Archive | September 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park History

Rocky Mountain National Park was founded in 1915, so this year was its 100th anniversary!

Rocky Mountain National Park's 100th Anniversary!

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th Anniversary!

Within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park are the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, which was created by the Laramide Orogeny. It occurred between 70 and 40 million years ago, and is a fancy way of saying that the Rockies were pushed up, instead of being formed by volcanic activity.  They were formed by tectonic activity; one plate slid underneath another, causing an uplift of the mountains. Researchers think that immediately after the uplift, the Rockies were about 20,000 feet tall, but erosion has brought them down to their current heights – many over 14,000 feet.

The history of human habitation in the park goes back about 11,000 years, with spear points and other stone tools found as evidence; however, the people who came here are thought to have been transitory, without leaving evidence of permanent habitation.  Later on, the Ute tribe occupied the west side of the park until they were driven further east by the Arapaho tribe.

Forest and meadow at Rocky Mountain National Park

Forest and meadow at Rocky Mountain National Park

White people began arriving in the Estes Park area around the 1860s, staking land claims for grazing territory. On the west side of the park, there were several mines established in the 1880s, after the land was found to be rich in several minerals, including gold.  No matter who was living here, the higher elevations presented a harsh environment; winters were cold and very snowy.

In 1884, a sickly 14 year old boy named Enos Mills moved to Estes Park and was so enthralled with the scenery that he began lobbying for the area to be turned into a National Park. His original proposal included placing a larger swath of land under federal protection, but mining interests limited the amount ultimately designated as a National Park. But Enos Mills’ story certainly highlights the ability of young people to effect change!

Rocky Mountain National Park was designated by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915. Additional land has been added to the park since that time for a current total of 265,761 acres (415.25 square miles).  In 2011, approximately 3,176,941 visitors went to the park, enjoying more than 359 miles of hiking trails, 150 lakes and 72 named peaks over 12,000 feet.  The majority visit during July and August, although winter trekking, snowshoeing and skiing are popular too.

The view in the tundra habitat of Rocky Mountain National Park

The view in the tundra habitat of Rocky Mountain National Park

The most famous scenic drive in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Trail Ridge Road, has a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet! It takes visitors through all of the park’s habitats at various points, and is a great opportunity for some amazing scenic views.  The park also has the distinction of having the highest elevation visitor’s center within the park system; the Alpine Visitor’s Center has an elevation of 11,796 feet!

Habitats found within the park include forests and grasslands, riparian wetlands, sub-alpine areas, and alpine tundra. Wildlife includes deer, bear, elk, moose, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, yellow-bellied marmots, and pika, and numerous species of birds.

And we were going to experience it!

Colorado 2015: Estes Park

Day 1 – August 1, 2015

After Boulder, we made our way to Estes Park, a quaint little tourist town that is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove through the downtown, which is a cute main drag with lots of tourist shops and outdoor adventure companies, and thousands of tourists. We also checked out the Stanley Hotel, built in 1909 in the Colonial Revival architectural style by Freelan Oscar Stanley.  It catered to upper class tourists visiting the area. Stanley is also known as one of the brothers who invented the Stanley Steam Automobile, fondly called the Stanley Steamer.

The hotel now has 140 rooms, but originally only had 48. It has a fancy bar and dining room, and a beautiful, wide front porch with sweeping views of the mountains. It is also the inspiration for the Stephen King novel (and later movie) The Shining. King stayed there and dreamed up the story about the man who goes insane, cooped up in a haunted hotel one winter. And yes, The Stanley is said to be haunted. Just so you know though – the movie wasn’t filmed there; the exterior shots in the movie were filmed at the Timberline Hotel in Oregon (which does not have a hedge maze).

The Stanley Hotel - it is impossible to get far enough back to get the whole hotel in one picture.

The Stanley Hotel – it is impossible to get far enough back to get the whole hotel in one picture.

I have been to The Stanley once before, but since I was last there, they added a low (knee high) hedge maze to entertain the kids and confuse the adults who venture into it to get far enough from the hotel to take a picture – it is impossible, by the way…  It was a quick stop this time – but one day, maybe we can afford to stay there!

Another view of the Stanley Hotel

Another view of the Stanley Hotel

A Stanley Steamer Automobile at the Stanley Hotel

A Stanley Steamer Automobile at the Stanley Hotel

We also stopped at a viewpoint outside of town and got photos proving we were in Estes Park – and then watched some other tourists feed the chipmunks. I’m not a fan of feeding wild animals, but I have to admit they were cute to watch. We also saw a Dark Eyed Junco, “Gray Headed” morph, and a Steller’s Jay, “Southern Rockies” morph. Even though we have both bird species at home, these ones looked very different, and the Steller’s Jay was stunning – I loved his “eyebrows”!

