Many dogs, two beavers, some hawks, bald eagles, osprey, ravens, magpies, dippers, ducks, geese, herons, warblers, a weasel, chipmunks, squirrels, worms, mayflies, midges, house flies, moths, butterflies, spiders, ants, deer and humans. Plus, I heard something loud. I think it was a moose mewling. I’m sure of it.
That weasel was something. It was right along the Fraser River Trail next to the Fraser River in Old Town Winter Park. I knew it was there because it was making a ruckus jumping through the trees and I caught it with my eye. My little dog Chooch started in when he saw the long-tailed weasel. He wanted a piece of that weasel. But he stayed back.
Long-tailed weasels are about as cute as Chooch but they’ll never let you forget they are meat eaters. Natural-born killers. Don’t back them into a corner. And watch your dog. When animals meet, they size each other up. Chooch didn’t wade in. Smart.
Anything that lives outside year round deserves respect. The long-tailed weasel is a very effective hunter, taking on big stuff like rabbits and maybe even small dogs. Mr. Weasel jumps on top when they least expect and rides the dinner around while biting its neck. Then, although they are not blood-sucking weasels, they do lap up any blood on the scene. Dramatic.
This Grand County is a wonderland of wildlife and vegetation, cosmos and cumulus. All within ten miles of wherever we are. Maybe, like me, you got used to things being a little bit quieter.
Now when I go outside I want to hear birds, barking and breezes. And maybe the occasional long-tailed weasel bustling in my hedgerow. I’m not missing gas-powered leaf-blowers but I just heard one this week. City life drowns out the sounds of nature and must be rejected for now.
Just months before she died in 2017 I interviewed legendary river pioneer “Cavitating Katie” Lee at her home in Jerome, Arizona. She was 93 years old with a headful of memories of drifting through and exploring the desert river canyons. She ran the San Juan before most of us were born.
She spoke of the sound of the river and how it talked to her when she listened. She spent a lot of time in some of the quieter places on earth, like deep in Glen Canyon before Lake Powell. Down there, when the wind stopped and the stars came out in the fall, you could hear everything, the water slipping by in the background, whispering special secrets. A canyon wren might interrupt but that’s OK.
She was appalled when I told her that some boaters play offensive music at high decibels from their portable devices when they could be hearing nature. I thought she was going to fall out of her chair.
Katie is from simpler times when the whisper of the river and the slap of the beaver were enough. By golly she was really good at writing about it, too. She’d say things like, “by golly,” and she was not afraid of the F-bomb. She spent many of her later years protesting the Glen Canyon Dam, which covered over the Colorado River through Glen Canyon in 1963. Glen Canyon was one of the prettiest stretches of river on earth, flat and sweet and meandering for over 100 miles. That’s where Katie talked with the river.
If you’ve ever felt that simple awe of being in the right place at the right time when something special and natural happens you will know what Katie was fussing about. As she would say, “you get it.”
If you’d like to tag along, pick up one of her books like, “All My Rivers are Gone.” Or listen to her album, “Colorado River Songs.”
In her tune, “Lovesong to Glen Canyon,” she sings:
Very few have been there
It’s a magic land you see
Once when I was younger
Someone showed the way to me
Her posse, known as “We Three,” was small. She played guitar and sang and the boys handled everything else. They were in the right place at the right time.
And then it was gone.
Reach Steve Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org. To hear the interview with Katie Lee and hear some of her music visit steveskinner.podbean.com.