Category Archives: Colorado

Rafting – Gates of Lodore

August 20-25, 2021

I’m still savoring the memory of the rafting trip I took a couple months ago with seven friends, and friends of friends. It was my first post-covid plane ride and my first multi-day rafting trip. We were all fully vaccinated and I wore an N95 mask in the airport and on the plane. We traveled with 14 others, plus six guides, down the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles Colorado and Utah. We traveled through five canyons, each with its unique red rock formations. It was an awesome trip; I loved almost every minute of it. When I got home, I became consumed with packing and preparing to sell my home of 40 years, hence the delay in this post.


August 20 – Getting There

Beth gave Ginny and me a ride to the airport, and we flew to Salt Lake City where we were picked up by Lynn and Sue who were already there, having spent a couple days visiting friends. The five us crammed into a Jeep Cherokee; our gear barely fit and it was crowded in the back seat. It took about three hours to reach the Microtel Inn in Naples, right next to Vernal in the northeast quadrant of Utah. There we connected with our East Bay contingency: Amy, Brenda, Sheila, and Glenne. They took two days to drive out in Glenne’s spacious van. We collected dry bags from our guide, Miles, then headed out to dinner. The only place in town with outside dining was booked, so we got take-out food and ate in a park, Mexican food for some of us, pizza for the rest. We also made a stop at a liquor store after learning that there would be an ice chest for our use on the river. 

Aug 21 (Day 1) – Canyon of Lodore

When we went to bed, Beth was worried because her pet sitter had not been able to get Bella, one of her cats inside. By morning, Bella was still missing, so Beth cancelled her trip and found a ride back to the Salt Lake airport. The rest of us boarded a van and road about two and a half hours to the put in, above the Gates of Lodore. They put the eight of us onto two rafts; I road with Sheila, Amy, and Brenda. It was uncomfortable sitting four abreast in a raft filled with gear. 

The Green River was brown and cooler than anticipated, but I was comfortable in my lightweight sunblock attire. We floated through several Class II rapids, Whinny, Unnamed, Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, named by Powell when one of his long wooden boat crashed at this spot in 1869. I got splashed and was ready for more. Along the way we stopped for lunch – Caesar salad warp with hummus. “Special” meals served first (gluten and nightshade-free for me, vegetarian for Ginny and a couple others). We reached Pot Camp around 4:00 and set up tents – mine was the tallest and hard to put up, especially with no stakes. Miles gave us an intro to the “groovers”, the portable toilets we used in camp, named for an earlier version the left grooves in rearends. 

We took a walk up to a ridge with a view of the river, then had our own happy hour circle. Lynn and I had vodka tonics. Ginny, Sue, and I all sketched a bit while enjoying avocado toast with mango salsa. Dinner finally ready around 8:00 – yummy salmon, my favorite meal of the trip. I was one of first to bed. There was a storm during the night with waves of rain, wind, thunder, and lightening. The crickets quieted before each rainfall, then returneds in full force afterwards. Some people had leaks, but my floppy tent kept me dry.

Aug 22 (Day 2) 

We came on this trip expecting to actually be paddling, but instead the rafts were all equipped with large oars that enabled them to be controlled by one guide. (I’ve since learned that there are paddle, oar, and hybrid trips, so confirm ahead of time which type you are getting). When we complained to Miles that we were too crowed on the first day, and expressed an interest in paddling, he moved all the gear out of his raft, gave us paddles, and let all eight of us ride in his boat. We didn’t paddle all that much but is was much more fun. I rode up front with Amy and got splashed regularly. I tried to take a video during our biggest rapid, officially a class IV, but more like 3.5. The video didn’t work, so you won’t get to hear Amy’s screams. 

We had another­­ late lunch at 1:30. I skipped the bread and rolled up pieces of deli meat and cheese. After lunch, we took a hike to Rippling Brook, where many took turns standing under a trickling tall waterfall. After another hour or so on the river, we reached Limestone Camp around 4:00 pm, set up tents, then went on another hike. It was quite steep with loose gravel, so I turned back about half way up. 

Glenne was not feeling well; she slept through happy hour and missed the best appetizer: caprese on tasty gluten-free crackers; I skipped the tomatoes. I enjoyed watching the light changing on the cliffs and did another sketch. We carried our chairs back and rejoined the main group for dinner (pasta w/chicken, salad, strawberries for dessert). I asked Miles if we could go around the circle and hear everyone’s name, so he promptly asked me to start. It was interesting to learn a bit about everyone, from experienced rafters to newbies. It’s a good thing we were on an adults only trip because one camper told some pretty risqué stories. 

