Sunday, September 30, 2007

RMNP Views, Old Colorado City and Restaurant Fun

I woke up early the last morning with a splitting headache. Restless, I went outside the cabin and was cheered by the stunning cloud show!

We packed up, and headed back to Colorado Springs for a couple of more days.  No elk there...but chances of seeing bear are better!  Would this be the year?

We strolled through the nearby quaint town of Old Colorado City nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak.

Two shops here are my favorite....a tea shop, where I purchased a tin of chocolate mint tea, and a yarn shop, where I couldn't decide on anything!

Afterwards we had dinner in Colorado Springs at a German restaurant, Edelweiss. We were entertained by some German musicians in costume.  The weather was nice, so we sat on the patio, surrounded by flowers, for favorite type of dining. I'm not a fan of German food, but I found some good continental items to choose from.  They had a great chef salad with berries that I enjoyed.  My husband though, loves German food, so we all found something to please us.

Another great restaurant we found, Guiseppes was once a railroad depot. Now that I'm looking for a link (on my new blog in 2014) it appears as though it has closed. What a shame. It was a unique and fun place to be.  Here's a write up on the history of the depot, the first building in town, dating back to the 19th century. Did Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman ever use that depot? Here's the story on some history and the closing. Hopefully a great business can allow it to thrive again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pater Noster Lakes

Our last day in Rocky Mountain National Park was beautiful! There were no threats of thunderstorms as we drove back up Trail Ridge Road to see more of the alpine beauty. We drove quickly to the top, which took about 10-15 minutes. We skipped the previous stops so that we could spend time looking at the new stuff.

As we broke treeline, we entered the tundra. When one lives in Texas, the most economical and quickest way to see the tundra is to drive/climb an alpine peak in Colorado! We began where we left off in the rain the other day, at Terra Tomah at the edge of Forest Canyon. Several glacial lakes and waterfalls ran along the sides and foot of the mountain. DH kept spotting more lakes through his binoculars and we saw how they were all connected with streams and waterfalls. This is common in the Alps where they are given the Latin name, Pater Noster Lakes, meaning "Our Father", because they resemble the beads on a rosary.

Terra Tomah, elevation 12, 718'.  Get out your binoculars to view the 4 stunning glacial lakes and waterfalls! Oh, you forgot to bring them?  No problem!  Close ups to follow...

Here is the uppermost lake we found in the alpine zone...

A little further down is this lake.  Don't you want to just jump right in?


Below that is a waterfall...

Down below is another lake.  Don't you just wonder if anyone is peeking from the woods at us?


And to the left is this one...oh so serene...

We saw lots of animals near us who were also enjoying the view...

Like elk...

Pikas....(well ds got all those pictures, I didn't get one of them yet.)


"For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills."  Psalm 50:10

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rocky Mountain High-way

The next morning was hopefully sunny, with scattered clouds. Despite the rain chances, dh and the kids were determined to begin the drive up Trail Ridge Road. This is the highest continuous paved highway in the world. The top reaches over 12,000’ in elevation with stunning views. At points the highway nears the edge of cliffs. The nifty thing about these mountains, is that every gain of 1000’ of elevation results in a 3 degree drop in temperature! Rising in elevation also means change of ecosystems. A drive (or hike) up one of these alpine mountains is like a drive to the North Pole. How cool is that? Because of their height, these alpine peaks create their own weather systems. Snowstorms can occur in the middle of summer. Dangerous thunderstorms could brew at any moment. The weather forecast predicted a need to keep our eyes to the sky!

I had yet another self-guided tour book for the drive. Last year as we drove Trail Ridge Road, we stepped out at each road stop to drink in the breathtaking views. This year we decided to learn a little geology and conquer the desire to be able to name the mountains. We were amazed as we drove to the top, we never left the Fall River Valley. The mountains we saw from below, were the same mountains we would see from the other side once we reached the top. We got pretty good at identifying the 4 rock types up close, as well as identifying the composition of a mountain peak from afar!

First stop was Deer Ridge Junction, which overlooks Horseshoe Park, where we took our horse ride the other day. The Fall River Valley below is a Riparian Zone where beavers and other water animals live. Here at Deer Ridge, the Montane Zone takes over. Here is a close up view of Ypsilon Mountain. See the Greek letter Ypsilon in the snow?

