My twin passions for travel and stories are no longer about escape. Instead, they have taught me a lot about finding something to appreciate every day, wherever I am. Every place I travel is somebody else’s home, so it stands to reason that my home should have its own wonders. Every story I read or movie I watch carries me into a deeper appreciation of life, so it stands to reason that by more deeply appreciating my daily life I can create my own story. I live in Denver, Colorado, where I don’t have to travel far to enjoy an experience for which others do travel far.
My husband Dale and I often hike on Mondays, and on a recent Monday we decided to give that ritual a little twist. Instead of getting up early to beat the midday heat and afternoon storms, we headed out late to catch sunset in a pretty place. We chose someplace very convenient, just 40 minutes from town, and in the opposite direction of the mountains—which is where we usually go. I’ve been to Barr Lake Wildlife Refuge twice now, and both times I felt fresh surprise to find such a tranquil watery haven for wildlife east of the city, on the flatlands of the Great Plains. Yet there it is.
We didn’t even leave the house until 6:00 p.m., because sunset is after 8:00 p.m. in the height of summer. The lake was nearly empty of people as we strolled along the one-and-a-half mile nature trail that skirts the western shore. I thought it would be a great time of day to see deer, and I was right. We spotted one quite close to the trail.
Barr Lake is a treasure trove for birdwatchers, and in the last light of day many birds appeared to be making their final food-runs of the day. We saw pelicans diving for fish, colorful songbirds fluttering home to their nests, and the typical, but no less graceful, contingent of Canadian geese. A pair of binoculars came in handy for closer peaks.
Our destination was a boardwalk that led to a gazebo atop the lake. The gazebo’s telescope provided a great look at a bald eagle’s nest in a tall tree along the shore. We spotted a juvenile eagle taking a test flight with one parent while the other waited in the nest. With that, the sun began to set over Long’s Peak and the Front Range, turning the water into a mirror of gentle fires. Our timing was perfect. I was reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, Next Stop Wonderland:
Alan: I think it’s important sometimes just to sit in a quiet place and stare out at the sea and just—
Erin: —contemplate something beautiful.
When the sun vanished, we walked back, holding hands in the twilight, listening to mourning doves sighing over the end of a perfect day. Our only mistakes were not bringing exact change for parking, which cost $7, and forgetting mosquito repellant. Oh well, a story is not a story without a problem or two, and for the next few days Dale’s bug bites reminded him of our romantic evening.
I suggested to my husband that birdwatching at Barr Lake would probably be even better at sunrise. He assured me he won’t be waking up at 4:00 a.m. to test my theory. But if you ever check it out, please let me know.