Friday, July 26, 2013

Going off the grid for a bit......

We're leaving on Sunday for the Mile High Jeep Club's annual All 4 Fun event in Leadville.   Known as the TWO Mile High City, at 10,152 ft., it has a long and colorful history.  Due to a brief gold and the silver mine boom, Leadville was the 2nd most populace city in Colorado in the 1880 at over 40,000. Closure of mines (molybdenum) in the 1980's caused serious hardships and now  tourism and outdoor recreation , coupled with it's history has rejuvenated the town of over 2,000.    We'll be trying out our dry-camping skills (no hookups).   But there's always the trusty generator to run the refrigerator, TV, phone chargers and hot water heater.......after all, we're not that serious about ' real' camping.
Paul and I and Mike will be there for much of the time with Becca, Alex and Lizzie coming up when schedules permit.     Each day, there are group trail rides, rated 1-10 in difficulty.   At our age, we'll stick with the mid numbers probably and avoid the 10's that threaten to destroy you and your Jeep.  

Supposedly, we'll have cell phone service in camp and if there is decent 4G, I might be able to post  some pics.....or find a hot spot in town.   If not, we'll reconnect in a week or so.  

Meanwhile, we have been busy with my Botany Class ....ask me anything about pistils, sepals and flower reproduction  and  Paul's Parker Pickler's group.  A number  of snowbirds from Arizona are his partners.  

Lousy connection tonight so no pics ..... you'll just have to come on over and see the sunset over the mountains for yourselves.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mountain peeks...........

I've decided not to overload you with views of scenic peaks and distant valleys and give you just a sample so that you'll want to see it for yourself.   But, might I suggest, you not do it in July and August.     We headed up to Bear Lake, one of several scenic roads off Trail Ridge Rd in Rocky Mountain NP.   The Park is extremely busy and as we approached the parking lot, we were greeted with traffic control Park Rangers.   There is a shuttle to several popular areas of the park but we had no initial plans to park, just a drive-by.    But, we were able to slip into a empty spot and stretched our legs on a 1/2 mile walk around this high alpine lake.  

We were not alone.    The families and young and old couples and groups with Rangers swarmed the trail and the lakeside.    

I was surprised at this quiet part of the trail, except for one handsome grandfather, and had to capture the moment. 
  But, I'm  gratified to know that so many people are enjoying Mother Nature's beauty and sharing with the children.   
 Later, we went in search of a hiking area we had done many years ago.   I knew it was beside a lake and also that it was along the Peak to Peak Highway, west of Boulder.    We finally found it but my, had the area changed in 20 years (and so have we).    It's called Brainard Lakes in the Indian Peak Wilderness  and has been completely redone to include a large campground (no hookups but storage containers to ward off bears at each site).

The rain clouds were hovering late in the day so we didn't stay but we  made ourselves a promise to come back in a week or so.  The elevation is at 10,000 ft and the trail climbs to almost 11,000 ft but we remember much of it as being rather gentle.    We got caught in a downpour that long ago day so next time we'll start earlier.   
 Our CG at St Vrain State Park, near Longmont, was situated on the prairie with several large ponds.   It was a haven for wildflowers and birdwatching.  
 These cormorants and pelicans were preening themselves in the mirror-lake for their photo-op.
 This toad had no such hope of changing anything........................

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chautauqua and Mountains........

Well, we certainly didn't mean to be away this long......we've moved back and forth between State Parks a couple of times (trying to find a spot for the busy weekends) and  have had little connection with the electronic world.    So, now that I have you here, let me hold your attention with a   "few" pictures.    Actually, I pared down the amount I was going to post and will share them over a day or two.....I have tons.  

  We're spending our days in the Denver area.   The grown-up grands let us share time with them !   This delightful young lady needs a JOB !    So, if you have a position in the marketing, business field, she will be a college graduate in December and even willing to relocate.   And just a reminder, that if you need a fully trained Fairy Godmother, she has all the credentials. !
And then, one fine day, we traveled out to DIA to meet up with the youngest Grands who were passing thru.   We had time for breakfast and a visit to the toy store near the gate.   After getting home, they were too close for comfort when a lightening strike hit a tree near their Scout campsite!!
If you've never been to Boulder, Colorado, home of the University, Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder Book Store, Chautauqua, the Flatirons and T shirts that say "Keep Boulder Weird", you must go there.   One of the most beautiful places is Chautauqua, nestled up agains the Flatirons.   In the late 1890's, Boulder was chosen as a retreat site for Texas educators.   One of only a few Chautaqua's remaining in the country, the original buildings are intact.    The Dining Hall has wide porches for al fresco meals, there are small cottages, each unique, for renting and an original concert hall with massive wooden open beams and beautiful accoustics.   The hiking trails up into the Flatirons are very popular.   The Colorado Music Festival is held there and we were fortunate to be able to sit in on a rehearsal for the sold out concert featuring a beautiful classical pianist, Olga Kern, doing Rachmaninoff's Concertos 1 &4 with the Symphony(she does it all from memory !).  It was a highlight of our summer.    Brunch on the porch was perfect.    ( I had planned to link you to many of the sites I mentioned but the connection is VERY slow and so I leave it to you to explore these attractions on your own.)  

