Rocky Mountain High - Part 4
MWalker at gensym.com
Thu Aug 8 03:30:53 EDT 2002
On Friday, July 26th, I was informed that I would have to stay in Colorado
Springs for a few days longer. This was not on the original family plan,
and I had to think fast as to what I would do. With minutes to spare, I
decided to drive to Denver and try and get my wife and daughter on an
airplane bound for San Diego. To do this, I had to leave my unlicensed son
at the wheel of the rental car in the high profile loading/unloading zone.
Of course, my business at the ticket counter ended up taking ten times
longer than it needed to - and my son was forced to drive the car around the
airport four or five times to avoid being accosted by armed security guards.
This turned out to be great experience for him, as he really hasn't had to
deal with airport traffic before.
At any rate, it was pretty early on Friday when we found ourselves driving
alone through Denver. Somehow we ended up driving up highway 285 and found
ourselves smack dab in Rocky Mountains once again. Go figure.
Well, no sense letting a good opportunity go to waste. Fortunately, we had
a couple of nets handy.
We knew the somewhat mild weather wouldn't last long, so we took the
shortest route to the arctic zone. A dirt road out of Grant, CO led us to
Guanella Pass, elevation 11,669 ft. The drive up to the pass was scenic,
and included two stretches where Parnassian smintheus (Rocky Mountain
Parnassian) could be found crossing the road in numbers. Believe it or not,
this was a new bug for me on this trip. What a delight to find it common.
Though smintheus flies in the High Sierra's back home, the only species I've
ever found there has been P. clodius. By the way - if you haven't had the
pleasure of seeing a Parnassian on the wing, it is truly an experience worth
working for. Probably even more thrilling than seeing one fly for the first
time is having one in your net for the first time. When you hear the almost
plastic-like wings fluttering against your net bag, you KNOW you've got
something different. The ssp. here is hermodur, and the female is
particularly astonishing. Dark smokey grey, translucent, and with several
really large red spots on the hindwing. After netting my first female, I
flopped down in amazement and could find no words. Truly, I could have gone
home that very instant without the need of swinging my net again. Well,
that day, anyway.
But I soon recovered, and headed even higher - in hopes of finding some
Northwest Territory bug that's found itself stuck in between ice ages on a
14,000 ft. peak.
On the top of the pass, the situation was not nearly as exciting as at
Cottonwood Pass. This pass was drier and the meadows looked as though they
were grazed - the grasses short and the wildflowers few. Still, I found one
species to be very common indeed. Erebia callias (Colorado Alpine) was
everywhere, flopping about from one resting spot to another. Colias meadii
(Mead's Sulphur) was also present here, displaying it's by now familiar
rest-and-zip behavior. As we ran about the highlands, the clouds began
forming all around us and we knew our time at this altitude was short lived.
We were graced by more sunshine down below, and spent another hour chasing
Parnassians, Mormon Fritillaries, Juba Skippers (Hesperia juba), Greenish
Blues (Plebejus saepiolus), Arctic Blues (Agriades glandon), and Purplish
Coppers (Lycaena helloides). Scudder's Sulphur was also here, as were
Boloria chariclea (is this what Howe refers to as B. titania helena?). I
also saw a single Polygonia gracilis (Hoary Comma).
To drive back to Colorado Springs, we decided to detour through Park County
along Tarryall Creek (County Rd. 77) . Too bad the weather had gone bad,
because this medium elevation area looked quite interesting. Christian
slept while I pushed on, wondering what the weekend might have in store.
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