Mount Evans

Every year, Young Chase organizes a hike up one of Colorado’s 14ers (the name for the 54 peaks in the state over 14,000 feet high). This year the plan was to climb Quandary Peak, but a forest fire near Breckenridge made things a little iffy. Instead, Young decided we would climb Mount Evans. I thought this was a bit funny since there’s a perfectly serviceable road, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, that goes to within 120 feet of the summit. It is, in fact, the highest paved road in North America.

I knew all along I was going to go, but I was a bit worried because I’ve been dealing with a lot of dizziness on the other, lower-elevation climbs I’ve done. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or become high-maintenance. 

We left Monument at 4:30 am. I rode in the car with Young and her daughter Hannah, Maddie, and Crystal. We had a some great views of the sunrise as we headed north through Denver.

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We drove up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway to Summit Lake, at 12,850 feet. That means that our elevation gain to the top would be 1,650 feet. According to some, to make an official climb, you have to gain at least 3,000 feet of elevation, but most just say you have to begin at an established trailhead, which we were doing. 

In the parking lot, we met Jacquie and John Parker and Kimm and Steve Carr and their son Ben. 

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The summit is the point on the left. Our trail would lead out to the right, climb the ridge and then circle the Summit Lake basin.

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Our group. In the back row is Steve and Ben Carr, John Parker, and me. In the front are a dad and son who I never met and who turned back early on. Then it’s Kimm Carr, Jacquie Parker, Maddie Wachtler, Crystal Jennings, and Hannah Chase. Young took the photo.

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The Chicago Lakes as seen from the trail shortly after we started out. Mount Evans is the highest point in a sub-range of mountains called the Chicago Peaks. 

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On previous hikes with Young, she’d impressed upon me that the best way to climb was to go slowly and keep moving. I determined to use that strategy on Mount Evans, and except for occasional stops to drink water, look at scenery, or take photos, that’s pretty much what I did. This meant that I soon was out ahead of everyone except Ben and Maddie who took off into the distance and disappeared. There was a group of two guys, three girls and a dog who were younger and faster, but also took more breaks. I leapfrogged with them many times all the way to the top, but otherwise was on my own much of the way.

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Here’s the group on the first stretch. You can just see me disappearing over the ridge at top.

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Looking back on Summit Lake and the parking lot. The main peak is at the top of that slope to the right.

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Another view of Chicago Lakes from higher up.

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At the top of the first ridge. I was a little disturbed when I realized I had to lose a couple hundred feet of altitude to cross the saddle to the main ridge. I think that’s Mount Bierstadt on the right with the Sawtooth in front of it. Albert Bierstadt was a painter known for his romantic views of the Rocky Mountains. He originally gave Mount Evans the name Mount Rosa, in honor of the wife of another man (whom he later married). It was renamed to honor John Evans, the second governor of Colorado territory.

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Looking back, with Mount Evans Scenic Byway crossing the hills in the middle distance.

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Two shots from in the saddle. I had just passed through a small snow field, the only one I had to deal with.

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The view to the south from somewhere near the saddle. The haze may be from the Breckenridge fire.

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I think that’s Abyss Lake down in the valley. The Chicago Peaks have the deepest glacier tarns in the Rockies, and many of them contain lakes.

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The west side of the main ridge was a huge boulder field. The trail was marked with cairns of rocks piled on top of boulders. Without these, there’s no way I could have followed the trail. 

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About this time, I spotted Ben and Maddie above me on the ridge. They had climbed a secondary peak and were returning to the trail. After a while, they caught up with me (of course) and kept pace with me for a half mile or so until I stopped to photograph a pair of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches (next post). Looking back the way I’d come, with Ben in the middle distance and Maddie’s head just visible above the boulder.

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Looking west toward Mount Bierstadt with Abyss Lake below.

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With Ben and Maddie, I climbed up to the ridge and looked over for a view of Summit Lake and the parking lot. 

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Even though I’d come about two miles by this time and done a lot of climbing, I was feeling OK—except for the dizziness. If I just kept my eyes on my shoes and the trail immediately in front of me, I was OK. But as soon as I looked up, I got light-headed. There were more than a few times when I stumbled and I just managed to catch myself with my hiking poles or hands. I had to pretty much stop whenever I wanted to check out the view or the trail ahead. Then I had to endure five or ten seconds of dizziness before I regained my equilibrium and could look around. And even though I was making an effort to remember to drink water, I’m sure I didn’t drink enough. I ended the hike with half my three-liter backpack still full.

The trail I was on meets the trail from the parking lot about 250 feet below the summit. By the time I got there, I’d been climbing for two hours. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who’d been hiking for four minutes. I found Ben and Maddie on the highest rock. I walked up to them and said, “If they ever have a convention in Boise, Idaho, for everyone who’s ever climbed a 14er, they have to invite me.” Ben said, “Attaboy,” which cracked me up. The two of them were kind enough to pretend that the three of us were the first to summit, which technically, we were. But if they hadn’t climbed the other peak, they would have reached the top long before me. And of course Young could have climbed the mountain four times in the time it took me to get up, but she was back taking photos of the main group.

