Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rocky Mountain Way

 It all began about a year ago when BrotherMan suggested that we all meet at Sissy's family cabin in the Colorado Rockies.  We spent the last year getting it all coordinated. The final cast of characters was BrotherMan, Sissy, The Big Guy, and me, the first two traveling by car from the east, us traveling by RV from the west. Idaho Springs or Bust!

We had originally planned to boondock at Pilot/Flying J's along the way like we did for our big trip in February, but Arvie's cab air conditioner decided to crap out just before the trip, necessitating overnights at parks with electric hookups in order to run the coach a/c so as not to melt in the night. Needless to say, the driving time was overly warmish. But we don't need the ladies cryin' cause the story's sad.

 I'm drivin'! Not all the sweat was from the heat.

Our first day was long, mostly to set us up for a short drive the following morning in order to spend some time at a fun place along the way. 

We spent the night at Boise Riverside RV Park with a nice spot that backed up to a long, paved city trail where we were able to stretch our legs. 

Our fun stop along the way in Almo, Idaho. 

The sites were great, private and level. It was very hot, but we were still ready to ride at this point.

On the trail from the campground to the park. So far, so good. It was a little scary because it felt very isolated. There could be pumas, you know. 

 Puma-free zone.

Here's where things started to go slightly askew. We should have taken a left. It wasn't a matter of being lost, because we weren't, but rather a matter of staying on a difficult, dead-end trail rather than dropping down to the more-easily traversed roads. I think the heat addled my brain because I had this all planned out prior and completely forgot that plan once we were out there.

Stubbornness (mostly mine) put us back on the roads, which really are the best way to see the rock formations. 

And an old homestead ruin.

 Even though it was hot, I tried to be enthusiastic and suggested some more riding. We didn't go all the way to whatever rock this road led to. Did I mention it was hot? Because it was. Hot.

One of us wanted to take the roads back to the campground even though that meant a lot more time in the saddle but drastically reduced the chance of falling off the bike and smashing our heads on interesting rocks, and one of us wanted to go back on the single-track trail (can you guess who was who?) 

The first person won out, but didn't know it right away when she lost sight of her riding partner and thought he had taken the trail back to the campground, leaving her to make her way back on the roads. Which she totally could have done, but what if there was a puma?! At one point along the road, alone and surrounded on both sides by brush and trees, she heard the approach of a large creature. Then she saw a tawny flash of something leaping away over the scrub. It was probably a deer or antelope. BUT YOU DON'T KNOW THAT, and neither did the second person who didn't take the spur trail after all but did show up pretty quickly on the road when the first person screeched "COME ON!!" as the maybe-puma crashed through the brush.  

The rest of the ride back to camp was uneventful, but long and -- if I haven't made this clear -- very, very hot. Ice cream and a nice shower made everything all better.

A pretty sunset also helped.

The next morning we did our usual walk of the campground. On our ride the previous day, we'd noticed some hikers high atop one of the rock formations -- not rock climbers, who are prevalent in the park, but regular hikers, and we wanted to see about hiking up there, too, before taking off again.

Easier said than done.

We drove the rig up to a closer parking spot, but the trail we thought branched out to where we wanted to go only circled Register Rock, one of a couple formations that pioneers in the 1800's had left their signatures on. Pioneer graffiti, if you will. We walked up the road for awhile looking for access until we got hot and crabby, then decided the only way to get to it was to make our way through the trail-less scrub. It wasn't difficult or complicated (i.e. no chance of getting lost) but I was quite nervous about finding a snake. Or a snake finding me.

We're not all the way up but Arvie looks pretty small already.

Almost there!

Keep going!

A cache of bones high up in the rocks.

Couldn't get much higher without climbing equipment. 

The view from up there which looks just like the view from down below, but higher.

This little lizard didn't care about the view. Probably seen it a million times.
That concluded our stay at City of Rocks. Time to hit the road again and get ourselves to Wyoming.
 Where there are pronghorn out to pasture.
It was another long day of driving with an overnight at Western Hills RV Park where we had wifi, cable, and hot showers. Next stop Idaho Springs and the cabin!

Prior to the trip, there were many emails and messages regarding whether or not our RV would be able to fit at the cabin site, first over the bridge and through the gate, then around the bend, and finally into a parking area. All we really knew was that it most likely would make it. Plan B was to continue up the road to the campground if things didn't work out. BrotherMan had purchased a set of walkie-talkies and mailed us the walkie so that when we got close, we could communicate. 

"Puma Two, this is Puma One, Over!"

The gate. Made it!
It was impressive and nerve-wracking to watch The Big Guy get the rig down the short stretch of road and into the most level spot. There were trees and rocks and one very pinchy point, but with three of us on the outside to guide, we got Arvie in safely.

Sizing up the parking. Some impromptu landscaping by way of rock rolling, branch trimming, and hole digging took place, but this spot was pretty perfect right next to the babbling (roaring?) West Chicago Creek. I think it's safe to say we were all relieved.

 Finally settled. The day had been sunny and warm until we got to the cabin, of course. Clouds were moving in.

The cabin! We spent the afternoon and evening visiting, eating, 

and doing a little fishing. Only people with licenses did any fishing and at no time did anyone throw her pole down in the middle of the cabin road when the ranger drove by on the main road. That would be silly.
 In the morning, BrotherMan made us all a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, maple sausages, and toast. This photo makes it look like the cabin has electricity, but don't be fooled. Those are propane lanterns that are piped throughout the cabin. They are very cool!
 Time to open fire.

After breakfast, The Big Guy and I took a short walk up the campground road. The mountain in the distance is Sugarloaf Peak (12,000+ ft.)