Aug 23 (Day 3) 

I was one of the first up as usual, around 5:45 a.m. We road in the paddle boat again and had an awesome day, exiting Lodore Canyon, passing through appropriately named Echo Canyon, into Whirlpool Canyon. There were jaw dropping red stone vistas at every bend. Clouds threatened rain a few times, but the drops only fell at our lunch stop when we sheltered under an overhang on a tall cliff. Amy and I took a turn in one of the duckies, rubber kayaks that flex and bend over rapids. We floated past bighorn sheep and eagles. 

Our hike of the day, after reaching Jones Hole camp, took us to two waterfalls and pictograms. A few people had fun sitting in the stream and blocking the flow to Elk Creek Falls, then releasing it in a burst onto whoever stood below. Once again, we formed our own happy hour circle near our tents. Another camper stopped by to let us know we could use their solar shower; Amy and I both jumped at the chance. It felt great; I’ll have to bring one on my next rafting trip. We finished just in time for dinner, undercooked steak (I took mine back for extra grilling). I enjoyed a bit of after dinner chat, took a final trip to the groover, and retired to my tent. The moon was close to full and I considered getting out my tripod and heading down to the river, but I was too tired to venture back out. The crickets seemed louder and more hurried than previous nights. I slept through the night, missing the skunks that wandered through camp. 

Aug 24 (Day 4) 

We covered 19 miles today, our longest day on the river. It was gorgeous at every turn. Once again, we road in the paddle boat, occasionally using our paddles. When I asked Miles if the others minded our using this boat again, he assured me they were happy because it gave them more room in the other rafts. The first several miles were quite calm and our guides got a good workout with their oars. Lynn and Sue got tired of paddling in their kayak during this section and hitched a ride on another raft, rejoining us at lunch. After that there were quite a few class II rapids. 

We ate lunch on a tiny beach in direct sun. The surprise receipt of a cold Le Croix was most welcome. We continued down river, getting out near the end of Split Mountain Canyon. From there it was a short van ride to the Dinosaur National Monument. We arrived just in time to catch the last shuttle to Quarry Exhibit Hall where more a thousand dinosaur bones are embedded in the rock wall.  A few more minutes in the van and we were back at the Microtel, and relived to receive notice that Beth’s cat came home shortly after she returned. We took quick showers and went to dinner at Vernal Tavern, the only place in town that serves outdoors. (I made reservations before we got on the river). 

Aug 25 – Getting home

Lynn, Sue, Ginny, and I headed to Salt Lake City for our flight back to SFO, while the other four headed south for a couple days in Moab before beginning their long drive home. With only two in the back seat, it was a more comfortable ride than when we arrived. Not wanting to eat indoors at an airport restaurant, Ginny and I picked up Vietnamese veggie spring rolls; I ate mine in the car. We found a sparsely populated section of the airport to wait in, and were rewarded with wonderful piano music, provided by an airline employee on a layover. We clapped and a woman near us asked “Am I at an airport or a concert hall?”.  Our flight home was uneventful. Since Ginny and I were neighbors, before I moved, we shared a cab ride back to city. 

I’m now beginning to research other rafting trips, since all of us want to go again. When we asked Miles what he would recommend next, he said it was a challenge to come up with one since we started with the best. 

Return to Colorado

Annie and I arrived in Colorado after five days on the road, mostly in Utah. We spent three days visiting Lynne and exploring the Rocky Mountains, and then she flew home and I continued to Fort Collins to visit my friend Nancy and her family.

August 7 – A Long Day

We left our hotel in Utah at 7:00 a.m. and met Lynne at the Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser at 6:30 pm. (See Southern Utah entry for what we saw along the way). It was benefit night with a portion of the proceeds going to the library where Lynne volunteers. We ate dinner on the outside deck and listened to a band.

August 8 – Fraser

For our first day at 8500’ (2600 meters) we took a short hike, 3-4 miles, along a ridge south towards Winter Park and back along the river. Spending the last four days above 5000’ made it easier than it would have been for us sea-level dwellers. There are patches of snow on Byers Peak and some of the other nearby mountain tops. 

