Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Friday, August 07, 2020

Gone Fishin’

Posted by: Rick

I recently volunteered, through Trout Unlimited, to help with some research being done by a CSU Masters Student and funded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The task was to electrofish for brook trout in two streams close to the cabin--Sheep Creek and George Creek, collect data on their size, and then take a small clipping from a fin to use for genetic analysis. There were four of us on this expedition including Dr. Kurt Fausch a retired professor at CSU from whom I learned a lot about fishes, fisheries, native versus non-native species, reclamation, and more. He is the author of a book For the Love of Rivers, which you can learn more about at the website: fortheloveofrivers.com. He is passionate about what streams and rivers bring to the human experience beyond the obvious--water. The others were masters student, Audrey as well as an undergraduate, Matt.

Brook trout are not native to Colorado, yet they are the most populous species in our streams. They were likely imported from the east in the late 19th century. Because of their spawning cycle (fall, not spring) and aggressive feeding, they have replaced native species such as a variety of cutthroat trout in most Colorado waters. There are a variety of research and reclamation projects going on to bring the cutthroat back. Around here, the native species is the greenback cutthroat.

I can't say I fully understand Audrey's research. But, I know she is heavily involved in a project to reintroduce native cutthroat trout into some headwaters in the Long Draw area. In order to understand how the introduced trout will move throughout the area, breed and migrate, she is doing genetic diversity studies on the existing brook trout. To have something to compare with, she needs genetic information from brook trout in other areas and George Creek and Sheep Creek were two of the chosen sites.

We drove into George Creek by taking S County Road 169 where after a few miles, we took a 4WD road to ACME Creek road. It was a pretty rough road and I was proud of our Ford Expedition's performance in 4WD over the rocks and washout. We even drove through the burned out area from a wildfire a few weeks ago. We did not take the obvious ACME Creek Road because of a need to do a river crossing at Sheep Creek which has a lot of water right now. We eventually arrived at George Creek and prepared for the electrofishing.

The sign here is an old sign from a previous attempt to introduce greenback cutthroat. The road continues on to Cornelius Creek.

Over the past several years, brook trout have been removed from George Creek in preparation for stocking with the native and threatened greenback cutthroat. This attempt has been unsuccessful based on our electrofishing experience. We managed to catch well over 100 brook trout along a few hundred meter span of the river. Don't get too excited if you are a fisherperson. None of them were "keepers". In fact, the majority were less than a year old (about 50 mm in lengh), the rest were one year old and perhaps a few that were 2 years old or older. The fish hatch in spring and then grow in the summer, and they will grow at a roughly uniform rate. As a cold-blooded animal, they halt growth in the winter. So, we could tell age from the length of the fish. The biggest one was perhaps 6" long, probably 3 years old. In fact, I learned that there are bones in a fish that get a new layer each day, so sectioning those bones and counting the "rings" can tell the age in days! We did not do that. Instead, Matt carefully measured the length of each fish while I recorded the length on paper. He also took a genetic sample from any fish one year old or older and Audrey carefully collected and tagged each sample in a separate envelope.

Matt and Audrey processing the fish we caught.

One of the bigger trout from George Creek.

Electrofishing sounds a bit scary. (And, it was when there was some lightning later in the day.) But, it is largely harmless to the fish. You wear a backpack that has a battery in it along with controls to set up the electic shock parameters (wave shape, frequency and voltage). There is an anode probe and a cathode "tail" that come from the backpack. You walk along the stream with the tail dragging in the water, and press a trigger on the anode probe to create an electrical path through the water. This shocks any nearby fish for a few seconds. The goal is to catch the stunned fish in a net and move it to a bucket of water quickly. The fish recover within a few seconds. After catching a bucket of fish, we'd stop for a while to process them.

George Creek is quite small so it was mostly a 2-person project with someone to carry the bucket (me).

We wore waders, which insulated us from the shock. But, I'm told it can be quite an experience to accidently touch or fall into the water while using the electrofishing machine. So, we had a protocol to yell out "OFF" if I fell while trailing behind with the bucket. 

I had a net too. And, I snagged a few of the fish. But, the more experienced people did the bulk of the "catching" work.

After we were done at George Creek we had lunch and then moved on to Sheep Creek. And, we decided to take the ACME Creek road back to County Road 80C and brave the water crossing. The road was actually in pretty good shape since they likely graded it and cut trees on the way to help with gaining access during the fire. The water in Sheep Creek was pretty fast and pretty deep since they are letting a lot of water out of Eaton Reservoir (for the city of Greeley). But, the Expedition plowed right through without any problems. 

At Sheep Creek, we used two electrofishing machines, Kurt took one and Matt the other. They each had nets and Audrey was netting also. I, again, was the bucket boy. I did not want to wade in the fast water and risk dumping the bucket of caught fish. That would not have been good at all. So, I walked along the bank. When they'd net a fish they would hand the net to me and I'd hand them an empty net. I'd then carefully dump the fish into my bucket and we'd move on. It was hard work, at least for those in the water. It rained some, along with lightning. Not a good idea to be standing in water electrofishing with lightning around, so we'd take advantage of those times to process the fish we'd caught so far.

