148: Be back soon

Not really.  But I have gone off to have fun with friends.  I’ll be back soon.


Scenes from a rainy day

One morning during our first few days in Boulder, Colorado we experienced a deluge of rain.  It came down pretty heavily for about an hour or two.  One section of the hotel — not the section where we were staying — had signs stating the area was prone to flash floods and advised evacuation and moving to higher ground during heavy rains.  I could see why.

Boulder could use some of that sort of rain now.  They have had a serious wildfire (known as the Fourmile Canyon Fire) this past week.  The complete coverage by the Daily Camera (Boulder’s newspaper) can be found here if you’re interested in reading about it.  A lot of people have lost their homes.  As of the latest news I heard this morning, the fire is now 50% contained and some folks are being allowed back to their homes.

M the Younger, when he emailed us about the fire, said it smells like a campfire around there.  Having lived in Huntington, West Virginia during a bad wildfire season and visited San Diego while the smoke was still clearing from one of their fire seasons, I know what he means.  (For those concerned — for which I thank you!  —  M the Younger and Merdi live well away from where the fire is located.)

I do hope they get some rain soon.

(On the road to Gold Hill.)

On our last full day in Colorado, M and I drove through the area where the fires have been blazing, going through Gold Hill so we could have a look at where M’s sister and M the Younger went on their big bike ride.  M’s sister is a better woman than I am.  One look at those gravel roads and steep hills and I would have turned around.  But she did it, even though she had to walk her bike for a little while.  And now she has a great story to tell about her grueling mountain bike ride to Gold Hill.

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.

Saddle sore in Boulder

Weed control

Did you know the city of Boulder uses goats to control noxious weeds instead of herbicides?  They do.  The goats come in, eat the invasive plants, and the herders come in and move the goats before they start munching on the native grasses and plants.

How cool is that?  I love Boulder.  It’s one of the greenest cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.

Boulder Creek

We spent yesterday riding around and exploring Boulder on the bike paths.  The bike I rented has a “comfort” seat.  My bottom does not agree with that description.  Sitting is not something I’ll want to do again for a few days.  But I will have to get back on the bike one last time this morning to return it.  Hopefully it won’t be too painful.

The end of the paved trail

We followed the Boulder Creek bike path uphill until we were out of the city limits.  I’m not sure who is responsible for the path from that point on.  All that uphill was pretty exhausting but worth the work.  We eventually reached a point where it was time to lock up the bikes and walk for a little while.  I enjoyed having my feet back on the ground again.

We fit our bike ride in between storms.  We had some mild rain storms move through in the morning and then some stronger storms in the afternoon.  We were on our way to lunch when we noticed the dark, almost black, clouds making their way across the mountains in the distance.  Then the lightning show started, streaks of it zig-zagging from mountain to mountain and cloud to cloud.  It was interesting to watch while it was far away.

By the time we finished our lunch (around 2:30pm) the dark clouds had rolled in with some strong and cooling winds.  We pedaled back to our hotel in record time (about 30 minutes), trying to beat the storm.  And beat it we did, I am happy to report.

Orchids and granite

We need all of the exercise we’ve been getting.  By the time we get around to eating, we’re all scarfing it down like we haven’t eaten in days.  The lack of oxygen must make the body work harder (or think it’s working harder).

As I mentioned earlier, we’ll be returning our bikes today.  Then we’ll pick up a rental car, do a little grocery shopping, and head into the mountains for a few days.  We are taking the scenic route to Grand Lake, driving along Trail Ridge Road rather than the interstate highway.  It will probably take us about 5-6 hours with all the stops we will no doubt make to admire the views and fit in a few short hikes.

I’d better get moving and finish packing up.  I’ll see you again from somewhere in the Rocky Mountains if we have internet access.

Boulder: Day 2

Mountain Sunset

Day 2 was fun, full, and exhausting.  It was also another beauty of a day, weather-wise.

We began our day at The Boulder Bikesmith where we rented bikes which we’ll be using to get around Boulder for the next day or two.  The tandem bike we rented last year was unavailable so I had to relearn how to ride a bike.  The weird thing is that it’s true what they say about riding a bike.  Having learned as a child, the basics are so ingrained that it all came right back to me after the initial wobbles.  I’m not used to handbrakes and shifting gears but that didn’t take long to learn.

I took a grand total of four photos and none of them involve cycling or the things we did throughout the day.  I decided not to take the camera along.  At first my reasoning concerned the safety of anything I was carrying (in case I should take a spill).  Later, when I felt confident enough to carry it in my daypack, I discovered the camera case will not fit in the daypack.  I am not confident enough to carry the camera unprotected by the padding the case provides.

Hopefully I’ll find some time to walk around and snap a few shots.  If not, oh well.  I took loads of photos last year.  You can find a few by doing a search for Boulder in the search box on the sidebar.  Look for the posts from August of 2009.

