Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fire Update

A neighborhood burns near the foothills of Colorado Springs.
A neighborhood burns near the foothills of Colorado Springs. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

This is the horrific images we are seeing from the Waldo Canyon Fire at Colorado Springs. The fire is not affecting us in any detrimental way here in Chalk Creek. No smoke, no ash, just clear blue skies...no rain, of course, either. And rain is what is desperately needed here.

We have been very busy here at the campground. Over 30,000 people have been evacuated from Colorado Springs. Several of them have found their way here, after removing their treasured items from their homes, putting them in their rv's and heading west. We have found space so far for anyone needing it, but I will say it was a wild and wooley day in the office yesterday. I was on all day, and being Wednesday, normally a quiet day, I was alone except for my boss lady, Tamara. We got all the calls answered, everyone checked in, and the folks already here taken care of as well. It was a heart-breaking day, but the attitude of the evacuees was something to be admired. Plenty were very flustered, but realistic about things. In fact, down in the lower campground, folks started finding each other as they were setting up, people who lived in the same neighborhoods and didn't realize they were coming to the same place. They wanted to put up a sign "Woodland Park Evacuation Camp". Very nice folks. One group even had and 80 year old neighbor who had no way to leave, they packed her up in their car and are putting her up in their trailer while the kids sleep in a tent. Just good folks. Just as tragedy brings out the worst in some people, it brings out the best in most. Here is a link to the latest news as of this morning.

So, we're fine, the area is fine, and even if something were to happen, we can be packed and rolling with ALL our stuff in about half an hour. We did discuss the possibility at our staff meeting, and we are as prepared as anyone could be. In the meantime, we pray for rain, no lightning, and for the pyro psychopaths to stay away from our blessed little valley. I will return to our regularly scheduled blog programming as soon as possible!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Peak to Peak Scenic Highway

Our 3 day trip north towards Rocky Mountain National Park finally arrived, and we were off and on our way! We initially drove north on a route we've followed before, going through Leadville on Hwy. 285, then joining I70 for a short ways at Copper Mountain. It sure was a lot greener than it was at the beginning of May! We didn't stop this time at historic Georgetown, but there was an overlook at the highway.

Al said these scenes look like landscapes that model railroad hobbyists strive to emulate.

We stopped in the cute little town of Idaho Springs for lunch. Two Brothers Deli had best sandwiches we've had since arriving in Colorado...definitely worth the stop!

A few miles further up I70, we exited and started up the Peak to Peak Highway. Peak to Peak goes from I70 up to Estes Park, and is Colorado's first designated scenic byway, established in 1918. It goes through Clear Creek Canyon, the towns of Blackhawk, Nederland and Allenspark, then past the Twin Sisters mountains and Lily Lake before arriving at Estes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Clear Creek Canyon was a beautiful drive, and then we saw this as we approached Blackhawk:
 Major casinos! Wow, that was a visual shocker. I did not expect to go from gorgeous natural scenery to high rises and neon lights!

Central City, a side road off the byway, was an old gold mining town that has been converted to a new gold mining town...via casinos!

There were awesome views all along the ride, and we turned into Brainard Lake Recreation Area to stretch our legs and go for a walk. And we were very happy we did! The ranger at the entrance booth told us to stop at Red Rock Lake, there had been moose sightings reported there this afternoon.

We didn't see anyone at first, and then, there it
 was! coming out of the trees to get a drink.

It wasn't real close, but I got a decent enough picture, and now I can say, I saw a moose!

It even turned to give us a front face view..good moose!

Headed back into the forest

Pretty flowers

A short and buggy walk led us to Long Lake,

 and views of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Indian Peaks Wilderness beyond Brainard Lake

One last stop at Red Rock Lake, but the moose was nowhere in sight.

