To make up for her disappointment in not getting any snow, I took Bear out to the Wildlife Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes are coming back. The BLM fills ponds for the cranes since the ancient aquifer they used to rely on (by used to I mean for hundreds of thousands of years) is now used for farming. So far they’ve only filled one pond and I don’t know where or which or???

It really didn’t matter to me. While it’s NOT true that if you’ve seen one crane you’ve seen them all, it IS true that if you’ve photographed several hundred you’ve photographed them all. After five Crane Festivals, Sandhill Cranes are now to me something special in a way that’s not related to novelty. They are simply magical. I love them.

Usually by now I’ve heard and seen hundreds, but not this year. I don’t know why, but I’m not their boss. So, having learned there are a bunch out in the refuge where there is some open water (a-HA) we went out.

I’ve always wanted to walk there but haven’t before today. There’s a four mile driving tour. Bear and I parked by the ranger station and hit the road. It was really nice to walk on a comfortable flat surface with no mud or lumpy icy snow or puddles of ice melt that can’t soak into the frozen ground. I noticed for the first time that there are several pretty side foot paths into the rabbitbrush to experience the NON-cranes — meadowlarks, for example. I could imagine Bear, Teddy and I walking there all summer, watching for rattlesnakes, of course.

Only one car passed by as we walked. I saw five cranes and heard hundreds. Most of all, I got to enjoy the incredible vistas that made me fall in love with the San Luis Valley back in 2014. Nothing clears the mind and heals the heart like an hour in The Big Empty. Bear loved the walk. Lots of elk droppings to smell, a few patches of snow to roll in, new places to leave messages. She was happy. I know this because on our way back she pressed against me as we walked and made sure her back or her head was under my hand.

Mt. Blanca and The Big Empty

16 thoughts on “Compensation

  1. Wow, the photo of The Big Empty has me thinking I might be more of a people person than I realized. Nonetheless, I’m happy for Bear, the cranes, and non-cranes; it’s their element.

    • The Big Empty can look scary when you’re not used to it. Just realize all that range is circled by farms and ranches along the roads. If I turn around, I’d have a photo of houses. I’ve seen people terrified of it. ❤

      • Yeah, I didn’t want to say anything negative but I felt a twinge of anxiety or panic when I saw the photo. That reaction really surprised me!

        Maybe I’ll look up the area on Google Earth sometime.

        • That’s OK, not negative at all. I grew up in landscapes like this so it feels like (and is, now) home. I had a good friend from Italy who dreamed of seeing the Wild West and a real ghost town. When I was taking him to one outside of Tucson, in the middle of nowhere, he was TERRIFIED.

          If you look up the San Luis Valley on Google earth you’ll see all the circles where they irrigate fields using sprinklers that make circles. It’s pretty weird looking from above. When I went to Switzerland a few years ago I stayed at an AirBNB and the people had looked up Monte Vista, CO and were really freaked out by the circles. 🙂

  2. The sandhill cranes will arrive when they’re ready. And when they do – and your write about them – I’ll know that soon I can look forward to their arrival here on their journey north.

  3. This sounds like a very acceptable alternative to the golf course! They say Spring is on the way but I’m not so sure the snow is really gone. Hope you and Bear get to have a little more fun in the snow…

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