Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More of Colorado Springs (Colorado Springs, CO)

We got a slow start on Monday but eventually we were creeping toward Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument about an hour west of Colorado Springs.

This site of thousands of fossils and petrified wood became wildly popular in the late 1880's.  During this era droves of academicians and tourists came to Florissant to see and collect the specimens.  The result was that truckloads of specimens were removed with little or no accountability.  In response to a local grass roots effort to protect the area, the National Monument was created in 1969.   Today it is a peaceful site with lots of trails, a historical homestead,


some enormous petrified stumps,

and cataloged fossils for viewing.  Debbie and I spent a couple hours there before moving on to Cripple Creek.  Our original goal was to spend some time driving a couple scenic roads south of there.  But by the time we got ready to begin the drive we had to acknowledge that it was really too late in the day to start driving unknown gravel roads.  So we wimped out and followed the main roads back to Colorado Springs.  The saving grace was that there were some nice fall colors to enjoy.

We committed to an earlier start on Tuesday.  Success!  We were out of the camper by 10:30. Not wildly impressive but far better then the previous day! Our first destination of the day was the Red Rock Canyon Open Space.  It's a city owned expanse of wild country similar to the Garden of the Gods.  The bonus is few people and endless trails coupled with the natural beauty.  The weather was beautiful and Debbie and I hiked  6 miles.

View of Downtown Colorado Springs
Lots of wildflowers still in bloom

Time to pose!

So please let me pause with a bit of a news flash.  If you're keeping up with us you know that Debbie and I have, during the past summer, started giving our exercise and weight loss a high priority. Well much to her delight, Debbie just passed the 20 pound mark.  That means she has lost 20 pounds in the last 2 1/2 months.  Plus she's becoming like the gnarly exercise queen!  Her steady goal is to walk/hike 100 miles a month.   And most surprisingly she told me today that she LOVES the exercise.  Debbie is a great dancer but an athlete she is not.  So I'm telling you this is a GREAT transition.  Can you tell I'm pleased? 

So, while you were viewing  the photos did you notice our new Tilley hats?

Notice the new hats
We have resisted these hats for some time.  If you're familiar with the hats you know they're a bit pricey.  But our reluctance to spend the money had been overridden by our sense of practicality.  They're great hats, extremely well made and come with a surprisingly comprehensive warranty.  I''m not a hat guy but I'm trying to not have my big nose burned off my old face by the beautifully clear sun.  So now we have hats!

OK, one more sidebar.  While we were hiking, my father called me just to tell us how much he was enjoying our blog.  Love ya Pop!  So I'd like to share a thought.  We enjoy doing the blog and we also enjoy the feedback we receive.  So if you're reading the blog please let us know you're out there.  All you have to do is go to the bottom of the blog and click on the Comments and share your thoughts.  No need to sign up for google or blogger.  Just post as "anonymous"  and add your name to the post.  We thank you!

So back to our Tuesday.  After our hiking, we moved on to Manitou Springs.  This historical little town found itself on the map because it was the source of natural springs containing carbonated mineral water.  There's lots of other historical stuff related to resorts, explorers and Pikes Peak.  But the bottom line was/is the mineral water.  I tasted the water, YUK!  Today it may be a quaint little town but I'd put it in the tourist trap category.  We walked around town an hour or two.  The highlight was playing PAC MAN and GALAGA (remember those?) at an Arcade.  Surprisingly, I won both.  That rarely happens.  Then we went home.  After dinner I went to ride my bike.  That lasted about 10 minutes.  The bearings in the pedal crank seized hoo.  I'll be trying to deal with that first thing this morning, then we're off to drive up Pike's Peak.

Lovin' "the Springs"!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs, Co)

We wrapped up our outstanding experience at the Rocky Mountain National Park and moved on to Colorado Springs, CO. We arrived here Friday afternoon (Sept. 23) and pulled into our campsite at the Air Force Academy without incident. I’m a retired civilian employee of the Navy. I spent 4 years in the Air Force and 17 years in the SC Air National Guard. Consequently, I had the good fortune of retiring from the National Guard with 21 years. The result is that we have military base privileges. Given my mixed bag of military experience, my military heart strings lie with the Air Force. So it’s nice to be here at the Air Force Academy. It’s an impressive facility. The campground is quite nice. A little utilitarian but a great price at $20 a night.

So Friday we cruised the base, got our bearings and spent some time planning for the next few days. Saturday we drove to the Garden of the Gods.

It was originally purchased by Charles Perkins in 1899. Upon his death in 1907 his children donated the area to the city of Colorado Springs with the stipulation that it would remain free to the public forever. It’s now a city park and encompasses 1367 acres. The area includes 15 miles of hiking trails. So we spent several hours gawking at the rock formations, snapping pictures and deliberately hiking trails to pack in the miles for a total of about 7.5. We remain pretty focused on keeping off the pounds.

