It’s been a little more than five months since we landed back in Colorado after an unplanned early exit from New Zealand due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, we’ve stuck close to home and rediscovered (or in some cases, experienced for the first time) the natural beauty in our own back yard. Mostly on foot. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 miles of walking per week.
Not surprisingly, I’ve snapped a few photos over these past few months, and this is the first in a series of posts to share our most recent “travels” with you. Thanks for coming along!
In the early weeks, we didn’t venture out by car except to buy groceries and other essentials. A long walk – nearly always each of us alone – was the highlight of the day.
I found a couple of nearby natural areas that have since become regular ‘go to’ routes for my morning walk: Pineridge and Red Fox Meadows. Both were new to me, despite having lived in Fort Collins for 35+ years.
Pineridge Natural Area
Pineridge lies on the west side of Fort Collins, tucked up against the foothills. It features a small reservoir, a huge colony of prairie dogs, and seven miles of dirt trails that are popular with walkers, runners, mountain bikers, and even a few horseback riders.
From my house, it’s a 2.3 mile walk to get there (mostly on a paved trail that parallels a small creek), plus 4 miles to walk the loop, then another 2.3 miles back home. A good workout to be sure, and one that I have done weekly since April, when the vegetation was just beginning to reawaken from its winter nap.
In May, the landscape sprang to life. Encouraged by warmer temperatures and spring rains, the grasses grew and wildflowers exploded, seemingly out of nowhere. Indeed, sporadic April showers brought abundant May flowers.
The wildflower show continued during June, and every visit featured new stars.
In July, the grasses began drying out . . .
. . . but the landscape remained colorful.
. . . but wildflowers were few and far between.
Are you curious about the names of the wildflowers? I am . . . but not enough to actually do the research. 😍 Maybe next year?
As summer turns to fall, I’ll continue my weekly walks in Pineridge. Perhaps there are still a few surprises in store during the coming months!
Red Fox Meadows Natural Area
My other ‘go to’ walk is to (and around) Red Fox Meadows, a small 40 acre natural area located within city limits. This is not your typical natural area, because it was engineered and built, literally, from the ground up. Actually, from about six feet below ground.
In 1995, two city departments – Stormwater Utility and Natural Areas – collaborated on a unique project to enhance local flood protection and restore wildlife habitat. Below ground, an elaborate network of pipes and drains collects runoff from rainstorms, funneling the excess into a nearby creek. Above ground, the floodwater detention area has developed into a wetlands environment that supports native plants and attracts wildlife.
Today, Red Fox Meadows looks like this:
Pretty, huh? The natural area itself has only about a mile of walking paths, but getting there and back home adds up to a 5.5 mile trek, mostly on trails. Such a peaceful way to start the morning, so I do this walk 2-3 times a week.
Selected photos from the spring and summer months:
My walks to Pineridge and Red Fox Meadows natural areas will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, since it looks like we’ll be staying put through autumn and (ugh) winter . I love that these beautiful spaces are just a short walk from my front door!
In my next blog post, I’ll share photos from a few of our favorite close-in hiking trails.