Change is in the air

(Garden spider and her web.)

I went out for a short walk on Sunday just to see what’s happening around the pond these days.  The goldenrod is blooming, leaves are starting to detach from the willow trees and fly with the wind, and the birds are beginning to gather together in great flocks.

Our late-blooming sunflowers are opening.  A pair of doves living in the spruce tree near the sunflowers are teaching their young one to fly so it can leave the nest and go out on its own.

There are butterflies dancing all over the place, moving from flower to flower and color to color on their way to wherever the butterflies go when they migrate.

The days are still warm but you can feel the change in the air, the coming of autumn.  Nights are getting a little cooler.  The canning and freezing season is in full force now, Mother Nature providing us with the bounty to get through another winter.

In other news…

I am breathing new life back into Bountiful Healing (my other blog).  In Choosing a sunflower I explain some of my reasons why.  Please join me over there from time to time.  And don’t be surprised if I eventually go back to BH as my primary blog.

Green and brown

One of the saddest sights (to me) during our trip was the increase in the number of trees affected by the mountain pine beetle.  I know the beetles are considered a natural condition but to see so many trees dying, dead, and cut down was disheartening.  Quite a few of the campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park are almost devoid of trees.  What used to be wooded, shady campsites are now wide open sunny spots dotted by numerous tree stumps.

Even so, the dead trees didn’t detract from the beauty of the area.  The browns and grays mixed in with the greens reminded me more of autumn than of summer.

Some of the hillsides near Shadow Mountain Lake (which is near Grand Lake, where we stayed Tuesday through Friday during the first week of our trip) are dotted with piles of wood from the cut down trees.

(Near Shadow Mountain Lake.)

The western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park has been affected more than the eastern side.  There are still patches of green among the trees but you can see in the photos above and below that there are large swaths of brown and gray.

A harsh, cold winter would kill the beetle eggs and larvae.  Temperatures in the Rocky Mountains have been warmer than usual over the past ten years, said to be due to general climate change.  Precipitation levels have been down as well and the combination of the two (climate change and lack of precipitation) has caused the infestation to worsen.

Meanwhile, back at Breezy Acres…

I paid a visit to Hilgert’s Farm Market today.  The roma tomatoes and peppers are now coming in like gangbusters.  I came home with two pecks of peppers (green bell peppers and “Italian roasters”).  They are gorgeous.  I’ll be freezing most of them.  I do want to roast some of the Italian roasters to put in a salad tonight and save some the bell peppers to make stuffed peppers tomorrow tonight.

I’ll be going back later in the week to pick up a bushel of the roma tomatoes for canning and a peck of the Hungarian sweet peppers for freezing.

Sunday signage and green at home

(Sign at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park)

If you’re finding the sign difficult to read, click on the photo for the larger view.

The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, a group of apprentices and senior associates who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright.  The building was completed in 1967, several years after Wright’s death, and it was the last of the major projects completed under the National Park Service’s project Mission 66.  Mission 66, in a nutshell, was a 10-year program to expand park visitor services.

(Beaver Meadows Visitor Center)

We were there around noon on our first day in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The lighting was dreadful for taking pictures.  This was about the only one that didn’t come out terribly overexposed.

(Memorial honoring National Park Service Ranger Jeff Christensen)

NPS Ranger Jeff Christensen was killed in a fall in August of 2005 while on patrol in the Mummy Range of the Rocky Mountains.  After he failed to radio in and show up for his next shift, a search was started.  With over 200 people looking for him, the search lasted for a week.  His body was finally found by a hiker on August 6, 2005.  This memorial honoring him is outside of the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

If you’d like more information about the Free Speech Zone sign I started the post with, you can read a Wikipedia article about it here.

In other news…

M and I are home from our adventures in Colorado.  The flight home was bumpy at the start (it was breezy in Denver) and bumpy at the end (it was raining in Canton/Akron).  The height issues I mentioned in my previous post also include a fear of flying so a bumpy flight is not a good thing for me.  I am considering never flying again but that consideration will probably only last a few days.  Even if it lasts longer, I’ll buck up for the next flight because it is the quickest way to travel long distances, and because the logical and rational part of me knows that it is also one of the safest modes of transportation even if the phobic and panic-attack prone part of me disagrees.

I expected to find a jungle when we returned home.  However, there hasn’t been much rain here during the month of August (only an eighth of an inch).  The weeds, of course, don’t care one way or another about rain and thrived as usual.

(This morning’s view of the pond and some weeds that are taking over the roller.)

