A foggy start to the day

The day started out foggy and gray with the occasional blue patch of sky showing between the holes in the clouds and fog.  I had planned to go back to the Garden of the Gods to get a photo of Pikes Peak through the Siamese Twins rock formation but it was a no go.  Pikes Peak was shrouded in clouds and fog.

Instead we went to Red Rock Canyon (part of the Colorado Springs Open Space) for an early morning hike.  It was earlier than expected because our plans to sleep in were thwarted by an alarm going off at 6:00am.  It turned out to be the ice machine which was located across the hall from us, not the smoke alarm we thought it might be.

A glimpse of the Garden of the Gods from Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is, in my opinion, almost as good as (and maybe better in some ways) the Garden of the Gods.  It is less touristy yet still seems to get plenty of visitors on the weekends and I suspect many of them are locals.  Having gone on a Monday morning, we practically had the place to ourselves.

The fog, as fog tends to do, added an element of peacefulness to the morning.  It also kept the temperature fairly cool which was nice for hiking.  We made our way to the quarry which is near the center of Red Rock Canyon.  It was a moderate hike with a slight climb up stairs cut into the rock at the quarry.

The problem with being a visitor is the limited time we have to explore.  We had to check out of our hotel by 11:00am and that meant we were unable to wander around for as long as we would have liked.  I am rather glad the weather didn’t work out as planned because it gave us the time to visit an area we might have skipped due to time constraints.

There were plenty of wildflowers in bloom with the sunflowers dominating.  They lined most of the trails and sometimes ran right down the middle.

As I mentioned earlier, the blue sky would peer through the clouds every now and then.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain on this trip.  The local people we’ve talked with seem to think it is a rainier than usual year.

We hiked for about an hour or so and then made our way back to the hotel to check out.  From there we went east to the high plains.  I have wanted to see the plains (which everyone keeps telling me is boring).  M and I independently managed to find the same place to visit that would satisfy his need to climb a little and my wish to see the plains.

The weather was not cooperative (for hiking) at first.  The problem we had was determining whether we should continue to our destination or give it up.  Being out on the plains (or prairie) where the sky is so wide open, you can see storms coming but we had no idea how fast or slow the storms were moving.

Our destination was Painted Mines Interpretive Park in El Paso County, Colorado.  We found our way there, walked out a short way to an overlook, heard the thunder rumble, saw the lightning light up the sky, and decided to go back to the nearest town to search for some Wi-Fi.  We couldn’t find a library but we did find a coffee shop/internet cafe that turned out to be a jewel of a find.  We had lunch there and the food was fresh and delicious.  I have to admit that was unexpected given the size of the town and the apparent desolation of the area.

The radar showed a break in the storms so we went back to Painted Mines, donned our rain gear, and set out on our hike towards the middle of the Painted Mine formations.  The sky continued to remain threatening throughout most of the hike with the occasional rumble of thunder in the background.  We were lucky in that the storms seemed to move around us.

It was windy and cold when we started out.  The wind died down later and that was an unfortunate turn of events as it invited large swarms of mosquitoes to come out and feed upon us.  It’s a good way to burn calories, running from mosquitoes.  M and I haven’t been on that kind of run since August of 1984.  We were vacationing in Hunting Island, South Carolina (one of my favorite spots in the world!), and had gone out on a nature hike through the marshes.  Five or ten minutes in, we were attacked by what seemed like billions of mosquitoes and ended up running on the boardwalk through the woods and marshes, taking turns wiping mosquitoes off each other.

I remember the year and the vacation well because that was when M the Younger entered our lives although we didn’t know it at the time and didn’t meet him until nine months later.

Well, my friends, I am exhausted and as much as I would like to continue rambling on about our day, I need to go to bed.  The hike turned out well (except for the mosquitoes).  We are now back in the Boulder area so we can spend some more time with M the Younger and Merdi.  We drove through a dust storm and rain storms to get here.

