Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our creeping sun

August 18 __It was a day of only four pictures. The morning's sky was a less-exciting grey, and a light fog smothered the valley and lake same as heavier clouds continued to conceal Flattop Mountain through the afternoon hours. As the sun fell closer to the obscured horizon of the Never Summers, however, western clouds began to break and we were gifted with a few minutes of beautiful light-play on the mountains.
Guests and staff alike fled into the porch's sunlight for the infrequent bursts of warmth- It put a smile on everyones face! For a moment , a wave of light rolled over just the top of Shadow Mountain, and another in the dramatic foreground of Flattop's cold scene. Over the Grandby area- far to the south appeared a brighter sky where the clouds had blown away. i wondered how much warmer it was just 10 or twenty miles south. I bet they didn't get the magic that we were experiencing! The Gore's were lit and colourful for Sunset- we didnt get much more than what they contributed to our dusk.

Monday, August 17, 2009

East Shore

AUG 17. What fortune to have something like the East Shore trail to hike before work in the morning. The wind from yesterdays storm system- and the rain and clouds- disappeared over night, leaving Shadow lake glassy and calm. The opportunity did not go to waste!
Kelly and I hopped onto the trail and reaped the early morning spectacles- Osprey and geese, beautiful Cinquefoil and the last of the season's rose blooms. There is a designated Osprey Nesting site not too far in, lake-side. The Shadow Mountain trail was to be the point at which we would turn around to make it back in time for Kelly's housecleaning duties- I had work later in the day.

Shrubby Cinquefoil, Dasiphora fruticosa

We made the dip where the big National Forest information board is and rounded the bends- Then there was a Moose. It wasn't until we'd just began playing with the idea of heading for home that we came across the big guy- Kelly spotted him before I did.

It was his Moose-Butt that we saw- right in the center of the trail!. it stopped us both in our tracks. I took some pics, and I'm sure that she got some very nice butt-pictures herself! The moose was aware of our presence- he turned his head just enough to catch a glance before turning again to repossess his space-out on the smooth water. The act appeared to be one of insolence. We dared not pass- thick brush to the left and a drop to the lake on the right left us no safe opportunity to pass, and the moose was definitely not going to move. We were silent. Kelly and I whispered back and forth, but words were useless in communicating the awe that we shared. He was massive- the size of the moose alone was more than impressive- intimidating.

Once our shock was overcome we walked quietly back towards where we'd come from and let the arrogant beast alone. He sensed our movement and gave another glance as I tried to turn my own eyes away. The moose began a slow walk- surly not as careful as ours.

We talked about the encounter for some time on the way back- Kelly checked the time and we'd made the reverse with none to spare. Conversation changed toward artwork- We talked about hers and mine. Kelly has been an accomplished artist since her high school years and she seems to find talent in my photographs. She again proposed the idea of sharing a booth at Grand Lake's Fall Festival at the end of September- she's got the thing planned out, and Bob intends to help us get a booth. I'm not sure that my silly photos have a place in the world of professional art, but it could be fun..?... We talked about the things on the trail and took a small side-trip up a mysterious clearing that looked to lead up the Mountain. We didnt get far- we didn't see much, either: Some rocks and a good puddle.

The 'trail' seemed to disappear and we were finally deterred by a good fallen tree. Some passer-bys expressed their curiosity as we met the main trail again. Kelly's reply to their inquiries was vague- she told them something to the effect of 'dont know whats up there- we didnt find anything exciting. She told them about the moose and made it back to work on time to conclude another successful trip. .

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Daytrip; WY

August 16 I was invited to join Kelly and Libby on their afternoon joy-ride today and when work was finished and things were packed, a spontaneous roadtrip was had. No destination of course- similar previous outings had landed us on the shores of Shadow Lake, Willow Creek Reservoir and as far as Estes Park. ..South was the first decision to be made, though not until the junction of hwy34. I think that it was then Libby's suggestion to visit hwy 125- 16 miles and a little to the west. With everyone in a fun, adventurous mood the unfamiliar turn North was exciting...

Blue skies, good rockin' music and a sunroof- Libby had already been a' ways up this road.

Some of the forming clouds were phenomenal: they appeared right on top of us, and it became as though we were seeing strait down the foretelling line of a cold front. The open road drove us up into the mountains again- the 'backside' of the Never Summer Range, I think. 125 rolled over a low pass and we spotted signs labeling the 4x4 route to Stillwater pass and Grand lake. Kelly took advantage of the unexpected straightaway while theorizing why flat landscapes had never before been as spectacular and beautiful. She proposed the idea that, having spent two and a half months in the mountains, the strange, vast park was beautiful for it's unexpectedness and because it had become so unfamiliar to her. I, too, found it remarkable- though I had spent time driving through such flatness just a day ago.

Rumors of a town named Walden began to arise as the telephone poles continued to string in a strait line. Libby believed that C-14 intersected our highway in Walden, and suggested that we could drive it back to Grand Lake via Estes Park, but the idea went no further. It came quickly-the town of only a few blocks went fast, though Kelly sure had enough time to locate the area's ice cream shop. Maybe on the way back? Shortly after passing through the town we caught up to the befitting pick-up camper. Wyoming plates.

Wyoming? Kelly had been there once and Libby claimed limited familiarity. I think I figured once that the border is 50-someodd miles from Shadowcliff as the crow flies- the map read that 125 would branch from 127 just twentysomething miles from the state.
The Atlas circulated the car and a casual consensus was made. It became important to them to take me to Wyoming, and although nobody was sure what we would find there, it was surely going to be our next stop! The road led us through the Cowdrey community (not quite a town) which had no ice cream shops or much at all and a small ridge appeared in the far distance. high winds gave way to gusts that tore at the dry vegetation and drove awesome waves of cloud-shadows over the plains to where they were more spectacular on the hills. We took the first noticeable bend with the road shortly after the village, and turn infinite again. Kelly made another excellent Music choice and Libby basked when she could through the open top of the car- didn't even have to yield for the awaited turn towards Wyoming!