I’m not sure what kind of weed that is.  It reminds me of a squash or melon vine.  It does have a pretty yellow flower hidden inside the green leaves.  I’ll have to take a closer look when I go out to see what’s up in the garden.

Speaking of the garden, we had our first ears of sweet corn from our garden last night with our dinner.  It was fresh and sweet and divine.  I’m not sure I agree with Garrison Keillor who said:

I love sweet corn.  It truly is better than sex!  I’m not lying!  All across the Midwest tonight, a husband and wife will finish what husbands and wives do, and the wife will ask the husband:  ‘How was that?’  And, if the man is honest, he’ll say ‘Well, it wasn’t sweet corn, but it was nice.’  It’s a fact!  Sweet corn is better than sex! … fresh sweet corn! … Store bought sweet corn, yes, sex is definitely better than that!

But he isn’t too far off the mark.


Goodbye Colorado

Yesterday morning we hiked to the summit of Bald Mountain.  A little left of center in the photo above is Denver in the background.

(Climbing to the summit.)

It was a relatively easy hike, ascending as we wound around the mountain rather than going steeply straight up to the top.  The views are magnificent.  To be honest, I don’t think any photo can do it justice.

There is something about making it to the summit of any hike.  It is uplifting in a variety of ways, even when the hike isn’t all that difficult.  There is still a sense of accomplishment (especially for those of us who have height issues).

(At the summit.)

As you can see, we had another beautiful day for hiking.  It was supposed to get into the 90s but I don’t think it did.  Clouds rolled in and out, none of them particularly threatening.

For those of you curious about the new shoes, I finally got a decent shot of them.  Here are my feet in my Vibram Five Fingers, making their way down the trail:

It was the first time I wore them on a hike.  The trail was a little rocky but not too bad.  The best way to describe wearing the Vibrams is that I felt like I was hiking barefoot (which is the whole point) without the pain of actually stepping on the rocks and gravel in my bare feet.

(St. Vrain Creek)

We descended and left the Bald Mountain Scenic Area and took a ride through the mountains to the Ceran St. Vrain Trail near Ward, Colorado.  Last year we stopped at this point on our way to Estes Park to stretch our legs and soak our feet in the cold water of the creek.  M had a small foot injury and this stop was recommended as a good place to put that foot into icy waters and bring down the swelling.  M didn’t get to walk around much.  I wandered off a little way on the trail by myself but didn’t go far.  We decided to go back this year so we could explore a little more since it is such a beautiful area.

The hike starts with a bridge going across the creek.  If you would like to see the bridge and read a little more about the trail and our stop there last year, you can find it here.  It might be worth a look as I tried not to do repeat photos this year.  I’m not sure I was successful but I did try.

The trail takes you through lodgepole pines.  The straight and slender trees were once used as supports for Native American lodges, hence the name “lodgepole.”  They have adapted to grow at elevations above 6,000 feet.  The cones require temperatures between 113 and 140 degrees (F) to melt the resin that bonds the seeds to the cone.  In other words, they are dependent on fire to replace themselves.

The mountain pine beetle infestation has had a big impact on the lodgepole pines.  Falling trees are among the risks of hiking and camping in the mountains because of the beetle infestation and the large number of dying trees.

We didn’t hike for very long.  About a half hour or so, I think.  Then we headed back to where we started to have a picnic lunch by the creek.

We sat on a rock, munched on our sandwiches and salads, and enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the place.  I could have sat there for hours and hours, but we had other things to do, some of which involved arriving at a certain place at a certain time (picking up M the Younger from work, for instance).

We stopped at Boulder Falls on our way back to the Boulder area.  It appears to be a popular spot.  The falls were once referred to as the “Yosemite of Boulder Canyon.”  That’s a bit of a stretch, I think, but it is a beautiful waterfall.  (I posted a photo of the Yosemite falls here if you’d like to see it, compare, contrast, etc.  It is an old post of mine at Bountiful Healing.)

And now it is time for us to head back home.  I have enjoyed my stay in Colorado.  I can easily see myself living here.  I cannot imagine ever taking all of this beauty for granted, no matter how many times I see it.  I hope we will get back this way again someday.  I am also sorry to be saying goodbye to M the Younger and Merdi.  It was great to be able to spend time with them.

(Last evening in Colorado.)

South Boulder Creek

M and I went on an easy 4.5 mile hike yesterday morning.  We took the  South Boulder Creek Trail up to Mesa Trail and looped around on the Big Bluestem Trail to where we started.  I enjoyed it.  It didn’t involve steep climbs or the possibility of steep falls down the side of a mountain.  The first half of the hike involved ascending.  The second half was all downhill.  Nice.

