Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rocky Mountain hikes

We were hoping to climb Mt. of the Holy Cross (a new 14er for us), but we were stymied by a closed gate.  So much for internet beta - the gate would open the following day, and it was too far to make the drive twice.  In some circumstances we would have run up the long road (and back) to tackle the climb, but we have an ultra race next weekend and figured we shouldn't go crazy even if we aren't really tapering.

So we found a trailhead in Minturn with a map posted, and decided to hike up to Grouse Lake.  It was an excellent "Plan B" for the day.  Couldn't waste a day of good weather!

The trail went along a pretty creek.  We missed a turnoff/creek crossing and did a bit of bushwhacking but eventually the trail came back to our side of the creek and all was well.

Grouse Lake and (probably) Grouse Mountain:

John had fun running down the trail, even laughing about the snow drifts.  Here he is after a particularly interesting landing, asking me, "How long do I have to hold this pose?" as I grabbed for the camera:

Yay for Colorado meadows!

Snow tunnel over the trail, funny!

John contemplating some "trail work" at one of the creek crossings:

Mountain Man pose:

Beautiful aspens:

The next day we drove to the end of Fall River Road above Idaho Springs and hiked a short way up to St Mary's Lake.  What a beautiful spot, we can see why it is popular:

We discovered that the glacier next to the lake is easy to climb.  So of course we had to do that.

Hey, we're on a glacier!

Ice topography near the top:

Once we start climbing, it's hard to find a reason to turn around.  We discovered a wide plateau at the top and decided to explore some more.  This day was slated for "recon" and we were making the most of it.

With a mountain beckoning in front of us, we started up toward it.  We got partway up James Peak but storm clouds threatened, thunder rumbled, and we decided it would be wiser to get back down.  It was a fun run back across snow fields and down the glacier.  We paused for a picture of this guy skiing up it:

Very cool.

The next day we parked at a different trailhead near the "town" of Alice and hiked in to find the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) heading toward James Peak to try again.

It was a lovely morning for hiking (and we finally managed to get started at a reasonably early hour).


Our first marmot sighting of the summer - he's in this shot somewhere...

Working our way up from one snowfield to another:

Wow, we love Colorado scenery.

A "hot tub" shaped rock shelter at the top of James Peak.  Someone needs to turn the heat on.

Rocky slope near the top:

Checking out the views in the other direction.  So many places to explore...

Peering down at Ice Lake and the next set of little lakes above Loch Lomond:


Yes, we were enjoying ourselves:

This might be Stewart Lake.  Whatever it is, it's quiet and lovely:

You're off the trail, John!

Watching ice crystals "calve" off from an ice sheet - this kept us entertained (we're easily amused by Nature shows):

Raccoon maybe?

Waterfall coming into Loch Lomond:

Excellent hiking days, capped off by a moose sighting right outside our door!

That was unexpected!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Traveling to Colorado

After flying back to Texas and spending some quality time with the Beard family (and extended family), we were ready to load back up into Howie.  It was starting to warm up in Texas, and we had plans to be somewhere a bit cooler for the summer.

We had a nice tailwind for the drive north through Oklahoma and into Kansas.  Welcome to the plains!

Brief stop in Dodge City because it sounded familiar - Old West frontier town, Wyatt Earp, gunfighters, and the setting for Gunsmoke.  Yep, that's the one.  Its motto is "Get the Heck Into Dodge".  Cool.

Another brief stop, this time in Oakley to check out the Fick Fossil and History Museum.  One curiosity was the outdoor stair-stepper machine:

The variety of fossils and Old West artifacts was quite interesting.  Also got an idea what Buffalo Bill looked like - he must have turned some heads:

Then finally to Goodland KS for the night.  The highlight was this 80-foot high easel holding a replica of a van Gogh sunflower painting.  They really should advertise this better, I would not have found it except it was a stopover point for us.  It's worth checking out if you are ever driving through Goodland!

Some sense of scale - I'm the one in the background (smaller blue shirt):

This is one of the world's largest easels, and the painting is pretty large too.  Very cool.

The main purpose for the stopover in Goodland was to take a side trip (without the trailer, since it requires dusty dirt road travel) to the high point of Kansas.  We never would have picked out this spot among the prairie hills as a high point, but happily there is a wonderful monument at the site.

Sunflower made from railroad spikes:

A mailbox full of fun things:

Someone was here only a few days ago and left this:

This is the most photogenic high point we have seen - love it!  So fitting for the state of Kansas too.  I couldn't help but take a bunch of pictures.

Not much around for at least a couple miles.  And boy, was it windy.  Never really realized how loud the wind can be, and you just can't capture that in pictures.  Imagine the winters?

The high point is not easy to spot until you get close:

Several more high point photos are posted here:

We are now half done with our 50-state high point quest!  Sweet!

Next stop = Colorado!  John, we are not in Kansas anymore (sorry, I couldn't resist):

Out for a run on our first day in the mountains, admiring the view and the aspens:

A different sort of high point, an actual peak this time.  Mount Pisgah isn't anywhere close to the top of Colorado (just over 10,000 feet up), but it was a fun little climb to an interesting summit:

Loving the Colorado views and cool air (well, I'm loving the cool air, John is trying to contain his disappointment over leaving the summer heat so soon after returning to it, sorry honey):

A leather-bound summit register, very nice:

It's a good start to our summer adventures!