Archive | September 2015

Colorado 2015: RMNP – The Trail Ridge Road

Day 2: August 2, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year! And we had the opportunity to visit! We got on our way in the morning, and made our way to the park, which is just a couple of miles outside of Estes Park. The Visitor’s Centers here are outside of the entrance stations, which threw me off a bit, and sadly I didn’t see it when we passed by! By the time I realized our mistake, we were already in the park, and partway up the mountain, so we opted not to turn around and go back. I knew there were more Visitor’s Centers later on…

Rocky Mountain National Park's 100th Anniversary!

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th Anniversary!

We drove the Trail Ridge Road, and stopped at several viewpoints and saw the beautiful coniferous forests, the gorgeous meadows and the distant mountains. We were also able to see the destruction caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Although this beetle has always been part of the ecosystem, drought conditions over the last several years have allowed the beetle to gain a much larger foothold, and the current infestation is 10 times worse that what has been seen previously.

Forest and meadow at Rocky Mountain National Park

Forest and meadow at Rocky Mountain National Park

This Clark's Nutcracker spent awhile posing for me.

This Clark’s Nutcracker spent awhile posing for me.

Jon taking in the view at Rocky Mountain National Park

Jon taking in the view at Rocky Mountain National Park

We gradually increased in elevation, stopping at various viewpoints to see the changes in the landscape, until we reached the tundra habitat at the park. It was interesting to see the rocks and vegetation that exist above the tree line.  Jon and I did a short hike on a path through the tundra, and were able to check out some neat rock formations.

Trail Ridge Road heading up through the tundra

Trail Ridge Road heading up through the tundra

The beautiful tundra view at 11,000 feet

The beautiful tundra view at 11,000 feet

We saw elk from the car, but we weren’t able to get pictures because they were perched high up on a hill where there wasn’t really a pull-out. I was a little disappointed about that, but I have other photos of elk… I felt much better when we got back from our hike to find two Yellow-bellied Marmots right near our car! They were right off the road; one was licking the dirt beneath the gravel at the side of the road – I assume to get salt.  I got a ton of photos, because one of them posed perfectly for me!

This little guy just posed for us!

This little guy just posed for us!

I loved this little guy - he was so photogenic

I loved this little guy – he was so photogenic

We also stopped at a high-altitude viewpoint to find several people with binoculars looking out across the field. I asked one of them what they were looking at – Bighorn Sheep! We had our binoculars, so we looked and were able to see two sheep lying down really far away next to a snow patch. No pictures possible at that distance, but it was a great experience!

See that big snow patch on the right? Well, to the right of it, about halfway down, were two bighorn sheep. You are just going to have to take my word for it.

See that big snow patch on the right? Well, to the right of it, about halfway down, were two bighorn sheep. You are just going to have to take my word for it.

We stopped at the Alpine Visitor’s Center, located above 11,000 feet in elevation. I was able to get my stamp! And some postcards of course. We ate our lunch in the blustery wind outside to the Visitor’s Center – and checked out the views all around. There is a short nature trail up to the top of a nearby peak, so Jon and I challenged ourselves to do it; especially because one of the rangers had said there were elk up there! Hiking is hard at such a high altitude! After huffing and puffing my way to the top, it was a big letdown to discover there were no elk in sight. BOO!

Jon and me at Rocky Mountain National Park!

Jon and me at Rocky Mountain National Park!

I didn’t have long to be disappointed about the elk though, because it was threatening to rain!  We made our way back to the car and continued on our way.

Have you driven the Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain National Park?

It Comes in Threes…

Surely you know that old saying.  Well, it’s true.  It happens when employees come into the HR office to tell us about their soon-to-be babies, it happens when employees resign, and it happens with unexpected bad news on the homefront.

ONE…

In the spring, the ballast on the last of our three kitchen light fixtures failed, leaving us in the dark for kitchen duties.  Luckily, we have extremely long days in the summer, so it wasn’t a huge deal for a little while.  But with fall and winter on their way, we needed to get new lights, and the hunt for replacement ballasts began in earnest – and failed.  Nobody makes them anymore.  So we purchased three new LED fixtures, and my Dad installed them yesterday.  We have light!

