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Clear Creek Walk Between Lowell and Federal Blvd. S. Adams County, Colorado. April 23, 2020

April 23, 2020

Clear Creek, just east of Lowell Blvd, S. Adams County, Colorado


We used to walk here a lot, almost weekly it seemed. We’d walk along Clear Creek with Cloudy, our dog who died in 2009. It’s impossible to walk along that stretch of Clear Creek and not think of her. Now we were back again. It had been many years. Neither of us could remember how many.


We’d parked in the lot where Clear Creek flows eastward towards the S. Platte on Lowell Blvd and then walk along the path that follows the creek northeast toward Federal Blvd. The creek fed a ditch that went off a little to its south; it headed due east came to an abrupt end just before Federal Blvd. On a hot summer’s day, Cloudy would love to jump into the ditch; it was one of her greatest joys. She’d stink for several hours afterwards but never regretted it despite the chewing out she’d get afterwards.

She lived to be almost sixteen although the last thee, four years were hard on her. Twice the family agreed that “it was time” to “put her down”, to take her to the vet. But both times before the vet could administer the injection that would gently kill her, the phone rang: “Don’t!!! Bring her home!” And I did. A wonderful spirited dog, a mutt, that shed like crazy all year round. We didn’t mind that very much though.

And now, given the restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic, we were back on the path, our faces masked remembering to keep our distance from each other as we walked the path, bicycles whizzing by, and a couple of people on ATVs as well. Looking out from a bridge across the creek I notice… could it be?… wood ducks? We scamper off of the path on the brush that leads down to the creek. Yep… wood ducks – three of them, a couple along with another male. The couple are sitting on a large flat rock lodged in the midst of the creek, just checking out the scene.

Wood ducks on Clear Creek !

Although from other photographers I was aware that there are some around here, I’d only seen them twice before. A female was at one of the ponds by Clear Creek Valley Park, about a mile west about two years ago. Last year  I saw a pair one evening but that several hundred miles to the south, at La Junta Civic Park. Bu there they were and I was able to get a number of good shots of them before they flew off down to the northeast along Clear Creek.

wood duck tree nest?

Besides the striking sexual dimophism – the females so plain in contrast to the striking colors on the males head and neck there is something else curious about wood ducks: they nest in trees! If I remember right they are among the only ducks whose eggs hatch so far off the ground, most a protected environment, although there a snakes who are in the know and are known to make their way up into the nests and eat the eggs. A little further down the path, just off to the side were several tree nests. Can’t say for sure they are wood duck nests, but they seemed unusually large for bird; here’s a photo of one anyway. There were several about that size in trees nearby this one.

There were other birds – cinnamon teals, some kill deer along the shore and later, by a nearby pond Canadian Geese with seven goslings and in an island in the pond, cattle and snowy egrets, along with five, maybe six black crowned night herons. They were off in the distance and I hadn’t noticed them until I had enlarged the photo on my computer. A whole slew of them. But besides the wood ducks, another surprise was a yellow-rumped warbler high up on a nearby tree.

It was a genuine visual feast…but there was something else.

a homeless person’s belongings hanging from a tree by Clear Creek.

Homeless camping 

We went to get out of the city, to see birds and the beauty that is Clear Creek. And we saw both. We also saw homelessness. People living in dilapidated tents, under tarps living along the creek. Their numbers had grown over the years since we first walked there.

It’s eleven years since Cloudy died. On occasion walking through this particular area we’d come across homeless people who had found a hidden spot to pitch tent. One or two of them I remember especially the area along the ditch. They’d be there for a couple of nights and then were gone. Temporary residence.

But now it’s as if a whole community has sprung up along the river – half a dozen or more tents, one which had a chimney stretching out from its roof. Someone was repairing a bicycle; a hundred feet away upstream, refuse – a fair amount. It all had a look of permanence about it. In the parking lot we saw a man sitting in his truck, his head against a pillow, his back seat filled with …whatever. I would guess that he lives in his truck. We acknowledged each other but I could sense he was nervous. Would we report him to the police? He was gone when we returned to the car an hour and a half later.

People living in cars and trucks; others living in tents along Colorado’s streams and rivers. In the past four weeks along some 27 million Americans have applied for unemployment insurance. And for everyone who has… how many others, undocumented or simply having given up on trying, can be added to the rolls of the unemployed, and how many of them will lose their housing and wind up in a car or camping by a creek on the front range or in the mountains?

There is the Coronavirus pandemic…and then there is burgeoning social crisis. It’s everywhere, even on a walk along Clear Creek looking at wood ducks…where a few yards from where I was photographing a community of homeless folk was living under tarps and trying to make due with next to nothing.

One happy dog Cloudy – Along the Clear Creek Ditch on a hot summer day in 1997


One Comment leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    April 24, 2020 7:58 am

    A well written and very observant essay. As I started reading the essay, I wondered if Rob would mention the homeless Hoover Village that has been erected. He didn’t disappoint me. But the most important observation in the piece is the prediction about the state of the economy. Right now terrified individuals are unemployed and terrified of a virus that has maybe killed 500 people in the State of Colorado, a State with a population of six million. Of these 500 people, about 250 were in nursing homes. The Corona virus test shows whether a person has corona virus but NOT whether they died of the virus. That means that the 250 people who died with a positive test may have died of Corona or with Corona, but we don’t know which. The governor said in recent speeches that eventually we would all get the virus, which I don’t doubt, it is a nasty virus and very contagious, but early science on the matter does not show it is a pandemic level virus. Certainly the science in Colorado does not show that. And yet late state capitalism fueled by Net Work TV’s desire to grab advertising dollars is terrifying the American Public. Millions of people sit in their homes day after day and binge on junk food and drink alcohol. They are glued to the horror of Covid. Why are people so afraid? My opinion is that people are afraid because humans have hunter gatherer brains that developed over millions of years of primate evolution. If a hunter-gatherer saw a lion on the trail, his brain reacted with fear to motivate him to save himself. Modern man sits on a couch and the image of coffins in refrigerator trucks in New York, seems as dangerous to him as a lion on the trail. He is fixated on it.

    My brother is a victim, he sits in house terrified to go outside. He has become a hermit and has given up on relationships. He is enraged at me because I told him his level of fear and anger are dangerous to his health and he needs therapy. He had a stroke a year ago and is preparing to have another. He is a victim of Corona Fear.

    To top it off, late stage Capitalism’s reaction to the Covid issue has caused the biggest breakdown yet in Capitalism. The reaction of Covid will make the Great Depression look like a Job Fair. We are in for a tough bronco ride with a loose saddle cinch.

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