Friday, June 23, 2017

Golden, CO


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We spent four nights at Clear Creek RV Park, just a few blocks from downtown Golden. The park is run by the city, although they definitely charge private RV park rates, as we are paying $43/night for our water and electric site which is not on the creek. It’s close to $60/night for those sites.

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The attraction here is the Clear Creek trail and the short walk to downtown Golden. We’re also just a couple minutes from the Community Recreation Center, where we worked out a couple times. We just love these rec centers in many of the Colorado towns we’ve visited, as they are all affiliated with Silver Sneakers, so Jim gets in free. And the senior rate for me is usually $5 or less. (Here it is $4.50.)

Community park and recreation center next to the RV park.

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Clear Creek History Park is also along the trail, containing many original buildings from the old Pearce Ranch, originally located about 15 miles away in Golden Gate Canyon.

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The M on Mount Zion was put up by students from the Colorado School of Mines in 1908. It was lighted in 1931, quite a visible landmark.

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Some interesting history: “This is the world's largest lighted letter, signifying its allegiance to the Colorado School of Mines. It is a large letter "M" atop the face of Mt. Zion overlooking Golden, made of whitewashed rocks, and measures 104x107 feet, each leg measuring 10 feet wide. Every fall incoming freshmen bring new rocks up here to add to the M, whitewashing the rocks and themselves, and every spring graduating seniors come up here and get to take one of the rocks with them. The M was designed by CSM professor Joseph Francis O'Byrne in 1908 as an extremely difficult problem in descriptive geometry, and he succeeded in creating a letter that does not appear distorted from any angle. It is the second-oldest college letter monument in the nation only to the University of Utah's "U". It rests at 6,900 feet above sea level, on a slope of 23 degrees. CSM rivals have attempted to destroy it but they were not as well versed in explosives as the Miners. In 1931 the M was lit for the first time, and it has been continuously lit since March 19, 1932. Every holiday season since 1935 it has lit in red. Today its lighting system can turn the M into all sorts of creative color and shape arrangements at night, controlled from campus via telephone modem. It even counts down the days until the end of the semester.”

It’s been record-setting hot here, but we’ve biked and walked the trail a few times, and wandered around downtown with a stop at Golden City Brewery. Jim wasn’t crazy about their darker beers, but I really liked their IPA.

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Our bike ride took us along Clear Creek and past the Coors Brewing Co, the largest single-site brewery in the world. We don’t care for their beers so we didn’t take the tour.

We rode along this portion of the trail for several miles and the brewery just went on and on.

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One day we drove up to Lookout Mountain where we did a couple of short hikes and visited the Buffalo Bill gravesite. We got a little drop in temperature as we went up but it was still 86 degrees at 7,300’.

Looking down into Clear Creek Canyon.

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Gravesite. There is also a museum but we had no interest.

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Jim was not impressed, but we did enjoy the views.

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We also checked out the Boettcher Mansion, which is free to visit but was closed due to a private event. It was built in 1917 as a summer home and hunting lodge for Charles Boettcher. It now belongs to Jefferson County and can be rented out for weddings, parties, memorial services, etc.

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Wish we had been able to see the inside.

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Our main reason to come here was to be close to Denver so Jim could visit an orthopedic surgeon to get his hip checked out. It’s bothered him off and on for several months but hiking has been more uncomfortable lately and he wanted to be sure he wasn’t causing more damage by continuing to hike. We really liked Dr. Dennis Chang, who diagnosed the problem as arthritis with a small bone spur. Since Jim can’t take NSAIDs like ibuprofen because he takes a blood thinner,  Dr.Chang recommended a cortisone injection, which Jim declined at this time since it is only a temporary fix. He did give him some exercises to do that might help, and said he should continue hiking and biking, as it was actually good to keep moving. I’m not sure that was what Jim wanted to hear. Winking smile  Since we’ll be in the area a little longer he can always get the injection if he changes his mind.,

Our plan was to spend this weekend at friends in Estes Park, but due to a family emergency they had to leave town. Luckily I was able to get one more night here, and found a cancellation for Friday and Saturday at nearby Bear Creek Lake Park where we already have reservations starting Sunday.

We had cooler temps and thunderstorms yesterday, and it will only be in the 60s and 70s this weekend, a welcome change. Once we leave Denver we definitely need to go higher or farther north.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Night by the Poudre and on to the Fairgrounds


It was 134 miles and two passes from Stagecoach State Park to our next destination, the Cache la Poudre River Canyon. We didn’t hook up the car since we would be doing high elevation climbing, first 9,200’ Rabbit Ears Pass, and then 10,276’ Cameron Pass. What a beautiful drive it was! The Poudre (pronounced poo-der) is Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” River.  Highway 14, which follows much of the river, is designated a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway between Fort Collins and the town of Walden.

We were hoping to find a site along the river at one of the campgrounds, and first drove through Mountain Park since there were hiking trails there, but all of the river sites were taken. Just a couple miles farther was the smaller Dutch George campground, and we managed to get a pull-off site with the river about 50’ from our door.

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There is a short trail along the high, fast flowing river.

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Our site had a nice sitting area right next to the river. Being such a narrow canyon all of the campgrounds in this area are close to Hwy 14, but the rushing water was so loud it drowned out most of the traffic noise.

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Although I checked the weather forecast a couple days before and saw it would be in the mid 70s, it ended up being in the low 80s, so we waited until around 5 to drive the 2 miles back to Mountain Park campground for a late afternoon hike. There are two trails, a 2 mile nature trail and a 5 mile trail to Mt. McConnell. Since we were just looking to stretch our legs, we headed out on the Kreutzer Nature Trail.

Although there were frequent interpretive signs telling about the trees, plants, animals, river, history and geology, that was the only similarity to any “nature trail” we’ve ever hiked on before. We assumed the trail would follow the river, but from the start it began climbing through the forest full of dead trees from beetle damage and fires.

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At least the climb eventually brought us up to views of the mountains and river.

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We were having doubts that we were really on a 2 mile loop, as the trail became steeper, very rocky, and had a lot of exposure along the edge of the canyon. At one point I had a minor fear of heights panic attack, but Jim said no way was he turning around, so I got ahold of myself and made it across.  We felt a little better when we finally came to a couple of signs and knew we were on the right trail. Going back down was not easy, either.

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We were pretty happy to finally see the bridge to the campground since it meant we were almost back to the car. We were out on the trail for an hour and a half so I just knew the sign was incorrect about the mileage, but we both were tracking on our phones and only walked 2.2 miles with 600’ of climbing. It was the most challenging nature trail we’ve ever been on, so be warned. On a positive note it was a great workout with good views.

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We had planned to spend the weekend along the river but with the heat and knowledge of what the trails were like (not all that interesting and everything goes up) we decided to leave on Friday morning and head to the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, CO, home to a couple of Jim’s favorite breweries, Oskar Blues and Left Hand. Both make excellent beers, and we liked pretty much everything we tried. And Left Hand is right along the St. Vrain Greenway trail, so we were able to stop on our way back from a bike ride. Luckily it’s only about a mile and a half from the fairgrounds so we didn’t have a very long ride back home.

Our dusty site at the fairgrounds was not very scenic but it’s in a great location and only cost $25 for water and electric. They also have a dump station.

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A crowded Friday afternoon at Oskar Blues, with live music.

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Jim is a big fan of Old Chub, and I really liked the Gubna IPA.

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At Left Hand we got a flight of the 4 beers they had on nitro and they were all very good, but our favorite was the Imperial Coffee Milk Stout.

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We didn’t take any photos from our bike ride, but it mostly goes along the St. Vrain River and is still closed in places for repairs from a devastating flood in 2013. We were able to detour around and made it to the end for a pleasant 14 mile ride.

Yesterday we drove 12 miles south to Boulder for some shopping at Trader Joe’s and REI, and a walk along the South Boulder Creek trail, starting at the Bobolink trailhead. It’s a nice dirt trail along the creek, and if we come back here we would take the bikes and ride, as there are miles of trails, both paved and dirt that intersect it at various points.

Flashback to the 60s van in the parking lot.

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Colorado is so green right now.

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This robin was having fun fluffing up his feathers in the middle of the trail.

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Lazy Daze friends Ed and Carol live in Longmont, and the other day Ed came over for a nice chat. He has a lot of information on dispersed camping opportunities in CO and elsewhere on his blog. And last evening we sat out and had a drink and good conversation with our neighbors Dave and Sharon and their cute dog Maxi, from Rochester, New York, whom I happened to meet at the farmers market Saturday morning. Today we’re moving a short 33 miles to Golden, where there are more breweries and bike trails.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stagecoach State Park, CO


We spent four nights at Stagecoach State Park, 16 miles south of Steamboat Springs, in the verdant Yampa Valley on Stagecoach Reservoir. This was our first time at a Colorado State Park, since we don’t like having to pay for a $7 daily entrance pass on top of the campground fees, but there are no good options near Steamboat. We stayed in the Junction City campground (the camping areas are named after early coal mines and mining camps), and although we couldn’t get a site right on the lake, we had a good view of it.

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We had mail sent to Steamboat last week from our mail service in Pensacola, but the USPS tracking showed “status not available”. Jim called to verify that they gave us the correct tracking number, which they did, so we had no idea if our mail was lost or had ever left Pensacola. We drove to Steamboat on Monday to check and it was there, with a completely different tracking number. Glad we didn’t have to deal with a lost package, especially since it contained the new ZTE Mobley device Jim ordered.

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We have been “leasing” our internet service from someone on Ebay, a 100GB Verizon plan, but we had a similar unlimited plan before that which got shut down, so we keep waiting for that to happen again. Since we are used to not worrying about how much data we use, we dread the day we might have to go back to a 20GB plan, so when we were in Flagstaff and friends were using this AT&T device, Jim decided to give it a try. Unfortunately we don’t have any useable signal here at the state park, but we’ve tried it in the car in town and it works great.

Here are scenes from some of the 8 miles of easy trails in the park.

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Across the lake is the defunct ski resort of Stagecoach. It operated for 2 years in the early 70s before the developer went bankrupt.

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The store at the marina has free wifi, so at least we could walk over there to check email.

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While in Steamboat Springs I got blood drawn to see if the new thyroid medication is working, and we walked around the surprisingly big downtown and along the Yampa River trail, eating lunch at Rootz Organic Cafe.

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There is a 72 degree sulphur springs right along the trail. Quite a pungent smell!

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The river has been engineered in several places but we only saw one person out on the water.

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We also drove a few miles out of town to Fish Creek Falls, where there are a couple of short trails, one that is paved to an overlook, and another dirt trail down to the base of the falls. It was lovely there, and a very impressive 165’ waterfall.

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From the overlook trail we could see workers carrying something heavy up the trail and wondered if someone got injured.  Jim zoomed in and discovered it was a big rock. Don’t know where they were taking it, as we didn’t see them when we walked down to the base of the falls.

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Another day we drove up to Rabbit Ears Pass to check out the road and the camping options. The actual campgrounds are closed as there is still quite a bit of snow, but we saw a few RVs parked in various places. It was 45, cloudy and windy, so we skipped a hike and sat in the car where we got a Verizon signal and checked a few things on the internet. Glad we weren’t camped up there. And the road is good, a steep climb up to the pass, but no sharp curves.

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One of the reasons we came to this area was to hike a trail called the Devils Causeway, about 15 miles southwest of Yampa, CO in the Flat Tops Wilderness. Poor planning on my part, since it’s only mid June, and still lots of snow at over 10,000’ where the trail begins. When I called the forest service office the ranger I spoke with laughed when I asked him if the trail was passable. He said the snow was still thigh high on the switchbacks, but we decided to check it out anyway, and we’re glad we did.

This is looking down into the valley on the drive up.

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We stopped for lunch by this scenic lake.

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It is a slow drive over about 10 miles of washboard dirt road. There are a couple of campgrounds, one that had lots of sites we would fit in, and quite a few dispersed sites with picnic tables that could fit a bigger RV, if you don’t mind the jarring the rig would take. Jim said he would not drive the Lazy Daze up there.

We finally arrived at the end of the road at Stillwater Reservoir and the trailhead. There were several cars so we were hopeful that we could actually do some hiking.

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Since we’ve been without internet, and it was a while ago that I researched this trail, I didn’t remember that there are several trails that start here. There were no trail names, just numbers, and there was nobody around to ask so we started off on the one that went over the dam since there was no snow.

The scenery is amazing.

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After about a half mile we came to a snow bank with footprints going off in every direction but no trail in sight, so we decided to go back to the trailhead and try a different route, which I think was the right trail to the causeway.

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The aspen trees were just beginning to leaf out.

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We encountered quite a few patches of snow but it was easy enough to walk on. There was a lot of mud, too.

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After a mile or so we came to a deep fast-moving creek that neither of us were comfortable crossing. The logs to get across weren’t too bad, but they didn’t make it all the way to the other side, and we would have had to take a big step up on an overhanging, undercut ledge of snow. (Mark, we needed you and your long arms!). I was disappointed but knew going in there was very little chance we would complete the 3 miles to the causeway anyway. This can also be hiked as a 10 mile loop. I would love to come back and do this later in the summer to see all the wildflowers, which were just beginning to pop up.

We are now back in civilization with an internet connection. After five days Jim only went a little crazy, and it will probably take us another five days to get through all the emails and catch up on blogs.