Crane Tourists

Bear and I headed out yesterday afternoon once the wind whipped up (god forbid we go when the wind ISN’T blowing!) to the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge for our semi-daily (Teddy gets his turn on other days) constitutional and to evaluate the condition of the surrounding mountains. It’s been a week since the Crane Festival and, though it was Sunday, I expected fewer people. Plus, you know, virus…

I was wrong. NOTHING scares away the Crane Tourist. There were easily a half-a-dozen cars.


Bear and I have kind of figured out a route for us when there are people there. We take a little path made for walkers — 1/2 mile through scrub along a little wetlands. In this spot a couple of weeks ago I heard meadowlarks. Because of the wind, most little birds are hunkered down, so it was quiet in there yesterday.

Then, I caught sight of a raptor and stopped to watch a red tail hawk battle the wind. Even when they are doing that, they seem to be having a good time. He was flying into the wind, his wings pulled. He flew over us then (hope hope hope) and went on. “Nothing there, that selfish human has her dog leashed.” We emerged at the other end of the pathway to see a young couple picnicking by their flat tire. They waved. They were not your typical Crane Tourist though they did have a Subaru. Subaru is the car of choice for Crane Tourists.

At this point, the cranes are hanging out by a pond about 1/2 mile from the refuge entrance. Cars passed Bear and me — we always step off the dirt road and turn to face the cars. We wave, passengers and drivers wave. They drive on to where they see the other cars parked and we keep walking.

The wind was blowing from the south, hard, and obscured the sound of the cranes. I know there are thousands in that field around the pond. We get closer to the parked cars (a crowd, four) and I see the Crane Tourists with their binoculars and long camera lenses. I can imagine the wonderment on their faces as they watch the cranes dance. I love it.

Pretty much what they were doing yesterday…

I’m walking further and faster, but it still hurts. I try to extend my reach without causing myself pain. I’m at the point where I can walk two miles without pain, or much pain. I have a very high pain threshold, and I’m sure it’s why I have sustained so many injuries over the years. My body can yell at me, “WTF???? I’m WARNING you!!” and I just say, “Huh?” and keep going. I’m trying to be smarter. I need this vehicle for the foreseeable future and a future without walking? That may happen. I don’t know. But not NOW.

We reached our turning-around point and, though I want to keep going, I don’t.

I saw a man walking toward me. NO one walks here except me. How strange is this? He was another Baby Boomer (Crane Tourists tend to be Baby Boomers). He was a little shy of Bear, but they made friends and we chatted through the wind at a distance of 6 feet. He and his wife live in Boulder. He said that it’s expensive but there’s good hiking and good yoga. He said he liked it down here and he listed off all the birds he and his wife have seen at the Refuge and at Homelake. We talked about the natural beauty of Colorado and how our job is to fight for it and to enjoy it. 

Just a few of them…

At one point hundreds of cranes took flight in the distance. The guy from Boulder openly expressed his delight, “That’s it! That’s what we’re here for!” meaning why he and his wife had driven down from Boulder. That expression of delight is pretty much the point of the whole thing, life, the universe and everything. Crane Tourists.

“Look for an eagle,” I said. The cranes’ mass flight which thrills us so much is usually a response to a predator nearby, most often an eagle hoping for an easy meal. Sure enough, there it was, flying off toward the south, disappointed, hungry.

Bear and I continued on our way, watching the light changing over the San Juans, cloud shadows moving over the greening chamisa. I saw two killdeer — my first. They’re lovely.

Bear and I punched out, another shift as the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge Welcoming Committee behind us.

When I got into Bella and turned on the radio, it played this song. It seemed to describe my life perfectly. I mean, seriously? Who ever knows? I thanked the fates, again, that the wind blew me here, to Heaven. ❤

18 thoughts on “Crane Tourists

  1. The song. The photos. The story. All woven together – makes me feel like I was there too. Really enjoyable adventure Martha! (and I love Cat Stevens too) 🙂

  2. Remarkable and delightful! Witnessing first hand the delight on someone else’s face who’s truly there for the right reason? Sharing the moment with someone else. Glad you are not hurting as much but I’m in the same boat and have many wth moments because I don’t notice the pain until it’s too much pain. Doctors tell me all the time but well…

  3. I’m pretty sure on my 2nd read of this I was walking with you and Bear. Awesome share, Martha! I’d love to see the cranes take flight. You’re inspiring me ~a motorcycle wreck and too many risky moves in my life have made my pain tolerance high. And I’ll keep on keepin’ on like you. This post is just a great vibe among virus 🦠 the great outdoors is the best medicine!! More should do it….

    • You are welcome to walk with Bear and me any time! I’m going to try to concentrate on posts about this kind of adventure. I have the luxury of living in a remote place and while that’s not always great, right now it’s a balm to my spirit, anyway. For me, it’s taken courage to learn when to stop and then to stop. It’s a glitch in my brain that says, “Keep going.” That’s not always a good idea.

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