Grassland Adventure

My sisters were here a few days ago, and it was an especially great visit. Besides getting to see them, I also got to go to the national grasslands, an area I’ve been wanting to explore ever since I moved here. I have driven through the grasslands and saw . . . ta da! Yep, you guessed it — grass! Miles and miles of grasses.

In the back country of those grasslands are all sorts of interesting things such as canyons, petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks, and tarantulas. There are hiking trails back there, too, but they are not the easiest, nor are they the easiest to get to — miles of dirt and gravel roads, and I have no interest in shaking my car apart just to satisfy my curiosity. (Do you remember those cartoons where some character is driving a jalopy, the car hits a bump, and the thing falls to pieces? That’s what I always envision when I have to drive a bit on unpaved roads.)

We headed out late in the afternoon, so by the time we got to the grasslands, we were only able to explore and hike for a short time before the sun starting setting. Still, even without seeing petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks, we were able to get a sense of the area.

Huge slabs of sedimentary rock looked like a river in the fading light. It was easy to believe that these slabs once formed the muddy floor of a prehistoric lake.

The sun shining on the canyon wall peeping over the rim made it look as if the canyon were on fire.

Vast swaths of grass gleamed with autumn colors.

It was hard to imagine how the folks traveling the Santa Fe Trail we able to traverse such areas in their primitive vehicles. (Though I’m sure at the time, those wagons were considered modern conveyances.)

But best of all, to my delight (and to my sister’s screeching horror) I finally got to see a tarantula! Ever since I heard of the tarantula migration in this area, I’ve been on the lookout for tarantulas. I even set out at dusk a couple of times to see if I could find any tarantulas on the move, but they’ve proven to be illusive creatures.

There’s still so much to explore out in the grasslands, but I won’t be able to return until I can find someone with a proper vehicle and a sense of adventure to go with me. Although I used to hike alone in remote areas, that was when I was younger. Admittedly, I was only four or five years younger, but back then, I didn’t feel as if I had anything to lose. And too, my knees were in great condition. But that’s not something I want to dwell on. The truth is, I am very grateful to have been able to see (and experience) what I got to see. Such an adventure!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Gardening Game

I’d just decided that gardening is simply a game I am playing so there’s no need for me to fuss about anything that grows or doesn’t grow, when I went out to work on the yard and was greeted with several unpleasantnesses: more stinkhorn mushrooms and eggs, a mess of cat diarrhea, a scourge of spurge, and tarantula wasps. I suppose I should consider these things part of the game, because a game is not a game if there are no challenges to overcome. On the other hand, a game is something you do for amusement, and my “challenges” today were far from amusing.

The tarantula wasp, a two-inch monstrosity, isn’t really unpleasant . . . unless you’re a tarantula, that is. The wasp seems to have little interest in humans — at least not this human — so they don’t pose a threat. Seeing the wasp, though, reminded me that despite a return to temperatures in the nineties, fall really is coming. And it reminds me to see if I can find any tarantulas as they begin their wandering to find a mate. Although this area is known for the so-called tarantula migration, the past couple of years these arachnids have been scarce. Perhaps this year things will be different. Other things sure were different (plants that grew enormously, for example, and weeds that moved into new territories), so why not the tarantulas?

If gardening is a game (though it seems to be more of a creative endeavor than a true game), then any wins come from the good things one finds in the garden, and today there were some beauties. A monarch butterfly that flitted about so much I couldn’t get a picture, a yellow coreopsis, a cucumber, sunflowers, and amaranth.

I wasn’t sure if I liked this foxtail amaranth, but it is growing well as well as growing on me (euphemistically speaking), so I might get some more seeds for next year. (They were in a packet of wildflower seeds, most of which didn’t grow perhaps because the seeds were old, so that makes me even more impressed with the amaranth.)

There really isn’t a score to keep in this gardening game, but if there were, taking into consideration the unpleasantness situations as well as the pleasantness ones, I’d have to call today a draw.


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On A Streak!

WordPress notified me that I’m on a three-day blogging streak. Is three days a streak? It seems more like a dash or a hyphen, but today’s blog makes four days, so that comes closer to a streak.

