Wild bighorn sheep and wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains


August 06, 2021

Bighorn sheep ewe and lamb

Driving to Colorado from Austin entails two days of sitting in the car and letting the wide-open, arid landscape of West Texas and northern New Mexico fly by. Some people find it boring, but I don’t. I enjoy the vast landscape while keeping an eye out for pronghorn antelope on the high plains. I always see a few, usually from a distance but sometimes along roadside fences. When we reach Colorado’s rocky peaks we keep watch for elk. But on this visit we were thrilled to see bighorn sheep!

Bighorn sheep

We were driving west on Highway 82 toward Independence Pass when we saw cars stopped in front of us. A herd of bighorn sheep was crossing the road and climbing the hillside. Luckily I wasn’t driving, and from the window of our stopped car I took photos.

Being inexperienced with Colorado wildlife, at first I thought they were mountain goats because of their short horns. But they are actually female bighorn sheep, whose horns are shorter than the males’, which curl around their ears.

Ewes and lambs kept close together as they bounded up the rocky slope, then stared back at us for a moment before browsing.

The ewes were shedding their winter coats and looking pretty bedraggled.

The lambs looked tidier and exceedingly cute.

Once the sheep were across we left them to their browsing and started the long, slow climb to the Continental Divide, just ahead and above the tree line at 12,000 feet elevation.

Castle Creek Road wildflowers

Another day, while driving around Aspen, we happened upon Castle Creek Road, a quiet 8-mile drive up toward Ashcroft Ghost Town. Aspens lined the roadside like a white picket fence.

Near the end of the road, a meadow of blazing wildflowers opened up along the highway. We pulled over for a closer look.

Summer wildflowers — what a concept to this Texan accustomed to springtime wildflower extravaganzas.

Wild geraniums and scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata)

Beautiful, aren’t they?

It was our first taste of peak wildflower season in Colorado. We would see more at Maroon Bells later that week.

Wildflowers and mountain peaks

I think this is Gunnison’s sego lily (Calochortus gunnisonii var. gunnisonii).

Another view

I don’t know these, but they’re lovely. Update: It’s mountain goldenrod (Solidago multiradiata).

Good old asters

What a stunning scene in mid-July, surely the peak of wildflower season at Colorado’s high elevations.

Up next: Roping and riding at the Snowmass Rodeo. For a look back at my tour of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

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All material © 2021 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.



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