We arrived in Estes Park a short while later, and checked into our cabin for the night, the Iris at Colorado Cottages. Small, but neat and clean, and a decent spot to spend the night. We asked for recommendations for a dog-friendly dinner spot, and ended up at Poppy's Pizza and Grill, on the bank of the river in downtown Estes Park. We both had hamburgers, and they were excellent! Needless to say, the pups were a big hit with passer-by's. Anyone looking to meet people, just get a cute dog and go sit in the downtown area...you'll meet lots of people :-)! In fact, some of the folks we met told us about great horned owls that were nesting in the cliffs behind the library, just a short walk away. So we walked back to the truck after dinner, retrieved the camera, and were able to get a photo of one of them!

I was surprised the photo came out as well as it did, it was so far away and I didn't expect anything besides a brown blob :-).

After dinner, we drove to Mary's Lake Campground, where we had been invited for a visit by blog followers, Dick and Judy Mott of Travels With Dick and Judy. They are volunteer camphosts at this county campground for the summer, and when they heard we were passing through the area, invited us on over for a chat. Isn't the RV world terrific! You get together with folks you've never met, but feel as if you've been friends forever. We had a great time, and all too soon it was after 11:00PM and time for everyone to go to bed! After all, we have a big day planned at Rocky Mountain National Park, and this day was a great start to our "3 day weekend"! And thanks Dick and Judy, we'll see you again down the road :-).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fire Updates

I thought I would post a quick note about the fire situation here in Colorado, so many folks are wondering where we are in relation to them. Fortunately for us, at this time, we are not directly affected by the fires. The largest fire, High Park fire, is north of us near Fort Collins. This is the worst one at this time, at 2 weeks old, has burned 81,190 acres, over 100 structures, only 45% contained and one life lost. We were afraid we might feel affects from this while we visited Rocky Mountain National Park, but we did not.

Last Sunday the Springer fire near Lake George started, which is 58 miles to the east of us, on the way to Colorado Springs. Eleven Mile State Park was evacuated and closed. This fire is now 87 percent contained, and luckily damaged no structures. However, the marshals are investigating reports that the cause of the fire was some idiots doing target practice...at propane tanks! One exploded and started the fire. It burned an estimated 1,145 acres. Brilliant.

Right now the closest worst fire broke out near Colorado Springs, 90 miles to the east of us. This one is really bad, started north of the Garden of the Gods park that we visited and wrote about. It started yesterday, and in 24 hours has spread to 2500 acres, the entire town of Manitou Springs has been evacuated, over 3000 people, and the city recorded a record high temperature of 100 degrees today. The fire is 0 percent contained.

A fire broke out yesterday as well in Leadville, 32 miles to our north. We have actually driven through Leadville a few times, and Turquoise Lake, my header photo, is located there. Fortunately the fire is in Birdseye Gulch, an isolated area, is is *only* at 100 acres burned.

One of the scariest to me is the fire that broke out in Estes Park Saturday afternoon. I heard about it, and when I looked it up, it was very close to the cabin where we had stayed last Tuesday night. Right at the Beaver Meadows entrance of Rocky Mountain NP, on High Drive, and it turned out to have started a mere 634 yards down the road from the cabin we were in that night. This was a small but very destructive fire, a total of 25 acres burned but 22 residences have been lost. How sad for these people, and I wonder if the cabin we stayed in managed to survive.

As of tomorrow, our county, Chaffee County, is going to a complete fire ban. No outside fires at all, no charcoal grills, no fireworks, no smoking outside at all. Folks camping are bummed, but realize its a safety issue and we're not receiving too many complaints. Propane grills are still allowed, so BBQ can still go on. We sure could use some rain around here! And back at "home base" they are practically drowning from Tropical Storm Debby...wish they could send some of the rain this way.

