Flying by Instruments

Day three of my “Getting Back in Shape” campaign… no discernible physical progress, but at least the effort is helping to clear my head of a lot of unwanted clutter. Funny how a goal and some physical exertion can do that. I was thinking about a road trip and a major hike or bike ride today but after remembering that it is Labor Day weekend and the last chance for the summer tourists to invade the mountains I thought better of it. Decided to avoid all the traffic and check AllTrails to see if I might be able to find something closer by to explore.

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Well it turns out that a ton of trails have been added since I last used my favorite hiking app! I found a bunch of new local trails to explore, now just to find them… Well, the Almagre Mountain Trail looks good, and close by too! Let me see… there is a directions button, so I click it and a Google Map comes up with a blue line on it pointing in the general direction based on my stated location. And that’s it. Last time I was on the directions actually would tell you where to go, what roads to take, where to turn 😦 Of course I am a little behind the times, my GPS turned off… because you know, the government might find me. Which begs the question… why would the government want to find me? When putting some rational thought to it… if the government is really looking for me we must have a lot of government employees without shit to do 😐 Of course that probably is actually the case, but they would have to be really bored to be looking for me!!!!

So I turn on my GPS, but still just a map and a blue line. How the heck am I supposed to find a trail head with just this stupid fat blue line to go by? Hmmm… a start button… that might be a good place to start πŸ™‚ So I pushed the button and almost fell out of my chair! A voice from God or something telling me to turn right on Eaton Avenue! Holy Crap, all I have to do is push start and my phone is going to guide me right to the trailhead! Who knew? Lol, eventually I decided to just follow my normal routine today while vowing to explore some more of the tools now available to me in this amazing app! For starters I recorded my hike today, complete with a map and elevation gain statistics. Cool, so I saved it, not sure what for or what good it is going to do me. Noticed that for some reason that I still have no stats available to the stats button.

So now a whole new world is open to me, numerous new trails to explore right off of Gold Camp road only a few miles from home plus gps to guide me into more remote locations. Also will make the trailhead for Mount Quandary easier to find for later in the month when I hope to be ready for the Class 1 peak. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the Almagre Mountain Trail as I learn to “trust my instruments” and use the new tools available to me via this amazing piece of technology called a “smart phone”! Man… what I could have done with one of these things back in the day!

For now though, a little weight lifting, a few pushups and sit ups and maybe even a ride on my mountain bike. Which reminds me… I need to investigate similar capabilities in my other favorite sports apps, Singletracks and 14ers.com πŸ™‚

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My Go To Move

One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.

Bucks in Grouse MeadowBut today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead.Β  It took a lot less timeΒ  to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.

But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.

I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows πŸ™‚

Bucks in Grouse Meadow

Brown’s Canyon National Monument

Brown’s Canyon National Monument is another one of Colorado’s hidden gems… almost too well hidden! I’ve been wanting to visit this place for years, ever since I missed the day of hiking with the Sierra Club. Well I finally did it πŸ™‚ I was in the area photographing rafters on the Arkansas until finally I found myself in Salida. What the heck, the park is just on the other side of Salida so I consulted my phone for directions and headed up 291 in search of the entrance… piece of cake πŸ™‚

Arkansas River in Brown's Canyon National Monument

Not a piece of cake. You would think that being a national monument there would be huge signs everywhere. But no… no signs anywhere 😦 Totally passed it by, drove all the way up 291 until I finally hit Johnson Village and had to turn back around. At that point I decided to let my GPS guide me in and managed to find the place, County Road 191 to the east from 291 will take you right in… after a couple of miles on a curvy dirt road over a ridge. When you finally do get there you will be greeted by a big sign with some of those fee envelopes and a $8.00 per day use fee. So I paid my fee, dropped the envelope in the box and went on in.

There is a large parking area and a campground along the Arkansas River where the

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rafting companies were all ready to pick up rafters. I grabbed my camera and trusty trekking pole and headed down a trail along the river towards the south. The original plan was to mountain bike back in but it didn’t take long to ascertain that the trail was above my meager riding skill level so I just hoofed it in a ways. The trail and the river are amazing and the area is vast. I imagine you could easily hike for days and not see it all.

 

By this time it was really hot and dry and I was not at all prepared for a long hike so I just turned around and vowed to hike up the other direction for a while but quickly abandoned that idea too and chalked the whole visit up to a successful scouting mission for a longer visit on another more prepared day.

On my way back through Salida the Soulcraft Brewery looked like the perfect answer to my parched throat and worthy of a stop πŸ™‚ Tried the Dopple Bock brew and it was delicious. Being short of time I didn’t try any food, and didn’t really see anyone else eating either. I assume they have food there, but would have to be something for another day as well.

Cute Doe Mule DeerWas hoping to photograph some more rafters along the Arkansas on my return trip, but by the time I was passing by again the rafting was all over for the day. Nothing but the long drive home to look forward to at this point.

If you are a fly fisherman the trail along the river is an awesome place to visit! For hiking though, I’m not so sure. There are no high peaks to scale and except for along the river it appears that there are a lot of miles of parched land to explore. It appears to me that the Continental Divide Trail passes through there on it’s way to the Collegiate Peaks near Buena Vista and there are miles of fun to be had for moderately skilled mountain bikers and a lot of rocky cliffs for rock climbers to hone their skills on! And I didn’t see many in the heat of the day, but I imagine there would be a ton of wildlife to photograph early in the morning.