TWO…

The trees.  I posted last week about the crown of the tree that came crashing down onto our house and into our yard during an unseasonably strong summer windstorm.  Fortunately the most serious damage was a couple of scrapes on the siding, before the tree just littered our entire back yard with debris.  The Friday before Labor Day was spent hauling it all away after an arborist came to assess the remaining trees (all good) and cut it all up into (mostly) manageable pieces.  Done.

THREE…

My computer…  More specifically, the hard drive on my laptop – my second hard drive failure in four years.  Why can’t they make anything that lasts anymore!  I’m getting fed up with this disposable culture we have.  But that’s a rant for a different time.  I was quite panicked because I hadn’t backed up my data since June – attempting to perform the backup last week was apparently the last straw that caused the hard drive to start giving up the ghost.  I had a fitful sleep while my laptop sat in the computer repair store before hearing from him Friday afternoon.  He was able to get all my data off, and most importantly, save the pictures from my Colorado trip in August, which were mostly what hadn’t been backed up!  I was so relieved!

So I do need to get a new computer at some point soon, but I will be getting all my pictures back on Monday, and can get back to work blogging about my Colorado trip!  Of course, in the meantime Jon and I have to share!

Meanwhile, Happy Sunday Peeps!  Hopefully, you aren’t experiencing any threes…

 

Book Review: Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

I first found out about this book through our local library, which was sponsoring a book talk by the author, Timothy Egan. Jon wasn’t super excited about going – but after I explained what the book was about, he agreed to go with me. Note to self: At some point, someday, I’ll start reading the books before going to the book talk – but maybe it doesn’t matter.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher is a biography of Edward S. Curtis, the famed Seattle portrait photographer and creator of the turn of the last century masterpiece, The North American Indian. If you haven’t heard of it, you aren’t alone, but I can all but guarantee you have seen at least one of Curtis’ photographs. He is the Ansel Adams of the portrait world.

Kickisomlo, also known as Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Sealth, for whom Seattle is named. Curtis photographed Angeline in 1896.

Kickisomlo, also known as Princess Angeline.  She was the daughter of Chief Sealth, for whom Seattle is named. Curtis photographed Angeline in 1896.

The North American Indian was Curtis’ crowning achievement; his life’s work. It was a 20 volume set of books, documenting in words and photographs the way of life of over 80 Native American tribes. The books were originally supposed to be published within five years, but the wealth of information he collected and his meticulous documentation of songs, spiritual ceremonies, foods, and biographies on tribal leaders stretched the project out over 20 years.

He was not without his critics, some of whom thought that Curtis’ desire to capture a historical view of Native American life was simplistic and ignored the real issues. However, Curtis wanted to capture what life was like before their culture and traditions were destroyed by the encroachment of the white man. Therefore, he wasn’t above doing a little bit of manipulation to the settings, or the final photos.

Surprisingly, Curtis did not receive a salary for the project, and became ever more deeply in debt as a result of the costs incurred during his travels documenting the tribes. In the end, between 220 and 280 full sets of The North American Indian were created, and Curtis sold his rights to his work to the son of J.P. Morgan, who had originally agreed to finance the project. He lost many of his original glass plate negatives in his divorce from his wife, choosing to shatter them instead of turn them over to her.

After the publication of all 20 volumes, Curtis grew old and died in relative obscurity. It was a sad end for a man who had so much passion for such a monumental project. Like many artists, his work was rediscovered in the 1970s, and has enjoyed an increasing popularity since that time. A complete set of The North American Indian sold for $1.44 million in 2012. Not too shabby…

Egan does a wonderful job with this book. He captures Curtis’ obsession with the project, and candidly discusses his shortcomings. He makes Curtis into a multi-dimensional man, explaining his love for his children and the difficulty he had with being separated from them during his long absences for fieldwork.
I knew barely anything of Curtis when I began the book, but I feel like Egan painted a picture of the man: stubborn, charismatic, driven, and at times possessed by a deep melancholy.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, by Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, by Timothy Egan

Egan’s words make you feel like you are there, watching, experiencing the things Curtis experienced. I felt protective when hearing about the divorce proceedings, and how they played out, although I know Curtis was not without fault in the matter. I got a glimpse of the lifelong friendships that he made, and the true grief he experienced when his friends passed away one by one, leaving him ever more alone.

Edward S. Curtis lived a truly unique life, and created a masterpiece that will be a treasure for generations to come. Egan captured it in a way few writers can. Brilliant.

For those of you who now are curious about Curtis’ life’s work – The North American Indian has been digitized and is available for viewing.

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!