I grew up in Texas, where spring was spring — classic spring: redbud trees and azaleas blooming, daffodils coming up in neighborhood flower beds, patches of bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes along the roadsides.
Here’s my springtime experience here in the mountains of central Colorado.
Ha! Yep, I was ice fishing earlier in March and the ice was almost two feet thick at Antero Reservoir.
It just takes spring a long time to trudge up to elevation. It’s a game of king-of-the-hill, and winter is not easily pushed off the mountain. The re-greening of the earth comes to us in mid-May and even more so in June. Spring is not too green here.
There are signs of spring, though: the arrival of migrating mountain bluebirds this week.
Come to think of it, most of our signs of spring are in the animal kingdom. In the last week, I’ve seen the reappearance of robins, mourning doves, Clark’s nutcrackers, chipmunks, and golden mantle squirrels.
Previous springs inform me that the next sign of spring here will probably be the re-emergence of the prairie dogs from their winter stupor. One of these mornings soon, they will be standing up straight and watchful by the side of the road, enjoying the morning sun as I drive my kid to school. Prairie dogs are pretty smart about cars, and seem instinctively trained to “stop, look, and listen” before crossing the road — few are hit relative to their numbers and inclination to colonize next to roads. I hope this year’s batch is as savvy.
The most exciting event of spring, to me, has to do with another seasonal change in the animal kingdom: bugs maturing in the Arkansas River. Yes, the mayflies and caddis flies — little insects that hatch and develop underwater — will come to maturity over the next couple of months. They will experience insect metamorphosis, just like caterpillars turning into butterflies. These critters will turn into adult mayflies and caddis flies.
Why would anyone care about that? Because the trout in the river care about that. When river conditions are just so, the bugs will swim up to the surface of the river, sprout their wings, dry off a bit, and fly away. The trout are on to them. They will eat a bunch of them, in effect breaking their winter semi-fast and nutritionally preparing them for the rigors of living the river trout lifestyle the rest of the year.
And I’ll be out there with them, wading in the river, waving a flyrod with my best imitations of mayflies and caddis flies attached to long slender leaders. Can’t wait.
Until then, if I can’t enjoy springtime bluebonnets, at least I can enjoy the springtime bluebirds.
p.s. There will be a “sign of spring” within the QuickBooks world in May: the discontinuance of support for QuickBooks 2009. But for now, let’s think about bluebonnets and bluebirds, shall we?