We were over 30 miles from home before I heard the first warden call dispatch to announce they were starting their day.
Yeah, I finally got out of town on time. Amazing how one morning of sleep will rejuvenate you.
But as several wardens called in, another from across the river called the dispatcher to ask a question...
"Is 487 closed?"
The airwaves were quiet. For some time. Finally, an answer.
"Yes, it is. Sorry, guess I should have told you."
'Cause, you see, in our state, driving on a closed highway is a crime. A misdemeanor, yes, but still not something a law enforcement officer wants to be doing.
"Well, I was just wondering," the warden explains, because she hasn't seen one vehicle track on the road.
"And I was wondering why?"
Apparently, whatever snow she's driving through isn't the 10"-12" they predicted for just across the mountains in front of me. Dispatcher explains the problem had been on the northern end of the highway, by Central City.
Where they got all the snow that was predicted. Wife later explained to me the highway had been closed all of Tuesday because of the snow, like most the highways further north.
"It may be open now," the dispatcher consoled. "But we won't know until the 6:30 bulletin from the patrol."
That's more than a half hour away. Almost certainly going to ruin someone's plans for her morning lek counts.
I continued on my drive, turning off the highway onto the dirt county road. Just a few minutes later, the dispatcher calls my neighboring warden again.
"Just wanted to let you to know 487 is open."
As predicted, the morning was cold. Truck thermometer never varied beyond 21-24 degrees all morning. The sky was dark, and the half moon high as we headed out.
Dawn was just starting as we hit the dirt, and listened to the conversation above.
The mountains to the north barely showing their new coat of white in the dim light.
We reran the dunes lek route, hitting the second strutting ground a good five minutes before sunrise. Found grouse strutting on all five leks for once. For once we beat the eagles.
Total counts were a little less than last week's, but comparable to last year's. With the bright moonlight and low numbers of hens, a lot of males were losing interest and leaving by the time we got to the last lek.
And even then, over an hour after sunrise, the air was still cold. Trees high on the peaks still covered with frost,
and grouse on one of our leks still strutting under an icy sundog.
New snow on the peaks, early dawn...
(Oh, and I got back and finally finished one backlogged entry.)
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