Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kissed by a Wolf

This week I am using my days off to run errands but last week was special; Maggie kissed me.

Mission Wolf is about 1.5 hours from where I am working this summer. It is located between Westcliffe and Gardiner Colorado. (Their Website directions are excellent if you decide to go – they are excellent even if you don’t go <g>.)

Mission wolf was founded to provide shelter to captive wolves. These animals have been imprinted by humans and cannot be released to the wild and would otherwise be killed. Some of their wolves were cubs that movie studios had but decided not to use, some people tried to raise and later took to a humane society when it became unworkable, some are dog/wolf mixes, some are the pups of wolves from zoos, one was found wandering in Salt Lake City NV.

My visit started with an educational tour that taught me about how wolves live in the wild and how this rescue attempts to provide this environment as much as possible. Wolves mate for life and here two who seem to choose each other have a two-acre enclosure to themselves. They “landscape” their fenced area and a buffer area exits between each enclosed area. They are fed meat twice a week an thus maintain their usual feast famine pattern.

Unlike wolves in the wild these animal are “crate trained”; this is in case there is a need to evacuate them due to fire or medical emergency. They are fed some kibble type food and vitamins and/or medicine if needed in their crates each morning.

The Co-founders Tracy Brooks and Kent Weber and a small staff live at the mission year round in a self sustaining way. Each summer short term and long term volunteers join the staff to lead tours and do the work of maintaining this home for the wolves. Tracy uses her knowledge as a horse whisperer to train volunteers in the use of body language to communicate with wolves.

After my tour I joined a group of people interested in an interaction with the wolves. Kent tutored us in how to use our bodies to enter one of the wolf enclosures and how to behave. (Basically, be Alpha.) We were to walk erect (hunching would make us look like a predator) and to ignore the wolves as we went in and found a seat.

After that it was up to the wolves to choose if they wanted to interact. If they did come to us we were to reach out to them, keep our eyes open and move into them as they came face to face with us, and show our teeth. It was amazing – one did come to me, she rubbed her head into mine and licked my teeth. (And I can attest that wolf breath is much better than dog breath and probably better than mine too.)  I was grinning ear to ear.

The posted pictures are the three wolves who lived in the enclosure I entered. Maggie is the one who was interested in me. These wolves are wolves that showed an interest in humans and were trained to be comfortable interacting with humans. They are part of an Ambassador program that goes to various places around the country to help teach about wolves. (My little adventure was not as risky as it might have sounded.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Great Sand Dunes !


This week Scruffy and I headed to Great Sand Dunes National Park for our days off.  We got here yesterday around 11 and joined the folks circling the campgrounds looking for empty spaces (wishful thinking) or someone who was packing up. I snagged a good spot and with the current owners permission left my tag on the post and headed off to park my rig in a parking lot with a nice view. We opened the windows to catch the breeze and ate lunch while waiting for the 1 pm checkout.  We made it back to our site just in time to unhitch in the pouring rain.

After the rain cleared, I decided to hike to Zapata Falls, which was labeled – point of interest - on the road to the National Park. Four miles on the very rough road, was enough to cause Scruffy to roll his eyes and say,“what were you thinking.” Now, I am not sure whether it was the falls, or the road that was the POI. We did have a nice hike, and the creek was beautiful, but the falls did not appear to be falling. A little farther up the road we found a BLM campground with 
great views.

This morning we both watched out the back window as some deer browsed in our fire pit. They went through the campground cleaning up. When they left so did we, heading out for our morning walk. We followed the trail down from the campground through an area of old dunes that are now stabilized by vegetation to the Medano creek that runs down from the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the north and east and around the dunes to the Southwest. 

Scruffy's favorite part of hike is finding bushes to mark.

The creek carries sand and deposits it in the southwest where the wind picks it up and blows it onto the dunes.

I  planned to hike in the dunes after breakfast before the sand heated up but the raw natural beauty called out to be left alone. The magnificence was inspiring and looking was enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A day off?

 We were blessed with sun this week. Which meant we had a lot of campers and I was very busy.  It also meant that flowers bloomed and the Aspen leafed. 

Dandelions - our first flowers
Cisneros trail

Today being a day off for me meant extra time in bed listening to the birds and a leisurely cup of coffee, followed by a hike. Then I headed off to run errands.

Popped a Garth Brooks CD into the player and headed down the mountain, with my windows open and a smile on my face. Last week I got a mailbox in Rye CO and signed up for Netflix. My first stop today was in Rye and I’ll be watching “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tonight. My next stop was in Colorado City to get a library card and pick out some books. I am excited to be able to get books that I have wanted to read but was unable to obtain as ebooks from Santa Fe Public library. I’m now eagerly awaiting the arrival of “God’s Hotel.”

My next stop was Walmart ( no boos), in Pueblo Co. to use their Moneygram service to send money to a friend in Nepal. He took good care of me when I broke my fibia in Humla in 2013.

After a lunch break, I am now in a library in Pueblo, CO. I have just added what I think is the button to allow folks to be notified by email when I post to this blog.

After I post and test it, I will find a shady place to make some phone calls and then buy groceries, pick up propane and head back to camp. Where, thankfully, it will be way cooler than here in Pueblo.

