Think of how dull life would be if the Earth’s axis were not tilted in relation to the Sun. Without that 23.5 degree angle, there would be no change in seasons and therefore, no cause for celebration this time of year as we welcome the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.Today, we head west from La Veta, following US 160 all the way to Monte Vista. In a few days, this quiet agricultural community will welcome thousands of visitors from all over the world, arriving to attend the 29th Annual Monte Vista Crane Festival.
Again, thanks to that tilt in the Earth’s axis, a flock of Sand Hill Cranes touch down for a long layover here at the National Wildlife Refuge at just about the same time each year. We’ve come a few days early and we are hoping to witness one of natures great migrations, a group of 20,000 or so giant birds on their journey north from New Mexico to Idaho. A rowdy group that will spend spring break feeding on the barley and wheat of the San Luis Valley.
We arrived at the Refuge in the middle of the afternoon and there were indeed a number of Cranes in and around the Wetlands, jumping about in their ritual mating dances, resting and eating under the warm sun, but to our disappointment they were grossly outnumbered by a seemingly segregated grouping of Canadian Geese and other species of birds. Had we arrived too early? Even Charlie wondered what all the hype was about.
As the sun dropped behind the San Juan Range to the west, the air space became noticeably busier. From every direction, these spectacular creatures gracefully glided toward their chosen landing strips before flaring and flapping their massive wings into a perfectly executed soft landing. And then, just before dark, we witnessed a spectacle of mesmerizing proportions. The Greatest Adventures, Are Waiting, In Your Own Backyard.