Thayer and I went on a hike this afternoon. We hiked up the Copper Creek trail, which leads off of RMBL property into the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area (part of Gunnison National Forest). At the trail head, we had a view of Judd Falls. This is just a bit to the east of our cabin, and we can hear the pleasant white noise when we have our side door open.
After walking a little further, we came upon this:
A super enormous cricket! I mean, this thing is freaking huge. Also, it was pretty much just sitting on the trail, not moving. Thayer suspects it might be a female totally gravid with eggs (note swollen abdomen and large ovipositor). And here's a close up:
We didn't think that she should be left on the trail, so Thayer scooted her to the side with a big stick, carefully avoiding any potentially angry mouthparts. I posted it's picture on bugguide.net, where a bevy of enthusiastic semi-amateur entomologists will kindly deign to identify insects. I'll let you know if we have any further developments.
-T: it was actually a flat rock I used to move it, but that's okay. Also, the pictures do not adequately capture the scale of this thing, but just compare it to my finger and you can see that it's about as tall and half as long as my index finger. That's a big cricket, I promise.
-J: I've heard back from someone at bugguide.net, and apparently our "cricket" is actually a shield back katydid (of the family Tettigoniidae). And indeed, it is a female. (http://bugguide.net/node/view/330323)
-J: I've heard back from another kind person at bugguide.net, and our "cricket" appears to be the Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex). If you're curious, the USDA has a nice site about them: http://www.sidney.ars.usda.gov/grasshopper/ID_Tools/F_Sheets/mormoncr.htm.
On our hike, we had to unexpectedly cross Copper Creek, which necessitated shoe and sock removal. Here's Thayer standing near the stream after braving the freezing cold water.
-T: if this picture was taller, you could see that I don't have any shoes or socks on.
On the way back, I stubbornly kept my shoes on and walked/scooted across the logs you can see to the right in this photo. (Also, I the water is deeper and colder than it looks in this photo, I swear.)
While scooting across, I noticed nothing other than didymo! Also known as rock snot or Didymosphenia geminata, this is a species of diatom (i.e. algae) that can totally overgrow the bottoms of streams and lakes. Although it's native in Colorado, it's been introduced all over the world, including in the Northeastern U.S. and streams in New Zealand (http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/didymo). The huge snotty masses this diatom forms are yucky and interfere with fish feeding. We've been keeping an eye out for this in the Lower Fox River, WI, so I was excited to see it in its native habitat.
-T: I don't think I have much to add, other than that a marmot looked in our window today again, and we are currently baking bread - our first experience with high altitude baking! Tomorrow we will supposedly actually do something useful around here, or at least that's the claim.