So that is the scoop on the fires in this area....so far, we have not had to get ready to roll on out. I pray that doesn't happen here, and that all the affected areas find relief soon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ghost Towns

Another beautiful sunny day for a day off, and after chores and errands were done, we had decided to take a short ride to the north of Buena Vista to Clear Creek Canyon, where we had read there were a couple of ghost town areas. We had previously driven a short way up the road alongside Clear Creek Reservoir, but had turned back upon reaching Clear Creek Ranch, a guest ranch known specifically for fly fishing trips..it looks really nice if anyone is interested! This time, we kept going. The sign had said 8 miles to Vicksburg, 12 to Winfield. I had also read the road was "a bit bumpy"; um, yeah, just a bit! Al put it in four wheel drive to smooth the ride a bit, and we slowly bumped our way up the canyon.

There were a few buildings deep in the forest before reaching the actual historical site, and a sign was here to guide us into the "museum" area. A short walk back through the beautiful forest led us to the buildings.

The south side of the road was open to the pubic. These are buildings and accessories that have been maintained by the Historical Society of Chaffee County.

There are two stories of how Vicksburg got it's name. The first is of a few former Confederate soldiers settling in the area after the war and naming the town after the famous Civil War Battle. The second is that it was named after Mr. Vic Keller, of Keller, Peck and Co., who first platted the site. The original humble beginnings of the town were a couple of cabins, one store and 40 or so miners living nearby in tents.

Within a short time of the formation of Vicksburg, the larger mines were flourishing.   The Abbot Mining company was working about 20 men on the Yankee Doodle mine, the Tail Halt Lode employed 30 men, and the Silver Dale employed 25 men.  The Abbot Mining Company was running a pack train from the mine to Vicksburg “on which is packed some of the richest ore that has ever had the honor to grace the back of a burro.”  The Yankee Doodle hauled about 60 tons of ore on their pack mules each day.

Opportunity was in abundance not only for the miners, but also for entrepreneurs.  As the winters were harsh and snow fell by the feet, many of the miners left for the winter and returned each summer.  As the miners expressed interest in staying in the area all year, many entrepreneurs recognized a great opportunity to sell supplies to these miners.  Soon there were nearly a dozen new stores selling everything from mining supplies to liquor to groceries.  A 25’ x 75’ two story billiard hall, with the upstairs area reserved for the new city hall was built as well as two hotels, saloons, a boarding house, a school, and most importantly, a post office.
(source: Colorado's Playgrounds)

The main street of Vicksburg was named Broadway and was lined with trees bought and paid for by those residents wanting a beautifully shaded street. These small cabins are on the north side of town, and are not open to public viewing as they are still privately owned and even occupied in the summer...can you imagine a summer home in a ghost town??

Back on up the road we went towards Winfield. The scenery through the canyon is gorgeous, the road generally following Clear Creek. There was a trailhead we stopped at for a quick pit stop (Colorado is great with providing rest areas at all popular trailheads, fishing areas, etc.) where the trail lead to the summit of  Mount Belford at 14,197 feet...a mere 4600 foot elevation change over 4 miles. Not for this casual hiker, unfortunately.

Winfield coming into view. We drove through the "town" area, and parked in a primitive camping to the north of the town. 

As we crossed the bridge over Clear Creek, a dip was in order for the pups!

By January 1882, the canyon was full of mines.  Hundreds of miners and their families built homes in the area and the sound of drilling and dynamite were abundant.   Winfield or Lucknow, was soon established at the end of the canyon.  There were three saloons, three stores, two hotels, a boarding house, school, post office, and a church. Today, as with Vicksburg,  several of these buildings still stand, many being occupied by summer residents. In its heydey, the population is estimated to have been 1500 souls. 

Former home of miner Harry Payne, 1888

A typical home of early day miners of the Silver Era, 1870-1915

Tin roof beauty in a boundless landscape

The (improved) road ended a short way past the camping area, and we headed back towards living civilization.


Signs of beaver activity along the road...I'd like to come back at dusk one night and try to see the beavers themselves!

