Cooper Ranch is a part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area. When the Gunnison River was inundated, this parcel of land was initially spared the eminent domain condemnation of private property below this point. My understanding is that although the stilled waters never reach this land the ice flowing downstream would back up. Thus the owners compelled the Federal Government to purchase the land. The NRA was formed to promote recreation. At Cooper Ranch there are two small trails leading from the lower parking area. The upper parking area connects with the eastern most of the two trails. It is a very short hike leading to a small bluff that overlooks the Gunnison River. On a clear day, which is most of the time but not on this day, there are some nice views of the Elk Mountains, Fossil Ridge and the Sawatch Range, the latter forming the Great Divide.
The western trail leads off about a quarter of a mile and ends at some benches. A fisherman-trail continues a short way. The National Park Service oversees this area and has set up about eight picnic table with fire pits. I have used this area often, finding it a great place for a cookout. Many of the tables are riverside and all are under towering cottonwood. I sometimes bring the pups out here to walk them but generally I don’t take snapshots. Nonetheless, it is one of my favorite respites from the perils of civilization. A great place for being outside in early spring when the going is tough all over. Aspen may get the raves, but one year the cottonwood here along the Gunnison River set up a wall of yellow that I have never seen equaled. If I’m seen with an awkward smile on my face and a far away look replete with a welling of tears its likely that that glowing image is being replayed in my mind.
Cooper Ranch is only four or five miles west of my home in Gunnison, Colorado. It is very popular with fly-fishermen during the Summer season but can be busy on all but the worst weather days, or during the depth of Winter. Especially after work many locals zip on out to cast a line for the trout. On this snowy day I found myself alone but tracks in the snow indicated that some other intrepid soul had found there way outside on this blustery Autumn day. In Summer the pups enjoy the cool waters of the Gunnison River but today showed not inclination to enter. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I brought the camera along on this day, except maybe a conscious recognition that I don’t take too many photos of the nearby walks I frequently, and without any real preparation, take.
To say the least, Draco and Leah thoroughly enjoy themselves here. A cookout might mean some tethered-up tedium while I enjoy my steak and beer but they are always compensated with a bone upon which they gnaw ceaselessly. Those cookouts are always anteceded or followed by a walk. Squirrels chattering overhead or chipmunks scurrying on the trail provide canine stimulus. The fresh snow did not exclude such rodent activity and the canines were excited. The snow soaks up sound and thus the traffic on nearby U.S. 50 I could barely hear. A fine little outing in a place I have come to appreciate over the years.