Walden, CO
The miles counted down until Libby got all excited about the Leaving Colorado sign to our right. we determined that the Welcome to Wyoming sign did not exist before we passed it. our goal was then accomplished and we turned for Walden after a chilly Bathroom break at the restrooms of a gravel turnoff. I stepped out of the car to examine wildflowers and walk and breathe in new territory.
Kelly appeared a few minutes later and yanked me from some short lavender lupines on the side of the lot. The sunroof was closed for a few minutes as we each recovered from the chill- Libby wore the rides' only long-sleeve.
It opened up again shortly after when the sun glared warmth. The long-hair had her dew eaten by the greasy vacuum of the roof in a hilarious event that had us two rollin' and crackin' jokes for quite a few miles. Conversation turned to our most embarrassing nicknames- each with a worthy story. I found my own to be less embarrassing and dastardly than some of the names mentioned... guess Ive been lucky...
Cowdrey appeared even smaller when we rode back through- the excitement had definitely gotten to us as the car shared a few moments of tired silence. Walden was next and I don't think that it was until we were in town that the advertised sweetshop was to be visited. The sky had grown threatening on the drive in, and Waldens' first juicy raindrops fell on our short jaunt around the corner. The town was quiet- only a few trucks were parked and buildings appeared disturbingly dark in the beginnings of the storm. I stepped aside for a second to take a pic.
Inside was a warehouse that made little sense at first. To the left, and around the beautiful old brick building were small displays of for-sale antiques. Old books, old china and the usual everything-else. Kelly was drawn to the highest-stacked bookshelves before anything else- Libby meandered and I gave the two at the ice-cream stand in the middle of the empty floor a quick friendly-nod before entering the carpeted bordering antique displays. The girls were all excited about a huge collection of Louis L'Amour stories. I had to ask about what made them so significant. Turns' out that he was a big Western Story writer and Kelly is a fan.
We got our treats- The large woman taking our orders some comments to the effect of 'been a long day..' and didn't come off as the most friendly of people. Her helper whipped up the sweets in only a few moments and gave a short smile. I wasn't sure about what to think of the encounter- I guess that most of her important patrons- the repeat-business-doers- are the recognisable locals and us one-timers required no more niceties while the sale was completed.
I glanced at the odometer on the far-side of Walden.. when Kelly mentioned the low-gas situation and I found that we were really going to have done 200 miles by the time we got home!
South of town- as we neared again the pass between us and Grandby- The storm which had poured on Walden became spectacular! Rain-bands, lightening and the ever-beautiful park all made for a scene worthy of stopping. Libby was tired, but Kelly braved the cold wind with me to admire what we had driven through. It was soo low to the ground! Amazing!
The surprise-trip had made for an exciting afternoon- we returned to Shadowcliff tired and happy!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In Colorado now

August 15
The drive seemed shorter than it did in July, and the intended route through Pawnee Buttes remains untraveled. Again the truck's spark-plug wires failed- east of Limon- and I dared not make the risk of becoming stranded before I was able to make it to Shadowcliff where I was to work in only two days.

The skies had been dark for a while at the time I exited 70 to climb over Berthoud Pass and the loud music deafened me to the weary scream of the engine, or just distracted me from it's nerve-racking 4000RPMs on my way to 11307 feet. Arapaho bay was my stopping place, though it was sure that I wouldn't arrive there until after 1am.

...Through Winter Park and into more familiar territory as I found myself to be the only moving vehicle in Grandby, just a few miles south of the damn' (Dam) turnoff. I slipped into spot number four as quietly as I could and made a fire and a bite to eat. My eyes quickly straitened and I regained my hearing- a second wind, it seemed- at least until I tried standing an hour or two after the start of my rest near the fire. I made a sloppy 3am camp next to the truck and was out.

A lonely campground host met me on his way around the drive- I had packed up camp by 5:30 and took a little stroll myself. The air was not too cold, but a heavy mist and a few seconds of rain had the place lookin' a little miserable. "Mornin, Kansas!" The old man had identified my licence plate and told me about how the number of moose sightings had dropped dramatically since the rains stopped in June. He had hoped to find one on such a wet morning as this, but had seen none in two weeks now. I learned that he and his wife were visiting from Texas for the season and intended to travel closer to home when the campgrounds closed. The man was very nice- he asked me if I was hungry and suggested the small bakery in the campground for his favorite warm Blueberry Muffins. Upon the close of our conversation, however, I chose a hike around Monarch Lake instead.

I first noticed that things appeared incredibly dry, despite the moist air. One island in the lake was a peninsula, creeks were shallow and I found no mushrooms. The old steam-donkey was a pleasant side-trip from the path- Some parts of it were especially interesting with the gloss of dew and rain. Flowers on the trail- the dominant Ox-eyed daisies- were blue-tipped. I suspected herbicide, but the blue was also on the vegetation around the flowers. A ranger approached me on the trail and asked where I'd been and what I was doing in something of a demanding tone. I answered and gave my own interrogation: "Whats with the blue?" He told me that the NPS had sprayed the daisies on Tuesday and then left without a smile- I completed my 3- or 4-mile orbit around the lake and spotted some blue in the sky. It was then I realized that i had come upon no precipitation since the steamer, only 1/3 the way around the lake. Things were looking beautiful! Grand Lake brought a smile to my face, but the truck wasn't doing so well. It was good to see my friends again, and I was excited to get started.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

In the Nieghborhood

BLUE RIVER RD- all green and summery