A week or two ago I was recuperating after my “day/night/whenever job” (volunteer firefighter) assisting with decontamination on a clan-lab bust. Being up ’til three a.m. I was fit for nothing the next day, so found a place to hike (and nap) up Clear Creek Canyon. I bumping into a herd of bighorn sheep, and later a lone female.
These brief but enjoyable encounters got me interested in looking harder, when I was more awake. I went back the next weekend, via the Central City Parkway (where I observed two Raven engaged with a whole egg, gosh knows where that came from this time of year, or how they transported it safely). At tunnel #3 I found a couple of young sheep up on the cliff. Unfortunately the hillside was busy with mountain bikers, and the cliffs with climbers, so the main herds of sheep had likely “head for the hills”. Note to self: Sheep hunt during the week, not the weekends.
I found a less popular spot to hike, and set of up the hill. I hiked long and hard for three hours, traveling a decent way up the mountain, to find sign but little else. A couple of mulies wandered by, but no sheep. Hot and tired (crazy weather for November) I finally came back to the car, and strange but true … there was a ram wandering right past my car.
Not yet satisfied I came back up (the two sheep were still there) then looped back and came to Lookout Mountain. Beautiful views of the two mesas east of Golden. (Again, lots of people out enjoying the weekend, so the wildlife would be making themselves scarce.) Nearing the bottom of the long winding road down to Golden, I found a pull-out that overlooked highway 6. I glassed the hillside above Clear Creek Canyon Park. It was close to dusk, and the deer were coming out. I could browse a lot more hillside than I’d managed in three hours of hiking and I had a good view.
First, I noticed two sheep down a draw. Then I spotted what seemed like their herd, another 10 or so. Some sitting (perhaps ruminating), some grazing. It was wonderful to watch them from afar, since they were clearly acting very naturally, oblivious to a remote observer. Lookout Mountain has become my new favorite spot for sheep when I’m feeling like an “easy hike” (i.e. get out of car, sit, look, get back in.)
This would have been fun enough, but what I learned yesterday really surprised me. Two encounters of a Bighorn sheep ram were made in Coal Creek Canyon itself. Coal Creek Canyon not Clear Creek Canyon!!! Wow. A local wildlife observer had predicted it (when I told her of my sightings in Clear Creek) but I didn’t expect it with all the densely forested hills around. I am amazed to wonder how he (or they) got here. Yes we have Elk, yes Moose (occasionally), but Sheep? WOW.
It might be cold (not as cold as yesterday) and I might be sick, but I suspect I’ll be sheep spotting later today.