Afterwards, Lynne took us on a driving tour of Fraser and Winter Park, including a stop at the cemetery where her father was recently buried. We ate lunch on the patio at The Peak, a brew pub which I’ve frequented on each visit. After a couple samples, I settled on Elk Bugle ESB as my favorite beer. Annie and Lynne enjoyed their IPA’s, and we all liked our salads. Sage is becoming a very mellow restaurant dog; she lay down and slept. 

We stopped at the grocery store on our way back and then watched a thunderstorm come through. Annie decided to take an introvert’s break and stayed in, while Lynne and I took a bottle of red wine and container of sushi to the Rendezvous Event Center in Winter Park for a free outdoor concert, by a rock & roll revival band called Wyatt Lowe and the Mayhem Kings.  Canvas chairs kept us off the wet lawn, but it was chilly after the sun dropped. 

August 9 – Columbine Lake

We picked up Lynne’s friend Jill and drove on a bumpy dirt road for about an hour to the Junco Lake trailhead. From there we took the seven mile out-and-back trail, eight according to our phones, to Columbine Lake. The skies were mostly blue and we had a grand time. Sage smiled as she ran free, except when I leashed her along the meadows where we spotted a moose. (Another hiker told us there was a youngster too, but we didn’t see it). I enjoyed conversing with wonderful women, taking pictures of cascades along the trail, and eating lunch overlooking the lake. It’s a good thing I sprayed on herbal insect repellent, both Lynne and Annie came back with mosquito bites. 

Back at the condo, we showered and rested before heading out for cocktails at a new distillery in Fraser, Mexican food, and more outdoor music, a couple singer guitarists at Cooper Creek Square.

August 10 – Rocky Mountain National Park

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve driven along Trail Ridge Road and I never tire of the views. Lynne had to work today, so Annie and I got an early start and headed up into the park. Shortly after we entered, once again enjoying my lifetime pass, we spotted cars at the side of the road. Sure enough, there were moose in the meadow, a male and female. They were the most active moose I’ve ever seen and at one point the male headed in our direction. I was debating whether running behind a tree would help if he got any closer. 

After that, we stopped at a half dozen vista points, taking pictures under grey skies with occasional rain drops. We saw two herds of elk, one near the Alpine Visitor center, at the top of the stairs and another near the Rock Cut pullover. One marmot was licking the rocks at Forest View. We stopped at a dispensary in Tabernash to look at growing marijuana plants on our way back to Fraser, which we reached shortly after noon. We ate leftovers for lunch, stopped by to visit Lynne, and lingered around the condo all afternoon watching the weather switch from sun to hail and back.

August 11 – Goodbye to Annie and Lynne

We gave Lynne goodbye hugs and drove to the Denver airport where I dropped Annie off to fly home, wrapping up a rich, fun-filled week. I continued north to Fort Collins to visit my longest friend, Nancy, her husband Steve, and son Zach. Sage loves the large lawn in back of their home and quickly tired out Bella, the resident boxer. 

August 12-15 – Fort Collins

I spent a relaxing four days hanging out in Fort Collins. On the first day, I posted my Utah blog entry, paddle boarded with Zach, and enjoyed a steak salad – Steve’s barbeque with Zach’s Caesar salad. Nancy returned from the Bay Area later that evening; she’s been there helping take care of her father’s estate. The next couple days were primarily spent shopping, sewing, eating, and watching a bit of television (rare for me). I heard about a group of teenage boys who climbed all 58 of Colorado’s 14er’s (peaks over 14,000’, 427 meters), and a state record-breaking softball-sized hail that fell that week. On my last day, Nancy and I took a day trip. We went for a scenic drive though Gold Hill to Nederland where we had lunch, then a detour to Boulder, since Boulder Canyon Drive was closed for road improvements following past floods and rock slides. We were one of the first on the road when it reopened at 2:00 so we could visit Boulder Falls. Afterwards, we stopped at the DushanbeTeahouse for a refreshing ice tea and snack – the “Summer Peach Bruschetta” was delicious! Back in Fort Collins, we joined Steve and Zach for a sushi dinner, and I packed up, ready for the third leg of my three-week road 

Colorado Road Trip

I’m about to head off on another road trip to Colorado, so I figure I should post a few pictures from last year’s trip first. 

July 2018

I usually fly when I go to Colorado to visit friends, but drove this time so I could bring Sage, my then nine-month old Border Collie. Susan joined me for the first half of my two-week trip, to Fraser where we visited Lynne and enjoyed short hikes and beautiful views. I continued on to Fort Collins where Nancy taught me how to make quilt.

