Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ptarmigan Lake Hike

High Mountain Lakes

If you are hiking in Colorado, getting out early is important. The afternoon storms can roll in bringing with them lightening and rain. The sun is harsh at these high elevations and the clouds are appreciated until the lightening starts.

The first time we attempted this hike several years ago, the snow was too deep even though it was June. Then Cottonwood Pass was closed for three years for paving.

This time it was a go! We got an early start, 7:30 am at the trailhead and were back before noon as the raindrops started falling.

This popular, scenic half day hike ascends to beautiful Ptarmigan Lake, cradled at the base of Jones Mountain (13,218-ft.). The first 2.4 miles of the trail climbs through trees.
We were all alone as we started up but passed several hikers on our descent.

As the trail traverses a few rockslide, we would see small pica dipping in and out of the rocks while chirping at us. No bears but we were on alert.
As the trees thin the trail passes a pretty lake. Soon the trees give way to beautiful meadows with  wildflowers. The great views improved as we gained elevation and passed timberline.

Distance: 6.2 miles (round trip) to Ptarmigan Lake
Elevation: 10,680-ft. at Trailhead
12,300-ft. at Ptarmigan Lake
Elevation Gain: 1,620-ft. to Ptarmigan Lake
Difficulty: moderate

The lake’s cutthroat trout also makes it a popular destination for fishermen.

Unnamed lake and the Gladstone Ridge. many people stopped here but we carried on to Ptarmigan. I didn't need to climb to the top of the Ridge this time. It's over 13,000 feet. 12,000  had me breathing hard.
The wild flowers were just starting to bloom at this elevation.
We had a couple of creek crossings and appreciated our poles to maintain our balance.

I felt my legs slowing at 12,000 feet.

I am not sure what he is pointing to, but I was done.

We made it!
At 3.1 miles we came over the ridge to the view of  Ptarmigan Lake. The trail continues along the lake’s eastern shore. At the south end of the lake a panorama of high peaks, including Turner Peak and Mount Yale, fills the skyline to the north.

Now, that's a skyline!

We had tired knees as we made it back to the trailhead. I wasn't sure why anyone would put the parking lot up a short hill. But it felt like a steep climb to the truck. This was one hike I am glad we didn't miss even if it took a couple of attempts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Leadville, Colorado

High Altitude Bike Ride

We had purchased travel insurance for our February trip to Merida Mexico. Then we canceled our trip and met the requirements for a refund. But after being ignored we received an email saying we had been denied due to covid. I was so angry that I got on AIG's social media and let them have it. They removed my comments (no dirty words). After venting I decided to let it go. I hate negative energy and knew the little guy wouldn't win. A month later, received an email from another adjuster requesting information about the flight. I sent the requested info and got another email later that day saying we would get a refund for our airfare $975! Hopefully, someday we will get there.

At 10,000 feet, Leadville is the highest town in North America and home of the former Climax molybdenum mine.  The mine closed when the molybdenum was no longer needed to harden steel after WWII. The town lost 8 out of 10 jobs and became a sad place to live. Leadville is notable for the Rocky's many 14,000 foot peaks easily seen from town and the headwaters of the
Arkansas River. 

It was once a rather worn down town but now getting a facelift with many people from Denver and Colorado Springs finding Leadville affordable yet close to ski resorts and purchasing second homes among the Historic District. And it is only 35 miles from our campground.

The Mineral Belt Trail an 11.6 mile multiuse trail with numerous trailheads and access points in Leadville. Six miles of this trail meanders through the historic Leadville Mining District with views of
the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges and Turquoise lake. It starts at 10,100 feet and goes up to 10,650 feet and had me breathing hard. We added on some back roads for a few more miles.

We were glad to see him wearing his mask.
There were several sets of bear prints along the trail.

This was a confused bear.

Overlooking Leadville.

The trail is well maintained and smooth for both summer and winter activities. Part of the trail was blocked with a detour sign as they were repairing part of the path. If we had known how bad the road going down was, we would have turned around and ridden in the opposite direction. My hands and arms were buzzing from all of the bumps we hit on the way down.

We plan to do it again once the repairs are finished on the path.

Outside the mining museum in town

Some whimsical landscaping. 

We stopped to visit from a distance with this artist working on her neighbor's yard.