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Everyone else trickled up to the top and it turned into a grand photo session.

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Mount Evans

Beyond the parking lot there were three structures; an observatory, an A-frame built to investigate cosmic rays, and the ruins of a gift shop/restaurant that burnt down in 1979 and was never rebuilt.

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A herd of mountain goats were sleeping on the rocks at the end of the point.

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While we were still on the summit, they ran down through the parking lot and began grazing in the flats along the road. They were shedding their winter coats and looked bedraggled.

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Other shots from the summit. In the first one, you can see the parking lot along Summit Lake.

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Dark clouds were forming by this time. It’s standard knowledge that you want to be off the 14ers by 11 or 12 because of storms. We decided to head down another, quicker way. It was snowing when we started—that weird puffy snow that looks and feels like bits of styrofoam.

I wasn’t fond of this trail, It was a long, long stretch of scree that slid under my feet and was tough on my ankles and knees. That’s Hannah in the blue cap getting ever further ahead of me in each of these photos. 

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I kept my eyes open for White-tailed Ptarmigan, but they are so cryptically colored that you almost have to step on one to find one. I did spot a cooperative American Pipit. The bottom half of the trail had fewer rocks and better footing. The wildflowers here, and pretty much everywhere on the mountain, were amazing.

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Here’s a shot back up the trail from the road. 

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It was still another half mile back along the road to the car. The road was packed in both directions with cars and bikers. 

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The tarn around Summit Lake is considered the southernmost alpine tundra in North America because the ground is saturated with water and there’s a layer of permafrost underneath.

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At the time, the climb seemed like a lot of work, but in retrospect, it was fun, and the beauty was worth the effort. And once again I realized what an amazing group of people I’ve found myself a part of.

Posted in Hikes, Scenery | 1 Comment

Cherry Creek Arts Festival

With the publishing department, I went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to see an IMAX movie called Mysteries of China 3D, on the terracotta warriors. We got to wear giant glasses to see the 3D effects. After lunch, we drove to Cherry Creek to visit The Hermitage Bookstore. As it turned out, eight or ten blocks surrounding the bookstore were blocked off for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. It was a hot day, and I didn’t have a hat, but a convenient black cloud (and a few drops of rain) blocked the sun so I could wander around. There were a lot of creative and interesting pieces on display. I’m not sure which of these actually qualify as art.

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This guy built moving dioramas inside old appliances, cameras, etc. 

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Tattered Cover Book Store

Once a year, the publishing department at work spends a day exploring as a reward for the past year’s work. Our first stop was Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver. This particular location occupies an old theater. We spent the better part of two hours there.

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Tattered Cover is the independent bookstore big shot in Denver. It’s claim to fame is the steady stream of authors who make appearances, and whose photos line the walls. One of these is Al Gore, who represents the other thing Tattered Cover is famous for—celebrating the right to publish anything, no matter how ridiculous.

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I wandered about looking for something to buy. I couldn’t get to the nature book section because a loud and inappropriately-dressed woman was getting her picture taken playing chess right in front of the shelves. I didn’t ask, but I guessed they didn’t want me in the background. 

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When I’d picked a book, I bought a pop and muffin and sat outside.

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I still had 20 minutes to kill, so I strolled next door and browsed the Twist & Shout record store. 

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Arcade Amusements

It’s hard to describe this place. Five or six rooms spread out over three buildings are filled to the brim with a massive collection of coin-operated machines. There’s pin ball, kiddie rides, foot massagers, skee ball, bubble gum machines, Pac Man, and a whole lot more. 

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Some of the machines are over 100 years old, and the place itself has been around a very long time.

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There are supposedly 80 of these kiddie rides, each costing .25 or .50. You could ride almost all of them for $25, but alas, there are weight limits. 

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We got four quarters and were able to play four games. Sally and I each took a turn at skee ball. I earned three tickets and Sally earned one. This gave us enough tickets to buy a miniature Tootsie Roll. We gave the tickets to a young girl who was there with her mother. 

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I paid .25 to discover my sex appeal and got “wild.” Sally paid the same to discover her personality. She got, “You need a friend.” The place was like the best hands-on, interactive museum ever. 

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Manitou Springs

Holiday weekend. We wanted to do something. We knew most places would be crowded. We decided to tour the shops in Manitou Springs to keep the driving to a minimum. The free parking lot was full, but we found one of the last spots in an inexpensive pay-to-park lot. 

We hiked up one side of the street and down the other. I let Sally pick which stores we went inside, and she picked about 10 of them. Here’s what we saw.

This shop is the only place where we bought anything. Sally found a tiny pine tree for her collection.

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The incline can be seen as the line on the mountain in the back left. 

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We wandered into a chocolate shop. The young woman in this photo offered us free samples. But before she gave them to us, she gave us a spiel on the healthy benefits of their chocolate. She very shortly began to sound like a snake oil salesman. She kept throwing around the term “super food,” explained how organic and unprocessed it all was, and claimed it could cure many, many things, including diabetes. When we finally got the samples, they tasted like chocolate. She pushed us to purchase some, but we resisted.