 

 

In the Clouds

I know, it’s May 20th… but this is Colorado at 10,000 feet and we are in a winter storm warning, supposed to snow all day and pretty much all night. It’s already cold, cloudy and windy but I figured I’d better get the big dog out for his exercise before it really gets cranked up!

Clouds Forming in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

So we had a good hike and I even got to be part of an interesting weather phenomenon πŸ™‚ Once on the summit where I could see all around I noticed a patch of what I first thought was fog. After watching a bit though I determined that it wasn’t fog, there was too much wind and it seemed to be forming right before my eyes! Turns out up on the summit at probably 11,000 feet or so I was watching the storm clouds form all around me. There was also a tremendous updraft so the cloud would form near the mountain and then shoot out of the trees into the sky. It was an amazing thing to behold, I never cease to be amazed at the splendor of these mountains!

Now as I sit here at my computer it is just gloomy and grey and flakes are beginning to fly. Soon I imagine, with this wind they will turn into this winter’s familiar stinging sideways projectiles. No matter, we are back at our cozy little cabin, toasty and warm watching the action outside πŸ™‚

Another Stunner

The clouds at the base of the majestic Sangre de Cristo were an incredible scene this morning and I was looking forward to the vista I was going to behold from the summit of the highest mountain on our morning hike. But as it is many times… what actually greeted me as I cleared the ridge was even better that I had hoped πŸ™‚ This awesome herd of deer happened to be standing in perfect position for me to include them in the image with the mountains and the foggy clouds! These mountains never cease to amaze me πŸ™‚ If you look carefully you can see another deer in the shadows of the pine trees and yet another peeking out from the branches to the right. Those might actually be the Collegiate Peaks in the background of this image. From here you can see both mountain ranges and it isn’t that easy to determine where one ends and the other starts!

Mountain Mule Deer

Exploring Tunnel Drive in Canon City

I finally visited the Royal Gorge this spring for the first time and did some hiking along the Canyon Rim Trail. It was nice way up on the top of the canyon, but what I really want to do is explore the canyon from the bottom! On another failed attempt to do so on mountain bike I discovered a road called Tunnel Road which I was tempted to explore that day but instead opted for the visit to the main park on the canyon rim.

Royal Gorge Passenger Train

Had some stuff to do in Canon City yesterday so I decided to see where Tunnel Drive would take me. At first it didn’t seem very far, I took a wrong turn and wound up at the gate of the public works plant on the upper road. A quick turnaround and right turn back onto Tunnel Drive had me once again headed in the right direction πŸ™‚ I was concerned that the tunnels would be too small to drive my big truck through, or too rough, or too busy… But none of that happened. After a short drive of no more than a mile or two I arrived at a nice little parking lot at the base of a trail called Tunnel Drive Trail… imagine that πŸ™‚

So it turns out that the Tunnel Drive Trail is a nice developed trail head with a restroom

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

providing access to the canyon for families, mountain bikers and hikers. I grabbed my camera backpack and headed up the trail with no idea what I would find. After about a quarter of a mile up a steep concrete path I encountered a series of tunnels and a flat and wide dirt path heading through them and into the canyon high above the ugly brown water of the Arkansas River below. The tunnels were interesting enough for me to do a little research on the history of this trail and I discovered that the tunnels were originally blasted out by convicts as part of a water project. Apparently it was open to auto traffic for a while but now it is for recreation only.

Tunnel Drive Trail at Royal Gorge

The trail now runs about two miles out and back for a total of four miles with mileage markers and numerous benches and picnic tables along the way. There are great views of the Arkansas, canyon walls and the canyon visitor train and tracks snaking their way along the river below. Had I done a little research I would have discovered that this is a nice bike trail and I could have saved myself an hour and a half of walking by just getting my bike out of the back of my truck! If there is a next time I will definitely do this trail on wheels!

My real reason for wanting to get back into the canyon is so that I can do some whitewater rafting photography and I don’t think this trail is going to help me. It is way too far and high above the water for that but from there I did spot some kind of access path along the river bed on the other side. When I get some time I’ll try to figure out how to get on it with my mountain bike, a subject for another blog post!

The Cattle Drive

Free Range Bull

Cows everywhere, cows on the trail, cows in the parking lot and cows in the ditch… And as me and Big Dog got out of the truck, cows on their way to the highway where the local ignoramuses like to drive about 100 mph on the curvy mountain road. Normally I have no interest in helping out the welfare ranchers that let their cows crap up public lands but I really didn’t want the cows to get hurt so it looked like a mini cattle drive was going to be in order. Me and big dog circled around and headed the wayward ungulates off at the pass. A couple hee yahs later and the semi brainless critters were back behind their fence and out of danger πŸ™‚

Not much else to report from today… the mountain view was ordinary and we didn’t see any other photo worthy critters. However it must be spring, the prairie dogs are out of hibernation, which caught the big dog’s attention! Now I just have to figure out how to get my shoulder back in socket 😦

One piece of excitement… according to the USPS tracking information, my B+W Circular Polarizer is supposed to be waiting for me at the post office even as we speak, so to speak πŸ™‚