I’m also on a streak of spending time with people, joining them for community meals (which is playing havoc with my so far unstated challenge of eating more nutritious foods), but I suppose from a health standpoint, it could be argued that an unhealthy diet with people is as bad as eating good food alone — at least that’s what recent studies seem to indicate.

I’ve taken this opportunity of being among people to poll them about the tarantula migration. The local newspaper, as well as the newspapers in the big cities on the front range of the Rockies (Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo) have all printed near hysterical articles on the vast number of tarantulas that are supposed to be roaming the area.

And yet . . .

I haven’t seen any. I overheard a fellow in the grocery store lamenting that he took his grandsons out to see tartantulas, and didn’t see any. The reporter who wrote the article for the paper went out to get a photo, and he didn’t see a tarantula, either. My neighbor saw one lone creature crossing the highway in the early morning hours.

My informal poll elicited all sorts of information about the tarantulas, where to go to look for them, where they hang out, where people have seen them, (further questioning shows that their information comes from the newspapers, what people have said over the years, and what they themselves have seen in previous years.

But except for that neighbor, no one has seen any this year, and a single sighting of a single tarantula does not make a migration. So basically, the tarantula migration seems to be another case of fake news or of an attempt to induce hysteria in an unwary public. (Though truly, since few people see the creatures or care to see them, no one gets upset by the articles as they do with harder news.)

It’s possible, since the weather is still relatively warm, that these bird-eating spiders or Theraphosids are still cozy in their burrows and not ready to face what they might consider a human migration (from their point of view, the humans out looking for them might seem like some sort of annual people migration).

I suppose the bigger question here is whether it is better to eat alone, or to eat with others and ruin everyone’s appetite with spider stories, or is it better to eat alone and keeps one’s spider-induced questions to oneself.

So what does any of this have to do with anything?

Not a darn thing.

But it’s a blog, and I am on a streak.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Tarantula Hunt

Ever since I started researching southeastern Colorado as a place to settle down, I’d come across references to the tarantula migration. I was so excited at the possibility of seeing masses of tarantulas wandering around, that I wrote the dates of the migration on my calendar for if/when I moved to the area.

Well, I did move here (been here six months!) This year’s tarantula migration has passed its peak, and so far I haven’t seen a single one of the creatures.

I’d heard that they were often sighted near the Comanche National Grasslands, so I set off on a quest to hunt for tarantulas. My plan was to go to Vogel Canyon in the grasslands for a hike, even though it’s much further than I would have liked to travel for what was to be a rather short walk. The thought of getting back on a trail, however, as well as the possibility of seeing tarantulas made me discount the distance.

I followed directions, turned off the highway onto the well-marked dirt road for the long drive to the canyon, and stopped. My vintage car runs well, but it is — as much as I hate to admit it — very old, and dirt/gravel roads shake up the poor thing. I always imagine one of those cartoon-like scenarios where I am driving along, and the sides and roof fall off the car. There I would sit in the seat, clutching my steering wheel, with the pieces of my car all around me. I have been assured by mechanics that such a thing would never happen, but I can’t take a chance, especially since I when I am on my own.

Disappointed (this was the third time I went searching for a place to hike only to be stymied by bad roads), I headed back home, keeping a watch for tarantulas. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single one.

As it turns out, “tarantula migration” is a misnomer. Tarantulas don’t migrate. They live in burrows, and when the nights turn cool at the end of summer, the males go in search of mates. The females stay home and hope for visitors. Or maybe they don’t hope. Maybe, like me, they are perfectly content to be alone. In fact, the hairy beasts aren’t even tarantulas. True tarantulas, apparently, are small wolf spiders that live near Taranto in Southern Italy, hence the name. What we call tarantulas are bird-eating spiders or Theraphosids.

Despite the name “tarantula migration” being doubly wrong, my intent was still the same — to see the so-called migration of the so-called tarantula.

Although I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, it wasn’t a wasted trip. It was a beautiful almost-fall day, the drive was pleasant, I saw an area I hadn’t yet visited, and I got a photo of the hills that the canyon hides behind.

Still, as adventures go, this was a rather tepid endeavor.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.