July 12 – Dive to Tonopah, Nevada

It was an overcast day as we drove through Yosemite and by the time we got through the mountains it was raining, so we skipped stopping at Mono Lake and drove through heavy rain with thunder in the distance.

July 13 – Drive to Escalante, Utah

A long drive with various scenic stops. At one point we were so low on gas in the middle of nowhere that we turned off the air conditioner. We made with a fraction of a gallon to spare.

July 14 – Scenic Drive into Colorado

We took a short hike in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, followed by a gorgeous drive on Hwy 12 up past Boulder and through Capital Reef National Park. The rain followed us, but we stayed dry. We spent the night in New Castle.

July 15–18  

We drove to Fraser, CO where we visited Lynne and her family, and took several hikes in the beautiful Rockies.

July 19 – Drive to Fort Collins  

Susan and I took a final hike, a short round trip to a waterfall. Then, after leaving a few things behind for Lynne to bring home for us, we crammed four people and luggage into my small car, a Subaru Cross Trek. I took Lynne and her dad, Jim, to a hotel near the Denver airport, they were heading out on a trip the next day, and then dropped off Susan for her flight home.

July 20-23 – Sewing, Sewing, Sewing

My friend, Nancy, an awesome quilter, taught me how to make one. I bought everything I needed, including a sewing machine, and nearly finished making one for a queen-size bed, not a small project for a new quilter.  

July 24-26 – Drive from Fort Collins to Home

After a final walk along the canal, now a bit muddy from last night’s rain, I packed up the car and headed home. Google estimated six hours to Vernal; it took me about seven and a half with a handful of brief stops, including a grassy park in Rock Springs, Wyoming for a bit of fetch with Sage. The final segment of our first day, south on 191, was the most scenic. After checking into the Sage Motel, we took a hot walk around Vernal, it was about 98oF (37oC) and I ate dinner at the outdoor patio of a brew pub. 

The next day, I drove to Elko. Listening to books on tape kept me entertained, including Call the Midwife. I headed out early the next morning and reached home in the afternoon of the third day.

Rocky Mountains

I just spent a week in Colorado, hiking in the Rockies with Lynne, in preparation for our upcoming trek in the Alps with two other friends. Coming from sea-level, the air was thin at 9000’ in Fraser Valley, a few hours northwest of Denver, and even thinner on our hikes above tree-line.

July 2 – Getting There

I flew to Denver, arriving in early afternoon. Lynne drove down to pick me up at the airport. It usually takes less than two hours to get to her family condo, but apparently a lot of people decided that Sunday was a good day to head out of town for the 4th of July, so it took almost an hour longer. This gave us plenty of time to chat. I was entertained by her story of her drive to Colorado via Oregon with her father, Jim, son, Tim, and cat, Lily. Needless to say, Lily was not happy about the idea. She nearly got lost and caused an unpleasant aroma along the way.

July 3 – Fraser Valley

Lynne’s dad had a sore tooth, so she called around and found an emergency dentist open on the Monday before a holiday. Tim agreed to drive his grandfather down to Denver, while Lynne and I stayed behind. Initially planning a four-mile walk for my first day at altitude, we ended up taking a 9-mile round-trip hike to Winter Park after discovering a set of trails near the condo. We stopped for lunch and a beer on our way back. Her father and Tim arrived hours later. Her dad’s problems turned out to be much more extensive than anticipated and he suffered for three hours in a dental chair.

July 4 – Cascade Falls

We dropped Lynne’s father off at her brother Jed’s place near Grand Lake, just to the southeast of Rocky Mountain National Park. We then spent much of the day hiking to nearby Cascade Falls, a 9-miles round trip. It was beautiful. We ate lunch at the top of the falls – apple slices with smoked gouda, olives, deli slices and Mary’s Gone Crackers – yum!

It started to drizzle on our way down and we heard thunder behind us, so I put away my camera, we put on our pack covers, and covered the last couple miles pretty quickly. We reached the trailhead in mid-afternoon with just enough time to drive back to Fraser, take a quick shower, and head back to Jed and Mia’s place with Tim, for a barbeque. After our tasty, filling meal, we enjoyed sitting outside watching the sunset.

