The trail that led to Aspen Hospital…Colorado 7.2008

7/4

We got a leisurely start on this road trip, stopping in Lawrence for breakfast before hitting the road for the long drive to Colorado.  We tried a new place called the Global Cafe, downtown on Mass Street and it was great.  A kind-of Cuban menu, different, fresh and great tasting.  A nice way to start our holiday.

We made it to Colorado Springs around 5:30 pm.  Downtown Springs was quiet on this holiday, and we ate at Shugas, a wonderful little neighborhood restaurant that I was introduced to a couple of years ago, by Adi, a good friend of Luke's.

It's eclectic in both decor and menu, and really delicious.  We visited with a local couple as well as our server for menu suggestions.  Danny ordered the Smokin' BLT with smoked gouda cheese, bacon, tomato, and lettuce.  I ordered a Mortiki sandwich with hummus, goat cheese, tomato, lettuce, roasted red pepper with crème fraiche in a grilled pita.  We also shared the Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp soup and it was wonderful!  We made a quick stop at Pike's Perk, a Colorado Springs coffee house to get re-caffeinated for the rest of our drive.

         

Some pics of downtown Colorado Springs.

                        

           

We were headed to Salida, hopefully in time to see their 4th of July Fireworks.  The drive is really nice and viewing the mountains when the sun is setting is always beautiful.

                                       

We arrived in Salida, right at dusk, parked the car and headed downtown to the City Park along the Arkansas River.  Because of the large amounts of snow in the mountains this year, the rivers are all running really high.  We walked around awhile, enjoying being outside, the beautiful night and the festive atmosphere and staked out a spot to enjoy the fireworks.  We spoke with two different guys that were wearing FreeState t-shirts; and one guy wearing a Sunflower Outdoor Bike Shop t-shirt (he said he works there one time a year at the sidewalk sale...go figure).   The fireworks were being set off from the top of the mountain that overlooks the little town.  We listened to the band playing and promptly at 9:30, the fireworks started.

               

       

           

There were OOHS and AHHS all around from the crowd and everyone was enjoying the night.  The skies are so black in the mountains with no big cities around to lighten them up; it was wonderful.  Then all of a sudden, they just stopped.  No grand finale, nothing.  The crowd began to leave, and, a little disappointed, so did we.  But by the time we got to our car, we looked up on top of the mountain and noticed several fire trucks winding their way up....then we noticed the fire.  This mountain is mostly scrub; not the big pine trees, so while it did catch fire, they had it out quickly.  (The pic doesn't show much detail of the fire...it was about 10:30 by this time.)

We didn't know where we were staying for the night, so we drove up the road trying to find some National Forest land, where they allow dispersed (free) camping.  It was difficult to find anything when it was so dark, so we just pulled off the road and slept in the Hotel Mazda.  The sky was crystal clear so you could see about a million stars....it's so great to be back in Colorado.

*******

7/5

       

We woke early, around 6am, and decided to drive up to Cottonwood Pass...a road I've heard and read about, but never been on before.  We made a brief stop in Buena Vista for coffee at Bongo Billy's all along taking in the views of the Collegiate Peaks...the mountain range containing the largest number of mountains taller than 14,000'

The pass was spectacular!  Big views all around.  We decided to just hike a short distance to take some photos....but then we kept going....and going.  We weren't prepared....but we just couldn't stop.  Dan had on his low hikers and I was barefoot in my chacos...but we kept going.

                                   

     

There were still snowfields that hadn't melted yet which made for some really interesting hiking...I'll admit that on the third snowfield, with very slick and shallow depressions, I got pretty nervous.  If I'd fallen, I wouldn't have died or anything, probably not even broken anything, but the slide would have fast and long!  I skipped the scary snowfield on the way down, and just climbed down the rocks instead.

     

The lake in the photo is Taylor Reservoir.

             

 This was the trail we took (on the left) and climbed all the way up to the top peak on the right.

      

There were a few little flowers in bloom on the mountain. 

               

On the way back to Buena Vista, we passed this old Drive-in movie theater...I'll have to do some research and find out the history of it.  So, this photo is for Sherri & Larry Rose...good friends of ours, who love to visit drive-in movie theatres.

             

Back in Salida, we went to the West Side Cafe for breakfast.  It's an old garage...and it's kept the garage theme for the restaurant...oil rags are the napkins, the wait staff wear blue "gas attendant" uniform shirts, and so on....the food was good and the atmosphere really fun.  The photo on the right is of the mountain overlooking downtown Salida...the same one that caught on fire last night.  We could see a burnt place on the side of it this morning.

           

 Downtown Salida.

            

 We watched some kayakers playing around on the river.

     

 Today was the 12th Annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous.  There were at least 25 Colorado breweries in attendance...and we tried most all of them .....at least once.  The weather was perfect, the crowd was lively, and the day was so much fun.  We visited with some of the other attendees...which is always great...and tried beer after beer after beer.  The most unusual ones were:  an apricot beer from an Aurora brewer, a chocolate stout (served with ice cream) and a raspberry cider from a new brewer in Colorado Springs. 