It was another interesting experience we discovered by simply driving off the main road. There are so many around this area! It was back to work for the weekend, and we were very busy, but Tuesday came and we went off on our three day "weekend" to visit a place we've always wanted to go...Rocky Mountain National Park! I have a ton of pictures to go through, and we're very busy this weekend (campground is almost full to capacity, we're starting to use the overflow sites!) so please be patient, and I'll get some great pictures put up soon for your viewing pleasure! Just a hint for anticipation....elk, moose and marmots...oh my!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lakeside to InterLaken Hike

This week on our days off we decided to lay low, stay close to home and keep the budget in check, especially as we plan to spend our next three days off in a row visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. Monday had been a beautiful sunny day, and we had plans on Tuesday to have the truck serviced and grocery shopping for the week. So I got out the trails guide, made some sandwiches, and off we went to try the Lakeside to InterLaken Trail up by Twin Lakes, about a half hour north of us. The trail starts out on the Colorado Trail trailhead, and follows the lake's shoreline west to an abandoned "ghost" resort, InterLaken.
Starting out on the trail. It is a beautiful day, but believe me, it is SO dry around here you literally kick up puffs of dirt as you walk along.

Twin Lakes is beautiful. They are naturally formed glacial lakes surrounded by mountains over 13,000 feet 
high. At the turn of the century the lakes were enlarged into a reservoir by the construction of the original Twin Lakes Dam.

The trail followed the shoreline, allowing the dogs to dash down to the beach and have a good cooling soak in the lake. I believe that is Mount Elbert in the distance, Colorado's highest peak at 14. 433 feet.

The trail through the trees was so pretty.

 At 2.4 miles, we made it to Dexter House. What is Dexter House? It was the private residence of the owner of the InterLaken Resort, a one-time rival of the famous Broadmoor Resort as one of Colorado's most luxurious properties. InterLaken was established in 1879 as a popular summer resort for tourists who rode the train to Twin Lakes and then took a stage to the resort. 
Dexter's private residence was constructed in the mid 1890's, and designed to resemble a New England captain's home, reflecting his nautical background. As with his resort, he spared no expense in the construction, the interior trimmed with imported wood, lavish rugs and decorations.

Some of the beautiful woodwork. The building is being restored slowly by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the site is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

I climbed up the very steep and narrow staircase to the glass-enclosed cupola to take in the view.

Another .2 miles down the trail is the remains of the resort itself

Sadly, the resort fell slowly out of favor shortly after the turn of the century when the dam was constructed. People associated shallow stagnant water at the end of the lake with mosquitoes and malaria, and stopped coming. Eventually the property was abandoned and fell into disrepair, until 1979 when the Bureau of Reclamation took over the property and began to restore the buildings that were not beyond repair. 

The property was so nice, I can imagine people coming out and enjoying the fishing, swimming, hiking and  other activities in the summer. It was so calm and peaceful here, and the only folks we met were a family going for a bike ride. As always, when we strike up a conversation, we are invariably asked where we are from (the New York accent, you know), and when we explain our lifestyle, we are besieged by questions, and best wishes for our journey. It's awesome!

The hike back was just a return trip along the path, seeing the views from the other direction :-). When all was said and done, we did about 5.25 miles, and my legs were telling me I did :-). We enjoyed our lunch with a great view at the lakeside, and headed back to the campground in the late afternoon. Al had tried some fishing, but the wind had kicked up considerably by late afternoon, and it did not go very well. 

So, we had a very enjoyable hike to see some interesting historical buildings. It was a good way to spend a day off!

Friday, June 15, 2012

We Bagged a Fourteen'er!

No, not hiking, but in the truck :-)! We are in no condition to hike to the summit of a fourteen'er :-). We did, however, head on over to Colorado Springs, and make the drive up Pike's Peak, America's Mountain. The Pike's Peak Highway is 19 miles from the toll-gate entrance to the summit and is a 2-lane road ascending more than 6,000 feet in elevation to 14,110 feet. It is strongly suggested that you visit the website for important information on mountain driving safety, and you can also pick up discount coupons for $2.00 off the entrance fee, as well as coupons for a FREE hot donut at the summit (which were very tasty). We did as the safety tips suggested, and drove straight to the summit, saving our photo stops for the way down...this is much gentler on your vehicle's brake system.