One of our first outings into the mountains was up to Rocky Mountain National Park.    We've hiked and rode horses up there in the past but I don't remember it being so crowded.    We passed quickly by the hotel featured in the movie The Shining.
We opted to take the Old Fall River Road up to the follows a beautiful stream and altho a gravel road, it is ok for regular cars.  
Views of the valley below.

Trail Ridge Visitor Center near the top.
The road in the early 1900's when it was the first road built.    Can you see how high the snow was.   The road usually doesn't open until well into June.

After finding the coffee among the serious crowds at the top, we started down and noticed this mother elk on her way to the Visitors Center.....
Maybe for shopping or just a break from Jr and Sr sunning themselves along the road.   I stuck my head out the roof to grab these pictures!
The rest of the herd was a bit farther down.    The antlers were just massive.

Here's the high point of the ride at over 12,000 ft.   And it was chilly and windy.  Fleece felt good.

Along the roadside, these cute little faces will pop out....not sure if they are curious or hungry.   But hikers beware.  Marmots have been known to eat the wires and hoses on your cars while you stroll the high country.  
To be continued............

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Following the mighty Colorado River.........

When last we spoke, we were enjoying Utah..... it is a harsh, ruggedly beautiful landscape with colors that glow.    One evening, we took a drive up St Hwy 24, from Moab north along the Colorado River.      If you only had a couple of hours in this area,  this is the one short drive  that would easily substitute for all the National Parks and scenic drives.    There are canyons, petroglyphs, rapids, hiking trails, distant vistas and a the Red Cliff Lodge to dine, sleep  and begin various adventures.   Many westerns were filmed in this locale and they even have a movie museum in the rustic setting.  
 A leopard (or is it tiger ) lizard cooperated  for a brief minute near the walkway.
 The view from the Lodge.   You can even stay in a teepee.
 Further down the road is Castle Rock and Fisher Towers.    In the fall we'll do the hike along the base.
 The next morning we were out early to walk the Grand View Trail in Canyonlands NP.   Unfortunately, I had the wrong setting on my camera and the pictures came out very light.   I tried to fix them and I think you can get the idea of what we saw.   The trail is about 2 miles, across slickrock and up and down many steps .   It follows a severe drop-off into the canyon.   I just can't imagine taking rambunctious children to these trails....there are no fences, no warning signs and trail markings consist of cairns along the way.
 And then, it just signs to tell you that, just a cliff to fall over.    Paul is  standing about 3 feet from the edge.  

We put down our hiking poles, our hats, our camera and backpack full of water and had a much deserved snack.   And then we walked back to the air conditioned car.   
 Awhile back, we took a jeep trail from Moab thru the back country with intentions of ending up at Canyonlands....but we met with a closed road.    The road is now open so we pointed the nose of the jeep down and deep into the canyon.    You can see the road we followed in the next 2 pictures.
 In some places, the road is very narrow with sheer drop offs.

Always, far below us was the mighty Colorado that carved out these monuments.  

And then on Thursday, we packed up and headed East.    For about 5 hours, we crossed Colorado and the stunning landscape from Glenwood Springs to Golden, never fails to leave us in awe.    I've written about Glenwood Canyon many many times ....  Again, we followed the Colorado River, sometimes placid, sometimes not,

 and the rafters were abundant.    The Colorado River is one of America's finest river and holds a prominent place in the development of our country.    Reading about John Wesley Powell's exploration of the River leaves me amazed to think of the feat that he accomplished......and with only ONE arm. !!

 Vail has several beautiful golf courses in the valley.  