Driving through a dust storm

All that atmospheric disturbance resulted in one of the most unusual rainbows I’ve ever seen.  Sorry, no pictures.  I was busy admiring it and by the time I pulled out the camera it was too late to capture it.  The mix of weather also brought a beautiful sunset.

Sunset on the road to Boulder

(This post was written around midnight last night.  Now we’re off to do some morning hiking before meeting M the Younger for lunch.  We’ll probably spend the afternoon doing laundry as M and I are both pretty much out of clothing to wear that isn’t dirty and smelly from all the hiking we’ve been doing.)

Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods

The Cog Railway ride up to the top of Pikes Peak was fun and amazing.  Pikes Peak is 14,110 feet above sea level and maybe it’s just me but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of oxygen up there.  Being at the top of Pikes Peak gave me a real appreciation for the reality of a rocky mountain high.  We were all a bit lightheaded.

I’m not sure the weather would be described as perfect, but it was close.  We were above the clouds and experiencing sunny weather at the top of the mountain.  It was a little chilly.  Hot chocolate and some of the donuts they serve at the visitors center warmed us up nicely.  It also took the edge off the lightheadedness (plain and simple water will do the trick too).  The donuts made and served at the visitors center are smaller and denser than what you usually find at lower altitudes.  We all agreed they were perfect.

Next weekend is the Pikes Peak Marathon when those in fantastic shape make the 26-mile round trip foot race up Barr Trail to the top and then back down again.  I mention this because some of the athletes planning to participate were training/acclimating today and we saw more than a few making their way to the top on foot when we stepped off the train that brought us up without any effort on our part other than to get up early and get on the train.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to run up and then back down that trail.  I’m not even sure I could walk it.

I have more photos to share when I get home and have time to sort through them.  The Pike’s Peak Cog Railway has been in business since 1891 (under various names and ownership).  It was a fascinating trip up with our guide filling us in on some of the history and Pikes Peak facts.  One of the most interesting aspects was something not included in the standard tour.  Our daughter-in-law noticed an area by the tracks near the top that looked like a grave.  On the ride down the guide comes around to answer any questions people might have so we asked about the possible grave site.  It is not a grave but a memorial to a couple who froze to death in 1911.  They were hiking to the top when the weather changed.  The train stopped for them, the conductor telling them they better get on.  They refused.  A few days later they were found buried under three feet of snow, dead.

Or so we were told.  I haven’t been able to check out the information.  It’s a good story, though.

Our trip to the top and back ended around 12:30pm so we set out to find some lunch.  We ended up at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in downtown Colorado Springs.  The food and beer were excellent as was the service.  I had the Peanut Crusted Tofu salad with sweet chile soba noodles, edamame, and pickled ginger.  Mmmm, good!

We went out to the Garden of the Gods after lunch.  I wanted to see the red rock formations.  I enjoyed our short hike around a small portion of the park.  M and I are planning to go back early tomorrow morning.  It might be interesting to see the rocks at or near sunrise.

There were several people out there doing some serious climbing on the rocks.  There were also several people out there who were allowing their children to do some serious climbing without the benefit of safety equipment or permits merely for the sake of taking a few pictures in spite of the fact that climbing is not allowed without a permit or proper safety equipment since there have been serious injuries as well as fatalities in the park as a result of inexperienced or unprepared climbing.  I suppose the parents ought to be considered as candidates for the Darwin Awards.

If I lived near the Garden of the Gods, I think I’d be out there throughout the various seasons and times of day just to watch the light play on the rock formations.  I’ve never seen anything like it before (other than in pictures or on television).

There have been a lot of new experiences throughout our trip so far.  Traveling can provide a great education is you’re open to it.

I’ll leave you with a photo from our time in Rocky Mountain National Park of the Colorado River (just because it’s pretty and it’s been uploaded).  It’s time for me to get ready for some serious hiking, starting with a good night’s sleep.  Today will be pretty full with a quick early morning visit to the Garden of the Gods, then a hike in a nearby canyon to see some waterfalls, and then a prairie hike.  After that we head back to the Boulder area for the rest of the trip so we can spend more time with M the Younger and Merdi.

