Friday, July 24, 2009

tarryall creek WONDERS

With Antero under my belt, Ruby Mountain trespassed and St Elmo's gold mines collected of all of their beautiful gems, I turned north to the wonderful foothills of Tarryall. Though many adventures have been had since I last stayed in the Spruce Grove Campground, it was only a few more than 24-hours ago that I left it. The drive would take me only 65-miles up highways 285 and 24- through familiar places like the city of Buena Vista and vast South Park.
Through Buena Vista the drive was simple and easy- it was just about on the north end of town that the long day caught up to me; I began to space out with the dimming day. My thoughts wandered through Shadowcliff and many of my recent western adventures- mountains and flowers and rocks... As the sun set- I realized the drama as I paralleled Antero Resevior- I found myself in a huge basin and between a pair of towering storm clouds. The northerly one, which laid also slightly west of me- was the most colourful. It was nearly comparable to the brilliant thunderstorms I encountered on Day One regarding the deep reds, oranges and blues and not lightning or the dark bands of precip. The clouds that were south of me were a lighter orange- the storm was further from me and almost cream-colored. This southerly one appeared larger and more violent- I spotted several flashes underneath it- more than I would expect to see considering the high amount of light in those beginning stages of sunset.
I let on the brakes and steered into the flat grassy area between the pavement and a rusty old fence. The car bounced a few times and I rolled to a slow stop- It took me only seconds to gather the camera and hop onto the hood for a few nice photos.
The battery-symbol on the camera pulsed red and low -something to do with the 400+ photos I had taken since the nice campground hostess had charged it in her RV two nights ago in Spruce Grove.
The last bit of light settled as I drove through Hartsel. ... TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mt. Antero- 14269

Shaved my head and climbed mighty Antero.
good crystals
great storms
Awesome views!!!

I will share the story (sans-pics; they were eaten by a dying harddrive) when Kelly and I return from our western Roadtrip. Relying on public libraries now, so posting is difficult.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Im Gone


Im finally headed south- got a few places in mind, but nothing specific... sounds like a great start to another adventure, right?!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Secrets of 34

Libby and I took a very pleasant afternoon tour of some of our favorite spots along Hwy 34. The highway stretches from Grandby, sixteen miles south of Grand Lake and Shadowcliff, north through the park where it is known as trail ridge road. It shoots east through Loveland and way into Nebraska, too, but thats a different day trip.

We jumped in my car and Libby showed me her favorite Pelican-spot on the other end of Shadow Mountain lake- nearly a dozen American Pelicans perched on a long floating log only a few hundred feet from shore. "They're always here' she explained. We couldnt get too close to the water- the ground was soft and wet- but the white birds are enormous and easily observed from our distance.
Osprey, too- A big nest set atop a large dead pine near the Green Ridge Rec. area further down the road. Mama-bird watched us pull up to her fenced tree and flew away only as we neared by foot. A few little heads popped up to peak over the rim of the nest. They were baby Ospreys, but still very large birds. As we watched, mom came a went a few times- flying from her nest and babies to the tops of nearby trees in nervousness. The fence has been placed around the nest like a yard and has been posted with NO TRESPASSING OSPREY NESTING AREA signs.
Even further south we visited the Willow creek and Monarch lake areas. The gravel road to Willow Creek Reservoir was one I recognized from last fall. We visited last year to find the intense fall colours of the large Aspen groves that line the walls of the valley. No yellows and oranges this time, but the gravel road sure offered some pretty amazing views! Monarch was also nice. The windy, dirt-road drive from the highway is always a good thing and Monarch was smooth and glassy. I dont remember things being so green last year (with the exception of the dying trees, of course!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ft Collins adventure

Kelly joined me on an excellent adventure to Ft Collins today. The truck was finally going to run properly again!

We had a noon-time appointment over and out of the Mountains- Ft collins may have taken us a good three hours to reach from Shadowcliff. On trail ridge were the usual traffic-stopping elk and the scared-to-death, low-altitude driver.

We were forced to call in and postpone the appointment another hour. After Estes Park things got a bit flatter and a by Loveland- they were much warmer.

the cloud cover moved in as we walked through town and back towards the mechanics. In town we visited a few shops and a nice little cafe- Got ourselves lost shortcutting through campus in an attempt at a recommended music shop.

It was all fun- the University manages a great flower-garden on city property- the marigolds boasted heads as large as my camera. The mechanics replaced melted spark plug wires for free- four of the six were melted through or badly warped and had not been firing. Mike gave me the depressing report from a look-over they did of the poor truck;

the exhaust system is failing- no converter and the whole thing is in dire need of attention, before I further risk letting it fall off. The Air filter was dead many thousands of miles ago and two of the tires have gone bad. There is some nasty rust somewhere in the engine- its causing some misfiring. The steering column's tumbler has fallen out and they might be able to fix it for a few hundred bucks... I could go on.

