Late Summer Hike

 

4:00 am…on a Saturday…and my alarm clock is ringing in my ear.  We crawled out of bed, showered, loaded our packs in the car, and headed down the highway at 5:15 am.  Call me crazy, but sometimes early morning wake ups make for the best days.

Early Morning Hike

Heading West to our destination, we timed it right and missed the weekend mountain traffic arriving to a mostly empty parking area.  The air was a brisk 42 degrees and windy at 11,000 feet which made Bandit all the more frisky as he jumped from the Outback.  It has been too long since we have taken a family hike together, so we were happy to breathe in the clean mountain air.  Chilly TempsWe picked a shorter trail with good scenery that was friendly for dogs (with a titanium leg).  The hike ended at an alpine lake, so Josh brought along his fly rod to try his luck.

Somewhere in ColoradoThe chosen trail (undisclosed) turned out to be a perfect choice.  It was 4.2 miles out and back and surprisingly, many wildflowers still remained this late in the season.  As we hiked up the trail, we encountered a few small stream crossings, waded through patches of willow thickets, and spotted six mule deer on a northwest hillside.  Reaching the top of the ridge, the wind was fierce and almost unbearable.  We pushed through to reach the next part of the trail where the mountains provided a barrier from the brutal gusts.  Red paintbrush, mountain gentian and tall fringed bluebells enveloped both sides of the path, which became marshy in spots as we reached our glacial lake destination.

Colorado Mountain Stream

Willow Thickets

The alpine lake was peaceful, calm, and surrounded by mountains and wildflowers.  After enjoying a well earned trail snack of cheese and jerky, Josh fished for a while, while Bandit and I enjoyed the views.  We took our time exploring the area and made a loop around the lake.  With clouds steadily rolling in, we decided it was time to depart and we began our decent.  Bandit met a few doggie friends on the way down, and then started losing his energetic enthusiasm as we crept closer to our four mile completion.

Bulldog and Flowers

Hiking and mountain air always leaves us famished, so we decided to stop in Georgetown for a quick lunch.  Yelp assisted us in our choice of Lucha Cantina.  Lucha is located on 6th Street in Georgetown’s National Historic Landmark District. The menu is quite varied and they use all fresh ingredients; I ordered enchiladas, while Josh picked out one of the mac & cheese combos.  The food and atmosphere was a great ending to our morning adventure and reenergized us for the drive back home.

 

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July 4th Road Trip: Meeker Range Call, Independence Pass and Leadville

Shooters in Rifle

Kristy at Shooters in Rifle, CO. Note the sticker on the door.

Driving I-70 west on a holiday weekend is a daunting task, so we left promptly at 6am on Saturday to get ahead of the traffic. We had plans to spend the Independence Day weekend with family in one of our favorite Colorado destinations, Meeker, for Range Call 2014. After our 3 hour drive, we stopped in to have breakfast and to support a local restaurant, Shooters Grill in Rifle. They recently made headlines for allowing employees and patrons to “open carry” firearms. Kristy ordered a breakfast burrito the size of a football, which she barely touched, and I had Angus corned beef hash and eggs. Breakfast was excellent and up the road a ways, we arrived in Meeker just in time to catch the parade. After watching the parade in the hot sun, we welcomed the shade at the BBQ afterwards hosted by some friends of the family. We relaxed and visited with some great people and chowed down on the never-ending buffet of fresh barbequed pork and lamb and every side dish, salad and dessert you can imagine.

BBQ

BBQ

The hosts did it up right and spared nothing. From the kegs of beer and fresh lemonade and tea, to the tents and tables sitting on the freshly manicured lawn right on the White River. It was one of the better 4th of July BBQs I have been to.

Rejuvenated from the food and cold drinks, we made our way over to Main Street to watch the reenactment of the famous Meeker bank robbery that took place on October 13th, 1896. With the help of the 100 year old Meeker town historian, every year a group of locals acts out the bank robbery in front of the Hugas Building next to the Meeker Hotel.

Hugas Building

Hugas Building

Using authentic props and a little humor, this historic gunfight plays out in the same location it originally occurred almost 120 years ago. There have been a few minor changes since then; the streets are now paved, a few buildings have gone up and the three would be robbers have a permanent view of their mistake from the cemetery above town. An affirmation to this day as to why our 2nd Amendment is so important.