Sunday we stayed home. You will see we had a huge blog to create covering RMNP. Debbie did 4 miles with her walking DVD and I rode my bike for a couple hours on trails and roadway. Later in the evening we walked 5 miles with the dogs. It was a great day!


Glorious Days at Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park, CO)

Saturday (Sept. 17) arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and so did our very good friends Bill and Rena.  Remember they live just south of Tucson and were fellow volunteers in Spearfish. Well, once they arrived we never stopped going!  We all agreed that because of each other's presence we crowded far more into our RMNP experience then we normally would have planned. Consequently, I'm going to spare you the day to day account of our activities and just summarize the highlights. Warning though, this post covers 6 days in one of our nation's most beautiful and diverse national parks ..... there's going to be lots and lots of pictures!!

First, we hiked 4 of the 6 days we were together.  Our hikes typically took us to around 11,000 feet of elevation.  We saw beautiful mountain lakes,

waterfalls and streams,

and endless awe inspiring views that made all the effort quite worthwhile.

We enjoyed picking out the birds (see previous blog entry), the hardy wildflowers,

and all the unique little oddities that makes nature so interesting.

Mule Deer(?) Carcus

Hummingbird Nest
More bones
At the Continental Divide
Twisted Tree

Another one

Unusal Rock Formations

We hiked across areas of tundra, heavily wooded mountainsides and open ROCKY terrain.  It was all breath taking  and extremely satisfying! 

And oh did we see the wildlife.  One day in particular we watched the elk do their thing,

saw numerous deer,

later spotted a coyote 30 yards off the road,

and lastly saw 2 male moose, with full racks of antlers, head butting each other for dominance.  The moose were maybe 20 yards away!  Bill and Rena said after 35 years in Alaska they had never seen such a moose sighting.

Other animal sightings during the week included additional moose (mama and baby),

a mother bear with two cubs (too fast for a good picture),


and marmots,

as well as a ptarmigan (almost hidden) ,

a gopher in action digging his tunnel,

and one small snake.

Another time we laughed and laughed as we watched this squirrel showing off and then eating until his cheeks looked like they would just burst.

Bill and I wrapped up the hiking with a humdinger.  We hiked to Flattop Mountain then another half mile to Hallet Peak.  That totals 10 miles  round trip with an elevation gain of 3250 feet topping out at 12,725 feet!!!  It took us 7.5 hours.  It really gave us the sense of being on top of the world.  Quite exhilarating! 
I even took pictures!  Here's a few:

While Bill and I were hiking, Debbie and Rena visited  the Stanley Hotel, built by the Stanley Steamer fellow in the early 1900's, enjoyed some Estes Park shopping,  and did their own 3 mile hike around Estes Lake.  At one point their path was blocked by a large male elk.  After seeing him chase after a guy who got too close, they waited patiently until he decided to move on. 

We also spent a lot of time driving most all the roads of the park. These outings also included hiking, wildlife sightings and more views.  We attended  ranger/volunteer led programs about the elk rut, beavers, a two hour nature walk and a two hour bird walk.  All four programs were extremely well presented.  Part of what made them so good was the enthusiasm of the presenters.  The birding dude was a professional photographer.  The nature walk was led by a delightful female ranger who had been in the park since 1981.  A quirky ranger told us all about the beavers. The elk presentation was put on by a rather young volunteer fellow who was really quite funny.  What they all had in common was their love of the park!

The last two evenings we were here we drove to a location not 10 minutes away from our campground to watch beavers.  Now, as some of you may know, for whatever reason, Debbie has always had a burning desire to see beavers in the wild.  Mission accomplished!  This stream was full of beaver dams, a huge lodge or hutch and 8-10 beavers.  On the first evening we watched as a beaver began gnawing on a large Aspen tree maybe 12 inches in diameter.  When we came back the next day the tree was down and neatly lying across the stream.  Too impressive!! The beavers put on an endless show that included cleaning themselves, eating like pigs, dragging limbs and mindlessly frolicking.  We couldn't have asked for a better show!   Unfortunately, beavers are most active in the evening which did not make for such great pictures, but here's a few.

We also played some cards and had most of our evening meals together.  This included a trip to our beloved DQ for blizzards!  I hope I have conveyed what a terrifically great time we had at RMNP with Bill and Rena.

Bill and Rena at RMNP
Thanks again for a great time Bill and Rena!!!!
I'm hopeful you can relate to what I've shared but I'm not optimistic that I've adequately described the pleasure of our visit to the RMNP!