A Mama Bear and her youngster. Steve Chase Photo. 2017

An elusive moose, male. Cindy Burke Photo. 2017


First, this isn’t the Post I planned to write.

Secondly, the story ends well.

The Gant

Off-season in Aspen is low-key and quiet, a lull before the summer storm. Last night, Wednesday evening, that “lull” went south. As usual The Gant has been closed for a month, giving homeowners and contractors a 30-day window for construction projects. At night we have a watchman who monitors the 5-acre premises. I’ve put myself in charge of overseeing the vacant D-Building where I live. It’s an unpaid position.

The Ladder, rising 3 stories, in action. Two firemen are holding the hose to spray the water.

About 10-ish, in bed, reading the New York Times, there was a ruckus (now known to be a fire) and commotion. I spotted serious flames on the far side of the tennis court and suffered a “There goes the neighborhood.” moment before pulling it together and calling 911. The very calm operator assured me help was already on the way and to evacuate. (I evacuated to my balcony.)

Two fire trucks, police cars, emergency vehicles and some front office staff were arriving before I hung up the phone. Our 87-acre Fire District is protected by 43 men and women, primarily volunteers. We have 4 stations, the main one just 5 blocks away, with 10 vehicles including 4 structure engines, 2 wildfire engines, 2 rescue trucks, 1 water tender and a 104′ ladder truck. Those vehicles are the crown jewels of our 4th of July parade.

It just kept snowing.

The fire was in a dumpster, loaded with construction materials, parked near the K Building. The firemen quickly got to work. When the mega-ladder truck drove in and parked right below my balcony, I knew we were in business. Within a few hours, the fire was out and what could have been worse, wasn’t. The Fire Marshall visited today. The Gant already has so many safety measures in place and last night, with the help of community volunteers and the taxpayers who generously support and equip these departments, it all came together and worked. That’s worth bragging about.


As I said , during the fire it was snowing! Despite the flurries, it’s Springtime in the Rockies. Last Saturday evening, the day before Mother’s Day, I sat down to a delightful dinner party for eight. The occasion? An invitation to celebrate one birthday and honor four Mothers. I fit into that motherhood category.

Yellow-rumped Warbler. Aspen Grove Cemetery.2017

Anywhere you can hang your hat is home.

Initially, as is common with most table talk, we toggled between one giant conversation to many smaller ones. As dinner was served, we quieted down, concentrating on the Lobster Bisque and launched into the evening’s heavy-duty conversation. Who? What? Where? And, When? Six of us are volunteer USFS Rangers so, inevitably, this is how it went…..

How’s this for a haircut. Ruby-crowned Kinglet. 2017

This Ruby-crowned Kinglet is looking for a mate.

Are the bears out? Yes, with babies. Moose sightings? Yes, male near T-Lazy 7 and a female near Difficult Campground. A Pine Marten, healthy-looking, crossing the road up to the Maroon Bells. Elk are heading for the hills. Deer in abundance. No owls nesting near library this year. Male Cooper’s Hawk at usual cemetery nest, waiting for female. Spring flowers popping up, birds building nests but May snowstorms playing havoc with trails. The photos in this week’s post tell the story.

We think this male Cooper’s Hawk is patiently waiting for his mate to appear. They return to this nest each year.

Busted! He didn’t like my company last year and, apparently, he hasn’t changed his mind.


There’s no space to share this week’s recipe, a delicious Naanwich of cumin-spiced lamb (or ground beef or buffalo burger, chicken or fish), shredded iceberg lettuce, thinly-sliced red onions and homemade cucumber raita. It’s time to ditch the mustard, ketchup and mayo as your spreads of choice and get creative with that sandwich and 5 others.

Downy Woodpecker, Aspen Grove Cemetery.


  1. says

    First and foremost Mary, happy that all ended well at the Gant! Though sorry for the fright.
    Your photos and dinner conversations are most definitely unique, interesting, and entertaining!
    Enjoy the budding spring!

    • Mary says

      And you enjoy that darling (and, beautiful even if he’s a little boy) baby of yours, Grandma. I’m, so happy for you and your family.

  2. Ardyth Sohn says

    Little more excitement for Gant than I know you like but
    Glad the story ended well. Such great animal pics—thanks for sharing! There’s such a feeling of anticipation in the mountains in the spring time—and you captured
    how nature and humans come together in this special season…..your job tomorrow is to clear the snow out as we make our way from Moab to Boulder County

  3. Ellen says

    That’s one HOT story! Glad All’s Well that Ends Well!
    Loving these bird pictures!
    Will look forward to the Naan sandwiches! Who doesn’t like Naan? What’s not to like Yum!

  4. Jane says

    Glad all is now well there. Scary fire –! We had over a foot of snow at our house on the back of Ajax mountain — and more snow, possibly, on the way. NO hiking for a few days.

  5. says

    Glad you have an excellent Fire Department—and all was taken care of rapidly.—-How frightening—but glad all turned out well.

    Beautiful place, beautiful photos Mary.

    Enjoy the Spring!!

  6. Donna Grauer says

    Unpaid position! Clever lady. But glad all worked out well. Steve’s pix of the bears are too wonderful.
    Gotta run now, Washington needs my attention.
    hugs, TTR

  7. Jan Sarpa says

    I always get s kick out of your posts, but this one was exceptional! So happy all ended well!! Yikes! The pictures are beautiful too. Stay cool and collected my dear!

  8. says

    Whew! I’m so glad the fire was limited to the dumpster. What a scary site! Thanks for sharing the lovely Aspen wildlife with us—still need a moose sighting—guess we’ll have to come back 🙂

  9. says

    The way you’ve weaved the tales of the dumpster fire, change of seasons, nature in full swings, dinner conversations, photos and amazing food is, what can I say, simply masterful. Glad to read this wonderful post and the stories.

  10. Gayle Wells says

    You obviously brought crazy weather with you from CA, but I’m glad you are back in the valley & helping the fire department. Hope to see you soon. Gayle Wells

  11. says

    Other than the fire, it sounds like a great time to be in Aspen. I can’t wait to hear about the Naanwich; it sounds delicious!

  12. says

    I’m so glad the fire was handled quickly and well! Your nature photography is always a pleasure and it sounds like you’ve been having good meals and great conversation now that you’re home in Aspen. I’m looking forward to catching up on all your posts.

  13. says

    I’m glad that the fire was noticed, contained and doused before there was much damage, and that you are safe. I love that your pre-dinner small talk is all about the local flora and fauna. You are a true Nature Girl. Can’t wait to hear about Naanwiches next week. xo

  14. says

    I am glad nothing serious became of that fire! Lovely post of spring and nature from Aspen. I need to do a catch-up with the bread recipe soon too! Take care Mary! I am a decade behind you in terms of birthdays!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *