Monday, August 30, 2010

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, CO


There are so many interesting things to do in the Colorado Springs area. Yesterday we took a ride over to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, only 15 miles west of Woodland Park. Here is one of the largest fossil deposits in the world, with 1700 species of plants, insects and vertebrates having been identified. There are nice displays at the Visitor Center, rangers give frequent talks, and there are 14 miles of hiking trails.

We looked for elk along the Sawmill trail, a 2.4 mile loop through the forest, but didn’t see any. We also took the Petrified Forest Walk, a one mile trail that passes by many massive petrified redwood stumps. They are huge.

P1020217 P1020214

This is the world’s only known trio of petrified redwoods.


This next stump was the most interesting. Before this area became a national monument, it was under private ownership, and was abused by people taking chunks of the petrified wood for souvenirs. This trunk still has two rusted saw blades stuck in it.


Hard to believe 35 million years ago there was a lake surrounded by huge Sequoia redwoods in this area. We spent a pleasant couple of hours in the park, and are always glad that the national park system has preserved places like this for everyone to enjoy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pikes Peak, CO


We finally did a “fourteener”, although, yes, it would have been more of an event had we hiked to the top, but it was still quite something to drive up. Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in the US, and the second most visited in the world behind Japan’s Mt. Fuji.


We were aware that Pikes Peak Highway was a toll road, but we were a bit surprised at the $12 fee per person. Okay, we’re cheap, but I guess someone has to maintain the road, which the city of Colorado Springs has been doing since 1948. We figured they’re making up for not being able to charge admission to Garden of the Gods. It is quite a road, though, and now only a couple miles of it are still unpaved.

P1020187 P1020186

On the way up we stopped at Crystal Reservoir, one of three lakes that are popular with fishermen, and walked a trail around the lake. It was a lovely spot with the Peak in the background.


Then we had lunch at the halfway picnic area, since it was still warm. Actually they were predicting low 90’s for Colorado Springs the day we went, so it was pretty mild, mid 50’s, even at the top, and not much wind. I’m sure it can be pretty miserable up there much of the time.

We walked around at the summit, and went a short way down the trail that we saw several people coming up. They started 8 miles down, and the first two that came up were cute, perky, twenty-something women who said it took them five an a half hours. Then an older couple came up, who said it took them six and a half hours. The woman said it was a very hard hike and she prayed most of the way up! You can see the trail zigzagging through the rocks.


The views at the summit were spectacular, and it would be a great hike, although too long and too much elevation for us.

 P1020199 P1020200 P1020202

Since we’re staying here another week, I’m trying to talk Jim into taking the train to the top and hiking back down, but he doesn’t seem interested.


Here are a couple more shots I took out the car window on the way down, when I wasn’t having a panic attack due to my fear of heights. Some of the drop offs were more than I could take and I had to look away. Jim wasn’t allowed to look at all, other than at the road in front of him!

P1020211 P1020208

Friday, August 27, 2010

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs


This is a beautiful park owned by the city of Colorado Springs. It was donated by the original owner’s family and he wanted it to always remain free to the public. It is an area of red and white rock formations jutting up from the ground. There are miles of trails, but unfortunately only a couple miles of paved trails in the central part of the park that are off limits to horses. We had to be very careful where we stepped on the dirt trails, which sort of spoiled it for us. Jim actually called the visitor center from a trail to see if there were any horse-free trails, so we cut our hike short and went over to the paved trails. There were more people there, but at least it smelled good and we didn’t have to watch our step!

This is the Siamese Twins. All the rocks have names but this is the only one I remember.


Some of the others.

P1020173 P1020163 P1020169 P1020170 P1020171

And of course where there are huge rocks there are climbers.


It was a great place to walk around for a couple hours, and the price was right. As we were heading to the car we saw several people taking pictures and looking through binoculars. There were a couple big horn sheep way up on top of a mountain. Would have liked to seen them closer up, but at least we saw some wildlife.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Boulder, CO and More


Sunday morning we drove 37 miles south to another forest service campground, Kelly Dahl. It was similar to Olive Ridge, but that night there was only one other RV in our loop so it was very quiet.

We were only 20 miles from Boulder, a city we have read about as being a great place to live if you like the outdoors, so we always wanted to visit. The drive along Boulder Canyon Drive, from Nederland to Boulder is a beautiful descent with high rock walls on both sides of the road, and with Boulder Creek running along side the road. We were astonished at how many people there were all along the way either playing in the water, tubing, jogging, cycling, and rock climbing. It is definitely a place for the young and active.

We took our netbook since again we had no connection at the campground, and found a bench by the creek to sit and look at e-mail. More crowds of people were enjoying the water.


And there was a rock sculpture garden in the creek, which was pretty interesting. The rocks had to be glued because people were walking and tubing among them.


We went downtown to Pearl Street, a four block pedestrian mall with lots of shops, restaurants and street performers. We couldn’t believe the number of bikes around town, and all the nice bike lanes.


We figured there had to be some good gourmet pizza, and we just happened upon BOP (Boulder Organic Pizza). It was a really cute place, and we ordered the Bliss, a vegan pizza with a cannellini bean sauce, sweet potatoes, shredded carrots and red onions. Yes, it sounds weird, but the flavor and crust were excellent. And it was reasonably priced.

