Walking at Sawhill Ponds, Boulder, CO

Owl Nest - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

Imagine being surrounded by a woodland with grasses as high as your waist. A chorus of croaking frogs can be heard from nearby ponds. Hundreds of ants scurry about your feet. In front of you is a tree that stretches high, high, up into the sky. On a jutting elbow of the tree a dark mysterious cavern pivots across the horizon. You learn it is a nest where two baby owls were born. You imagine giant bright eyes peering out from masses of fluffy feathers and wings waiting to take flight. Then you imagine their flight, young owls silently careening across the horizon.. whether that was going through my daughters head or not, it is amazing to watch her step off the gentle trail into a world of discovery at Sawhill Ponds.

Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve on the Eastern outskirts of Boulder is home to a wide range of reptiles, birds, mammals, amphibians and fish. A series of ponds scatter across the flat plains and are perfect for an early morning stroll. This was our first adventure where she wore her first backpack. While it looked like she was going to abandon the backpack in the early part of the walk, she ended up persevering. Poppy joined us on and it turned out to be the longest distance we’ve gone yet!

The Adventure


8:29 AM

We hit the trail and my daughter bolts. With the backpack snug (and being incredible light just carrying nuts and tissue) her balance is unaffected and she just runs and runs. Great way to start the morning.

Running - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

The view from Sawhill of the front range can be spectacular. Today, it is a bit hazy and the ponds are far below their normal water levels due to the drought. Cattails and waterfowl decorate our view.

Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

Poppy helps my daughter peer through the binoculars to spot white egrets that muck about in the islands scattered around the pond.

Binoculars - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

The walking is easy going, mostly flat with well marked trails. Alongside the trails prickly pear cactus stand, showing off in brightly colored hues.

Prickly Pear Cactus - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO


9:15 AM

Poppy, who visits Sawhill frequently, often spots owls. From the onset of the trip we scan the trees for owls. After nearly a mile we come upon a giant tree that housed an owl nest. My daughter dips off the trail into the grasses to investigate the tree.

Without sighting of the owls, we turn our attention to ant hills. They are ghost towns until the temperature reaches a certain threshold and then BAM the ants scurry out in a frenzy, marching to the beat of a silent hive mind.

Ants - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

Sawhill is nearby Boulder Airport, and like the sets of waves rolling across the ocean floor gliders are towed, one at a time, to high elevations before being let loose to fend for themselves.

Glider Tow - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO


9:24 AM

After almost an hour we make it to Boulder Creek. Out here the creek is subdued, inching its way through overgrown trees and brush. The water moves slowly. Murky. Quietly.

Looking up Boulder Creek - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

A formation of geese traveling to other climates soars across the sky.

Migrating Geese - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

The complex architecture of a Russian olive tree mesmerizes us.

Russian Olive - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO

Presently, we come to a pond full of frogs. As we approach they plop, with a gulp, beneath the dusty surface. Though we’re a fair distance away it is plain that they are watching our every step.

9:54 AM

Amazingly the backpack and walk has been a huge success. By the end my daughter is still going strong, albeit turning her attention more and more to snacks and mucking about in the ponds rather than moving forward.

First Trip With Backpack - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO



Gear - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO


  • Backpack
  • Fanny pack
  • Fleece
  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Snacks
  • Recording equipment (camera)


We ended up walking 2 miles!

Route - Walking at Sawhill Ponds - Boulder, CO





Poppy and I were really excited to try to find some owls. This provided an ongoing dialog and goal for the trip, which helped motivate my daughter as the miles wore on. Trying to walk without making a sound, keeping eyes on the tree boughs above, and making “hoo hoo” sounds provided fun activities along the way.

Although my daughter carried a backpack, there was very little in it. At one point it was just a tissue. My plan is to establish carrying a backpack as the normal state to ensure it is a welcomed habit rather than a chore.

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