Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bluffs Hunting Club at Valhalla Bijou is a Wing shooters Paradise!

Article first published as  First Class Wingshooting At The Bluffs, first published on technorati  N3UW7XC87265

When I was a kid I wanted to own a big ranch so I could go hunting and fishing. The only problem was, I didn't have the 2 million bucks it took and I didn't have any rich uncles in my corner. Thirty years later, I can say, some things never change.


If you can get to Denver, Colorado, you don't have to own a large cattle ranch in order to enjoy a premiere hunting opportunity. There are a few private ranches and hunting clubs that provide access to Colorado's best hunting habitat. The Bluffs Ranch, near Byers, Colorado, is first rate.
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The MacLennon family started ranching along Kiowa Creek in Eastern Colorado over 50 years ago. They named their ranch the Valhalla, “the home of champions”, and soon had a top-notch herd running. later, the MacLennon's acquired a second grazing property at the confluence of the East and West Bijou Creeks near Byers, Colorado, which they call the Bluffs.
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The Bluffs name comes from Large land forms which tower above the eroded creek-bed to create the "bluffs".  The ranch house is located on this feature and gives guests a chance to drink in golden sunsets of the front range, including Pike’s Peak to the south and Long’s Peak to the North, while tasting fresh Colorado air. This is prime pheasant and Bob-White quail habitat which are native to Northern Colorado.  The cover is grassland, dry creek bottoms, and mature cottonwoods, which is also a place where deer like to roam.  All of these species are subject to harvesting from carefully managed hunts.


If you are new to hunting and don't recognize the critter when it flies up in front of you, don't be surprised. The ranch also nurtures populations of chukar and Hungarian Partridge to give the hunter a little variety.  You may need to study up on your species to know just what it is you are shooting!


Since the ranch augments the bird population, bag limits are higher than they are for a normal hunt. Essentially, the hunter is harvesting a bird that would not have been on the property but for the efforts of the Bluffs.   State law excuses hunting licenses for properly augmented species.  That comes in handy for non-resident hunters who don’t have time to buy licenses as they pass through Denver International Airport only 40 miles away from the property.  A busy executive can be in the fields hunting within an hour after landing at the airport!

The facilities at the Bluffs are nothing short of first class.  There is a 6,200 square foot modern lodge that approximates a country mansion.  There are six bedrooms and four baths that can accommodate twelve people in modern  comfort.  In addition, there is a large “club house” perfect for meetings and family fun a few steps from the lodge.  The facility is perfect for a corporate meeting with teamwork and leadership in mind. 

Sue MacLennan and close friend
Pheasant hunts benefit through team work as the birds are famous for running through the cover of the fields.  Four hunters working together can flush the birds.   Two of the hunters might stand at the top of a hill while the other two flush the birds to higher ground.  When the birds reach the end of the cover they fly.  Working the field from the top down rarely works as the birds will often fly before the end of the cover and may fly well out of range.  A single hunter might work a field alone and miss many opportunities because he can’t flush a savvy pheasant moving into deeper cover.

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The MacLennon’s encourage you to bring your bird dog along.  There is access to the Valhalla Kennels.  This is great horse-back riding country, as well.  With up to 3,000 acres available, there is plenty for non-hunting guests to do while the hunter hones his skills.
The cost of a charter membership is listed at $35,000 with annual dues of $1,500.  A lesser costly option may be available under the annual membership program which is listed at $2,500 per year with no large buy-in fee.  Instead of monthly dues, members pay $100 per gun per hunt and a fee for every bird.  If you get skunked you only pay the minimum hunt fee.  Considering hunters frequently encounter 100 birds per hunt, you would have to be a really bad shot to go home without fresh game in your bag.

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 The Bluffs is located at 76201 East 96th Avenue, Byers, CO., 80103.   Don’t let the address fool you, the ranch is hard to find without directions and a wrong turn can lead you onto impassable country roads.  The Lodge telephone number is 303 822 8479 E-mail:   Russ MacLennon will help you out if you have questions.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spence Hot Springs Getting Spanked

Article first published as Spence Hot Springs Near Jemez Getting Spanked on Technorati.

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Spence Hot Springs near Jemez Pueblo in the Santa Fe National Forest remains spectacular in it’s beauty, yet marred by misuse of this gift of nature.  A few who come to the famous hot springs are ruining the area for everyone.