             

 After the festival, we went to Amica's, brewer of my much-discussed chile beer for pizza ...just pizza and salad, no more beer.  The big disappointment of the day was when Amica's brewer told me they were out of the chile beer and it wouldn't be available for 10 days!  eek!

We are pretty tired tonight...so, we're going to go find a camp site or a parking spot, and get a great nights sleep.

*******

7/6

       

We made some breakfast, then started on the Ptarmigan Lake trail.  The views were big all around and the weather was perfect.

          

After hiking up to the Lake, we climbed the saddle that sits above the lake in between two mountains.  (That's Danny hiking up the trail to the saddle.)

       

I couldn't get enough of looking everywhere, but really became obsessed with this particular view.  The photo on the right is a "zoomed" view of the one on the left....see that road going up to the top?  I think it's an ATV road, but we didn't see or hear any.  But, that road is definitely on my "to do" list...I can't imagine how spectacular the view is from the very top of that ridge.

               

Remember that I've started a new series of photos called "Shot of Danny running after setting the timer on the camera"? (I should think of a better name)...well here's another one....but he made it just fine and the photo turned out great.

        

Here are some of the wildflowers near the Lake.

             

There were still big patches of snow everywhere....this large "shelf" hanging over one of the smaller lakes (photo on left); and the water tunneling underneath the snow...this was really cool to see (photo on the right).

After hiking back down to the trailhead, we ate lunch. I tried a new "camp-food" recipe...it was a salad made with corn, black beans, rotel tomatoes, cilantro, cayenne pepper and chili powder...we ate it with tortilla chips and shared a bottle of Ft. Collins beer....umm, it was delicious.

Our plan was then to do another big day hike, but the thunder, lightening and down pouring rain began right before we made it to the trailhead.  So we had about a two hour delay, and drove the few miles to Cottonwood Lake...it was very pretty.

      

The skies cleared, mostly, and we headed straight up the mountain on our way to Hartenstien Lake.  It only took a few minutes before my legs were remembering the day's earlier hike.  About a mile before we reached the Lake, the skies grew dark, and the rain began again.  But, we kept going, and the Lake was beautiful...and the surrounding mountains magnificent.

            

More pretty wildflowers growing along the trail.

 

This photo doesn't do this mountain justice...it's so huge and just loomed over the entire range the whole time we hiked....it was mesmerizing.  Giant, gray and domineering...I don't know which one is it...but it sure is spectacular.

After finishing the last hike, we drove down to Buena Vista for a shower. 

We'll travel a little south of here tomorrow, going to another new place, and hiking some new trails.

*******

7/7

Chalk Creek Road was supposed to have lots of hiking, so that's where we went.  Our first destination was the ghost town of St. Elmo.  It was kind of cool reading about the old buildings; most built in the mid-1800's.  We then walked up the jeep road, looking for the trailhead.

       

       

Poplar Gulch trail was not spectacular, but it was a nice early morning hike.  This was the view of the tiny town from up high on the trail.  There were two other people behind us on the trail, who stopped and visited with us on our way back down.  She'd noticed the license plate, and told us she used to live in Kansas....luckily...she escaped and now lives in Colorado.  The photo on the right is a pine cone...just the baby-beginnings of one anyway. 

               

The photo on the right is of Agnes Vaille Falls...it was very pretty and running at full-speed with all the melting mountain snow.

  

Another photo for my series "Photos in the Rear View Mirror"...taken as the sun was setting.

    

We couldn't decide what to do next. 

Our plans were originally to drive to LaGarita Wilderness and start a three day backpack.  This has been the hardest backpack trip to plan, and I haven't felt good about it all along.  Even as late as yesterday afternoon, I phoned the Ranger, and then also stopped in at a National Forest Service office just to check on details about the hike.  Then I felt better about it and we took off heading west...a long way. 

The drive was beautiful...you end up on Highway 114, which I had driven on last year.  I remember thinking how isolated it was; amazing views, but you never pass another car.  We finally reached our road with the trail head and croaked when it said the trail head was 23 miles....down a bumpy, rocky dirt road; some areas so muddy you didn't have great control, you could only drive about 10 mph, and the whole time you saw...NO ONE.  I began NOT to feel so good about it, again.  Ten miles from the trail head, I stopped driving.  I was chickening out....if something happened to either one of us on the trail, there would be NO help...none....zilch...nobody. As a backpacker, you hate to think that way, but we've never, ever been so isolated.  Or if rained more, the road might not be passable. Danny and I had a little discussion about it; he agreed...and we turned the car around, and headed back to the highway.  I've never done that before, and felt awful for the time and distance we'd spent to get there; but I will always trust my intuition.  And I'm so grateful to Danny that he trusts it too.

So, in the dark, we headed west...our destination is ?????


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