July 5 – Rest Day

We had been planning to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park, but her dad wasn’t feeling well, so we enjoyed a welcome rest day. We went out to lunch, stopped at a couple stores, and I started sorting pictures. I also fixed my signature meal – Chicken Marbella and mashed sweet potatoes. It was appreciated by all and I packed up some for lunch the next day.

July 6 – Berthoud Pass

Tim dropped us off early at Berthoud Pass ,11’300’, and we headed uphill, breathing heavily. We had Lynne’s father’s pulse oximeter with us and at the top of the 1000’ climb up to the ridge my oxygen level dropped to 75%! A couple breathes from a small oxygen tank, which Lynne bought at the supermarket, and it bounced up into the 90’s, at least temporarily. It was lower than that most of the day. I hope my body is busy making red blood cells so I can breathe more easily in Switzerland.

We hiked through the tundra along the rolling ridge for hours, admiring the views. Colorado had a mild winter so there was less snow than usual on the peaks. (We more than made up for their moisture loss in California, with record rainfall that broke our 5-year drought). Seeking an alternate route to the one we took a couple years ago, our 8-mile hike grew to 13 miles; in the end, we backtracked and went down the initial route. My feet developed a couple tender spots. I got one taped, before we felt raindrops. Since we were still above treeline, I skipped taping other, leading to a blister.

When we got down to the Zephyr chairlift, it was not running due to thunder warnings. Fortunately, a shuttle bus arrived just as we did and we got a free, dusty ride down to the bottom. Exhausted, we called Tim for a ride rather than take a bus back to the condo. After a shower and brief rest, we went out to eat with her father. We shared a pizza and Greek salad at an outdoor patio. Our veggie pizza with basil white sauce on a thin crust was very good.

July 7 – Mount Evans

Lynne drove us up to the top of Mount Evans on the highest paved road in the United States. At 14,265’ (4,348 meters), Evans is only the 12th highest peak in Colorado. Her father waited in the car while Lynne and I climbed the last few hundred feet to the top, head pounding. The views were stunning. Given the gathering clouds, it was surprisingly sunny, warm, and calm at the top. On our way back to the car, it suddenly became cloudy, cold, and windy, and hail began to fall. On our drive back down the mountain, with windshield wipers swishing off sleet, we spotted both Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats. Nice. Back in Fraser, we all took naps to the sound of thunder, then woke up to sunshine. I looked for, but didn’t see a rainbow. Jim took us out for dinner. Thank you both for a great visit!

July 8 – Home

Lynne drove me down to the airport and I bid farewell to her and her father. They are spending the night in Denver, visiting old friends from when they lived here. My flight was on time and went smoothly. I entertained myself taking pictures of clouds and starting this blog entry. The cats greeted me when I walked in the door. I unpacked my bags, then repacked my backpack, ready for another hike.

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.

Back in Colorado

I’ve returned for an almost annual visit to one of my favorite states. The first phase of this two-week trip was visiting Nancy, my longest friend and her family. Details below pics.

7/27 – Getting There

 The space allotted per passenger continues to shrink. The tray table on my flight to Denver was so tiny it couldn’t hold my travel mug, the pouch too small to hold a book, and the seats didn’t recline. Given that my knees almost touched the seat in front, this was a good thing, however, it made it more difficult to nap.

Nancy picked me up and we drove north, first to her home in Fort Collins and then on to Cheyenne for a concert. The music was too loud even with earplugs, with way too much base. We left early (déjà vu, this happened last time). The volume was about right at the exit to the fairgrounds.

7/28-29 – Visiting Nancy’s Family

We cancelled our planned trip to a rodeo because Nancy developed a toothache and had to have a tooth extracted. That day I shopped and did a little planning for my next trip; it’s always great to have one on the horizon. The next morning I went paddle boarding for the first time in my life, with Nancy and Zach, her son, at Horsetooth Reservoir. I got up, stayed up and want to go again! I indulged in a pedicure while Nancy got her nails done, we tasted chocolate, and when out for yummy meals with Steve, her husband, and Zach.

July 30-31 – Road Trip

Nancy and I left her home early and drove several hours to reach the Crags Trailhead, east of Pikes Peak. The hike was rated “easy”, only five miles with 700’ elevation gain, however, the trail went up from 10,000’ and a couple days in mile-high Fort Collins was not enough to get acclimatized; I was breathing hard. We took it slow.

We had lunch in Aspen, then Nancy dropped me off in Snowmass where I will be attending an art class. I settled into my dorm room and finished selecting photos for this blog post.