My front yard

I’ve included some photos of my campsite. A really sweet place. If you are nearby – please stop by.
My back yard

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Camp Host Life

Today is one of my days off (Tuesday and Wednesday). I still got up at 6 and walked and fed Scruffy. But I really enjoyed my cup of coffee and staring out of my window listening to the river rushing over the rocks and observing the many birds that came to visit. Today we also had a turkey stroll through. We continue to see deer in our campground morning and evening and I see a fox every time we take the route around the north side of the lake.

My first week was medium busy – I have 14 sites and 2 pit toilets in my campground (St Charles) and I am also responsible for keeping the two group campgrounds and their 4 toilets clean and also the toilet and picnic area at the Cisneros trailhead clean. Unfortunately (for the campers) it was a rough weather weekend. Although I don’t have a radio, the folks with reservations must have listened to the weather guess because all but one cancelled. Which left me with leisurely workdays.

I got up, did the dog walk thing. Picked up a walkie talkie and morning report at 9, and then cleaned the bathrooms at St Charles and Cisneros by 10.  Had breakfast and then went out and cleaned the sites the campers had vacated. I had the early afternoon to relax and then during the early evening, visited campers, collected money and sold firewood to the people who arrived as “walk-ins”.

For the last few weeks we have had lots of rain by day and freezes at night. Then this week it turned to summer. It has been in the 70’s during the day and around 50 at night. I don’t even need my long underwear at 5pm. <g>

That’s about it for a day in the life of a host. More next week with pictures.

P.S. Scruffy is a very good host – he gives big tail wags and body wiggles to all the people we meet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lake Isabel Recreation Area

I arrived at Lake Isabel Rec Area 10 days ago.  I was supposed to report to Bear Lake on the 17th but I got a call just before I left Rowe informing me that the campground was snowed in, as was the 5 mile dirt road leading in to it. Sooo – they said I would help out at Lake Isabel. It was my lucky day – I was given a site with electricity and it was most welcome as the weather was very cold at night. (And just plain cold by day :- ) )

My frozen picnic table
 I had the day to settle in and then I attended training on Thurs. The morning was provided by the forest service and we learned about bears and fire restrictions and who to call for what (is it a sheriff problem or a forest service problem).  This would have been a moot point for me in that I would not have any cell service at Bear Lake.  The afternoon was spent learning about campground rules and all the paperwork we need to file. Friday I spent the day working at one of the gates.

My temporary home
Did you know that bears have very bad hearing and eyesight but can detect an odor 7 miles away?  We learned a lot about bears. And then I saw one running across the road about 7 miles north of the campground, when I was returning from my day off on Tues.

Fri. night I got to chase the ambulance that was transporting one of the work campers to Pueblo CO.  I must admit when we hit the highway and I was doing 90 – I decided that they were just going to have to win the race. And so when I got to Pueblo I followed the first sign I saw for a hospital. It was the wrong one. So I  just went into the ER and asked for directions. Luckily, they were very helpful and I got to Parkview quite easily.

Lake Isabel
I stayed with my friend until midnight when some test results revealed that she might be having a heart attack and they decided to admit her. It was a long, interesting day. I got back to the campground around 1:30 am and was happy to fall in bed. Saturday I filled in as a campground host and  the managers began to discuss what they might need to do as they were now short a second host.

Sunday morning, I learned that the staff has a tradition of going out to breakfast at 8 and then reporting for work at nine. It is a congenial bunch and I enjoyed my pancakes. I also learned that they wanted me to switch assignments from Bear Lake to Lake Isabel.

I spent the day mulling it over and then decided that I would. There were tradeoffs. Here I can get to a town with Laundromat, library and cell service in 30 mins.; at Bear Lake I can get to a paved road in 20 mins. And here my manager has a landline, and my father and sister can get a hold of me quickly in case of emergency.  I also thought that I might be better off working with colleagues available and within walkie talkie reach for my first job as a host (especially after the need for an ambulance, Fri night). And I can still go up to Bear Lake for the beauty on my days off.  The downside of my choice is two days off instead of three per week and a more hectic location.

So far I have seen deer every morning and evening, one fox, a wild turkey and a bear and heard lots of humming birds. The campground is at 8,300 feet. I am camped along a rushing creek and the aspen are starting to leaf. What’s not to like.

Tomorrow, I begin life as the campground host at St. Charles campground in Lake Isabel Rec Area.

(Lake Isabel is in the San Isabel National forest, in Colorado. Exit Rte 25 at Colorado City and follow  rte 165 north for about 30 mins.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Rowe, NM

We’ve been hanging out in Rowe, NM. It is about 40 mins north of Santa Fe on Rte. 25. I did a few pet sits here and like to come back and visit my friends when I am in town. This time we introduced Scruffy into the mix – Marianne and her partner have 2 dogs, 3 feral cats now in the house, and 4 chickens (no not in the house).

Scruffy has been running with the dogs – since their 10 acres are fenced he can zoom around til he drops.  I have been helping out weeding the vegetable garden, and this week tending to the “pets” while Marianne is away.  Also venturing to Santa Fe, to see friends and shop for some things I need for my new adventure which starts on Tuesday when Scruffy and I arrive at Bear Lake in Colorado.

More about that next time.

Scruffy mentioned that he would like to see more of himself in my blog so today he is the star. 

 Scruffy gardening

Scruffy in new bed