Kurt, Matt and Audrey working a nice deep hole.

Kurt and Audrey in some fast water.

Matt was quite persistent in making sure we got every fish, even if it meant getting into a tangle of downed trees.

Audrey's goal was 40 brook trout from Sheep Creek. We got 41, along with a couple of nice brown trout (8" long or so), a sucker of some kind, and a fourth species that I don't recall. There is a lot of fish diversity in Sheep Creek. I've even caught a rainbow trout a few times.

In all, a long and tiring day, but very interesting and rewarding. I'm glad to say that as far as I know, we only lost one fish out of the roughly 200 caught. And, the results of the survey and genetic testing will help in the eventual restoration of native species to Colorado waters.

One final note. We observed COVID-19 safety protocols throughout the day by wearing masks. Yes, we were outdoors, but also in close proximity to each other. So, my only regret of the day is that I don't really know what any of those folks look like!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Total Eclipse of the Sun

Posted by: Lynne

sing along with me!

<snip>Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun <snip>

"You're so Vain", Carly Simon

Well, today we attended one of the greatest free shows on Earth, thanks to the dear old Moon and the Sun being in the same place at the same time, and we didn't have to fly our Learjet anywhere! All we had to do was get up and leave the house at 6:00 a.m., drive 2.5 hours north in light traffic, take out our chairs and wait for the show to begin.

We could not have found a more tranquil and peaceful spot to set up on except for maybe our back yard. But, in our back yard we could never have viewed the totality of the eclipse and stared directly into the sun. How many people can say that they've stared right at the sun?

Plenty of cars drove in afer we arrived, but they just drove straight past us. There was a higher ridge further on that we could see where a lot of cars were parked, and I assume they were heading there. In the above photo you can see the road snaking back the way we came from, about 20 miles in on Little Medicine Road off Highway 487.

I whiled away quite a bit of time searching for cool rocks and came home with a bag full.

 

When it started it just looked like a tiny bite had been taken out of the sun. It was really cool to watch the progression. I was surprised to find that when there was only a sliver left of the sun it was still very light even though the light was very eerie and like nothing I've seen before. I felt like I was going slowly blind although I can't describe it to you. And, here I am talking about how it looked around us and not through our glasses. Not like normal setting sun kind of light at all. More like a 360-degree sunset.

When totality finally arrived and we could take off our special glasses and look at the sun directly (when I took the first photo above), it looked like the moon had a very special quivering aura. The photo I took makes it look more flaring than it actually was, but that's just the lens. Words cannot describe the eerieness of the silence (except for those people on the far ridge cheering and whooping). It was not completey dark as we had expected it to be, but more like deep twilight. 

We had about 2 mintues of totatily where we were. For those few minutes it seemed like the Earth stood still and everything held its breath. Before we knew it the sun started to peek back out from behind the moon and it was time to put the glasses on again. It was very cool to imagine all those other people across our nation seeing the same thing at the same time. A true bonding experience!

The line of cars coming back was almost comical, but the traffic flowed smoothly and went along mostly at 70mph, with a few slow moments like below on approach to Medicine Bow. But the police in town were on top of it and directed the flow of traffic back onto Highway 287 seemlessly. Good job Medicine Bow!

We weren't going to go but I am so thrilled that we did. It was indeed TOTALLY magical.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dinosaur Fossil Cabin

Posted by: Lynne

Did you know that just a little bit north of Laramie lies one of the greatest and most well-known, important fossil beds for dinosaur bones in the world? It's Como Bluff. I've long wanted to see the Fossil Cabin which lies along the old Lincoln Highway route and was once quite the tourist attraction. We passed it on our way to Casper for the dog shows late last month, and finally stopped by this historic road stop on the way home.

The cabin is reportedly made from 5,796 dinosaur bones! I didn't take time to count them, however.

It was a sad little place as it is now, deserted and forlorn, falling into disrepair. Haunting, really. It must have been a bustling tourist attraction in its day back in the heyday of the highway, complete with a gas station. You could fill up your car with gas and fill up on history all at the same time.

You can read more about it here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

FedEx (and a Senior Moment) Ruined the Day

Posted by: Rick

Today was to be a fun, dog-free day. We decided to leave the dogs at home (after some early morning exercise) and drive to the Ames Monument and surrounding area. It was to be a sunny, warm, stress-free day. 

The Ames Monument is a pyramid like structure built at the highest point of the transcontinental railroad shortly after its completion. It has a rich history linked to the railroad, as does most of this country around Laramie, WY. I'll not get into details in this post, and give a more complete explanation and history in the future (once we actually get there).

After 4-1/2 hours and about 185 miles, we got back home tired and cranky.

The day went something like this:

We left the cabin at about 10:15 in the morning after walking the dogs for a long while, giving them exercise and a good mid-morning bathroom break. We planned to leave them in the cabin for 4 or 5 hours, so this seemed a good precaution. Especially for Hailey who has developed a problem with her bladder and can't hold pee too terribly long.