Dorothy- the trucks appropriate Kansas name, by Jan, - started up with great power. After so many hundreds of miles on it's heavy two cylinders, it drove like a new car with six!

We hopped over to the recycling center and took car of Shadowcliff's glass and paperboard (There are no capable recycling centers any closer to Grand Lake for these materials)

The drive back was a pleasant one. We rolled through Thompson Canyon and up into Estes-land; Kelly showed me the hotel which inspired "The Shining." It was beautiful and sure doesn't look like it could be very creepy without many feet of snow and a dark sky. I wish I could share more photos of the trip- they are all on the dead hard drive as well.

Storms began to brew as we climbed past Longs Peak and up into the Alpine. The very noticeable lack of evening traffic was came as a wonderful surprise. We took curves at our own pace and never once slowed for a line of elk-crazed park visitors..

the sky grew darker and more colourful for the storms and setting sun- we made a quick, cold jaunt out towards "Marmot Point," a short walk and viewing area high on Trail Ridge- It over looks dramatic Forest Canyon and has a formal name, Im sure!

Above us it was dark and grey, but the southeastern horizon appeared to boil with tangerine-storms. Who knew if they would hit us?? Shadowcliff was still an exciting drive of more than an hour..

As the road straitened out- East of the Visitors center- and we began the slow decent- it was our part of the sky which boiled. The show began and we passed the visitors center for the Rainbow Curve hairpin. lightning began to shoot a bit closer- disturbingly so. Several bolts struck the ridges to our south and west as the nastiest clouds tumbled over us. One old SUV took advantage of our curve until a small car joined us as the pinks and reds grew stronger. A roll cloud formed and dissipated and I we jumped out for photos. I think that she may have been as overly-excited about the phenomenon as I was. A massive, seemingly unstructured cloud shot from the valley on the other side of whatever small range was in front of us.- It traveled strait upwards at some amazing speed and morphed into a thin arch of cloud before our eyes- as if it outlined some invisible bubble that sped towards some lower pressure. Oh, it was incredible!

Seconds passed after the bubble had risen into the boiling ceiling and the same cloud formed at the base of our own valley! Lightening continued, but it was far too awesome to hide in the car. the racing cloud grew dense and more grand and impressive as it sped from the valley floor to the ridge above us. "Here it is" Kelly screamed in the wind as the cold thing overcame us. She spread her arms out like she intended to catch it.

It hit as an intense wall soft coolness. It rushed past us- maybe at twenty or thirty miles and hour or maybe more. For the seconds that we were in the forced cloud- immersed in that very personal part of the storm- we were closer to the Mountains than I have every experienced.

The remaining decent was not too wet at all- only a little rain and none of the hail or sleet which I expected. The cold storm may have come from a much warmer place.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rocky Mountain High; Trail Ridge rd.

A few of the shadowcliff staff invited me over Trail Ridge rd this afternoon- Up and over the park's alpine. Hillsides looked green and grey- like nothing special- until we got out of the car. The wildflowers were pretty intense! Check out this tiny alpine loco thing ... Lots of Elk, too!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Shadowcliff is hosting an HIV Retreat for a few days. Folks living with the virus come from around the country come to learn about it and how to better the quality of their lives. Its been a wonderful opportunity to visit with and learn from a diverse group of people. Mike (Denver) and I were at the base of the driveway this afternoon when this MULE DEER strolled from the woods near Shadowcliff. The doe walked right up to the edge of gravel road and took only a grinding mouthful of grass before she realized that she was watched. The deer trotted across the road- maybe ten or twelve feet uphill from the rock that we leaned on- and into the western woods, ears perked and knees sharp.
Despite the dozens of deer that Ive spotted on the trip thus far, and the few which frequent Shadowcliff's property, this encounter seemed very special to me. I think that maybe it is because we spotted her before she became wary, or maybe it was just 'cause I had someone cool to share the experience with!? THANKS MIKE !

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Timber Lake

An incredible high-altitute hike and a visit to one of my favorite trails in the park. Snow, Moose, beautiful meadows and enchanting crystals...the lakes were full of powerful reflections. .. No photos (hardrive died), but I will put them up when the thing is recovered! Visit last year's Timber lake entry for a less exciting preview!

