Tag Archives: Colorado

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.

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

12,000'

12,000′

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

Deer

Deer

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.

Marmot

Marmot

Lake in gorge

Lake in gorge

Abandoned wagon

Abandoned wagon

Another nice view

Another nice view

Moo

Moo

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

Karen

Karen

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

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

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Enjoying the Meadow

Enjoying the Meadow

Stream Crossing

Stream Crossing

 

 

 

Into Colorado

July 17

I’m in Fraser, Colorado enjoying the beautiful Rocky Mountains. One of my hiking buddies, Lynne, invited me and a group of fellow hikers to a long weekend at her family’s vacation home. Lynne and I drove out; the others arrived this afternoon. It took us 20 hours to get here. We overnighted past the halfway point in Salina, Utah. The time flew by as we chatted about many topics and I entertained myself taking cloud pictures out the windshield. On the first day, we ate lunch in the car rather than brave the 100-degree weather. Colorado welcomed us with an afternoon thunderstorm.

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Yesterday we took a hike to Bottle Peak. Most of the climb was in the trees and I was quickly winded heading up from 10,000‘ . We were rewarded with a stunning view of Byers and St. Louis peaks. Above timberline it was cold and windy. Lynn continued to the peak while I wandered the meadow taking pictures of wildflowers.

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Today we got up at, 4:30 a.m.. so we could get to Monarch Lake for sunrise. There we did an easy four-mile loop. The mist was clearing and the reflection on the still lake was beautiful.

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