wouldnt if it were not permitted...l)

I couldnt resist to post any longer. I cant remember when I last posted- my day is going by so fast! BUT, I can remember that my last post was before I did the hike up the E. Inlet trail. The trail climbs up to spirit lake, 7 miles from the th, and does not stop gaining elevation after the second meadow, where I fish. There are many spots where I would guess I was no more than a thousand feet lower than the summit of Craig, which was behind me for most of the hike. I headed up the trail with no real destination, but when I reached lone pine lake, I had to hit the others and complete the trail.. Lake Verna and Spirit lake. Lots of mushrooms, lots of rodents, lots of GORGEOUS streams, rapids and falls.
At the top, I could see snow just above me, but it was getting late and very steep- I turned around at the start of Spirit Lake. It was a 14mi. r/t, and though I did well uphill, I found my feet and knees in a lot of pain at the bottom! Hike well worth it! The lakes were beautiful, but all of the little, private rapids and tiny waterfalls were the best! !

I did the monarch lake trail in search of mushrooms and anything else I could find... There were lots of shrooms, but nothing I had not already found. I did find a pair of King boletes that I collected. The two mushrooms weighed several pounds, but were certainly worth carrying around the lake! I found one spot that was littered with old trash- far off the trail. I collected up about 20lbs worth of rusted metal and busted ceramics in an old steel pale. A bit further down the road I discovered another 15lbs worth of something (wont publish 'cause Im not sure if it's completely legal to posses and it will be a surprise for my mother upon my return.... )

I stopped at the base of a rock slide area and set my bulky surprise down from my right hand, my rusted, busted bucket from my left, and my pack full of mushrooms on top of it all. My arms were limp and sore.
When I sat down and began rummaging through all of my crap, I noticed a little red crystal reflecting the sun at me from near my shoe. I added a handful of quartz and garnets to the mix.
Another mile or so and I reached the visitor center. I asked about a dumpster to unload the better part of the rash collection. There was a very cool piece of the pottery I wanted to keep, but for the rusted cans and nails and such, I had no need.
The old volunteer told me she knew that they were doing "archaeological research" in the area- on the history of the logging industry. Turns out the trash I brought out was actually historical trash, and was illegal to remove.
My historical crap was confiscated, I was scolded. I marked the location of the crap on a USGS map they had, and the woman gave me the piece of pottery I wanted. I believe it to be the head of a crock from an old bootleggin' operation.
A spiderweb sits in front of an old screw on the "stream-donkey" at monarch lake- 'just thought it was cool how the web seemed to hold the same shapes as the bolt.
below; A blk/w of a Mt Craig sunset on the east inlet trail., flowers on the north inlet. The Michelin-man has lost a limb- gem-studded puffball mushrooms, and a pair of giant king boletes for dinner.

And finally, Fridays' sunset over Flatop mountain. This was really spectacular!!! The brilliant colors were true- I have altered NOTHING on this photo!!!

IT was the best one yet, though it lasted for only a few minutes.. . Way cool clouds!!...

Monday, August 25, 2008

facinating fungi

I do believe that I have been just about everywhere in search of whatever there is to find near grand lake.... and Ive found some pretty cool stuff. My eyes are almost always stuck on the inspiring world at my feet. Rocks, mushrooms, flowers, spiders... just about everything I love to learn about is down there.
However, there are moments that may occur at anytime out here when I am better off looking up. There are two osprey nests on shadow lake, and I stirred a huge bear from it's resting place just yesterday!

The majestic creature was walking away from me when I heard it snap a branch, and later when I caught site of it winding through the many trees. The bear was of a cinnamon colour and a size that would overwhelm any other creature but the moose. I stumbled upon it's resting place, and found some scat, a set of footprints, and a scratched up tree. Check out this cool pic of a bright aspen. Its got markings all the way up that I could only imagine came from a big bear.

We've had rain. The afternoons and evenings around Grand lake have been wet for the past few days, and the mushrooms seem to like it!

The response has been intense! Ive been able to find just about every mushroom imaginable!...except the one I was looking for...

In search of the oyster mushroom, which supposedly thrives on dead aspen, Ive traveled through many pine forests in the park and surrounding national forests. In the park, especially along the tonahutu trail, the sacred mushrooms are in surplus! Two afternoons ago, I discovered 14 on a stretch of trail that measured only a mile long. Nine of these were in a single impressive cluster near the base of a fallen pine. In the Arapaho National forest, I was lucky enough to find a handful of edible boletes!

