July 22, 2013 @ 2:00 PM

Road Trip to Colorado! 

Getting back into the daily grind of work and having the chance to reflect on our vacation trip to Colorado, I’m not sure I would advocate driving the 18+ hours each way rather than hopping on a plane.  Although, having never trekked further than Saint Louis by land, it was interesting and worthwhile to see America’s geography in all its uniqueness.

The path west was mostly uneventful in itself…just painstakingly long.  A brief downpour in Saint Louis, a group of kids dangerously stopping interstate traffic with “bike stunting” in Kansas City, and blazing through 104 degree heat in a town called Hays, which we aptly renamed Hades!  To our surprise, the plains of Kansas were not as desolate as we imagined it to be.  We viewed gently rolling hills covered with the brilliant green hues of spring grasses.  Yes, houses were sparse along the path we were driving, but little of the countryside had the look of Dorothy’s farm in the Wizard Of Oz. 

Reaching the border of Colorado, we expected to see the rising majesty of the mountains, however, a good part of the state shares the flat topography of Kansas.  Finally, as we neared Denver, the mountains appeared in the distance.  Knowing that we were close to our destination lifted our spirits. 

We were in fact ahead of schedule.  In anticipation of this we had a stop planned at the Wild Animal Sanctuary which is about an hour north of Denver.  The Sanctuary is a place where rescued animals come to live and be protected for the rest of their lives. It’s a safe haven, where they receive the very best care possible.
They boast the monumental “Mile Into The Wild” Walkway that stretches over 4,800 feet in length and gives visitors unprecedented access to over 290 Lions, Tigers, Bears (oh my), Wolves and other Large Carnivores roaming freely in natural habitats.

It was awesome to see these beautiful animals living happily and comfortably in the sprawling complex.  We enjoyed the Sanctuary despite the extreme heat and my husband’s fear of the height of the walkway!

Next, we were back on the winding road to Estes Park, breathtaking mountains surrounding us as we neared our endpoint.  We arrived at our Chalet late afternoon and were able to unpack, relax and sit back to enjoy the rambling river a few feet from our porch.  Actually, it wasn’t rambling…it was roaring!  With the extreme heat in that area of the county, the snowcaps were melting rapidly and consequently, streams and rivers were raging! 

The next few days were leisurely…up early, camera in tow, to head to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Wildlife is abundant in the park, you never have to look hard or far for a good photo. The quaint town of Estes is also home to wildlife.  Elk meander down the sidewalks, lounge on the golf course, Prairie Dogs pop in and out of their tunnels alongside the busy roadways, and we even spotted a family of Great Horned Owls nesting on the cliff a few yards from Town Hall!  I had my first look at the stunning Magpies native to the area.  The locals think them bothersome…they are scavengers after all…visiting garbage cans, pilfering from picnic areas and just being a nuisance to humans.  To me, they were amazing beautiful birds, but darned if they would stay still long enough for a good photograph!  Other birds seen were; Blue Jays, Mountain Bluebirds (13,000 ft up the mountain) and a Dark-eyed Junco/Gray Headed.  Four legged animals we saw besides Elk were Moose, Marmots, Picas and Deer. 

After four nights in Estes, we had to pack for home. It’s always bitter-sweet to end a vacation but I did miss my flock and was eager to return to them.  We had one stop to make as we headed east…The Gabriel Foundation.  I had attended a seminar with guest speaker, Julie Murad, founder and president of the foundation and I was impressed with her dedication to parrots and their comfort and well-being.  The Gabriel Foundation is an education, rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and sanctuary for companion parrots located south of Denver.  I was resolute to visit thefacility if ever I were in the vicinity. So with great anticipation we pulled into the drive and the first view is of acres of land and a large building surrounded by huge flight cages.  A TGF employee greeted us and then gave us a through tour of the facility from the indoor rooms lined with cages, to the kitchen food prep area, and the various flight cages filled with Macaws, Cockatoos, Amazon and a host of other species.  She introduced us, by name, to many of the “parrot” residents, telling stories of how they came into the care of TGF.  There were some very sad tales nonetheless most with happier endings. 

On this particular day of our visit, the devastating Colorado Black Forest fire was in its critical stage, for those in the immediate fire perimeters as well as for The Gabriel Foundation.  The complex is in Elizabeth, Colorado, not far from Black Forest.  The employees and volunteers were on high alert in case the wind would change direction placing the facility in the direct path of the intense forest fire (at the time, the fire containment was only at 20%).  If winds were not favorable, their evacuation plan would have to be implemented and over 800 birds would need to be placed in traveling cages and sent to temporary housing out of harm’s way.  It would be a feat that seemed implausible to me…imagining the stress that would be placed on the birds as well as their caretakers!  However, as we completed our tour, weather reports indicated that thunderstorms were likely in the Black Forest area which would certainly help suppression of the fire.  For that moment, operations at TGF remained normal.

A day and a half later, we were back home with our flock.  Having seen the hundreds of rescued, recovered and rehabilitated parrots at the foundation, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to provide a loving, safe environment for the handful of re-homed birds in my care. 

Please take a look at some photos from Colorado and The Gabriel Foundation – Click Photos/Albums on my facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/MyFeatheredFamilyBirdCartoons