Friday, July 10, 2009

WEST... and 50-degrees cooler

I took advantage of my westerly locale with a quick adventure from I-70 near Manhattan, KS- home of the Konza Prairie and a rather attractive stretch of the Kaw. A 100+ heat index is nothing to fool around with; I strolled along a gravel bar after being cooked off the flint hills. From the 177 bridge there is a moderately-sized Kansas beach that stretches upstream for maybe a quarter-mile. My feet were scorched after some shoe-less moments on the sand and rock, but it was nice not having the long hair greased to my face with my own excessive sweat- the morning's heat would have been intolerable.
Maybe two hours passed- no arrowheads or cool Native crafts. My finds included a sanded blue glass bottle and some interesting hunks of time-hardened bone and agate. The small bottle looks like one of those that should contain some smelly oils from a smelly-oil-shop and capped with a cork. I filled it up with my smaller treasures and spent way too long trying to remember which bush I had stashed my shoes under.
Not too far east of Limon- after many hours of monotonous and unexciting high-plains travel- I spotted some very cool clouds. The Vona exit offered a much-needed piss-break and an interesting chance to admire the sky. Minutes passed on the road from the interstate; I traveled only one block into anything that I would consider a town- parked next to Vona's old grain silo on the railroad tracks. across the street were the smaller, more rustic-looking grain towers. I took three or four with the 35mm that Vicki lent me for the trip- my cameras are all busted- and two with the digital gadget. The Olympus point-n-shoot cannot truly be called a camera. : (
I know that I have been spoiled with excellent SRT and the slightly-newer Canon EOS digitals, but the photos made with this new gadget could compare to looking through a dirty window. On the highway, the clouds disappeared again and slowly returned.

More than another 20 miles passed and I was in different terrain- tiny butte-things stuck from the fields like pimples- I wish there was a more beautiful word for it. Maybe like inverted craters- convexities- they were not tall, but could be the only considerable topography and were beautiful as such. One of the first caught my eye on the left side of the highway; the tiny-butte looked like it would make a great landscape photograph and I broke sharply for the next 'AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY' gravel turn-abouts. The freedom of having sun-lit I-70 to myself may have been too much fun!
I followed through on the turn and hit the acceleration. I was rolling; everything was good. The engine made it's engine-noise, and I SHOULD have been accelerating. The RPM's were way above the 3K-mark and I realized that I was getting nowhere fast. Haunting flashbacks of the trucks' dead transmission hit me and I realized how far I was from anything before any other thoughts hit me. My road trip rolled over the white stripe to my right at about 25 and I shifted through the gears. 'Hit the acceleration again and just as I was becoming frustrated with the old truck I realized that I WAS getting power. With the pedal touching the floor I crept up towards forty miles an hour...
The problem was not new to me; the same thing cursed my last drive back from Mt. Ida. The engine of a dodge runs hot; the engine of my silly thing runs too hot. The thermometer read warm, but definitely not dangerously so. I hoped that my top speed of 73ish was only because I had again melted the spark plug wires.

The truck made awful noises, so I -tutted- back to the butte. I broke out the Nikon again and shot until it read that I'd spent 9 of the 24 pics that the roll would allow.

A storm- far south of the interstate and much closer to limon- sprayed lightening through the evening cloudscapes almost continuously. I imagine that if I were still and the engine hushed the sound would have been something of a non-stop rumble spiked with the occasional sharp clap or violent crash. I headed for a direct collision with a nasty rolling arm of the thing- it appeared to be hanging over the interstate. Heavy tapered drapes of dark rain reached close to the ground from the hellacious underside of the deep storm, but from so many miles away any closer encounter remained unpredictable.

The steady dimming sun fell for several more moments as I neared the beast- whether the storm was fleeing quickly in the opposite direction, or my sense of distance was so badly skewed with no landmarks or topography to help my judgement, 65-mph didnt seem to get me closer to the burning rain bands as quickly as I thought it should have. Storms like this one may travel at speeds that exceed my own. The bands morphed into a wall of rain- just a single imposing curtain.
When it's brilliant colours were at their best it became clear that I was not going to get a better opportunity to shoot the stunning clouds. I stuck the gadget out the window and desperately worked for the exposure that could help me share the storm the best. With three or four pictures taken, I became weary of driving into the rain. Not only for the safety of my pathetic camera, but in fear of one of those blinding downpours that I have never experienced at such speeds. The temptation to review the photos was almost unbearable, but a moment of massive raindrops which smashed into the car with intimidating force, and one good one that exploded upon contact with the unprotected window seal- wetting a surprising amount of the cab's inside- distracted me from playing them back. I swerved back into my intended lane and had the window up in a instant- a bit of adrenaline blinded me to my own actions, but the single moment of severe weather was all that I would have. It was almost disappointing that I didn't get to experience what intensity that I'd seen in the sky and which I only assumed that the silly photos i took were unable to justify. My assumptions were confirmed, but the camera still did better than i thought it might have. Wish you were there; such vivid, wonderful things are sure to have done anyone well!