There were many mushrooms there, around a small meadow I'd found up the arapaho creek, and I harvested two king boletes, an aspen orange cap, seven large puffballs and a single large white one. This one had a flatter white cap with brown gills that were not connected to the stem, and a large membranous veil. I looked it up on a National park handout that said that it, the meadow mushroom, was a choice edible. I snagged it, but have since read that they can be poisonous... I might try it.... It sure does smell nice and I have since run out of mushrooms to eat!!!

One of my favorites, the hawks wing, is said to be a good edible when young. I was told that they should be cooked for a longer period of time and that the adults may taste a bit bitter.. I dont plan on trying this'n!

A nice king bolete, above, and the tubes on the bottom of the big cap of a Leccinum fibrillosum. This mushroom is the other edible bolete, but it has no common name that Ive heard. It can be told from the king by the stem. The stem is thinner than the kings, which can grow larger than it's cap, and is generally dirty looking when picked- due to blue stainingThere are several poisonous russulas that look very similar to my edible boletes. THey are easily distinguished by the gills on the underside of the cap of the russula, or the spongy, microscopic tubes on the underside of the cap of a bolete!

However, there are some boletes that should not be eaten. There are two species here that are good edibles, one is the king. The other is similar in appearance to the king, but has a thinner stalk that stains blue when cut. The Aspen orange caps are supposedly poisonous and may cause severe "gastrointestinal" pains, but I have had no problem with them.

The Red/white dotted amenita muscaria is famed by it's classic toadstool fruits, easy recognition and deadly reputation. The more I read about them, the cooler they are!
I find them commonly with red, orange and yellow caps in the drier areas of my traditional stream-side mushroom hunting range. Some seemed o have been chewed on or eaten by some poor creature. If a human were to consume a FLY AGARIC (aka fly amenita, sacred mushroom), he or she may experience a wide range of symptoms including everything from drowsiness, nausia and diliria, hallucinations and euphoria, and even seizures and coma. The intoxication is due mainly to the compound mucimol, which depresses the central nervous system. A dose of 1g of amenita muscaria is enough to poison a person. Mucimol is different than the psychoactive compounds psilocyin and psilocin, the 'active ingredient' of magic mushrooms, which may also be found in amenitas. Toxicity of a fly mushroom is greatly dependant on habitat and season. Ive read that a fatal dose of these guys was once "calculated" at 15 caps, but that spring and summer fruitings can yield up to ten times the toxins per cap that a fall one could.
The "common" names fly- are said to have derived from an early european culture because eating the mushrooms could introduce flies into a mans head, and make him crazy.

The mushrooms are common throughout the northern hemisphere, where they are native, and are quickly becoming introduced to the rest of the world. Early cultures in Siberia, Greece and even Mexico used the fungi in medicine- as a hallucinogenic. One theory suggests that the Nordic Viking warriors ingested Amenitas to enter a trance of rage before and during battles.
The mushrooms are still eaten today, though not as commonly, and often recreationally. They are labeled as a unscheduled drug in the united states with no federal regulations. They have been made illegal to posses with the intentions of human consumption in Louisiana. There are many other species of Amenitas, most of them poisonous, and a handful just deadly. I cant say that any of them have quite the history or beauty of the Amenita Muscaria (var. formosa) that Ive been finding...SOME MUSHROOM, HUH!??

The common 'gem-studded puffball grows to about the size of a half-dollar coin, and is very tasty. I find them around rotting wood by themselves or in big colonies and clusters. Below is that mysterious 'meadow mushroom. There were a handful of them, up to five inches in diameter.... I may try to eat one. Ive heard that they can be moderately poisonous and that they are 100% safe to eat... Ive got a 50-50 chance!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


