Put these ideas on your Christmas ‘to-do’ list

Winter is prime time for wildlife watching, as long as it’s done from a safe distance. Wildlife are close to highways and traffic, which pose problems to all wildlife. This buck was photographed near Gunnison.

Cross-country skiers take a warming break around a bonfire during a full-moon ski tour on Grand Mesa.
Winter offers some special opportunities to spend outdoors.

Everyone has a long “to-do” list during the holidays, but what about on Christmas Day?

What is there for the outdoors lover “to do” on Christmas Day that won’t take the whole day — there are other festivities planned, you know — but will satisfy the desire to get outside?

Here is a short compilation of possible half-day or so activities that won’t tie up a lot of time or money, both of which usually are in short supply during the busy holidays.


Colleague Bill Haggerty wrote in Sunday’s Daily Sentinel about the West Bench Trail, which curves from Jumbo Reservoir just off Colorado Highway 65 and along the top of the mesa rim to above Powderhorn Resort.

It’s an easy-to-intermediate ski and, thanks to the new bridges erected last summer by the U.S. Forest Service, a much safer crossing of Jumbo and Beaver lakes.

Mesa Lakes Lodge offers ski and snowshoe rentals as well as hot drinks and meals.

And the Grand Mesa Nordic Council says it will have some freshly groomed trails at Skyway and County Line ski areas. Donate to or join the council as a Christmas gift to yourself.


Grand Mesa is said to have some of the best snowmobiling terrain in the country and, after several hours watching highly-skilled riders tearing along the tracks and through the deep powder, you can see that the claim isn’t far off.

The Forest Service has a new staging area for sledders, complete with bathrooms and changing rooms, so you don’t have to pull on the Carhartts in the cold.



Here is an easy way to make a lot of people happy. Christmas Day typically can be fairly slow at a ski resort, since most people are: A) busy unwrapping presents and eating; B) watching football and eating.

With new snow expected this week, you might make first tracks and be home in time to unwrap those new skis, which you can use this weekend.



How could you say no to this after seeing the slide show by Daily Sentinel photographer William Woody on GJSentinel.com?

This is a great family trip. You can stay warm inside the car, and you’ll find these particular bald eagles along the Uncompahgre River between Colona and Ridgway.

Other likely bald eagle holding spots include the Colorado River near Rifle and just east of Connected Lakes State Park, the Gunnison River near Delta and near Hotchkiss.



This is the time of year when raptor-watching is at its best in the desert north of Interstate 70. Some birds are late migrators. Others, that spend the summer at higher elevations, are here for the winter.

You’ll see golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, marsh hawks, Swainson’s hawks, kestrels and the occasional ferruginous hawk, plus who knows what else?

Grab some good binoculars and a spotting scope and your copy of David Sibley’s “Guide to Birds.”


Hey, like this is a surprise?

You could go ice fishing, if you desire, since the ice is starting to layer up on most reservoirs. Rifle Gap Reservoir has “ice all over,” said the ranger, who answered the phone Monday. Blue Mesa also has plenty of ice.

If it’s sunny, hanging out on the ice can be downright pleasant, so take some sunscreen and plenty of hot liquid.

If you prefer the feel of running water and don’t care for crowds, try the Gunnison River near the Pleasure Park.

“On a Sunday, we shared the whole river with one duck hunter,” said Phil Trimm, shop manager at Western Anglers Fly Shop in Grand Junction. “It was crystal clear and the fishing was great.”

Trimm and fishing companion Ned Mayer caught the river on a day when the thermometer broke 32 degrees, and warm winter days can be doubly comfortable in the Gunnison canyon. The North Fork of the Gunnison was a “bit high but easily wadeable,” with no anchor ice to make footing slippery, Trimm said.

Take midge patterns, San Juan worms and your favorite nymphs, or call Trimm at 244-8658 for the latest advice.



There’s something special about the high desert in winter.

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of all those heat-loving plants surrounded by snow, or perhaps it’s the gem-blue sky framing a stark winter skyline that makes your High-Def TV seem awfully lacking.

Or maybe it’s simply the lack of electronic stimulation after all these weeks of hearing the Chipmunks sing Christmas carols day and night.

It’s a grand time to see familiar sites in a different setting. This entails more hiking than driving, which may be just what you need after that holiday meal.


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