Night came- the interstate grew dark and lonely with no taillights to follow. I thought about How I might better accommodate the trucks injuries. If followed my rough plan, I would take 71 north from limon to visit the Pawnee Buttes area before hitting shadowcliff at the end of the weekend. It would add some serious mileage to the poor thing and I didnt know if it would be able to get me anywhere safer than where I was- as I caught sight of Limon's bright business district.
I was not sure how welcomed i would be if I showed up at Shadowcliff unannounced. No doubt that they would put me up- or at least give me some friendly direction to get the vehicle goin'.

Burthoud Pass wasn't over soon enough; the engine chugged and clunked up the mountain. If it were not that the few other cars on the pass were uncomfortable with the dark hairpins, I would have needed to pull over many times to let them pass- the car just couldnt make the speed limit. It sounded awful and I was very worried at times. I wondered if I shouldn't have parked it there and taken it back into Denver instead of risking it's last working cylinders to make it over the pass.

At three and four thousand RPMs I was amazed that the engine kept moving- some part of me was frustrated enough to kill it- I didn't completely care it the busted thing died. All of the sudden the nose of the truck turned downhill. The road began its descent and at about 10'O'clock
All sorts of feelings of surprise and delight overcame the exhausting frustration that the clunker had given me.

The truck and I clunked through the night and after the pass it seemed like no time at all before I was enjoying my fire at the Arapaho Bay Campground, only miles south of grand lake. Damn, the air was chilly. When I stepped from the fire my bald head froze.

This morning I woke and paid my ridiculous dues to the NFS at the campground hosts'. The host, an old Texan, found me walking back to my truck around 6 and told me about the extraordinary number of moose sightings that'd accompanied the wet months of May and June. "We ain' seen too many these past few weeks" he told me- He shared some of his secret wildlife-viewing spots and told me where to go for a hardy breakfast. 'Told me to order the blueberry pancakes- they were his fav..

Monarch lake was cold and overcast.. Several moments of light rain, but nothing serious. After that initial view of the lake, the first thing I found was a huge 'bush' of lupine. The thing stood several feet tall with lush, tropical-looking leaves and purple-flowered spikes that tapered into creme-coloured buds. I'd never seen such a specimen. It must have cost me upwards of a dozen photographs! I couldnt wait to find the trip's first plump Bolete mushroom; Monarch can be a hotspot for them

IT WAS APPARENT that this would not be the day for mushrooms by the time I hit the ol' steam engine thing. The iron giant was used to pull harvested timber from the forest and downstream to the Colorado River in the late part of the 1800's. I think they called it the 'Steam Donkey.'

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Swope Park arrowheads

Some eight years ago I pulled the sharp top of a flint arrowhead from a dry creek bed on the Hill; the "BlueRock" flint fragment was knapped smooth and still had an edge- and it was soo cool! Today I return to search the creek for artifacts!
I drove up to the Hope building in Swope park and stopped to let Bill know what I was up to. He was far too worn to join me on the hunt, but we yaked and he told me to stop by again if I found anything really cool. From the building I bush-whacked towards the creek. The ground was still dark and damp from the weekend's heavy storms, but recent dry air had surely shallowed the creek. Mushrooms- russulas and bright jack'o'lanterns were common, along with a spongy white coral-mushroom-thing. Those odd, spiny, shelled orb-weaver spiders were thick at about chest-height. I hate to tear their webs down!
Even on the creek bed the webs were abundant- I walked upstream- with few exceptions the creek was dryer than I expected-a pleasant, promising surprise! I walked for a half-mile or so- past the junctions of two tributaries. I walked past the second creek, but turned back before I reached a third; I did find a nice hunk of beautiful petrified wood! It is several inches long and shows great detail! Also, I found a small shelf of exposed rock jetting from the side of the creek. It was tan; soft like sandstone and smooth like limestone and help many marine fossils. Lots of corals and shells... one half-dollar-sized piece shows a detailed leave and a dark, prickly shell-thing. I nabbed it...
The second tributary tempted me when I passed it headed downstream again; I had to turn up the creek. It took me to the railroad tracks where I found a great patch of cone flowers, bee-balms and black-eyed Susan-things. Glade remnants here are likely closely related to Rocky Point's-just on the other side of the hill.
I returned to the truck with no arrowheads or Indian artifacts, but the hike had delivered a needed dose of Summer-in-Missouri!

Sioux City

Visit Vicki's awesome RiverNotes post; I think that I will only be sharing some pics for this one!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Caterpillar.

This gaudy guy showed up to the family's Fourth-of-July gathering in Holt Co., Mo.. I think he was under an elm, and he may have been as striking and colourful as all of the fireworks around!
Does anyone recognize him? I would love to know what butterfly-thing it will become!? Happy Fourth of July!