Jon and Me outside of Estes Park, Colorado

Jon and Me outside of Estes Park, Colorado

Someone feeding the chipmunks in Estes Park

Someone feeding the chipmunks in Estes Park

We had dinner at a local restaurant – Hunter’s Chop House – I had the steak salad, with steak, Gouda, cheddar, mushrooms, Craisins, and romaine lettuce. It was pretty good – my only gripe was that it was a rather fatty cut of steak.  Jon had the elk burger with spicy beans, and loved it so much he forgot to even offer me a bite!

Dark Eyed Junco - Gray Headed Morph

Dark Eyed Junco – Gray Headed Morph

A Steller's Jay - Southern Rockies Morph

A Steller’s Jay – Southern Rockies Morph

Total Day 1 Driving Distance – Denver International Airport to Boulder to Estes Park: 88 miles

Hotel for the Night: The Columbine Inn – a locally owned motel from the 40s or 50s. Clean and quiet – the owner was friendly and had several maps and great info on Rocky Mountain National Park.

The next day we were going to visit Rocky Mountain National Park!

Colorado 2015: Washington State to Boulder

Day 1 – August 1, 2015

The alarm blasts early when you have a 5:00 am flight. We woke up at 2:15 am, for a 3:20 cab ride to the airport. The cab ride was pleasant; getting through security was not. I ran into a surly, power tripping TSA Agent who barked at me about not removing my Kindle from my backpack (IS IT BIGGER THAN A COKE CAN!?), then assigned me to secondary screening.  There is a lot more in between the barking and the pat-down that I’m not recounting here – but I did recount it when I filed a formal complaint with his manager.

After my full body pat down, we were able to relax in the terminal and get off on two uneventful flights. We landed in Colorado about 10:15 am, waited over 30 minutes for luggage (which got me a $50 credit on my next flight! Thanks Alaska Airlines!), got our rental car (a Toyota Camry!) and we were officially on vacation in Colorado!

First stop: Eats. We went to Avery Brewing Company in Boulder – Jon’s pick – and enjoyed some great beer and wonderful food. I made my own sampler – Avery sells 4 oz beers so you can mix and match!

I had:

  • Liliko’i Kepolo – a Witbier with tropical passionfruit
  • White Rascal – a Belgian Style White Ale spiced with coriander, curacao, orange peel – described as a zesty classic ale
  • Summer’s Day IPA – an IPA with tangerine peel.
My beer sampler at Avery Brewing Company

My beer sampler at Avery Brewing Company

My favorite was the Liliko’i Kepolo, with the IPA in second place. For lunch, I had the BBQ pork sandwich with fingerling potatoes.  Jon had the Maharaja Imperial IPA and the blackened catfish, then followed it up with a smaller beer – the Beast Grand Cru – with 6 hops, 6 sugars and 6 malts – get it? 666?  Our food was really good, but I was so jealous of Linda’s dish after getting a taste – the best vegetarian tacos I have ever eaten!

Linda's Veggie Tacos at Avery Brewing Company - delicious!

Linda’s Veggie Tacos at Avery Brewing Company – delicious!

After lunch we went to the Boulder History Museum. It is in the historic Harbeck-Bergheim house, built in 1899, a summer home for J.H. Harbeck and his family. Mr. Harbeck was a well known Wall Street figure, owning a dry goods business and a fleet of 20 ships to tranport goods for his business.  They actually ended up spending very little time in Boulder – the last time they visited was in 1910; Mr. Harbeck died that year.  They left instructions with a caretaker that the home was to be left vacant for 20 years because the graves of the family dogs needed time to settle, and they didn’t want them to be disturbed.  I kid you not…

The Boulder History Museum, in the Harbeck-Bergheim House. Built 1899 - American Four-Square style

The Boulder History Museum, in the Harbeck-Bergheim House.
Built 1899 – American Four-Square style

The home was sold after Mrs. Harbeck’s death in 1930 and eventually was purchased by Milton Bergheim and his wife, who lived there 30 years before selling the home to the City of Boulder.  The home itself is American Four-Square style, and has 12 rooms and two bathrooms.  Unfortunately, records about the architect and the building of the home were lost in a fire in 1932.