While they had been waiting for us to arrive the previous day, Sissy had been trying to boil a big pot of water in order to make some hummingbird food, but the low flame and altitude were confounding her, so I quickly boiled up some water in the rig because who doesn't like hummingbirds?
 I love hummingbirds! Wearing one of my brightest shirts and Sissy's Aunt Jan's forgotten shirt on my head, I stood like a statue for what felt like hours trying to entice the little ones. They came very close to my face causing me to wonder if a hummingbird can poke your eye out, but they wouldn't drink or land on my hand.

The minute The Big Guy tried, they landed within seconds. Probably because I got them all warmed up. Jerk.

BrotherMan caught a little Brookie.

The Big Guy chopped down a dead tree. No one really knows why.

We all took a walk up the campground road, going all the way to the camp this time, then back down the cabin road through the woods.
 After dinner, we visited and played games. Here, BrotherMan demonstrates a steady hand at Stack Attack. Playin' it play-by-play.

Tuesday was time for some hiking! We dropped Sissy off in town and headed out to see St. Mary's Glacier. There was some confusion about how to get there, and we ended up driving a bit out of the way and having to turn around. It wasn't the greatest of starts, but we never would've seen the Eisenhower Tunnel otherwise, so there's that.
To be fair, there really are no road signs that point to St. Mary's Glacier even though it is one of the most popular hikes in Idaho Springs. Once we found the lot, we were lucky BrotherMan had a $5 bill, otherwise we would've paid $20 to park. Several people were asking one another for change.

There was also a serious lack of trail signage, so we followed the crowds.

 The hike up is not long, but it is rocky and somewhat steep. All of us were in good enough physical shape for that, but it's the altitude that'll get to ya. Slow is best. Resting more than you think you'll need to is also recommended.

The view when you get to the lake is worth it.

This was such a pretty area. There were a lot of people here, making this their destination.

But we wanted to touch the glacier.

Getting close!

BrotherMan (doing his best George Costanza boudoir pose for Sissy) and I waited close to here while The Big Guy wanted to do some higher climbing.

This was our view while we waited.

We watched people jumping off the rocks into the lake. 
There was a trail along that tree line on the ridge, and I spied The Big Guy through the binoculars on his way down.
 He took a short cut over the glacier. 

The Hat Brigade. We're hungry.

Once we were back in cell phone range, we texted Sissy to be on the move to Beau Jo's Pizza to secure our table. It is, as Sissy explained, a famous tradition for all who come to town, and as we witnessed the day of our arrival, you can wait for more than an hour in the line that stretches out the door and down the sidewalk. She got there in plenty of time, and we had a great table by the windows at which to enjoy our feast. I found a $20 bill on the floor under our table that I really wanted to keep, but instead I gave it to the waiter. I've waited many a table in my day, and he needed it way more than we did.

After our late lunch, we walked around town

 and along the newly-renovated riverwalk trail. It was becoming overcast again, but the wind was warm.
The trail goes by Bridal Veil Falls and the Charlie Tayler Water Wheel. 

On our way back to the cabin, the thunderstorm started. Seems we fit the day's activities into the sunshine perfectly.

Our last full day together started with a group breakfast of pancakes, then we headed up to hike to Silver Dollar Lake outside of Georgetown. On the way up the mountain road, no sooner had we passed the sign alerting drivers to sheep, when we came upon these

along the roadway. 

Bighorn ewes and lambs!

So cute!

The trail information I had printed before the trip said this trail head was only 1/4 mile up the road from the parking area.  Big fat lie! It was more like 3/4 of a mile uphill. 

It wasn't to be a long hike to the lake, but about a mile from it, the dark clouds rolled in rapidly and it started to thunder and hail. The lake in this photo is not Silver Dollar Lake. We made the decision to turn around and head back down. 

By the time we got back into Georgetown, the sun was out. Naturally. We walked around the cute town, stopping in a few stores, most notable a jerky store where much purchasing was done. I may have eaten a whole bag of jerky while writing this post.

Wild Colorado Forest Pig.

Feeling kind of cheated out of our hike for the day, back at the cabin we decided to make the short trek up to Indian Head rock. Short in distance, steep, steep, steep. 

Tree hugger. Or maybe hanging on for dear life. Either way.

I was still contemplating whether or not I wanted to go up there.
 I went up there. 
 Our last morning together at the cabin.

We are ready to get Arvie out of there however we can.
Thanks West Chicago Creek Cabin folks for the great time!  
The Rocky Mountain way was better than the way we had.

We weren't quite done, though. 

Our first stop on the way back was again Phillips RV Park which was a strategically located near Bear River State Park, a place I had on the list for walking or biking. 

That evening we walked from the RV park to the city park.

The city trail connects to the state park going this way...

or the state park connects to the city park going this way. 

The following morning, we motored over the the state park proper.

They keep a small herd of bison for public viewing, conservation, and education. This big boy spotted me by the gate, and chuffed his way over, probably hoping I had snacks. I did not, so he huffed his way right on past.

Sorry for the sun in your eyes. Wear your hat!
We hiked along a back trail recommended by the woman at the visitor's center. We were hoping to spy the bull moose that she said had been spotted near the south end of the park, but we didn't find him. Moose aren't part of the fenced animals in at this park, so I'm not entirely upset that we didn't run across him.

Bull elk are.
Elk are also native to our yard here at home, and while we were gone they thought it was a real treat to eat the flowers in my flower boxes and stomp down the chicken wire around the kale box to help themselves to that as well. Don't think I forgive you, elk, just because you brought out your three cute spotty babies last night, either. Elk season is right around the corner. Fatten up at your own risk.

Rocky Mountain Way