Yesterday we headed for Colorado Springs, as Jim was in need of his internet fix, and wanted to make some phone calls. We planned to stay at a Passport park for a couple nights since the weather was turning cool and rainy, but as we were driving I was able to get online and read some reviews that said there was no Verizon service. So we just went to Woodland Park, a little northwest of Colorado Springs, and are camped at South Meadows, another forest service campground for $17 a night, no hookups, but water and a dump just down the road.


We don’t have great cell or internet here, but with the booster it works fairly well. It is just so wooded, and it was overcast until this afternoon, we are having to run the generator tonight to use the computers. I probably won’t be doing very much posting while we’re here.

We’ve been searching for 2 new tires for the car, but no one seemed to have our size in stock in Laramie, Cheyenne, or Estes Park. Jim called around Woodland Park late yesterday after we got here and Wal-Mart just happened to have 6 Uniroyals in the size we needed, for $25 each, a closeout price. We jumped in the car, headed to Wal-Mart, and ended up replacing all four, since we paid what one would have cost anywhere else. Hope they hold up!

This morning I called a local dentist to see if we could get appointments to get our teeth cleaned and checked in the next week or two, and they just happened to have two cancellations this morning. So we jumped in the car, drove to Colorado Springs, and got that taken care of. We both got good reports for a change. It’s been a busy day and a half here. We did take a walk tonight, and are looking forward to exploring Pikes Peak and the surrounding area. This is a nice campground so we may just hang out until after Labor Day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Olive Ridge Campground, Allenspark,CO


On Friday we traveled about 25 miles to Olive Ridge, a nice forest service campground about 15 miles south of Estes Park. We first had to drive over to Moraine Park campground, in the national park, to dump our tanks since there is no dump station in Aspenglen campground. Of course, there is none here either, but there is water and vault toilets for $17 a night. Half of the campground is not reserveable, so we got a good site on Friday morning before the crowds arrived later in the day. We have absolutely no cell or internet here, though.

This is a great location, and would be a good place to stay if you couldn’t get into Rocky Mountain NP. Within a 10 mile stretch of road to the north there are miles of trails actually in the national park, and it is a really pretty area.

We hiked a couple trails in the Wild Basin area, just a mile and a half up the road. The trail to Copeland Falls and then on to a pretty cascade was fairly level and less than 4 miles round trip. It was just what we needed after climbing Twin Sisters. We even saw some trout trying to get up the falls, but they weren’t very successful.

.P1020114  P1020111P1020113

Yesterday we hiked the Sandbeach Lake trail. We knew it was 4.5 miles to the lake, but we just hiked a couple miles and turned around. Too much climbing again. Guess we will never get used to this elevation. We did get some nice views from the trail

P1020131 P1020125 P1020133 P1020129

Friday, August 20, 2010

Twin Sisters Trail, Rocky Mountain NP


The above picture  is actually Long’s Peak, the trail we really wanted to do (in our minds), but since it is 8 miles up and they recommend you start at 3AM, we decided to take a shorter hike to Twin Sisters, a pair of rugged peaks that you reach by a 3.7 mile trail. It is also uphill all the way, and climbs 2,338 feet to a height of 11,428 feet.

It was a series of wooded switchbacks a good part of the way, but every once in awhile there were clearing through the trees.P1020086P1020088 

It was one of the hardest hikes we’ve done just because of the altitude. We both thought we were having a heart attack or stroke most of the way up, and we took  it really slow. About three fourths of the way up, we got above tree line and the trail, which was already pretty rocky, just became piles of rock. That is the trail in all of these photos.

P1020091 P1020089 P1020090

We took a 45 minute break at the top, eating lunch and talking to a ranger and some other people who came up after us. She said one day a week they get to “roam”, which means they can wander around the park. She chose to hike Twin Sisters that day. She said working for the Park Service was a “really good gig”. We had to agree. It would have been nice to get paid to take that hike! It was quite a commanding view at the top.

P1020101_stitch P1020105P1020107P1020106

There was also a radio tower between the two Sisters, powered by solar. They use it to aid in rescues. Glad they didn’t need it for us that day!


It took us almost as long to get back down, since we had to watch every step, but we made it tired and sore, and were glad we went.

We met a nice couple at the campground from Fort Walton, FL, an hour from Pensacola. They drove to Colorado so he could ride the Leadville 100 last Saturday. If any of you are familiar with mountain biking, you know it is supposed to be one of the hardest mountain bike races in the country. This year the winner was Levi Leipheimer (who used to ride on Lance Armstrong’s road bike team). He finished in 6 hours and 16 minutes. Amazing! Our neighbor actually finished the entire course, although it took him 13 hours! We were impressed. Then they hiked at least a 7 to 10 mile trail in the park every day this week. And they were probably in their 40’s.

Today we’re moving on to a forest service campground south of Estes Park for the weekend. We scoped it out the other day and half of the campground is first come, first serve, so we think we should be able to get a site before the weekenders arrive. The Colorado kids went back to school this week (yeah!) so there was no one there during the week. Hope the rest of the schools start soon.