From Eisenhower Tunnel at over 11,000 ft, the highway descends to 6000 ft on a winding, occasionally steep I-70.   There are warnings all the way down for the truckers and  the RV drivers.   We're very familiar with the road but it has taken it's toll on those who don't heed the warnings.
 And so, we are currently back in Cherry Creek State Park.....I had my art class at the Botanic Gardens and look forward to the next one in two weeks.      Today, we'll meet up with Mike and crew and head up onto some Jeep trails west of Denver................ Stay tuned.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blog housekeeping details........

For those of you who subscribe by email, it seems as if the version that you get is not the same as the final version of the blog.   Often, I publish the blog and then go back and "fix it" a couple more times but it seems that the first one is the only one going out on email.   Also, I've noticed on the email version that there is a final line showing up that says something about me talking to the wind.......I wrote that line months ago and then deleted it from that post......and now, it seems to be showing up on new blogs......very frustrating.    But suggest you go to the web version of the blog instead of the email version if you want the "latest and greatest"............  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Negro Bill Canyon Trail hike and Canyonlands

We were up and out early this morning.  Our plan was a 4+ mile round-trip hike up Negro Bill Canyon Trail (named after the first black rancher in the area ).  It was refreshingly cool as we began ....we were surrounded by high canyon walls and 

 thick brush and trees.   We could hear a rushing stream and eventually

 we came to the edge and followed and crossed it many times.    I gave up trying to manuever the stepping stones and just waded through.
 The water was cool and refreshing, but the trail was red thick dust, so in no time, our shoes were caked in red mud.   We had to climb up and down and test our leg muscles and agility  on some boulder strewn areas.    Surprisingly, the trail was not busy at all but most everyone had a dog or 3 with them.    We were quite comfortable in the lower shady part of the canyon but then the sun erupted over the canyon walls and the heat became troublesome.    We finally decided that the smart thing was to turn around.... a bit over halfway.    By the time we got back to the car, it was HOT and we were very wise to lose our pride and give in to Mother Nature.    We'd love to try again....spring would be cooler but the stream would be much deeper for the many crossings....fall sounds perfect.
 You may have noticed that my lens hood is creating some shadows.....I lost my original one....well, it's here somewhere, just not sure where.   So I bought another at a camera store but not happy with it.

Yesterday, on Saturday, we headed out to one section of Canyonlands.   There are 4 parts and none are connected by roads.    We went to the southern Needles section.   A short distance out of Moab is the Wilson Arch, named after the first Superintendent of Canyonlands.  
 The road is about 60+ mi into the Park from Moab and you have to return the same way.    The sky looked threatening at times and there was a haze that obscured the beautiful distant views.   We presume it is from wildfires in Colorado and Arizona.
 Near the entrance is Newspaper Rock.... a large collection of petroglyphs.   They are not dated and may cover several different time periods.
 It's fascinating to look closely and identify all the symbols.   I especially like all the feet.
 The biting gnats were thick so we didn't stay long.

 We felt that there are better scenic areas than this section of the Park.   We did try a 4X4 road but it was rather bland and dusty as well.  
 Parking at a view spot, there were two very large ravens  (or maybe they're all very large)...these had no fear and were obviously looking for a handout.   They didn't get one ...........
 We've both read the Stegner book on John Wesley Powell.... we'd love to see some of the areas mentioned but unfortunately, most are along or on the rivers and it is difficult to access them.     Paul is standing near the beginning of the trail that goes to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.   This is the reason we drove over to this part of the Park.    It is accessible, IF  you hike over 5  miles , one way, and then look over the cliff 1000 ft down .    We'll have to pass on that one for now.!!

I just picked up another book, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey,written in 1968 when he was a ranger in Arches NP for 3 summers.  ( Joe and Gay,  you would like this book !!)  It covers environmental, political and philosophical issues of the area and has been compared to  Thoreau's Walden.    It's a fascinating view of the desert and Moab.    

And, I think we've earned a good Mexican dinner tonight .... 

PS:    The dog bites are healing.....  due in part to the amazing nursing care he received.    Thanks for all of your concerns !   When we go to remote areas around here, I usually text son Jon to let him know.....yesterday, when I sent him our itinerary, he sent back his reply " Search Schnauzers on ready alert !!"

PPS:   Just some housekeeping.   I've noticed that at the bottom of the blog, on the email version only, there is a comment about me talking to the wind.    I find that interesting that I wrote that comment months ago but then deleted it and never published it.....and now it shows up.    Wonder if it's going to show up on every email can be very frustrating at times.