Visit to Colorado

I just returned from another trip to Colorado, perhaps my second favorite state. I spent half the time with hiking buddies in the Rocky Mountains and half with a friend in Fort Collins.

7/23/15 – Into the Rockies

Robin and I got a ride to the airport (thanks Erin). We flew to Denver where we met Anne arriving on a different airline. We rented a car and drove to Fraser, arriving at Lynne’s family condo five hours after we landed. In addition to a quick lunch, we were delayed by a slow car rental line, commute traffic, rubber necking, and road construction. Note for next time: take an earlier flight and/or arrive on a weekend.

We dropped our bags and took a two-mile walk to The Library, a restaurant in Winter Park (decent food, lousy beer, and a raising noise level). It felt good to stretch our legs and begin adjusting to the altitude (about 8500’).

7/24 – Hike on Vasquez Ridge

We took two cars, left one at Winter Park, and then drove up to the Berthoud Pass trailhead, at 11,300’. From there it was a steady climb with many switchbacks up to the Continental Divide Trail. We spent most of the day above the tree line traversing through the Vasquez Peak Wilderness and Arapaho National Forest. The views were spectacular, though as the day progressed it became more difficult for me to enjoy them, as I became nervous of the darkening sky. We felt a few raindrops, but, fortunately, thunderstorms did not materialize.

After overshooting Mary Jane peak, we backtracked, and then bushwhacked down into the Winter Park ski area, making our way down to Sunspot where we caught the Zephyr Express Chairlift down to our first car. The hike was longer than expected, 10-12 miles; it took six hours, including only a few short breaks. We felt pretty proud of ourselves covering that distance after coming from sea level. Too tired to cook, we picked up pizza on our way back to the condo. Lynne and I enjoyed a soak in the jacuzzi afterwards.

7/25/15 – Hike to Columbine Lake

After a ten-mile drive on a fairly well maintained dirt road, we reached Junco trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The weather was perfect. On our way up to Columbine Lake we passed beautiful meadows strewn with wildflowers and a lovely stream with a few cascades. We had lunch at gorgeous Columbine Lake, staring up at the cliff from where Lynne and a friend were rescued a few years ago. Still not back in shape after recent injuries, Anne and I took a break while Lynne and Robin hiked around the lake. Officially, today’s hike was only six miles, but it felt more like eight and our iPhones claimed it was even longer.

We had planned to drive into Rocky Mountain National Park, but the altitude was bothering Robin so instead we drove to Grandby and snacked on guacamole at a Mexican restaurant. My lime margaritas were the perfect complement to the chips and dip.

After a shower and short break, we had dinner at Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser, then returned to the condo to watch The Heat, a movie that had all of us laughing out loud.

7/26 – On to Fort Collins

 After a bit of commotion due to a water leak, we three guests headed back to Denver in our now filthy rented Kia. This time, the drive took only an hour and a half, half as long as on the way up. After returning the car, Robin and Anne took a shuttle to the airport. Nancy, my best friend from high school, picked me up shortly afterwards.

We chatted during the hour drive north to Fort Collins, catching up on the year since my last visit. Nancy’s arm is in a sling due to recent shoulder surgery and she’s recovering a whole lot faster than I did after mine. We stopped to say hi to her husband, Steve and younger son, Zack, then went to one of my favorite outdoor stores, Jax, where I found what I hope is the perfect backpack for day hikes.

Later, Steve, Nancy, and I took a bus up into the mountains to Mishawaka, an outdoor concert venue along a running river, where we saw Asleep at the Wheel, a Texas swing band whose music I last listened to in college. It was a fun evening.

7/27 – Nancy’s 60th Birthday

To celebrate her birthday, Nancy and I had a deluxe moisturizing pedicure. It felt great, especially given how dry it is here compared to the Bay Area. We also did a bit of shopping, at another great outdoor store, Sierra Trading Post, and Nuance, a local chocolate company. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on my blog and reviewing Photoshop with Zack. For dinner, the four of us went out to a seafood restaurant, also named Jax. The calamari appetizer was particularly yummy. Afterwards we enjoyed watching The Hundred Foot Journey, a pleasant movie with great cinematography about an Indian family that relocates to France and opens a restaurant.