After a stop at Subway, we were ready for a picnic at Clear Creek Reservoir on the way back to Buena Vista. I don't think the fish were biting. But the people seemed content to enjoy the day.
Clear Creek Reservior
We have heard from friends that we haven't seen in a while and it really made our day. I don't think we realized how separate everyone is right now. It also made us realize that we should do the same and reach out to friends and family even if we can't see them in person.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Sentimental Journey

After talking about it for a year, we finally sold our mountain bikes after hauling them around for 19 years.
I learned to mountain bike at 43 when Mike asked if I would like to borrow a bike and try it out with him. I said "No, I would like to buy my own bike." After a stop at the bike shop and a few lessons, I found I loved the feeling of the wind and dirt on my face while overcoming a challenging climb and the peaceful feeling riding through the wilderness. 
April 2015 Kokopelli Trail, Fruita, CO

It took a lot of energy at times, paying attention and planning your next line to avoid obstacles ahead. No distractions allowed. Sitting on a rock and taking in the outdoors while breathing hard after a climb was the best. 

One of my first falls was into cactus in Palmer Park in Colorado Springs. Mike pulled out his trusty pliers and started pulling out the largest spines (I could have sworn I heard him chuckle but he denies it). Months later I could feel the fine cactus spines when I ran my hand across my hip.
August 2016 Tucson Arizona

We have so many good memories on the old and later new mountain bikes. Like stopping along a stream in Alaska, where a labradoodle came bounding down the trrail. He eyed my bright gloves I had placed in my helmet while rinsing my face. He snuck up, grabbed it and galloped off throwing it in the air. I did finally get the slobbery thing back.

Riding in British Columbia, we came across bears on the trail. By the third bear, I declared that I was out and would wait for Mike in the truck. Mike said he had never seen my short legs move so fast. 
Sept 2015 Minnesota

I went over the handle bars in Colorado and Idaho. Only one of those landed with a visit to the Emergency Room. 

Over time, we rode them less and less, opting for our road bikes and hiking. Lifting two 25 pound bikes over his head to the top of the truck while was standing on a ladder got a bit old. I would lift them up for him to place in the rack and lock them in while supporting the ladder.

Our last ride in Colorado was a tough one. The altitude and rock gardens meant a lot of off and on the bikes through difficult areas. During a rest stop, a 40 something lady rode a section I had just pushed my bike up got my blood flowing. Mike looked up while putting on his camelback and saw me heading down the trail. I decided I wasn't climbing on and off the bike anymore. I could feel my rear tire slide off the rocks I was riding over. On one break away, I felt the tire slide towards the steep edge of the trail but kept peddling. It felt good to be conquering this path. Finally, I was breathing so hard that I had to stop and rest. Mike caught up and asked what had gotten into me. I looked back on the trail I had just ridden and realized even though I had ridden it, it could have turned out differently.
When we arrived home, he asked if I was ready to sell them. He listed them on Craigslist and sold them both in 24 hours.

I am not sad they are gone to new homes. I am glad he invited me on that first ride in the dirt and we didn't wait for someday to give it a try. We can buy new bikes if we feel the need in the future. Now, I am glad to have two less "things" to take care of as we continue our minimalist lifestyle. Less stuff, more experiences.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Twin Lakes, Colorado

A Favorite Place

What a treat to be able to wake up each morning and say "What do we want to do today?" We try to get our exercise in while seeing something new. 
In the shadows of Colorado's tallest peak, Twin Lakes is a favorite for us. Not only is it beautiful with many options for a hike or bike ride, it takes me back to family fishing trips as a child when we would stay in the nearby cabins.

 Twin Lakes was once a transportation hub between Leadville and Aspen. We made a stop in the town that hasn't changed much over the years.
The Coffee house VW was perfect for picking up coffee and a breakfast burrito before heading up Independence Pass.

We stopped for a hike on the pass in Lake Valley and watched mountain sheep crossing too high to get a good photo but still a treat through binoculars.

Our next visit was to try and ride our mountain bikes the 2.2 miles on the south side of the lakes to the historic Interlaken Resort. It can also be accessed by boat from across the lake. If I did it again, it would be by foot.

It was a beautiful ride but the narrow trail and rock gardens made it tough in places. We aren't youngsters anymore and want to stay healthy.

The eagle was probably wondering why I was breathing so hard when I stopped.

The calm winds made for nice reflections.

The osprey was busy feeding the kids.

We made it to Interlaken. The Dexter House was owned by a mining magnate and open for a tour. We just latched the door as we left.

The floors and walls had beautiful wood in a nautical theme.

Kind of a cool tin bath tub.

Steep stairs to the sunroom on top.

Fancy hinges.

Interlaken was a resort used by people from the mining communities of Aspen and Leadville.

A sweet part of the trail.

Mike's Stumpjumper wasn't up to this log on the trail. We went for the old heave hoe and lifted it over.

We have already  been here three weeks and still have a to do list that should keep us busy until August. We aren't disappointed in our decision to spend most of the summer in Buena Vista when we weren't sure how things would turn out for fulltime travelers. We just need to remember to take days off sometimes.

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