Art and Hiking in the Rockies

I’m home from Colorado after attending an art class near Aspen and visiting a friend, Lynne, for a bit of hiking in one of my favorite mountain ranges.

Aug 1-5 – Art Class

 I attended a five-day Photo Encaustic class at Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass. This is an amazing place with a dozen or so classes offered at the same time. I stayed in a dorm and ate delicious food in the cafeteria every day. The studios are open 24 hours a day, so it’s a chance to live and breathe art making with a group of like-minded souls. I took a walk before breakfast each morning, two days with blue sky, two with clouds, and one in the fog. Except for meals, I spent most of my time in the studio until bedtime.

8/6/16 – Rained out of the Maroon Bells

Lynne picked me up from the ranch last night. We checked into our hotel and had dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, a causal place with a variety of food. Though the forecast wasn’t promising, we got up early and got to the Maroon Bells trailhead before sunrise. The rain started shortly after we headed out and without adequate rain gear we turned back. (This year is the first time I experienced morning rain in the summer here; usually the storms wait for the afternoon). We headed early to Lynne’s family condo in Fraser, stopping to buy ponchos on the way. They came in handy when we got caught in a thunderstorm while walking over to Winter Park for dinner.

8/7/16 – Byers Peak (almost)

When we woke up, we were thrilled to see blue sky (not what last night’s forecast called for), so we embarked on a tough hike, fulfilling Lynne’s dream to re-climb Byers Peak (12,800’) after thirty years. Unfortunately, the Forest Service moved the trailhead back a couple miles, almost doubling the distance and increasing the elevation gain to 3000’. We rented bicycles to ride up the fire road to the original trailhead, though we ended up walking at least as much as riding. We locked the bikes to a tree, and then hiked up along a narrow, root-filled trail to the ridge below the peak. We took a lunch break, then continued up the last mile. It was exhausting and the gathering clouds were making me nervous, so I turned back about a half-mile short of the summit. I strolled down to just above timberline taking pictures and admiring the view while Lynne continued to the top. Based on the pictures she showed me afterwards, I would have loved to be up there, but I wasn’t up to it at that altitude. We were happy to have the bikes at the end, covering the last mile and a half in minutes. Start to finish, our ride/hike took about seven hours.

8/8/16 – Rocky Mountain National Park

We spotted one distant moose, then came across a herd of elk on our way up Trail Ridge Road. That was exciting. We could hear the cries of the young ones who still had a few spots. We reached the top of the park in time to take a few pics before the rainclouds returned. We cancelled our planned hike and instead drove back to Monarch Lake where it wasn’t raining. We covered this four-mile loop in about an hour and a half; it’s amazing how much easier it is to hike (and breathe) on a relatively flat trail at “only” 8,400’.

We then stopped by to see Lynne’s brother, who lives up here part time, and picked up her dad to bring him back to the condo. He recently turned 90 and told us stories from his many visits to this area over decades. Though he now lives in San Francisco, he heart is still in Colorado.

8/9/16 – Home Again

I took one last stroll, down to the river along a new highly-switch backed trail, then spent the morning sorting photos and packing. Lynne drove her sister-in-law and me to Denver; it takes about two hours (outside of peak time). It was a great coincidence that we had flights departing 15 minutes apart. Lynne and her dad stayed in town to meet someone for dinner. My flight on Virgin America was much more comfortable than my flight out on Frontier.

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