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Fountain Creek running behind the shops on Manitou Avenue.

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There are some charming things about the town. There are also shops operated by witches and shops dedicated to smoking pot. There must have been something about me that convinced store owners on sight that I wasn’t likely to buy anything. I got several unfriendly looks. One owner singled me out in a crowded store and asked in a surly voice if he could help me find anything. I said I was just browsing. He had me repeat it, then replied, “Right, just browsing.” He then stood and stared at me as I waited for Sally to finish browsing undisturbed. 

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Many of the shops were dedicated to odd bits of art, some of which was very creative and impressive and some of which was not.

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There were also springs. Here are three of them. Note the kitten in this next photo. There were two of them tethered to the cage. The young man in the background was playing the banjo and asking for money to support them. If he had asked for money for music lessons, I might have given him some. There are signs all over Manitou Springs telling tourists not to give money to panhandlers.

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Sally is taking a sip from the spring/sculpture on the right. The round building behind her was a spring house from back when the local water was bottled. 

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Navajo Spring was tucked under a roof on the back wall of Patsy’s Candy Shop next to Arcade Amusements (next post). 

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We bought two small soft-serve ice cream cones at Patsy’s. The guy working the counter asked for $9. The woman put our ice cream in sugar cones, at which point the guy informed us that the price was now $10.90. They were very expensive ice cream cones, and we’ll probably resist the urge to go there again. But to be fair, it was some of the best soft serve ice cream I’ve ever had. 

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Posted in Cities, Food | 1 Comment

Dog Haus

This place is near my work, and also fairly close to where our house-to-be is located. Sally and I stopped in for lunch on the day the inspector was looking at our new house.

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Sally had the Free Bird, a turkey dog with avocado, ranch, smoked bacon, and tomato. She wants to go back.

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I had the Cheeseburger, angus beef, white american cheese, lettuce, 1001 island, onion, and tomato. It tasted something like a Big Mac, only better. The onion rings were also very good. All of the burgers and dogs come on sliced Hawaiian rolls. 

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At lunch one day, I had the Cowboy Dog, with smoked bacon, white american cheese, crispy onions, and bbq sauce. It, too, was very tasty. 

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Animal #67 — Long-tailed Weasel

mustela frenata

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Community Bible Study — Colorado Springs, Colorado

With all the time I’ve spent walking and birding and fishing and sitting outdoors, you’d think I would have seen a Long-tailed Weasel at least once. I finally saw one today, and I wasn’t even outdoors (although it was). I was standing in the kitchen at work waiting for my Hot Pocket to microwave. I was looking out the window across the parking lot. 

I spotted the weasel running across the pavement, heading north. It hopped up on an island and disappeared under a bush. I said out loud, “I just saw a weasel.” Several coworkers in the lunchroom a few feet away thought I said I’d seen a eagle. They jumped up and looked out the window. Just then the weasel left the cover of the bushes and ran across the rest of the pavement and disappeared into the brush and pines along Monument Branch. My coworkers were disappointed it wasn’t an eagle, but confirmed my identification.

The weasel was brown on top, white below. It had a long tail that stuck straight up as it ran. The whole animal was about 14 inches long, and the tail was five or six inches long. The body was very thin, humped slightly in the middle as it ran, with very short legs.

It moved too quickly for me to get a photo, but here’s where I spotted it. Those bushes next to the light post are where it disappeared for a few seconds.

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Broad Tails and Sharp Shins

I was looking out the library window at work yesterday. I spotted a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird fly into a ponderosa pine and land in a nest. I meant to bring my camera to work today, but forgot. I borrowed the much better camera owned by CBS and took several photos. This is the best, although I had to angle through a window so it’s not terribly sharp. 

The nest is made of spider webs and gossamer (which is just another word for fine spider webs). The hummingbird then covers the outside with lichen, moss, and bits of tree bark to hide it. I think this one is still sitting on eggs. When the young hatch and grow, the nest actually expands until it looks more like a dish.

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As I was walking away, I heard a bit of a commotion behind me. I turned and saw the resident Sharp-shinned Hawk perched on the railing about 20 feet away. 

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It stayed about 10 seconds. I happened to take a photos just as it took off. 

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Be Very Careful

A large spider was crawling on the outside of the window near my office. I angled my shot so Pikes Peak was in the background and …

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Sky Show

It’s been hot in Colorado lately (although it really is true that the low humidity makes it much less miserable. Still, with the higher altitude and thinner air, the sun in intense. I’ve been walking later in the evening, which gets me outside at sunset. I took the following four photos within 15 minutes or so of each other. 

That’s Pikes Peak in the distance, which is southwest of Monument. In other words, the sun was way off to my right as I took this photo. I’m not sure why I got the burst in the middle of this photo, but I’ll take it.

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The lights of downtown Monument line the bottom of this photo. 

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