Monday, June 11, 2012
Field Notes 6.9.12 Zapata Falls
We left home about 4 pm and started up the Zapata Falls Road after a straight run across the Mosca road. The parking area was full but we found a spot at a day site. We ate our trout and tortilla dinner at a secluded picnic table under a pinon pine. There was still plenty of sunlight. What we had come for was the sunset’s evening glow when Diane said we would see black swifts flashing across the orange sky.
We walked up the new campground road. There were grand vistas of the sun as it crossed the Valley floor-- to the ending of its day.
We started up the trail to Zapata Falls, going in the opposite direction of many people coming downhill. Like the sun, their day was ending. Our evening was yet to start. We could see that the fall area’s serene setting was still being enjoyed by many visitors. Moving away from the crowd we headed up the trail to Zapata Lake. We stopped at a little opening in the forest--sitting quietly we heard way more birds than we saw but we did spot a western tanager and a yellow-rumped warbler. We followed one bird by its song and by its flickering shape as it flitted through the forest canopy. We called it the little bird with a big voice. After much peering and peeping and pishing, Diane finally got a good view and I followed with a good look--Diane identified it as a plumbeous vireo. We also saw a turkey vulture, common ravens and a possible Cooper’s hawk flying overhead.
The sun began to touch the tops of the western San Juan Mountains as we made it to the falls and were serenaded by the beautiful cascading voice of a hermit thrush. All the day visitors had left -- no one was there. The place was empty, clean and looked as if the last visitors had been Mr. Pease Blossom and Mr. Mustardseed. We climbed up to the slippery sloping sides of the canyon. I told Diane it was dangerous but she said to “continue on undaunted.” I now call her Diane Danger, femme fatale birdwatcher. We had gone up the stream to see a dipper but at the point where we were looking at wet feet if we continued we turned back-- Diane Danger dancing across the wet weathered rock.
Back on the lower stream on drier and more even ground the sun was setting and just as Diane predicted the fast-flying black swifts swooped overhead. Their wings flashed gold in the fading rays of the late spring sun.
Now the sky was a dark blue and ribbon of orange gave the mountains a final relief against the night. A common nighthawk flew across the darkening north sky.
What a special day for us. After all the people who visited Zapata Falls today—I bet over a hundred-- we were so lucky to have it alone, all to ourselves, for such a beautiful sunset.