So, does everyone want to know what the view from 14,110 feet is? Well, so do we :-). Here is what we saw:
Yes, there was a cloud bank sitting right on the summit! 15 seconds drive down the road, all is clear. Go figure.

Here's the summit sign. The wind was howling over 40 mph, and the temperature 
without windchill factored in was 31 degrees. We did not stay outside for very long. We did, however, pop into the visitor center for a quick look, and collect our free donuts ( I forgot to take a picture before eating it, sorry!)

In 1893, at the age of thirty-three, Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. Several of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into her poem, including the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the "White City" with its promise of the future contained within its alabaster buildings; the wheat fields of America's heartland Kansas, through which her train was riding on July 16; and the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Zebulon's Pikes Peak.
On the pinnacle of that mountain, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room at the original Antlers Hotel. The poem was initially published two years later in The Congregationalist, to commemorate the Fourth of July. It quickly caught the public's fancy. Amended versions were published in 1904 and 1913.

Beautiful views as we wound our way down the mountain.

A barren rocky vista at the top of the mountain

Alpine flowers

About a third of the way down the mountain, there's a ranger station that you must stop at and have your breaks checked for temperature...if the temperature is higher than 300 degrees you must pull over and wait for them to cool down. Al was doing an excellent job of managing our speed using his gear shifting, and our brakes measured 67 degrees...good to go!

Picnic grounds at the halfway point.

The windy, windy road

This is for our nephews...come on up guys and look for Big Foot :-)!

After our drive, since we were in urban civilization :-), it was time to find a Sam's Club and stock up on supplies. Being that we have the use of a "workamper" freezer while here, we especially stocked up on meat and poultry items at a better cost than in the local grocery store. I think it will definitely help the grocery line in my budget, which has been going over since we arrived in Colorado!

We've done a couple of hikes in between then and our work week which I will post about as soon as I have the pictures organized. We are very busy this weekend at the campground, being that there are three big happenings going on: Father's Day (Happy Father's Day out there to all the dads!), the FIBArk whitewater festival in Salida, and the Colorado HOG Rally here in Buena Vista...yes, we are filled up with Harley's this weekend :-). It's been great fun getting folks checked in today, and we're also taking a lot of reservations this week for July and August. I will say this, it's been quite interesting on the phone, you do get to talk to all sorts of different folks ;-). And rarely do you get the plain, straight-forward  reservation that takes only a few minutes to book. And of course there are changes, additions, coming in early, adding folks, and cancellations. Those are the worst, usually because there are lousy circumstances causing a cancellation...or at least they tell us! I think my worst so far was this week. A woman called to cancel two reservations for the weekend, and since it was only one day away she would lose the first night's deposit. I asked if she would like to re-book for a later date, rather than cancel, as this would save her deposit. Lordy, she started to cry on the phone, and told me her husband was having an affair, and they wouldn't be camping ever again. Oh, my, what do you say?? I told her I was sorry, hoped she would be feeling better soon, and took care of her booking. I was in tears myself hanging up. I will say, by the end of the summer, I will have just about every possible scenario figured out in this Campground Manager software system!

We are also working with the greatest co-workers this year, and the campground owners are wonderful. We were discussing how pleased we were with our decision to come here rather than accept offers in Colorado Springs or Estes Park. The urban areas seem so crowded and busy, especially the traffic. This area is so nice, the recreational opportunities are boundless on our days off, and we're just plain happy being here. Maybe I shouldn't say this, folks will be lining up to work here :-). Seriously, it's been a very enjoyable experience so far...getting used to the dryness has been the only drawback. 

Well, that's about it for now...I'll be back with pictures of hikes and ghost towns soon :-)!