When I left SC at about 4pm, I only assumed that the afternoon showers had passed with the nasty, windy, wet hour that had ended around 3.
I was wrong.
I saw the lightening and felt the thunder pass behind Mt baldy from the second I stepped onto the first meadow of the East Inlet trail. I was not afraid of a little stormage (though I did consider Judy's overreaction when and IF she found that I had suck out a storm on the mountain)...
A pair of disappointingly blurry photos of a small, split creek far onto the trail were having me attempt my return for a re-shoot. I watched for my fox-buddy on the trail, but he never showed. Instead, my hike in was occupied by the sights and sounds generated by the nearing storms...
......'did find some pretty cool mushrooms, too! I was photographing one of those colorful amenita things when a couple walked past. They questioned me about the "ball" that I seemed to be so involved with. I was happy to share my limited knowledge of the fascinating fungus, but I think hey lost interested the second they learned that it was actually a mushroom... freaks!
I spent about ten minutes, 40 exposures, at the small falls. It was not until I went to take my first pic. that I realized that I'd forgotten the small tripod which I put on the bumper of my parked truck with the intentions of packing.
The water poured from behind several dripping stones onto a shallow, colourful pool. A little green fern danced in front of the phenomenon. I braced myself on a pile of wet rocks and logs and was able to take photos ranging in exposure times from 1/6 sec. to 3 sec. Many photos were blurred until I got into a more comfortable position in which my arms were braced on another log and my knee, and I was able to exhale to get a long string of nice crisp, clean, clear photos!!!
TAKE THAT MRS DINESON! (school teacher who deemed it impossible to take a quality photo by hand with a shutter speed under 1/60..)
A sudden clap of thunder broke my trance. The bolt was disturbingly loud and when I was able to summon the strength that it took to stop clicking the shutter, I realized just how dark the sky was. It wasn't very nice-lookin', but I'm sure that it contributed to the photos being as smooth as they seem to be (if it were lighter or sunny, I would've had a hard time getting the water to flow)
I was on the trail again. I began to walk further in, but became discouraged with a series of similar lightening strikes. They were falling on and behind the mountain to the right of Craig, just behind me.
I walked slowly back through the terrain I'd already visited. ... just strolled over the dirt and rock. It became increasingly dark as the navy-blue clouds intruded. The lightening continued, and seemed to spread to everywhere, though I never really felt threatened. (probably shouldve)
It started to sprinkle off and on, and without the sun I felt like I'd lost track of time.
A something caught my eye just to the left of the trail and only a few meters up. I had no clue what it could have been, and when I unconsciously turned to it, it was behind a tree. It had not moved, but I had.
.....the something reappeared as I continued walking. it was surprisingly large, but was obviously the thing that'd captured my attention. Its eyes struck me and it's huge ears sprang up. The big mule deer flinched when it saw me, but I kept my pace and the deer remained on the ground- just eight or nine feet off the trail. The deer was very alert- he never broke eye contact with me, and his ears stood as erect as his little antlers.
He looked very comfy under the bright spruce umbrella. I would have loved to have stopped and taken a photo, and I even began changing the settings on my camera to accommodate his dry, shady spot under the wet trees.
it seemed wrong to stop though, and scare the thing off. I didnt. The lightening slowed as it grew distant, and I wandered back over the relaxed meadow and through a silent forest.

The little Adam's falls side step tempted me. I jogged down the hill and slowed near the water before it became too fast. When I found the falls, I slipped down a steep wall and found a thin ledge overhanging the water. It was damp, but not wet enough to be slippery.
There I spent a few minutes watching and photographing the cascading blues, greens and oranges. these rapids were much better in the sun, when they were more colorful; They were beautiful now.
It began to rain- hard. I began to make the tricky ascent again- 'slung my camera to my back.
i only had about 10 feet.

I slipped once, and busted my shin on a jagged hunk of granite. By the time I reached the top, the rain had stopped again. My leg throbbed, but it didn't hurt enough to keep me from walking back through a rugged creek bed. Found some more cool mushrooms!.... a gorgeous hawks wing and one with a shaggy orange cap and stalk.
I returned to the lodge lookin' like a stray dog, Im sure; Judy never saw me, or got the opportunity to lecture me, and I scrambled to clean up before she did! (dont tell!)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Big Shadow mnt.

