Friday, July 27, 2018

High altitude

Rocky Mountain High at 10,000 feet

It felt good to be back in our old stomping grounds where our kids grew up skiing. As we stood on the Continental Divide, looking down on Monarch Ski Resort, the memories came back making me nostalgic.


Turquoise Lake

On our last visit to Turquoise Lake, we rode in the Buena Vista Bike Fest put on by our Colorado Springs Cycle Club a few years ago.  The 100 mile ride started in Buena Vista to Leadville, around Turquoise Lake and the Mineral Belt Trail and back to BV. This time we enjoyed a shorter ride.

We loved the peaceful feel and cool temps of our USFS campground. Most of the people chose to stay in the campsites along the lake. We were good with Father Dyer campground on the hill and would go to the day use area to enjoy the lake.

In the 1890s, the discovery of gold brought the first miners to this two-mile high city, but it was the discovery of silver that made Leadville the nation's wealthiest city at the time.
 When Oscar Wilde entertained his audience at the Tabor Opera House, more than 40,000 people lived in Leadville! Our population is a lot less now.
The legends of the West were no strangers to Leadville: Horace and Baby Doe Tabor, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and even a John W. Booth whose headstone graces Evergreen Cemetery.

Leadville's Mineral Belt Trail

The Mineral Belt Trail is 11.6 mile with numerous trailheads and access points. Approximately six miles of this trail meanders through the historic Leadville Mining District with views of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges. We added a route around Turquoise Lake and were sucking air when we reached 10,606 feet elevation. Who needs oxygen?

We did some heavy breathing on the climb but was worth the downhill and great views.

Horace Tabor and Baby Doe's Matchless Mine was quite a story of rags to riches to rags.

Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, a Victorian-era mining town, was once home to 30,000 residents. In its heyday, it had saloons, dance halls, and brothels. Thanks to the profiting gold and silver mines, there was also a lot of wealth, which afforded the construction of hotels, Victorian mansions, and the Tabor Opera House.
70 square blocks of Leadville’s downtown were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Since then, extensive preservation efforts have put much of the town’s rich history on display. With such notable structures as the Healy House, Heritage Museum, Delaware Hotel, and Tabor Home a walking tour should have been in order. I think we will be sure to catch it the next time we return.

The altitude was starting to affect me by the third day. We headed down to Buena Vista.

Buena Vista, CO

Buena Vista is located in central Colorado in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, often referred to as the "Banana Belt", due to its relatively mild winters.  Buena Vista lies in a wide valley and is a high mountain desert at the base of the 14,000+ peaks of the Collegiate Peaks, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia, and Mt. Harvard, of the Sawatch Range. In summer, Buena Vista is a popular access point for world-class whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and mountain climbing and backpacking on local 14ers and the Colorado Trail. Sizable elk and deer herds attract hunters in the winter months, and bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and antelope are also indigenous to the area.
Buena Vista  grew as a railroad town serving the local silver, gold, and lead mining industry, with three rail lines. Many of the existing buildings of Buena Vista date back to  the 1880s and 1890s.

 We passed this old school house of days gone by on our 23 mile bike ride on the backroads to Mt Princeton Hot Springs. It was much easier riding at an elevation of 7900 feet after being in Leadville.

These Pronghorn were waiting for us to pass so they could catch up with the rest of the herd across the road. They are not jumpers like deer but got through the fence just fine.

The downtown has been rejuvenated over the years. The prices in the restaurants reflected this. 

The decorating reflected the cycling community in this area.

You can't beat the many good food trucks.
We met several couples at the Snowy Peak RV Park that come for all or part of the season. The time slipped by as we shared good wine, good cheese and good stories.
Our time here was too short and we booked a return trip when the leaves start changing before we leave Colorado.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Gunnison, Colorado

Escaping the heat

We cut our time in Ridgway State Park short by a few days because of the heat and headed east.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

We hiked the trail along the south rim with steep drop offs into the deep gorge that are shorter than we usually take. The trails to the river were over my head getting back out. It's a long way down and further up.

Cycling Gunnison's back roads

When we started our bike ride through the farms towards Crested Butte, we had no idea where we would end up or how much we would enjoy it. Fifteen miles into the ride I didn't think Mike was going to want to turn around and suggested that he carry on. I knew the way home and knew he would eventually catch up with me.

He did turn around and catch up with me while I was having a drink in the shade. We thought a return trip might be in order.

Crested Butte's Oh Be Joyful Trail

It was the last day of Crested Butte's Wild Flower Festival. In past years the flowers were huge and amazing. This year we were catching the end of the bloom but still very nice. The Oh Be Joyful Trail is a nice trail through a glacial valley which becomes greener and more lush as we climbed. The waterfalls were flowing down the mountainsides. We passed a few hikers returning from their weekend camping trip at Blue Lake seven miles up the trail.

Slate River was running too high to walk through. I wasn't thrilled about hiking six miles in wet boots. Besides, we have a 4x4.

We are heading in.
Coming out the other side.
Our visit to Gunnison and Crested Butte were a little shorter than we could have wanted but the high altitude was calling.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ridgway State Park

Back in Colorado

We made our way to Ridgway State Park which is 5 miles from the small town of Ridgway between Ouray and Telluride for a week long stay. We had no internet service once we left Montrose but would visit the nice little library in Ridgway every day or two. Then we would have an excuse to try one of the great restaurants in town. We even found a great Thai coconut and lemongrass soup.
We could see why there had been so many wild fires in Colorado. Everywhere we looked was brown and it was hot. The lake was down 30 feet. Too hot for our planned visit to the hot springs.
Finally, on our fourth day the monsoon rains came and cooled down everything.

Box Canyon Falls 

Of course, we had to see Ouray's Box Canyon Falls. Even though the run off was low, they were still quite impressive with a loud roar in the canyon.

A stop at the Ouray Brewery

An excellent Pilsner and view


The eclectic people (old hippies, young hippies, cowboys and friends that hangout at Ralph Lauren's ranch) were as entertaining as the musicians at the Thursday evening Ridgway concert in the park. Two couples sat their chairs on each side of us and made the evening even better. They were both so much fun and had great stories.

Million Dollar Highway

Hayden Lake
We took the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton one morning and stopped for a hike. The next day the signs were flashing that the highway was closed due to a rock slide. It would be a very long drive to get back for anyone caught south of the slide.

Hiking at an elevation of 11,000-12,000 feet had our legs moving slow on our return from Sivlerton. I thought that we would be faster in the thinner air. Less resistance? Maybe not.

Barrett Mines

Add caption

Glad  we brought a lunch.

Ouray's Perimeter Trail

After an early morning hike on the 6 mile Perimeter Trail which runs around Ouray, we stopped at Gnar's Taco shop  which turned out to have some great tacos.

They must have been dirty babies leaving the tubs looking like that. 

We got an early start on our hike because it had been pretty hot. As we reached the Perimeter Trail's high point, the sun was rising over the mountains behind us.

A change of plans...

Cuenca, Ecuador

An Expat Destination The morning after returning to Quito we boarded an hour-long flight to Cuenca. Driving up the winding roads would have ...