We had two objectives: see the Ames Monument and eat lunch at the Bunkhouse Bar on Happy Jack Road just west of Cheyenne. Happy Jack Road is an alternate to I80 when traveling between Laramie and Cheyenne. It is more scenic and less stressful than fighting with the truck traffic on the interstate. Ames Monument is off I80 however, and there is no easy way to get from one road to the other except in Cheyenne or at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Monument at the top of the Laramie Range a few miles outside of Laramie.

So, given the time, we decided to eat first--driving Happy Jack Road to the restaurant--then, pop over to I80 and stop at the Ames Monument on the way back.

We found the restaurant around 11:30 and ordered a couple of sandwiches and had a good, but not spectacular lunch. While there I got a notification from Amazon that a package we'd ordered (something to make Hailey more comfortable and less likely to pee on the rug) could not be delivered. I immediately knew we were dealing with FedEx again.

I was pretty angry because I'd paid extra shipping to get the package on Saturday, and I was worried about Hailey.

If you've followed this blog for very long, you know the issues we've had with deliveries from FedEx. (Just search for FedEx and you'll see links to several posts on the subject.) They don't show our address in their master database and for some reason--rather than simply calling us--they will try to guess at our address, usually by changing the zip code. Packages then make their way bouncing around Colorado for a while before someone calls to figure it out. We've actually had some luck with a couple of recent packages. My former company sent me a theme calendar by FedEx last week and when the delivery driver could not find my address he simply called me and I told him to deliver the package to the FedEx office in Laramie where I'd pick it up. But, we've had some pretty amazing disasters too. Like the time we ordered two entry rugs on separate orders. One came just fine (I don't recall who was the carrier for that one), however the other one, once we finally tracked it down, had been delivered by FedEx to someone in Georgia! (We got our money back.)

I'll make a long story short and just say that after almost 45 minutes on the phone with Amazon and two different people at FedEx, I lost the cell signal and gave up. I was frustrated and took my anger out on all of them. Lynne say's I was "over the top". This sort of ruined the happy mood of the day.

Finally, after spending all that time standing in the parking lot of the restaurant, we got back on the road. We drove east toward Cheyenne about 10 miles or so, then cut over to I80 and headed back west toward Laramie. Destination: Ames Monument. But, after 15 minutes or so I turned to Lynne and said "are both my jackets in the back"? No. Only my parka.

Damn, I'd left my nice denim vest at the restaurant. As Lynne pointed out, I had on my green vest, but I had worn the heavier denim vest over this lightweight vest. Layering, you know?

So, we turned around at the next opportunity and drove back to the restaurant, which took us a good 20 minutes or more. But, the vest was not there. It was not over the back of the chair where I was sure I had put it. And, no one had seen it or turned it in. I left a card for them in case they found it.

By this time, I was upset still over the FedEx "discussions", we were both frustrated and tired, so we took Happy Jack Road back to Laramie and then on to home.

We'll just try to do Ames Monument some other time soon. And, not take a long detour to eat lunch.

By the way, the green denim vest was hanging on the coat hook here at the cabin.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Receding Snowline

Posted by: Lynne

Unlike a receding hairline, a receding snowline is exactly what you want to see happening. Finally, the bench makes an appearance for the first time since January, with it's top line sticking out like a row of uneven teeth.

And here is what the bench looked like in the Fall.

Except for the top of our driveway, we can now drive on the roads all the way to town without any over-land detours. Up until yesterday we were still having to circumvent the drift caused by our neighbor's fence, but not anymore. Today Rick will borrow the tractor and dig out the upper driveway so we don't have to walk to the truck. No major snow is headed our way so we should be good for a while.

We do still have piles of snow. Melting piles, but piles never the less. (Notice the spring flag flying on the barn. We think it's working.)

We still have not picked up our new RV. We are hoping to pick it up next week if the weather cooperates. We want a wind-free day, dry roads and the best of possible conditions so we have a good first experience with it towing it home to its storage space in Laramie. Keep your fingers crossed because the wind so far this month is pretty constant and tends to be gusty.

We did manage a fun outing to Fort Collins (CO) to meet up with Destin's littermates and two breeders. We ate outside at a restaurant, sitting in the sun and having lunch and a few libations. Destin was amazingly good for his first time at this kind of thing and wooed the waitress out of a juicy slice of bacon and a bowl of water. He took this selfie of himself.

He got his first Big Boy Groom before heading out to meet with his breeders. We think he's looking mighty handsome!

And here are a couple of pics from the meet-up: in this one with co-breeder Sharon Keefer. Left to right: Virginia, Destin's sister, Pablo, his brother and Destin.

Another fun shot with two extra dogs that are not littermates but belong to Sandy Dunaway, his co-breeder. From Left to Right: Maven, Destin, Pablo, Virginia and Ilsa. I would say Sandy has her hands full, wouldn't you?

We had such a good time being in the Fort again that I think we'll be doing it again soon. Hopefully this next time we'll be able to meet up with some good friends.

Sorry for this long mostly dog-related post, but I wanted to get it down on the blog. I've posted most of these photos to Facebook, but as we all know is a fleeting thing for archiving memories.

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