7/28 – Rocky Mountain National Park

 Though we entered the park before 9:00, the parking lot at the Bear Lake trailhead was already full and there was a long line waiting for shuttle buses. Instead Nancy and I took a drive through the park, up one-way Old Fall River Road (open only in the summer) and down Trail Ridge Road. On the east side, we took a short stroll around Lily Lake with lovely wildflowers. Spotting a moose and her youngster made our day.

 Nancy’s older son, Alex, and his girlfriend, Rachel, joined us for dinner at Rodizzo, a Brazilian restaurant that specializes in meat, meat, meat. (Fortunately they also have a hearty salad bar). It was a double celebration as Rachel’s birthday is only a couple days before Nancy’s. We were all too stuffed to eat much of the ice cream cake that Zack picked up earlier in the day.

7/29 – Home Again

I took a short walk with Nancy, Zack, and one of their dogs, Bella, before giving Nancy a farewell hug. Zack drove me to the airport while Nancy headed up to Cheyenne for an afternoon of work. I arrived home in the late afternoon to uncommonly beautiful weather.



Frontier Days

July 22-27

My visit with Nancy, Steve, and their younger son, Zack, was bookended by two rodeos, my first. Cheyenne Frontier Days is the largest outdoor rodeo in the world. It was fast-paced, fun, and exciting. It clearly takes skill, determination, and daring. I just saw the movie 8 Seconds a week ago, so it made more sense than it would have otherwise (that’s how long a cowboy has to stay on a steer or bronc to qualify each round). The horses are beautiful and I enjoyed the photographic challenge, though I worry about the safety of the animals (the riders are there by choice). Wild bucking does not look like a natural activity and the calves seemed frightened by the ropers.

We also attended two evening concerts at the stadium. Unless you are hearing impaired, I don’t recommend this venue. The weather was perfect and the crowd friendly, however, the music was so loud that even with earplugs (provided by the usher) all I could hear, or more accurately feel, was noise. I can’t say whether or not the musicians were any good, though Brad Paisley was certainly entertaining.

One day we drove down to Denver for lunch and a visit to the Botanic Garden; it was the perfect setting for a Chihuley glass exhibit. On another day, Nancy and I returned to the Wild Basin entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike to Ouzel Falls. It was the perfect trail for daydreaming, in the trees, along a stream sprinkled with cascades. We got an early start to avoid the heat, crowds, and thunderstorms, with the added benefit of a parking space at the trailhead. (Summer is a busy time in RMNP).

I spent the rest of my week socializing, eating, sorting pictures, dodging dogs, petting cats and reviewing Zack’s website and Photoshop process. Nancy’s other son, Alex, and his girlfriend joined us for dinner on Sunday night to celebrate Nancy’s birthday. Thank you everyone for an enjoyable visit!



Rocky Mountains

Sunday (July 20)

The seven of us got an early start and drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Kawuneeche Valley is prime moose-spotting territory in RMNP and we weren’t disappointed. We watched two females strolling and eating near the Beaver Ponds. I would have liked a longer lens (or a closer moose), but thoroughly enjoyed observing them.

At the Alpine Visitors Center, we climbed stairs to a viewpoint at 12,000’ and then took a short hike on the Ute Trail. Wow, what views! As we continued our drive on Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved through road in the United States, we got lucky and spotted a dozen or more elk near an overlook.

It was a bit windy at the top, so we drove down over the pass and ate lunch near West Horseshoe Park on a rock overlooking a meadow. It was at least twenty degrees warmer than at the top. We continued on to Estes Park and spent a leisurely afternoon in this tourist town. I enjoyed iced tea lemonade with Karen and Anne sitting near the stream that runs through town.

When our hotel rooms were ready, we took quick showers, and then enjoyed an early dinner at the Rock Inn – hearty portions of decent food and a nice local musician. The place filled up. At dusk we drove back through the east end of the park hoping to spot Big Horn Sheep or other wildlife, but spotted only one deer.

Kawuneechee Valley

Kawuneechee Valley

Moose at Beaver Pond

Moose at Beaver Pond

Near the top

Near the top



Ute Trail - looking West

Ute Trail – looking West

Ute Trail - looking east

Ute Trail – looking east

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

Elk in Meadow

Elk in Meadow

Photographing the Elk

Photographing the Elk

Nice antlers

Nice antlers



Monday (July 21)

I said my farewells to everyone. Lynne and Debbie are taking three days to drive home, Karen is continuing on to Wyoming, and the others are driving to Denver and flying to San Francisco today. Nancy drove up from Fort Collins to pick me up. She brought Dave with her, a family friend visiting from Tennessee. (Dave met Nancy’s husband, Steve, when the two of them were in medical school). We took a long leisurely drive back to her home.