A stained glass window in the Harbeck-Bergheim house. It is believed to be Tiffany.

A stained glass window in the Harbeck-Bergheim house. It is believed to be Tiffany.

At the museum, there was an exhibit on the Arapahoe tribe and the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. There was quite a bit of information on Chief Niwot, an Arapaho Chief who tried to maintain a peaceful relationship between the plains tribes and white settlers.  He was very well educated, and greeted settlers in English.  Chief Niwot was mortally wounded at the Sand Creek Massacre.  There was also an exhibit on Boulder history – Boulder was founded as a supply town in 1858 for the Gold Rush in Colorado, and also had significant agriculture.

A prospector's gear.

A prospector’s gear.

It was a small museum, but the exhibits were nicely done. Plus it was nice to see the historic house; the museum is planning to move into a new facility soon.  It will have climate control so they can better display artifacts and receive traveling exhibits – at that point the museum will be using the house only for special events.

Outside the museum we watched a tour bus roll by – designed to look like a rustic cabin on wheels – it looked like a fun tour, but I doubt I would be able to get Jon on it!

A unique tour bus in Boulder, Colorado

A unique tour bus in Boulder, Colorado

Chehalem 2013 Ridgecrest Grüner Veltliner

Ahhh…  the end of the work week, and I get my last summer schedule Friday off tomorrow.  Unfortunately, I’ll be spending this last Friday loading branches into a trailer to haul away.  The work will start early, and go until it is done!  The storm left a lot of busy work, but luckily Jon and I will have help from our Dads!

So tonight, I’m relaxing with a glass of Chehalem 2013 Ridgecrest Grüner Veltliner.  It is a nice summer white with balanced acidity, and flavors of lemongrass with a hint of light butter.  It finishes with more lemongrass and white pepper.  It is a very food friendly wine with medium body.  I enjoyed mine with a breakfast for dinner of eggs over easy and toast.  Which just goes to show that I’ll drink wine with anything!

Here’s to the long weekend!

Book Review: Missing 411 – The Devil’s in the Detail

I have been hearing about David Paulides and his books for a while. And I have been curious. This former law-enforcement officer (with rumors of a checkered past) turned author has spent the last several years compiling information about missing people across the U.S. and the world. He claims that there is a pattern of disappearances with very specific sets of circumstances linking them, and believes there is some as yet unexplained phenomena that is causing the disappearances. He never comes right out and explains his theory, but at various points in the book he alludes to Bigfoot, alien abductions, fairies, and a race of mysterious little people that are described in the folklore of Western Native Americans.

I think he’s a nut. Just because he was a cop, doesn’t mean he was a good one. Many of the things that he points to as “baffling” have logical explanations – explanations that he discounts as being impossible. He also only presents missing persons cases that fit his “profile,” meaning that he completely ignores thousands of other missing persons cases. He also acknowledges that many of these disappearances occur in very rugged terrain, but then states that it would be very unusual for someone to disappear there. Umm… you just got done telling me about how rugged these places are!

Missing 411: The Devil's in the Detail, by David Paulides

Missing 411: The Devil’s in the Detail, by David Paulides

Here are the “patterns” that are present in many of these cases, that Paulides believes lend credibility to his theory, and my refutations:

Bad weather – Paulides states there is often bad weather during or immediately after the disappearance that hampers search efforts. Well yeah – the many people who go missing during good weather are more easily found – therefore they don’t fit his “profile.”

Dogs don’t pick up the scent – See above bad weather. Rain and snow make it harder for a dog to pick up a scent.

Berries and Mushrooms – Paulides claims there are lots of disappearances of berry and mushroom pickers, or people who go missing near berries. Hmmm… Berries and mushrooms are commonly found in the woods. If I go hiking in the Northwest woods in the spring, summer or fall, I can pretty much guarantee I will come across some berries or mushrooms. Not to mention that bears eat a lot of berries – ever consider that maybe these people got dragged away by a bear; who caches food by burying it for later eating?

Children who got away in the blink of an eye – He primarily describes young children this way. He is shocked that a child could get away from the yard, or out of a house, in the span of a few minutes. Really? I don’t have kids, but I have several nieces and nephews and friends with kids – they are amazing escape artists and really can get away in a second. Not to mention – any parent who just lost their kid is going to say, “I just looked away for a second.” They aren’t going to admit that they left the kid outside alone for 45 minutes while they made dinner, went to the bathroom, finished off that bottle of tequila (insert activity here.)