The entirety of Shadow Mountain sits in plain site over the town and lake from Shadowcliff. It sure does not seem as large or tall as when you are able to peer over it's summit.
The hike is an easy 10mi. r/t from the trailhead. There are points at which switchbacks are necessary due to the harsh topography, but none last too long. Jan and I enjoyed raspberries from the lake to the firetower at the top!
A big bull moose watched us for a few minutes from the lake, and deer were numerous throughout the hike. Once we started the ascent, we had the mountain to ourselves. There was a warm, light breeze and the occasional fluffy cumulus would wander across the sun.
I ran out of water just before we hit the fire tower. The abrupt 360 that surprised me above the trees was both frightening and inspiring. A swarm of drone ants could not distract me from photographing the huge view from the top of the trees. It surely seemed as though we may have been halfway between the lakes and the cloud ceiling. Jan spaced off when he relaxed facing the park area. I found the aerial view of the east inlet to be the highlight.
I got a kick out of identifying the meadows, streams and peaks along my favorite trail.. It was like looking at a topo map!
The air turned still, though it was not quiet. The nasty sound of traffic and a train ripped through the canopy. When we got down below the ole' hitchin post, all of that noise disappeared and we were in the wilds again. I tried photographing the ancient stone fire tower, but all attempts proved overexposed.
I spotted a handful of mushrooms on the leisurely way down. It was not until I sat hat I noticed the tightening/burning sensation on my shins and the top of my ass, but I still feel pretty good!


An unidentified trio of big brown mushrooms- under a dry stand of dead lodgepoles. And below- A smaller cluster of slimy, bubbly mushrooms. The cluster was one of a handful of them that sprouted from a pile of very wet, very decayed hardwoods on the bank of a stream. I think they may have been some kind of velvet foot.
August and September, the fall months of the Southern Rocky mountains, are known for their great harvests of King and Aspen Boletes, oyster mushrooms and puffballs!

Below is one of several dozen giant "coral" fungi. I would give its common name, but my IDbook
gives only the family; CLAVARIACEAE

I accompanied our Chef, Jeff, on a hunt for these exciting edibles (and anything else we could find!) around Monarch Lake. The lake, just off the tip of Grandby Lake, is encompassed by a 4.5 mile loop trail and many others. We started out on the southern shore of the lake and began finding the 'shrooms near the STEAM DONKEY. This iron monster is some sort of a gygundus stream engine used in the early 20th century for pulling logs down the the reserviors and colorado river.
On the SE bend of the lake, we entered a huge wet spot where I discovered the first whole KING mushroom. Its stem was a wide as it's red/brown cap. Jeff found two others, though both were too small to pick just yet. We found 'shrooms that looked like moldy bagels, ones that looked like boiling velet and even some nice bug red/white spotted ones that reminded me of some delicious pastry. mmmm.....

We oo-ed and awe-d at all the colorful fungi for about an hour. My favorite was the big yellow coral thing.
This is one of those poisonous little "mower's mushrooms," sometimes eaten recreationally and referred to as a shroom... you know what Im takin about; they often contain some kind of hallucinogenic compound.

From here, Jeff took off on another trail, to finish off the long hike to crater lake, which lies on the treeline 8 miles from the carpark.
I continued along the sun-baked north shore, where I found a zillion cool rocks, a pair of grouse, a few shrooms and the truck. COOL! ! !
I found this MOLDY BAGEL sitting under a low spruce tree. The underside of it had gills and the bagel sat on a stem. I would have called it the moldy bagel mushroom, but it's already got a name: The Delicious Milky Cap.
Someone had obviously eaten the wrong shroom (or the right one?) when they named this guy!
Below-- A HAWKS WING mushroom is said to be edible, bt not so tasty. A meal of this'n may be bitter. On the bottom is a tiny yellow somethin' that I found growing in a mass of spongy moss. There were several of them, measuring only a cm or so in height, scattered on the big green blob. They call it an EARTH TONGUE

We also found a large round fly agaric, some huge pinkish coral things, a few button-like emeticas and about a dozen others that I am either unable to identify, or just too lazy to do so.

Grand Lake sunrise

Sunrise at shadowcliff is a very special happening, and one that, with all of the mornings Ive been here, I have yet to miss. The occasion is not special because it is rare or even infrequent; it happens almost every morning that is not smothered in low clouds or covered with thick high ones.
The daybreak and dawn lights are so exceptional because of the world that it exposes. Here in THE ROCKIES, the cockcrow means abundant wildlife, extraordinary beauty, and a whole different nature.. This new perspective can have an ordinary meadow adorned in frost and brilliantly lit so that it becomes a wonderland of ice and billowing steam! Even something as simple a pair of trees, a chip of rock, or smooth brook is brought to life in the early morning.
The other morning a moose was found at the end of the parking lot. I approached the bull until I realized the tremendous size of the creature. Its intimidating arms spiked high off his head and created an imaginary force field that fear would not allow me to breach. While the moose walked through this gorgeous morning, each hair on his side and back was illuminated and the warm masses of air that he exhaled were seen as clean smoke until they became too unorganized. Now we know where the whole fire breathing dragon thing came from!
He went about chewing and stepping and breathing and he was awesome. A pair of deer cruised the meadow of the north inlet- they stayed to the shadows for the most part, but for only a few moments at a time, the dancing shadow of a wind-blown aspen would have one or both.