The hike goes through meadows and grazing land.  We passed through a lot of gates, some open and some closed.  We didn’t see any cattle or sheep or whatever grazes out there.  We did see plenty of scat on the trails, especially around the berry bushes where the black bears like to hang out from August 15 – November 1.  Grasshoppers, butterflies, and birds flitted about.  No black bears, mule deer, fox, or mountain lions popped up anywhere along the hike.

It started out sunny and warm.  Then the clouds and wind moved in.  I thought for sure it might rain given the ominous look of the clouds rolling off the mountains.  We did get a little sprinkle but that’s it.  The clouds and breeze kept things cool, making it a pleasant day to be outside.

(Big skies)

There are great views of the Flatirons from the trails.  I took a lot of photos of the Flatirons last year so I tried not to take so many this year.

They do fascinate me, the Flatirons.  We climbed around up there last year.  The views are marvelous but my favorite way to look at them is from below.

We went back to Boulder for lunch.  On the way in we stopped at an overlook so I could snap a few pictures of Longs Peak which looked beautiful in a cloud wrapping.

We have a couple of hikes planned for today, our last full day in Colorado.  I’m not sure where we’ll end up.  We might do one or two.  We might do them all.  It depends, in part, on my left foot.  Somewhere around the last half mile of our hike yesterday I felt some discomfort from my hiking boot rubbing my heel.  It was never bad enough that I felt like I had to take off the boot.  I didn’t have to limp out.  But when I finally did take off the boot I discovered a good-sized blister.

One of the hikes we’re considering for today is on a trail that is well padded with pine needles.  I’m thinking this might be the perfect opportunity to put my Vibrams to the test.  I have worn them around the hotel and on small walks, but not on a major hike.  One reason I’ve avoided wearing them on a major hike is that the trails tend to be rocky.  I have discovered that one of the things you don’t want to do while wearing the Vibrams is stub a toe (or toes).  I tend to drag my feet when I get tired, an action that is almost guaranteed to result in the stubbing of a toe.  A well padded trail might be just the thing for my first good hike in my new “barefoot” shoes.

(Evening on the Pearl Street Mall.)

We had dinner with M the Younger and Merdi in Boulder again last night.  This time we went to The Mediterranean Restaurant.  It was a fantastic choice.  The food was excellent and the service was good.  We’ve noticed in passing the place on various occasions that it always seems to be busy.  Now we know why.  We started with some tapas dishes.  M stayed with the tapas so he could try different things.  The rest of us moved on to entrees.  I had the vegetarian paella.  The saffron rice was perfectly cooked and mingled with a big variety of peppers — both sweet and hot — as well as peas, artichoke hearts, asparagus, onions, and kalamata olives.  There may have been a few other veggies in there that I’m not remembering.  It was an interesting and lively dish.  Piquant describes it well.  I would have eaten it all if I could.

The serving sizes were good, too.  They were not super-sized as they are in a lot of U.S. restaurants.  If I hadn’t sampled the tapas and had ordered just the entree, I could have finished it without walking away feeling as if I made a pig of myself.

I’d better get myself ready for the day.  I can’t believe it’s already our last day here.  The time has flown by.

Hot hiking

(My no-longer-new hiking boots.)

M and I went on two hikes yesterday.  They were not long hikes.  I think our grand total was a little over 3 miles.  Even after over a week at this altitude (and a few days at higher altitudes) I still have the huffs and puffs when we go up so “a little over 3 miles” feels more like a little over 5 or 6 miles especially when the temperature outside is in the 80’s and climbing into the 90’s.  It was up to 97F by the time we finished.

(On the road towards Boulder and our hiking destinations.)

Our first stop was Heil Valley Ranch in the North Valley Foothills.  The trails are part of the Boulder Open Space system.  We decided on the Lichen Trail — which is a 1.3 mile easy loop (there is a little climbing but it’s nothing compared to other trails we’ve been on) — and ventured off onto the Wapiti Trail for a little while just to have a look around.  We started around 10am and the temperature was already well into the 80s.  One of the advantages of the Lichen Trail is that it does have the occasional shady spots and it is a pedestrian-only trail.  Mountain biking is very popular around here (makes sense, don’t ya think?).  I don’t mind the bikers for the most part (they give me an excuse to stop for a minute and breathe as they pass).  Sometimes, though, it’s nice not to worry about someone speeding around a rocky corner and running into you.