Children who don’t respond to calls from searchers – Ummm… yeah. Ever heard of stranger danger? We go to great lengths to teach children not to talk to strangers and then he wonders why they hide from strangers?

Children who walk long distances – He constantly quotes a search and rescue manual that gives approximate distances that most children will travel when lost. 95%, supposedly, will stay within the guidelines. We already determined that Paulides selects cases that fit his profile, and he tends to pick the cases where the children walked further. Being in the outer 5% doesn’t make it impossible.

Disappearances near water – There is a lot of water in this world. Paulides considers it to be “near water”, if there is a body of water of some sort within a couple of miles of the disappearance. Considering communities tend to be situated near water, this doesn’t seem like a stretch. I have a 20 month old nephew who will run at full tilt to get to water, and then launch himself face first into it with no regard for his safety. Little kids gravitate to water like moths to a flame – there is a reason why your insurance is higher when you have a pool, also known as an “attractive nuisance.” Adults will try to find water when they are lost – both to drink it and to follow it back to civilization; and then Paulides wonders why when they died of exposure they died near water.

Victims are found with no clothes or partially clothed – People with hypothermia take their clothes off; this is well documented. Paulides often states that the weather was not cold enough for someone to suffer from exposure, but you can get hypothermia in 80 degree water or in 60-70 degree temps. Depending on how long someone is out, what they are wearing and whether it is raining, it is not unreasonable for someone to have hypothermia even if it hasn’t been that cold.

Victims are found face down – As a former police officer, Paulides ought to know that drowning victims typically float face down; it is a gas buildup/decomposition thing, not a baffling mystery.

The lost person is found in a place that was already searched – People don’t always stay in one place; especially kids. It isn’t like once an area is searched it gets a big wall with a padlock on it. Admittedly, finding a body in a location that was already searched is a bit odd, but how do we know that the searchers did as good a job as they said or thought they did? In forests and mountains, it is not as simple as linking arms and walking across a field. There are places that are difficult to get to.

Disappearances in clusters – I think Paulides takes liberties here and takes advantage of the fact that most readers don’t know the location he is writing about. He has one case that takes place in Issaquah, WA. He attributes this case to his “Lake Wenatchee cluster.” He states Issaquah is 50 miles from Lake Wenatchee. However, Google Maps will tell you that the shortest driving route is 113 miles. Not really that close, if you ask me.

Disappearances in National Parks – Yes, it is true, there are people who go missing in National Parks. But considering millions of people go to National Parks each year – over 3.5 million people go to Yosemite each year (where Paulides says there is a cluster). I also go to National Parks, and see people do very stupid things there. They hike without adequate food or water, they stand too close to cliffs and waterfalls, they walk right up to wild animals. The fact that a few might hike off and die, or fall of a cliff, or get attacked by a bear and never be found doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

Once you are outside the main areas of a park, you might not see anybody – Jon and I experience this frequently. If you are alone, in bad weather, and get lost away from the trail – let’s just say it seems like a miracle that any of these people are found. Searchers are human, terrain is rough, lost people move, and there are holes and caves and cliffs in some of these areas that would hide a body forever. Just think of some of the planes that have gone down in the woods or on mountains and are never found…

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) states there were 661,000 missing people in the U.S. in 2012. Not all cases get reported to that agency; other estimates are closer to 1 million people each year. There are an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified remains in various morgues and coroner’s offices around the country.

This book documents about 174 disappearances, from 1856 to present – over 150 years (although one case is from the 1700s). Paulides admits that at most, there are typically 5 cases in a year that fit his “profile”. So conservatively (using the 661,000 number), that is 0.0008% of the total missing persons in a year, a mere fraction of a percent. He picks the most unusual cases, twists the facts to suit his purposes, and then expresses shock that those are sometimes the people who are never seen again.

I think I have established that I don’t believe that there is any sort of conspiracy here. But that said, I did enjoy the book. It is a decent compilation of strange disappearances. Frankly, some of the cases are weird, but Paulides leaves many details out that would make the disappearance much more logical. However, I do wish that Paulides would hire himself a decent editor – there are numerous typos, punctuation errors, grammar errors and factual errors (typically where he lists two different dates for the case) in the book, and I had to re-read many paragraphs trying to figure out the correct info.

So read it with a curiosity for missing persons cases, but I don’t think that it shores up the argument for any sort of government conspiracy or cover up, much less Bigfoot, alien abduction, evil little people or fairies. Get the book from the library so you aren’t paying a dime. And whatever you do – don’t hike alone! That’s just common sense.