From afar, Ypsilon Mountain is the second peak from the left. Mummy Mountain is the sort of flat peak to the right of that…imagine a mummy laying on its back. You can just make out the Alluvial Fan, the skinny whitish area below Ypsilon Mountain. The road will take us through extensive switch backs until eventually we are behind Ypsilon and Mummy Mountains, at the very top, over 12,000’.

Moving the camera to the right, you can see Fall River meandering through Horseshoe Park. The trees right below us have the horse trail we took the other day.

Here is McGregor Mountain, with exfoliating Silver Plume Granite.

We continued higher to Many Parks Curve Overlook. Driving up to here has breathless moments where you grab something to make sure you don’t fall over the edge! Here is a great view of the Alluvial Fan.

Climbing ever higher, we came close to the end of the Montane Zone (heavily wooded area) to near treeline (near the tundra). This is the Subalpine Zone. This is the overlook from Rainbow Curve. When you park here, you think you could fall over the edge. When you park very carefully by the rock wall, you thankfully realize you have this stony hillside to break any falls.  There's another view of the alluvial fan.

This is a Clark’s Nutcracker, named after William Clark, as in Lewis and Clark.

Leaving this parking lot to move further on makes us all extremely nervous! It appears as though you are driving up into the sky and there is nothing, not even guard rails, bordering the road! One of our favorite movies is "The Long, Long Trailer" with Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo. The movie is reminiscent of our drives on Trail Ridge Road and especially other drives up Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. We would never drive a trailer up these roads, but some do take them up Trail Ridge Road, so it’s doable. Nevertheless we have to laugh when the signs in the movie indicate a 9000’ elevation, while at Trail Ridge Road we drive up to 12,183’ (and at Pikes Peak we drive up to 14,115’)!!

Driving up Pikes Peak or Trail Ridge Road gives one an opportunity to experience the North Pole. Once breaking treeline, trees no longer grow. We have reached the tundra, the Alpine Zone. Yes, this is just like being at the North Pole. Here nothing grows taller than a few inches, as the plants fight to stay warm. Truly an alpine environment, it is cold, windy, and stunningly beautiful!

After reaching the tundra, we park at Forest Canyon Overlook. Here we can see the tiny plants up close. Here is a view of Torah Toma Mountain. You can easily see where glaciers scraped away the sides and left the top flat part alone. That is part of the tundra. The tundra where we are standing was also untouched by glaciers. The canyon below was scooped out by glaciers.

The weather is getting bad. Dark clouds are forming. Rain is beginning to spritz. Lightening is certain to begin soon. One doesn’t want to be the tallest thing around. But before we go, a quick moment to check the alpine lakes at the foot of Torah Toma.  Here's one of them.

Here's a shot of the overlook into Forest Canyon...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Bear Lake Quiz

After lunch near the Alluvial Fan, we headed for a hike around Bear Lake. Last year we quickly hiked around the lake, then up in elevation to a Nymph Lake, then higher in elevation to Dream Lake, then higher in elevation to Emerald Lake, underneath an alpine peak with a glacier and waterfall. This dismally chilly afternoon we decided to leisurely walk around Bear Lake and use a field trip booklet I had purchased.

Bear Lake with Hallett's Peak in the background...

Bear Lake RMNP 2007

Fireweed amongst evidence of beaver work...


The highest peak on the left is Long's Peak, the only 14er in the park. "14er" is Colorado Speak for a mountain with over 14,000' elevation. The jagged peaks to the right are the Keyboard of the Winds which as the wind blows through the air sounds like musical notes...and yes, we heard the lovely sound while on another hike!


Friendly ground squirrel...


No, it is not a chipmunk, it is a ground squirrel! During lunch they begged for food, as always (which we do not give them, park rules to keep them healthy). We argued with my son until we were blue in the face that this was a chipmunk. Then he pulled out all those wildlife identification books I had purchased. Chipmunks are smaller (though you can't tell by the picture) and have stripes on the cheeks. Ground Squirrels have the white circle around the eye. We had to apologize to my son who was gleefully correct and I am here to tell the world...*this is a ground squirrel*! ;)

Indian Paintbrush...



See that tree trunk, bent near the bottom? That is a snow knee. That happens when heavy snow pushes against it.


Is this a ground squirrel or chipmunk???? If you are not correct, my son will come and lecture you until you get it correct! Lol This one was standing up while my daughter spread her fingers out to get him to stand. My son is the professor and my daughter is the animal trainer!


Stellar Jay...