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The springs, which maintain a constant temperature of about 100 degrees, are collected in various pools on the side of the mountain in the Santa Fe National Forest near Los Alamos, New Mexico.  



There are two basic pools, one perched atop the other.  Water gently cascades from the higher pool to the lower, leaving the lower pool slightly cooler.  The views of the valley beyond are as soothing as is the water.  What a great opportunity to enjoy H2o from Mother Earth in nature’s spectacular back yard. 


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Spence Hot Springs has likely always endured heavy use, even by the early indigenous inhabitants of the region.  Perhaps, they too, struggled with the best ways to keep it pristine and a jewel for the generations who follow.


ana techno Over the years, efforts have been made to construct other pools to alleviate congestion and to provide privacy of which there is little.  However, most of these additional pools seem to go dry.



A sincere effort has been made to control erosion on the access trail, to construct a foot bridge over the river and to keep the foot paths in usable shape.  These efforts aside, there have been few changes to Spence Hot Springs since my first visit in 1983.  Some things should always stay the same.


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Despite being an easy 15 minute hike from the highway right-of-way, Spence was the place where swimming suits were few and far between.  Literature about the area warns intolerant bathers to beware.  However, during the most recent 6 years, a no-nudity policy has been in place.  Some rangers reportedly insist on adherence. 


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In an odd way, requiring visitors to wear more may be contributing to the damage to the spring.  Naturists, as those who prefer to bathe in the suits they were born in are called, have a certain code of conduct. 


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As Allen Campbell who owns the Wilderness Hot Springs near the Gila Cliff Dwellings points out about his own spring, “Nudists keep the riff-raff out”.   They frown on inappropriate sexual activities in public and are sensitive about the concerns of parents with minors. 


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In addition, most naturists take great care of the springs they use, since there are not many places that cater to the lifestyle.  One must wonder about the wisdom of giving the informal care-takers of this great resource the boot.



The USDA web page warns “Nudity is a violation of state law and you can be cited”.   How much do you want to bet the mother of one of those rangers spent some time skinny dipping in Jemez Springs?


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The Forest Service has also tried to limit use of the spring to day-time only, another failed plan.  It only takes one graffiti artist painting his signature late at night when others are prohibited from being at the springs to destroy the experience for others.  Constant use means constant guardians. 


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It is not how many people use the spring that affects the success or failure of the nature experience.  It is how the spring is treated by those who use it that counts.  The current care-takers, especially those who use it, have a lot to learn.


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The spring is located about 7 miles North of the pueblo of Jemez Springs on State Highway 4 between mile marker 24 and 25.  There are other springs in the area including private springs like the Jemez Bath House which is owned by the city of Jemez Springs. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta = Fun!

While I am waiting for La Vida Nueva, my sailboat, to come back into my life, I have been busy doing things I would have done with La Vida Nueva.  The Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival was always high on the list!



I am a licensed pilot but a Balloon endorsement I do not have…nor do I plan to get.  Still, to see the 600 participants lifting off en-mass reminded me of my own flying days, mostly by the seat of my pants! 


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Ballooning is a lot like that.  Sure, there are plenty of rules.  But at the end of the day, it is you and your wits and a very real chance that you are not coming home for supper that night that makes the sport “edgy”.


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Today, we mourn the fallen from this festival, Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis, who likely were killed when their balloon catastrophically failed and plunged into the sea at over 50 miles per hour.  


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Abruzzo, 47, of Albuquerque, and Davis, 65, of Denver, were participating in the 54th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race when contact was lost Wednesday morning in rough weather over the Adriatic Sea.  During prior yeas, the two veteran adventurists were at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.

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They will be missed by those who knew them personally, and their spirits will be missed by all pilots who understand each venture aloft bears the risk of one ugly yet possible outcome, that one time when everything fails or just one thing fails, and we are forced to meet our maker doing what we love the most. 



Flying, in whatever form, is full of adventure, and for me mostly full of freedom which can only be matched by the freedom one has when we shed the bonds of our lives and our bodies and move to the next life.



Fortunately, none of the balloons or dare devils who operated them, were involved in any accidents or incidents.  They are simply a window into the sport for me, a moment recorded for history, a memory of my own, maybe apart from the balloon, but in my own way like these leaders, when I put it on the line and launched for heaven again!