Mountains and mountains and more mountains

We spent today hiking around some of the open space and parks areas in Colorado Springs.  I took a bazillion photos and don’t have time to upload them now so once again these are from our time in Grand Lake.  They were taken somewhere in Rocky Mountain National Park, not far from Grand Lake.

Our days and evenings have been so full that it’s difficult to keep up with it all.  As for the names of the peaks and/or mountains, I have a difficult time telling most of them apart, even with a map.

I am really enjoying our time here.  It’s such a beautiful place.  And it’s been fun spending time with M the Younger and Merdi.  We’ll have more time with them during the coming week once we go back to the Boulder area.

Tomorrow (today) we are taking the Cog Railway up to Pike’s Peak.  M the Younger and Merdi are going with us.  We’ll be leaving bright and early, bundled up for the cold.  The temperature difference between where we are now in Colorado Springs and the top of Pike’s Peak is about 30 degrees.  It will be chilly up there.

Grand Lake and beyond

We had a grand time in Grand Lake.  I have three days worth of fun and adventure to tell you about but no time to do it.  I’ll have to catch up with this part of the trip when I get home (or on a rainy day during the remainder of the trip).

Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road are as beautiful as I remember.  There do seem to be more trees impacted by the bark beetles that have been killing off conifer trees.  A woman we gave a ride to (her truck broke down not too far from Estes Park) mentioned that they need the temperature to drop to -20 degrees for 10 hours in order for Mother Nature to stop the beetles.  It doesn’t seem likely to happen.

The first photo is of Grand Lake.  The second is a baby elk we saw in the woods near Trail Ridge Road.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to stop by and comment during my auto-posts.  Hopefully there will be more trip-related posts over the next week, time and energy permitting.

Today we’re spending the day with M the Younger and Mere in the Colorado Springs area.  I’m not sure what we’ll be doing but you can bet it will involve hiking and a lot of picture taking.

The old barn

(Greenery growing around the door of an old barn in New Baltimore.)

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature seems to be taking over the back of this old barn.  I wonder what it will look like in another 10 or 20 years…

Green in the water

(Muskrat carrying lunch.)

I was out for a walk around the pond last week when I spotted this fellow swimming in the pond, a clump of pond weeds in its mouth.  Muskrats dine on mostly aquatic vegetation (cattails, rushes, sedges, water lilies, and other pond weeds).  As I’ve stated here a few times, we don’t care much for them because they dig their dens — usually consisting of several chambers, each one with one or more tunnel entrances leading underwater — into the dam or bank of the pond.  This undermines the dam’s integrity and could cause it to collapse, leading to the pond being emptied onto the neighbor’s property.

Gosh, there has been a great deal of dam talk around here lately.

The trapper will be along sometime in the fall to capture the muskrats.  He made a coat for his wife one year with muskrat fur.  It is said to be soft, warm, durable, and waterproof.

I’m surprised the muskrats are doing so well this year.  We’ve spotted at least one mink around the pond.  The mink is an enemy of the muskrat (as are humans and raccoons).  Minks have kept our muskrat population down to zero for the past couple of years.

(Another pre-scheduled post.  Hopefully we’re hiking around in the mountains, having a great time.)

Green in the garden: Tomatoes

Our garden is doing well, a fact that amazes me when you consider how often I have not been out to weed of late.  I think I spent a grand total of 40 minutes out there last week.  M has put in more time, but he’s also been busy finishing up Project Patio.  I’ll have some new pics of that to show you soon.

Seeing the green tomatoes in collage format has me suddenly craving some fried green tomatoes.  Perhaps I’ll make some when we get home.  They always remind me of Mom.

(This was another in a series of pre-scheduled posts.)