What would the 4th of July be without fireworks? The festivities came to a close with a great fireworks show that we were lucky enough to watch from Linda and Joe’s deck. What a perfect setting with the Grand Hogback mountains as a shadowy backdrop.

boom

Boom

We always hate to leave Meeker, but the time had come. We ate breakfast with the family and hit the road taking a different route home on Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs and then through Aspen. Leaving on a Saturday we were not in a rush to get home, but we didn’t want to push our trip into the madness heading back to Denver on Sunday. The plan was to drive over Independence Pass (on Independence weekend) and into Leadville and then on to Denver. On our way up the pass, we stopped at the ghost town of Independence. It is one of the better preserved ghost towns in the state and yes, it got its name because gold was struck there on July 4th, 1879. In its heyday it had 1,500 residents, 47 businesses and 5 saloons. After producing $190,000 worth of gold, the winters became too much for the miners and many relocated to the newly named Pitkin County seat, Aspen; and by 1912, Independence was completely deserted. The Aspen Historical Society has done a great job restoring and maintaining what is left of the ghost town. They even restored the old general store and turned it into a small museum with mining artifacts and old photos of Independence. Of course the intact buildings are boarded and locked up in winter, as the snow all but covers them.

Independence Pass

The last time we drove Independence pass was a few years ago and it was the weekend it had re-opened for the season. You could barely make out the rooftops of the mining remains at Independence, there was a lot less snow this time… (Pics below are of the exact same sign).

Spring 2011

Spring 2011

July 5, 2014

July 5, 2014

We descended the 12,095 pass into the twin lakes area and headed north to Leadville. Leadville is another mining town that was founded in 1877 and is still a very active town with about 3,000 residents. It is the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152 feet. As Denver is known as the Mile-High City, Leadville’s nickname is the Two-Mile-High City. The Historic District boasts some awesome 19th century architecture and the detail and craftsmanship is amazing. Leadville is home to some notable historical structures such as the Tabor Opera House, the Delaware Hotel (supposedly haunted) and the Silver Dollar Saloon, where Doc Holliday is said to have had his last gunfight before his passing in Glenwood Springs, CO of tuberculosis. Leadville is a really cool town with a lot to do and it is surrounded by some of Colorado’s highest mountains (Mt Elbert and Mt Massive). After a quick bite to eat at High Mountain Pies, which we highly recommend, we headed back to the Mile-High City.

Mountain Pie

High Mountain Pie with Mt Elbert in the background.

See ya in the mountains!

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Ghost Town, Gunnison & Crested Butte

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We took a road trip to south central Colorado to see the final colors of fall.  With Gunnison and Crested Butte as our destination, we made a few stops along the way to enjoy the scenery and see a few new sites.  A couple hours into our travels, we veered off the beaten path to find a Colorado ghost town.

Saint Elmo was established in 1880 and originally named Forest City because of its remote location.  It was founded to support the men working in the nearby mines and at its height was the largest town in the area with almost 2,000 residents.  In 1890, part of the town was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.  By 1900, the town population was only 64 residents.  However, the Stark family ran the general store until the 1950’s until Annie Stark, the last of the siblings passed away.

After finding no ghosts at the ghost town, we headed onward to our destination via Cottonwood Pass.  We spotted some lingering Aspen gold along the pass, but the vibrant yellows and golds were soon exchanged for white snow as we reached the 12,126 ft summit of Cottonwood Pass at the Continental Divide.  Here we stopped to stretch our legs and let Furry B romp in the snow.  This stop offered great snow capped views of the Sawatch (not Sasquatch) mountain range.  After snapping a few pics, we continued on the unpaved section of the pass into Taylor Reservoir, and on to Gunnison for the night.  Gunnison is surrounded by three mountain ranges, mountain streams and beautiful scenery, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.  Even though the sun shines almost every day, it is also known as the coldest town in winter in the United States due to its location at the bottom of several valleys. Western State Colorado University calls Gunnison home, and its “W” located on Tenderfoot Mountain is the world’s largest collegiate symbol.  Their athletic facilities are also a world record holder, being recognized as the highest collegiate football field in the world at 7,750 feet.

For Best Video Picture, click on “Gear” symbol and select 1080 HD

After a night in the small mountain town, we continued our road trip to Kebler Pass, one of the world’s best places to view gold Aspens.  Being mid-October we may have missed the peak of the Aspen’s golden transformation, but  the drive did not disappoint.  There was still plenty of color to enjoy and it was fun to see the contrast between the fall colors and the recent snowfall.  With a successful photography session on Kebler Pass, we spent the late afternoon exploring nearby Crested Butte.  Crested Butte is one of America’s great ski towns, but the entire town only covers an area of 0.7 square miles.  Skiing has been the main town attraction since the 1960’s and Crested Butte also claims to have created the sport of mountain biking.  (Fun Fact: Many locals believe the movie Avatar is based on the town of Crested Butte.)

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Fun with Leaves (Click FAST)

Winter Road Trip

Love a little road trippin’….we took a day trip on I-70 to enjoy the snow and winter views.  We shopped at the Minturn Winter Market, warmed up at Crazy Mountin Brewery, and took a stroll around Officer’s Gulch Pond.  Here is our day in pictures….