We met M the Younger after picking up our bicycles.  M the Younger and C went up around Bald Mountain Scenic Area to go on a heavy-duty bike ride that involved a long, steep climb up to Gold Hill and then the easier downhill back to Boulder.  It took them about 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

M and I cycled around Boulder while they were off having their adventure.  We ended up at Dot’s Diner for second breakfast.  The best way to head off any signs of altitude adjustment (sickness) is to keep the body well-supplied with food and water.  Dot’s Diner is a breakfast institution in Boulder.  No trip here would be complete without at least one breakfast (first, second, or third) at Dot’s.

Eventually we all came back together and took off on the bike paths.  Boulder has nearly 100 miles of linked bike paths and many of the main roads include a bike lane.  I would love to live here.  I’d rarely, if ever, need a car (which would be just peachy because I do not like driving, not one bit).

We ended up at the Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder, a pedestrian area that stretches from the 1100 to the 1400 blocks of Pearl Street.  We had lunch at my favorite place to eat and drink in Boulder:  The Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery.  The food is amazing with plenty of great vegetarian choices, and their beers are delicious.  Last year we were not able to drink this early into our trip due to the effects of being at higher altitude.  This year we’ve had little to no symptoms of altitude sickness so we decided to risk it and had no problems.  One beer is pretty much enough at this point in acclimating to the altitude.

After lunch we strolled around and did a little shopping.  I was looking for a specific item that I knew I could find in Boulder.  Having found walking to be easy exercise, I decided to try running.  Unfortunately my first week of training for a 5k resulted in knee pain and swelling.  I gave up for a while but then came across several articles about barefoot running.  I’ve been trying it and have no problems at all with my knees.  Since I don’t really want to run outside in my bare feet (not at this point, at least), I decided to invest in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.  I tried on a few pair, walked and even took a few jogs around the store, and left with my new shoes.  Or no shoes, as the case may sort of be.

That pretty much wraps up the day in Boulder.  We went back out to M the Younger’s place for dinner, hung out for a while talking, and stopped to watch the sunset on our way back to the hotel in Boulder.

Today we’ll be biking and then hiking.  We scoped out the big hill we’ll be climbing on our bikes.   I may be walking a good part of it, not being used to working so hard on a bike.  It looks pretty daunting from the bottom looking up, but we’ll see.

Greetings from Boulder!


After an uneventful flight (for which I am profoundly grateful), we arrived at Denver International Airport (DIA) around 7:15 yesterday morning.  M the Younger picked us up and we went to Denver for a few hours since we were going to have to come back to the airport to pick up M the Elder’s sister who arrived 5 hours after us.

Green onions

Having had some time to check things our using the Wi-Fi at the airport, we decided to go to the Cherry Creek shopping district, mainly to check out their farmers market since I volunteered to cook dinner for us that night at M the Younger’s place.

Biscuit Bus

It is a lively market with plenty of people looking for fresh foods.  It was similar to the farmers market held in Boulder, somewhat expensive and mostly organics.  They also have a variety of other booths and tents, from freshly made tamales to wine and artwork.  We left with three bags full of stuff including some of those freshly made tamales to have with our dinner.  (They were delicious!)

We stopped at the Biscuit Bus for a little mid-morning snack.  We had eaten breakfast around 3:00am so it felt more like lunch (or dinner) to us.  The biscuits were yummy.  I sampled some of M the Younger’s grape jelly and bacon biscuit.  It was a peppered bacon which gave it the triple combination of tastes:  sweet, spicy, and salty.

Roasting chilies

After watching the guy above roasting a barrel full of chilies, the enticing aroma drifting through the area, we decided we must have some and bought a bag of ’em to have with those tamales.  With the temperature in the 90s, this poor guy was really sweating it out in his work.

We still had plenty of time before going back to the airport so we took M the Younger, who has been unemployed for a long time, shopping for some much-needed items.  His lovely wife is back in Ohio right now, visiting with her family, so we’ll take her out when she comes back this week.  The good news about M the Younger’s unemployment status is that he finally started work again this past Thursday.  Yay!!

Long's Peak

We eventually made our way back to the airport, picked up M the Elder’s sister, and headed to Boulder to check in to our hotel where we all took much-needed naps.  M the Younger picked us up for dinner which we prepared and ate at his place.  M the Younger and Merdi have a lovely new apartment outside of Boulder.

Today M and I will be renting bikes and (re-)exploring the Boulder bike paths.  C (M the Elder’s sis) will be going on a mountain bike ride with M the Younger since she is the experienced cyclist in the family.  We’ll join up with them later in the day.  It’s possible we’ll fit in a hike somewhere nearby but that depends on the weather.

It is quite warm here (in the 90s yesterday and expected to be the same today) but it is, as they say, a dry heat that isn’t nearly as oppressive as the humid weather we get in the Bogs.  It is also sunny with some lovely clouds rolling in and out.  Storms are expected in the late afternoon which is typical for this time of year.

Flatirons and clouds

The photos are (and will be) straight out of the camera as I haven’t the time or means to edit them.  I am uploading to Photobucket which I hope won’t cause any problems with viewing.  Please pardon any typos.  I’m having to do this on the fly, so to speak, with little time to proof and edit.