Fellow adventures, it has been very difficult for Stella and I to be away from the mountains and not be able to enjoy the outdoors as we normally would have over the past several weeks or so. Knowing the mountains had received a wealth of snowfall in the months of March & April, we desperately wanted to take advantage of it by snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as much as possible. We had a trip to Aspen planned two weeks after returning from Jackson Hole and then had another tentative trip planned to Winter Park, both of which were canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
However, now, instead of playing in the snowy mountains, we chose a different path for the weekend since the COVID restrictions became a touch more relaxed. Last Friday, we both shortened our workday and headed off to Aurora Reservoir with the “The Big Mango” to do some kayaking. We are in summer mode now, and are eager to get out on the water with our kayak and stand up paddleboards!
The park staff at the Aurora Reservoir is doing a really great job since the inception of the COVID pandemic. The beaches and picnic areas are completely cordoned off and there are many park staff patrolling the area to ensure everyone’s safety. Because the beaches are inaccessible, we had put the kayak in at the boat launch (typically, we would walk the kayak down the beach to the water). Like many others, we just wanted to be outside, on the water, paddling around as we immersed ourselves in nature. The Aurora Reservoir is a huge habitat for birds, and that day, the bird sounds were in abundance everywhere we went.
We had begun our paddle in our typical clockwise fashion, heading past the fishing pier to the western most point on the reservoir. At the end of that point, nestled in a cove, we located two western painted turtles sunning themselves amongst the fallen cattails. That was very exciting because we had never seen turtles there before. And as we paddled to another small cove, we had discovered yet another turtle sunning itself on a protruding stump within the water. Stella was very excited to discover the turtles – a new finding for us!
Next, we had paddled into what I refer to as the “Cormorant Cove,” because there is a dead tree jutting out from the water, where cormorants sun themselves after spending time in the water. However, something else had caught our attention: a large beaver lodge that I do not recall being there last year. As we paddled around the beaver lodge, we noticed that a Canada goose had built a nest on the beaver lodge, and the goose was nestled safely protecting their pending brood. It was awesome to see that, even though we were unable to locate a beaver, as Stella had hoped.
Continuing on, we paddled along the eastern shore when we suddenly spotted very large, tan-colored bird overhead, which had landed in the tree not far from us. Initially, I thought it was a hawk. However, upon closer inspection, we realized it was a Great Horned Owl, another first for us while kayaking the Aurora Reservoir! Paddling on, we then had spotted a mule deer grazing just off of the water’s edge from us. What a fantastic day for exploration and watching the abundant wildlife!
Typically, we would have paddled the circumference of the reservoir (about eight miles), but with the crazy gusting winds, combined with some clouds building to the west, we had decided to shorten our first paddle of 2020 to about five-and-a-half miles. We finished our paddle where we had started, slowly drifting around before heading back to the boat launch. It was a great way to start the summer. For one day we were able to immerse ourselves back into the outdoors and with that said, nature has a way of putting life into focus.