The Lichen Trail had good views of the foothills and mountains in the background and lichen-covered boulders scattered all over the place near the trail.  The Boulder County foothills are, geologically speaking, a fault and fracture zone.

(Cacti growing in a boulder.)

The trails at Heil Valley Ranch pass through grasslands, woodlands, shrublands, forests, and canyons.  We passed through or had a view of each on our hike.  Wildlife in the park include squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, marmots, foxes, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, and black bears.  The only wildlife we saw were some butterflies flitting among the abundant wildflowers.  As M said, all the intelligent creatures were napping in a shady spot somewhere, keeping cool, while the humans were hiking and biking and working up a great amount of sweat.

(A view of the grasslands, shrublands, forests, etc.)

This was originally planned as our warm-up hike for the day.  But the day grew so hot so quickly that we decided we didn’t need (and couldn’t do) a longer hike so we set out for a back-up shorter hike after a short rest, lots of water, and a few handfuls of trails mix to get us energized.

We stopped in the town of Lyons to refuel (the gas in the car, the water in my CamelBak and in M’s water bottles) and to pick up a few maps.  Then it was on to Hall Ranch, the home of the golden eagle, the great horned owl, Cooper’s hawk, bighorn sheep, coyote, deer, bobcats, and many other creatures including the one we were warned about:  the mountain lion.  We encountered a few butterflies and lots of grasshoppers.  I found the grasshoppers entertaining as they seemed to be leading the way for us.  There were a few mountain bikers and hikers out there as well, but we mostly saw them from a distance.

The views were lovely, the sun was hot, and there was very little shade to be found.  Hall Ranch is located at the interface between the plains and the mountains.  The land in that area was farmed, prospected, and quarried by a variety of families over the years.

(Along the trail.)

I saw dust devils along the trail.  One of the almost-nice things about the heat here is that it is, as they say, a dry heat.  Most of the time.  Even when it rains, it dries out fairly quickly.


M spotted those guys pictured above along the trail.  They sure look like tomatillos to me.  I’ve been craving salsa verde ever since I saw them.

We had a picnic lunch in a shady spot near a creek in Lyons.  Before eating we took off our hiking shoes and waded in the cold water for a little while.  It was refreshing.  There were lots of people there wading and tubing and just generally staying cool on a hot summer day.

It was close to 2:30pm by the time we finished lunch so we went back to the hotel and spent the hottest part of the day in the pool.  We met M the Younger and Merdi later in the evening in Boulder where we had dinner at Hapa, a sushi place.  It was fun and delicious.  Boulder was fairly crowded with University of Colorado students and their parents.  Today is move in day for the new students.

(Heading back towards Boulder after our hikes.)

I’m not sure what M and I will be doing today.  We’ve been trying to decide on a hike that isn’t too far from Boulder.

Random greens

The Crater trail, RMNP.

Most of yesterday was taken up with laundry and shopping.  Those activities hardly seem photo worthy unless I’m at home and have nothing better to photograph.

So I thought I’d pick out a few random photos from the trip that fit the Green theme.  The first two photos were taken by M on the Crater trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I didn’t make it to the top of that hike due to not feeling well at the time.  I had to turn back about half way.  I gave the camera to M and asked him to take photos for me so I could see what there was to see.  He came back with some lovely photos of the breathtaking (almost literally!) scenery way up there above 11,000 feet.

The rest of the photos are mine.  The one above was taken at Lake Irene.  Lake Irene is a small lake and the hike around it is an easy 1-mile loop at an altitude of 11,840 feet.  It’s a nice little hike to start the day and get warmed up for more serious climbing and hiking.  It had rained the night before and the air was crisp, cool, and freshened by the cold front that brought the rain.  (I suspect the air is almost always pretty fresh and cool up there.)  The ground was dotted with all sorts of colorful fungi (such as the one M took a photo of above).  I took a lot of mushroom shots but want to wait until I get home to start posting some of them because I would like to have a good look at them first.  It’s nice to have the laptop so I can post, but the colors look a little strange on the screen and it’s hard to tell a good shot from a bad shot at times.

Lake Irene on a cool August morning

That’s about it from me for now.  I’m not sure what we’ll be doing today.  I know it will involve hiking.  And sweating.  It’s going to be in the 90’s today (and the rest of the week, for that matter).  The one thing I do know for sure is that I will be wearing my Vibrams at some point so I can take a photo of them on my feet for all you foot fetish people out there who requested one.  😉