Every sunrise is a bit different on the edge of the park, but al have the ability to give the early bird that exciting perspective of an environment they may have thought they already knew. Cant wait ‘til tomorrow’s!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fishin' under Craig

I spent some time strollin up the East Inlet for an evening. A Stellar Jay greeted me at the trailhead with a NASTY scream. It was a scream that was able to make our blue jay sound as nice as a warbler !!!

I wondered in the direction of an unknown destination with my camera and a flyrod. I was very satisfied with the simple beauty of the mountainous environment. It was often that I was distracted by a rock or fungi, and a large window of mica was the highlight of my hike until I rounded a sharp hairpin on my rugged trail. the creature which I then encountered seemed not to have seen me, and at the blindest point of this switchback I had not seen it.
For the first split second of our exciting collision I saw a cat. Then it was a rabbit. The tiny orange canine looked as surprised, excited and confused as I was.

He stood, stunned, with me- facing me; the moment lasted long enough for me to recognize the little fox as such: stunned.

He bolted- split, the instant his harmless mind registered the situation. Its huge brown eyes and bushy little tail slowed to a mild trot when he felt that he'd achieved a worthy distance from me.
The fox looked back curiously a few times and continued down the trail at a leisurely walk. It had been my first real encounter with such a beast and I was still confused about it several moments after he'd disappeared from view. I spent a few minutes regretting the fact that my camera was fastened to my back instead of fulfilling it's purpose on my face. The extreme detail of his beautiful face is still burned into my eyes.

About 40 minutes into my one-way adventure I came upon a favorite familiar viewpoint. One atop a jagged granite berth from which you can absorb the inspiring scape of the large second meadow. The meadow is now the green of the grasses, with a bit of yellow and grey blotched where the water has been sparse or otherwise unsuitable for plant life.

A creek, my fishin' creek, weaves a nice, thick line through the open area before the bald mountain; its surface is smooth and dark where and when the fish do not break it.
It was only another ten or fifteen minutes before I made my first cast in a deep, slightly red pool next to the trail. A small blob of muskrat dub, a few fibres of pheasant tail, a bit of thin copper wire and a size 18 hook made for a nasty snack. My fly dangled a tad under a cubit from its tiny orange float. a half hour yielded 3 little trout, two of which were brookies.

I was certainly not disappointed with a fish every ten minutes, but as an angler, I am very vulnerable to temptation. When I noticed all of the surface activity upstream, I was forced to exchange my tasty mayfly imitation for a floating one. A large, pale Dunn fly completed my flexible weapon.

The first cast coaxed a small cutthroat into a double-flip. His limber body flopped through the air with my dunn on his sharp tongue. I set the hook as soon as my reflexes kicked to life- after he'd returned to the stream. With any good strike, my heart made an extra half-beat and I was fighting the little beast.

By the time I lost my dunn to the bushes across the creek, the mountain overhead had shaded me from the falling sun and I had successfully captured and released more than a dozen other fish. Taking clear photos became difficult in the lessening light and I considered callin' it a day.

None of the fish that I'd seen or caught exceeded a foot in length. They were small, averaging around 9 inches, bu they were beautiful and certainly fun to catch. Maybe eight out of every ten fish I caught was a colourful brook trout until I tied on a small red streamer. An occasional cutthroat or brown had nabbed at my lure until that little subaquatic treat entered the water. It was then, on every cast, that I found a brook trout.

I sugar-coated the afternoon with a spacey saunter back to the trailhead. Dusk was comin' quick and the trees and stones cast a soft radiance over the trail and surrounding terrain. A bright amenita caught my eye; not even the thick vegitation could hide it's red. The brilliant light dimmed until a more tired, quiet aura was had. I passed through the smaller meadow above the falls- spotted a cow moose and a pair of lady-deer. Mt craig's smooth dome rose over the entire valley, and even he was dulled by the disappeared sunlight.