Steamboat Springs Stories and Tips

Deers and Butterflies

Butterflies Photo, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

South Fork Trail was said to be beautiful. We turned onto Seedhead Road. I was wary now, at 7am in the morning, of other deer bounding up in front of me. On Route 129, I nearly had a doe as a hood ornament and she passed inches within of our car. Luckily, we missed her, but we were jumpy now. We turned onto Seedhead Road and Dave was watching. I rounded a curve on the Elk River and there was a long, wide swathe of sagebrush on the right. Dave yelled and said, "Two deer on the right!" I instantly braked. What we didn’t see was a third one that was down below us and he popped up right in front of the car. I couldn’t believe it! All three deer ran quickly across the road for higher ground. I just shook my head. Two close calls--but this second one, because we were on guard, didn’t even begin to compare to the first meeting.

I was so glad to get to South Fork and put on my hiking gear that it wasn’t even funny. There was a large meadow, flower strewn, ahead of us, and white-barked, spindly aspen in the distance. The day smelled young, fresh, and earthy. I hoped we would meet a deer--a third chance encounter--and this time, I’d have my camera ready. It was early in the day, and the deer were finishing up their eating and going home to sleep throughout the day.

The moment we started through the wide, lush meadow I found prairie smoke (Geum trifolium), her cute little pink heads popping up out of the grass, then deers ears. How appropriate. They are a white flower with green speckles on a towering spike that can reach nearly 10 feet tall when they are mature. Things got even better when we climbed the wide, smooth beginner’s trail into the Aspen groves. On top, we found a lovely purple-and-white Colorado columbine, the state flower. Farther, we found a small pond. And in that pond was spatterdock, or what is known as yellow pond lily. That was a find! We got eaten up by mosquitoes to get these photos!

The trail, this time, was wide and fairly smooth, nothing like Fish Creek Trail. We went 1,500 feet gradient over 3.32 miles. We hiked halfway around a mountain that was 9,800 feet tall at its base. Up on top, we found a beautiful, small lake with a beaver house at one end of it. The view from up there was spectacular! We at lunch and gave gifts of Fritos, cookies, and some of our sandwich to the spirit of the area. There are plenty of little chipmunks around who will find the fare sooner rather than later.

Coming back down, we detoured down a hill to the Elk River. There, in a small, muddy area where a tiny trickle of water winded through, were all kinds of butterflies! There where white-and-black swallowtails, yellow and black ones, painted ladies, and a dazzling blue butterfly. I spend many minutes and probably 50 photos to catch them or hope for a couple of good shots out of all of them.

All the way back, we had butterflies, deer and butterflies. Deer symbolize emotions and intuition, learning to be graceful and in sync with the world. Butterflies were always a sign of transformation. Yes, we almost had transformation out on that highway at 7 this morning! I saw by the astrology of the day that the moon was square with Mars at 7:30am, so that’s a ripe aspect for accidents. We damn near had one. Fortunately, we got lifted out of time, things slowed down, and the doe was allowed to live another day. It wasn’t her time to go, nor was it ours. I love how our guides for all of us interceded to make that sure accident did not happen. It was a magical day.

We hiked 6.75 miles today, and our knees and feet weren’t pounded into hamburger, as they were on the Fish Creek Trail. But then, South Fork is a beginner’s trail, and Fish Creek is rated the highest as "difficult." We arrived back into town to eat at the Egg and I for lunch. I had a tuna melt drizzled with sharp cheddar cheese and wolfed it down. Then I went shopping for some last-minute gifts for friends and family. That’s always fun. Of course, I bought something for myself, too.

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip