August 26, 2009
The first shot is looking south down the valley, across the meadow towards the town of Grand Lake. I kept expecting to hear dramatic music rise as Lorne Greene approached on horseback.
Next Colorado Post: Lost Among The Lodgepoles
August 24, 2009
We had planned on going to Corova, North Carolina this past weekend, but Hurricane Bill changed that for us. Although he was far out to sea, the forecasters predicted waves well above average, beach erosion and wash-overs on the Outer Banks. This is particularly problematic going to and from Corova. To get there you need to travel in a 4WD vehicle, on the beach, 11 miles past the last paved road. Instead we did some things around the house and around town, including heading out to First Landing State Park for some flatland, sea-level hiking with no danger of altitude sickness. Since this blog has been here before, I will post a few pictures from a different perspective.
August 21, 2009
Before we leave the center, I need to turn away from the view and make a comment about some of the people that work in the park. Every NPS employee, park ranger and park volunteer we came in contact with was pleasant, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. While on the Ute trail one hiking ranger stopped to ask us how we were doing and did we have any questions. He even dug into his backpack to pull out one of his well-worn reference books to help us ID a wildflower, all the while carrying on a pleasant and informative conversation. This "park culture" among its employees and volunteers is amazing considering the general state of the underfunded park system. My last hat is off to the passionate.
This stood in stark contrast to the people who work for the private company that holds the contract to operate the snack bar and restaurant. The mainly young people employed there stayed very busy - very busy conversing with each other about which one of their fellow coworkers pulled their share, who was a slacker and whose shift was over when. Too busy to even look a paying customer in the eye, saying anything beyond "that will be $10.49", let alone uttering anything along the lines of "thank you". What was even more disconcerting was that the worst offenders where the American employees, the foreign-born summer help was more hospitable. Now that this grumpy, nearly-old man got this off of his retail oriented chest, we can get in the car and head back down.
Next Colorado Post: The Never Summer Ranch
August 18, 2009
As the name implies it is an old Native American trail used by the Utes and Arapahos to get over the Continental Divide. We started at the Alpine Visitors Center (which we will visit in the next Colorado post) at about 11,700' in elevation. Being this high is quite a feat for someone who has spent the better portion of his life at sea level. The altitude will tax you if you are not acclimated to it, but fortunately I did much better on this trip than I did 5 years ago. Back then I thought I was having a heart attack while we were visiting Mt. Evans, which is over 14,000'. People are not the only ones who struggle in this environment. It amazes me that any plant or animal can survive here. There can be strong winds, harsh light and eight months of winter, with falling snow recorded in every month of the year. In several of the following pictures you can see there is still snow lingering around even on a late July day.
The first picture is the view from the trail head. If you click to enlarge (which can be done on any picture) you can make out the trail itself in the lower left hand corner. The foreground at first appears fairly barren and full of rocks as we are in alpine tundra where no trees will survive. At this point it really did not matter to me what the ground looked like, I just ate up that distant view of the mountains and the high drama skies. I could be satisfied with that for a lifetime. However, on closer inspection you realize that the ground is not just covered in rocks, but also in little treasures living their lives, trying to attract attention and reproduce in the few short weeks of summer. The wildflowers were everywhere and July is their peak month. This left me with a dilemma - should I look up, out and beyond or look down and between the rocks - oh, and also make sure you don't take a misstep off of the path. I managed to compromise and do a little of each.
my flickr page.
Next Colorado Post: The Alpine Visitors Center