Our wildlife spotting in RMNP wasn’t as spectacular as yesterday – one marmot and a couple distant moose disappearing into the brush. We ate lunch at a picnic table near Shadow Mountain Lake then drove north and through Poudre Canyon to reach Fort Collins.



Lake in gorge

Lake in gorge

Abandoned wagon

Abandoned wagon

Another nice view

Another nice view



Photo break

Nice light

Nice light

Moose in meadow

Moose in meadow

Clouds and crags

Clouds and crags

Hiking Fraser Valley

For those of you who never heard of Fraser (I hadn’t before this trip), it is a small town near Winter Park south of the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Karen, Anne, Sheila, and Canyon arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday (July 17). We barely gave them time to unpack, then drove back to Monarch Lake for another loop around the lake. I think they were glad to get out after sitting in traffic on their way from of Denver.

When we got back to the condo, I fixed Chicken Marbella, gluten-free noodles, asparagus, and salad for dinner, a popular choice. I packed a container of leftovers for lunch.

View from condo

Fraser Valley

Friday (July 18) – Rollins Pass

We drove two cars to Rollins Pass. It took us about an hour and a half to cover 14 miles on the rough dirt road leading to the trailhead at 11,660‘ (4WD would have been nice). We had planned to hike to a rock formation known as Devil’s Thumb, however, we were concerned about the gathering clouds. The entire trail is above the timberline and given a couple recent deaths due to lightening strikes, we didn’t want to take a chance. Shelia and Lynne sprinted ahead for a view from the next ridge, while the rest of us headed back in the wind. The short distance we hiked was beautiful.

Since we got back earlier than planned, we took a soak in the Jacuzzi at the condo clubhouse. I was a bit dizzy afterwards, which I attribute to the altitude. Afterwards we had a yummy dinner at the Tabernash Grill about ten miles north of here. I had lamb for the first time in years, my kebab came with a beet hummus and quinoa tabouli.

Group selfie at trailhead

Group selfie at trailhead

Lynne, Canyon, Anne, and Sheila

Lynne, Canyon, Anne, and Sheila

King Lake, Rollins Pass

King Lake, Rollins Pass

Alpine Sunflowers Rollins Pass

Alpine Sunflowers Rollins Pass

Anne Hiking Rollins Pass

Anne Hiking Rollins Pass

Wildflowers Rollins Pass

Wildflowers Rollins Pass



Saturday (July 19) – St. Louis Trail

We were on the trail by 7:45 this morning. It’s a good thing we got an early start since our planned 7.8 mile loop turned into a 13-mile out-and-back hike with almost 3000’ elevation gain. Apparently to reduce the number of hikers, the forest service put a gate across the road about three miles from the trailhead. Sheila and Karen zipped ahead and we didn’t see them again until we got back to the trailhead at 4:00.

The road portion was boring except for a porcupine sighting, my first. Once we reached the trail, it was beautiful, if steep. We started out in the trees along a stream, emerged in a wildflower filled meadow, and then hiked up above the timberline to the high alpine tundra. We stopped for lunch before the saddle, which gave me enough renewed energy to make it up the last climb to 12,200’. Anne, Canyon, and I took a break while Lynne continued on to St Louis Peak. After a short rest, I slowly headed down to photograph wildflowers. Lynne rejoined us after an hour or so, jogging down the last stretch.

Though easier than going up, our return trip was tiring. Anne and I both ran out of water and were grateful for Lynn’s water filter straw, which allowed us to drink from the stream. We met Karen and Sheila at the car. Sadly, they had been waiting for three hours. They had taken a different fork in the trail and gone to St. Louis Lake instead of the saddle.

Debbie was at the condo when we arrived. She flew out to join us for our last day and will drive back with Lynne. Anne and the others fixed a delicious curry dinner and we retired early.

Moose, on way to trailhead

Moose, on way to trailhead


Porcupine, not wanting to be photographed

St Louis Steam

Tree Knot

Tree Knot

Rest Break

Rest Break

St. Louis Sadde

St. Louis Saddle

Canyon on top

Canyon on top

Photograph, then rest

Photograph, then rest


Enjoying the Meadow

Enjoying the Meadow

Stream Crossing

Stream Crossing