Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fourth of July in the "Vail-ly"

Around the Fourth of July 2013

On the way out of Rocky Mountain National Park I stopped in at the pretty little lake town of Grand Lake and took on some coffee for the drive down to Winter Park, CO. Actually, I wouldn't get quite all the way down to Winter Park because 5 miles north of it lies Fraser. A little town with a few highly recommended eateries and mountain bike trails. I wanted to put the supposedly "out of this world pizza" by Elevation Pizza to this Jerzey Boy's taste buds, but they were closed. So I ducked into local breakfast/lunch haunt "Sharkey's" for a sandwich and on the way out wished I had a duck's waterproof coating to weather the cool  afternoon downpour.
Grand Lake Portal

Later, I took Mage up to explore the winding dirt roads of the area's mountain forests. The infestation of Pine Beetles is clearly evident everywhere you look. The combination of short mild winters which don't kill off enough larvae and the continuing drought conditions which weaken the forests is a cyclic concoction of doom for the pine trees. Downed trees are innumerable and piled up everywhere ready for bonfires which will be seen from space, but still it was hard to find a clear view off in to the distant peaks and valleys from the forest roads. 

Grand Lake Fire Truck
So, even though I spent the night camped out up there I didn't get lucky enough to catch a brilliant lightning storm or any other photographic opportunities other than a weak rainbow. But I did get some rest and in the morning I found the trailhead for "Chainsaw" which is part of a fairly famous mountain bike race course known as the Tipperary Creek Loop. If the rest of the course is anything like the section I did it must be a heck of a race because other than the climb it was some really fun singletrack. 

After a van shower I took the scenic route to Vail (via Rt. 40 then Rt. 9 south to I-70) where I met up with my hometown buddy, Dino. He suggested we check out the free concert happening down in the village. I expected a "concert in the park" type of atmosphere, but was surprised to walk into a large beautiful amphitheater. The band was okay, but the people watching was excellent. Afterwards we kept the party rolling by strolling down to the underground "Shakedown Bar" which has live music 7 days a week.

I spent the next afternoon adding a Facebook "Like" button to this blog (don't forget to "Like" Me, please) and that evening we went into Avon.  Since it was the 3rd and not the 4th, I can only assume that they decided to put on a fireworks display to honor my visit!  Not only do Avon's fireworks deserve at least an honorable mention in the "Best Fireworks" department, but they brought the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to kick off the evening all the way from New Orleans

A good time was had by all, but the evening didn't just end with the fireworks finale. In fact, after wetting our whistles at one of Avon's finer establishments our designated driver, Nika was kind enough to get us back to Vail safely for a continued pub crawl through "The George", "Red Lion" and once again "Shakedown".
To soak up the undigested suds of the previous evening we hit the "Westside" for breakfast and exerted just enough energy to set ourselves up for a lazy day sunning poolside and relaxing in the hot tub. As night descended we strolled into Vail for their Fourth of July fireworks. They were definitely nothing to write home about. In fact, they aren't even worth mentioning in a blog, so forget I mentioned it! None the less, we still had a great night and probably a celebratory drink or two too many. 

Another neighborhood friend who I hadn't seen in over 20 years wasn't taking any excuses though the next morning. George pried me loose from bed and mushed me up a breathtaking ride ascending Vail Mountain. It is pretty up there, but when I say breathtaking, I mean I was "out of breath" the entire ride up! The downhill makes it worth it though, as does a few cold ones down in the village as reward for all those calories burned. 

At this point the national holiday is over and I figure it's time for me to move on also. After saying goodbye to the Vail crew I headed south to have a look at one of the more odd landscapes you will see. Odd in the sense that if I asked you, "Where are the tallest sand dunes in North America?", you probably wouldn't answer "Colorado". That is, in fact, the case. So I had to have a look at the "Great Sand Dunes National Park" and parked at "The Point of No Return" to explore a little.  At upwards of 750 feet the dunes are impressive, but I must admit that having climbed my share of dunes I could not think of any serious pay off to climbing to the top of these giants,  so I admired them from afar. 

A bit lazy, yes, but there will be plenty of other hills to climb as I continue west........and perhaps even a dinosaur!?

Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Rocky Mountains are Pretty Lame

End of June 2013

Who would want to fly-fish here?
So let me tell you a little about the Rocky Mountain National Park. It's lame! I would really suggest skipping it. There is absolutely no reason to grace them with your presence. Unless you're into abundances of interesting wildlife, effervescent towering snow capped peaks, beautiful refreshing waterfalls and/or lightning shows that make you wish you hadn't given up psychedelics. Other than that, it's seriously lame. That's why I only stayed a week!

The first night after driving a full lap of the meandering park road, scaling its dizzying heights and hair pin switchbacks, I forced myself to take some photos of some lame 14,000+ foot mountains in lame lighting conditions. The next morning I did what would be one of many lame hikes. This first one along Fern Lake Trail up to Fern Falls and on to Cub Lake. I never did see any "Fern Lake" which I thought was totally lame! The next day I drove down to Bear Lake and there were no bears! Lame. Dejected and miserable I hiked to Nymph Lake, then Dream Lake and finally to Emerald Lake. As you can probably guess by their names, they were lame. 

Bullwinkle resting
That evening, not having my fill of misery, I went back to the lakes for what I hope will be some awesome photos, but they'll probably be lame. While out on a crag shooting the sunset a beautiful 10 'pointer' Elk decided to graze for his dinner not more than 30 feet from me. I asked him to come closer, but he ignored my request. So lame.

Trying to get away from the misery that Rocky Mountain National Park is, I was driving to the small town of Glen Haven that night. Luckily the speed limit is 25mph, otherwise I would have definitely obliterated the deer that came within about 2 feet of my front bumper before she did a 180 and narrowly escaped. She was doing an illegal lane change and you know she was probably uninsured and that is super lame.

The next morning I had to listen to Hal, a volunteer from Texas, give me a history lesson about the former owners of the only still standing structures within the park. One of these structures being an outhouse with no door. Apparently the Holzworth's, German immigrants, had a sense of humor even if it is a lame crappy joke. Later I hiked up to Adam's Falls and shot the hell out of a moose. He just stared at me like all my shots were missing! Lame!

The following day I hiked the Colorado Trail up to Lulu City. It was so lame I won't bore you with details. 

The animals here are super aggressive ;) This poor guy lost his hand!
I don't know why, but the following day I hiked the North Inlet Trail up to Cascade Falls. There after a warm climb I had to bare the sting of cool mountain water misting me as it cascaded down the Rockies. On top of that I saw 3 huge moose bucks and few feet later a mother with her baby. They were so close to the trail that to pass, I actually had to ask the mother telepathically for permission. Can you believe that!?

Completely depressed I raced the van up to a high elevation in an effort to somehow rescue this trip with some evening sunset photos and all I got for my troubles was a super intense rainbow. And no pot of gold! Lame!

 I'm so out of here!

The Columbine, Colorado's State flower.

No photos please, I'm having a bad hair day!