Winter, Finally

In the wake of my recent lament about our want of precipitation, I’m happy to report that three separate storms in the past week have brought some highly-appreciated moisture—in the form of snow. Totals varied based on location, but at the southern end of Colorado Springs we received a minimum of 8 inches (20 centimeters). Being housebound all of last Friday because the heavens never ceased to release flakes, I was determined to get outside on the following day, before another anticipated weather front on Sunday.

Nach meiner nicht lange zurückliegenden Klage über einen Mangel an Niederschlag freut es mich, daß drei separate Stürme in der vergangenen Woche hochwillkommene Feuchtigkeit mit sich gebracht haben, und zwar in Form von Schnee. Die Gesamtmengen waren je nach Lage unterschiedlich, aber am Südrand von Colorado Springs haben wir mindestens 20 Zentimeter erhalten. Da am Freitag der Himmel pausenlos Flocken fallen ließ, und ich die ganze Zeit drinnen war, nahm ich mir vor, den folgenden Tag im Freien zu verbringen, besonders weil die nächste Wetterfront für Sonntag vorhergesagt wurde.

On Saturday morning, I was greeted by azure and windless skies. A gleaming quilt covered the ground and mountains, and the boughs of trees and shrubs were flocked with glittering crystals. At Stratton Open Space, one of my favorite local haunts, which is situated nearer the mountains, even more snow had accumulated. Thanks to a few skiers and other hikers, a trail had been broken and I gratefully followed its meanderings. Up and down hills, in and out of stands of trees, under a nearly cloudless firmament I stomped through the white splendor. The sun climbed from the horizon toward the zenith, and as the thermometer followed suit—from 18 degrees F (minus 7 C) to the mid-30s F (1 C)—I sensed its increasing warmth through my layered garments. Listening to the chattering of birds, and watching little tufts of snow leave their perches and drift through the air and onto to ground, I felt even more part of the whole when some of them brushed against the exposed skin of my face with tender caresses.

Am Samstagmorgen wurde ich von einem azurblauen und windstillen Himmel begrüßt. Eine gleißende Decke überzog Boden und Berge, und auch die Äste von Bäumen und Sträuchern waren mit schimmernden Kristallen beflockt. Stratton Open Space, einer meiner Lieblingsorte, der näher an den Bergen liegt, hatte sogar noch mehr Schnee angesammelt. Dank einiger Skiläufer und Wanderer war ein Pfad niedergetrampelt worden, dessen Windungen ich dankbar folgte. Unter einem fast wolkenlosen Himmel stapfte ich durch die weiße Pracht, Hügel rauf und runter, in den Wald hinein und wieder heraus. Als die Sonne vom Horizont dem Zenit entgegenwanderte, kletterte das Thermometer schnell von minus 7 auf plus 1 Grad Celsius, und ich spürte die zunehmende Wärme durch meine Kleiderschichten. Während ich dem Gesang der Vögel lauschte, und zuschaute, wie kleine Schneehäubchen ihre Hochsitze verließen und durch die Luft und auf die Erde flatterten, fühlte ich mich noch mehr Teil des Ganzen, als einige von ihnen dabei meine unbedeckte Gesichtshaut sanft liebkosten.

Stratton Open Space

Near the former Stratton Park put onto the map by and named for the remarkable Winfield Scott Stratton after his death, Colorado Springs set aside precious land to preserve and protect from development. Surrounded by human habitation, Stratton Open Space was created in 1998 and represents one of nine open spaces under the city’s jurisdiction.

The 306 acre parcel in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is among my favorite spots for running, hiking, and birding. A maze of trails measuring a total of eight miles welcomes visitors on feet, paws, hooves, and wheels (though a few paths are off-limit for bikes). The relatively compact area encompasses five ecological zones: a riparian corridor and wetlands, prairie-like meadows and a scrub oak/juniper plant community, as well as a ponderosa pine/Douglas fir forest.

With the exception of rows of peaks rising in the west that are best seen from lower altitudes, the higher the vantage point, the broader the panorama. The hulk of Cheyenne Mountain dominates the south, beloved view and destination of Helen Hunt Jackson, one of my favorite historical personalities.

Cheyenne Mountain on a clear day

…and on a not so clear one…

The sonorous chimes of the Will Rogers Shrine on its flank divide each hour and might also rattle the remains of Spencer and Julie Penrose, who built the tower and chose it as their final resting place. Philanthropists and benefactors, they also founded the Broadmoor Hotel, easily visible from the park. It celebrates its centennial this year, having accommodated its first guests in 1918, and prides itself of having received a five-star Forbes rating for 57 consecutive years.

The Broadmoor Resort

Will Rogers Shrine

In the east the ever-expanding suburban space adjoins Colorado’s High Plains which eventually merge with those of our neighboring states, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Eastern sunrise

Eastern balloonrise

As pleasing as the wonderful vistas are the local flora and fauna. Each season has its charms, and even when flowering plants are absent, the dormant vegetation creates color and contrast. At the height of summer, a multi-hued carpet of wildflowers provides a feast for the eyes, and golden tapestries of sunflowers persist well into autumn.

Penstemon

Indian Paintbrush

Mariposa Lily

Purple Prairie Clover

Avian activity abounds year-round, but other critters can commonly be seen as well.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

Expected

Unexpected

For the last two to three decades, Colorado Springs has been in the throes of rapid, unchecked urban growth. The more buildings, people and traffic, the more indispensable and treasured are oases like Stratton Open Space where, despite a degree of human management, nature still has a chance to run wild.