Tag Archives: family

The Byways Revisited – Pockets of Color in the Colorado Rockies


Colorado’s fall color explosion begins in early September with high country aspen beginning their golden exhibition deep in the central and northern mountains.

While there are many places I would love to go to view the aspen in their colorful fall garb, this time, I stuck to the central mountains so that I could make it home in time for the evening Broncos kick-off. Still, my little ole car ended up with more than 250 miles in this round-trip jaunt.

So, where did I go? To the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway, the 10th Mountain Division section of the byway that is.

First, let’s get to the color and yes, there were some aspen which were already breaking free of their summertime green exploding into gold with a little bit of orange and rust thrown in for good measure. All along the drive from Minturn to Leadville, aspen were changing in pockets of gold. The most dramatic views were along the Battle Mountain drive.

Pockets of gold along 10th Mountain Diviision Highway.
Pockets of gold along 10th Mountain Division Highway.

The road along this drive climbs high above the Eagle River and the aspen hug the steep hillside only stopping when the hill gives way to dramatic black, red and rust-colored cliffs.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, stopping at almost every pullout, soaking up the scenery, breathing in the cool fresh mountain air and taking in the colorful scenery. Not even the dark clouds that drifted over the mountain range could keep me from feeling completely delighted. Luckily, the storm clouds during my drive came and went pretty quickly, leaving amazing blue and puffy white-cloud skies behind. With the green and gold covered hillsides and red colored cliffs in the background, I was in complete awe of the scenery.

Now, let’s move on to the history of this byway. There are two major historic distinctions along the byway between Minturn and Leadville. One is a rich mining history and the other is a military history. In between Minturn and Red Cliff is the abandoned mining town of Gilman. Now, while this town is an abandoned ghost town, the age of many of the buildings in this town are not as old as one might think, because the town was last inhabited in 1984. That’s right, I said ‘19’ – 84…only 30 years ago.

Gilman ghost town.
Gilman ghost town.

So, what happened? Well, the zinc extraction industry went belly up (with rock-bottom zinc prices) and the town was condemned by the EPA…that’s it in a nutshell. Check out the Substreet blog for more historical information and lots of photos of the town and surrounding area.

As for the military history…well, that comes in the Pando Valley area of the byway, now called Camp Hale for the military operations that took place there during WWII. Camp Hale is located between Red Cliff and Leadville. Many of its distinctions include ski training operations of the 10th Mountain Division as well as a secret CIA training camp from 1958 – 64 with the Tibetan freedom fighters. Check out the linked website for interesting information on all the activities that took place there.

When you visit the area now, you might see a few long forgotten cement walls, some sort of road system which has been almost completely covered by natural vegetation and hopefully you will never come across any, but munitions are still being recovered by the military in its cleanup of the area. Note: if you do a google search for Camp Hale on Goolge Maps and turn to the satellite view, you can still see the outline of the camp buildings and road system.

When I stopped at the roadside pullout which memorializes the secret CIA and Tibetan training operations, I got out of my car just long enough to watch the storm clouds which had been chasing me since Battle Mountain blow down into the valley, completely engulfing the mountainsides, leaving nothing in view except for a thick mist.

Camp Hale Tibetan freedom fighters memorial plaque.
Camp Hale Tibetan freedom fighters memorial plaque.

I took a few shots before the rain began and then hid in my car as it blew through and then quickly retreated through the other side of the valley and over another mountain range. The smells left behind were thick and rich with scents of pine and late summer. Soon, the clouds broke and gave way to a perfectly blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. I was in heaven and lingered for a while longer before continuing on to Leadville.

One other historical note to mention and this piece of history unfortunately has no name, although it’s known as cabin in the valley according to a photo I found on a Google search. On previous jaunts in this area, I had always just cruised past this broken and falling down cabin, but this time, I stopped. When I approached the cabin, I noticed that it had two distinct rooms. This was different from other old relics I had come across in the Colorado Rockies, so I made sure to take as many photos as I could from different angles before leaving the area.

Oh and just so you know, the last leg of the byway from Leadville to Copper Mountain also has a ton of colorful aspen viewing right along the byway. It definitely is worth taking a whole day to linger along the drive if you go.

Looking southward from the road to Freemont Pass along hwy91.
Looking southward from the road to Freemont Pass along hwy91.

Maybe even take a train ride in Leadville during this time of year to capture the changing aspen with an historical train as backdrop against the high mountain peaks. Check out the Leadville Twin Lakes website for more information on the fall train tours.

For info on what to do and see, where to stay and what to eat along the Top of the Rockies Byway, here’s the linked websites in recap:

If you plan on touring the full byway, make sure you do it in summer, since the top of Independence Pass is closed in winter. The furthest end of the byway takes you to Aspen, so be sure to bring a fully packed wallet as well.

Remembering my Brother


Fifty-one years ago today, my big brother Chris was born. Twenty years ago this month, he lost his battle with cancer.

Chris_MtAudubon_CO_1969
Chris on Mt Audobon in Colorado, circa 1966.

I’m not here to lament his passing though. I don’t feel like being sad. I want to celebrate his life, as short as it was and celebrate the person he was and the person he was going to become.

My life is richer for his presence in it.

My dreams broader

My heart more full

And my imagination and creativity endless.

I would sit with him for hours on end listening to his mind weave tales of alternate universes, string theory and quantum theory. Not like I ever really understood fully, but the simple idea that he took his time to talk about physics the way he did with me was a treasure.

CathynChris_GlacierNtlPark_1966
Me (2-years-old) and my brother (3-years-old) in Glacier National Park, MT.

His boy’ish attitude was at times a delight and others…well, we all know the trouble that boys tend to get into.

And it’s not like we didn’t have our disagreements, our terrible interruptions in siblingship, but we always found a way back to each other, hugging and laughing like nothing had happened.

This was my brother, my friend, my pal.

Until we meet again, Christopher Paul…in that alternate universe you’ve found.

HBD_51st_Chris
Chris, me and my baby sister in Boulder, CO circa 1966.

I hope they have Fat Tire where you are, Chris. This one’s for me… 😉

fat_tire

What Does This Picture Say to You?


We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture says a thousand words.”

This morning, I was editing photos I had taken on an excursion I took with my family. I’ve always focused on nature photos, but this time, my photos were filled with faces. When I opened this photo, I hadn’t seen this as I was taking the picture, but when I zoomed in as I edited it…it wasn’t so much what I saw, but rather, what I felt.

So, I thought of asking all of you….

girl_horses_original_breck_021514-72
Horse-drawn carriage along Breckenridge Main St.

…what comes to mind? What word? What feeling?

girl_horses-1_breck_021514

 

A Beautiful Day…In the Ice


I tinted this photo in editing it.
I tinted this photo in editing it.

Santa actually answered one of my Christmas list wishes! And so…the day after Valentine’s Day, I took my family to see the Ice Castles in Breckenridge, CO with the tickets that Santa (my daughter) gave me.

We started out on a partly sunny drive, which quickly turned to blowing snow across the highway in South Park. As we approached the top of Hoosier Pass, we couldn’t even see the valley below. I wondered if the outing was going to be any fun at all with the wind blowing so furiously. But…as we came down the other side of the pass, the wind stopped blowing and all we could see were snow-covered mountains all around.

When we got to Breckenridge, we drove a few blocks to locate the Ice Castles venue and then found our parking spot a half block away from Breckenridge Brewery where we stopped for lunch before walking around.

We walked a few blocks in the snow and slushy streets to the Ice Castles where a line had formed from down the sidewalk to the entry-way. I was just a tad skeptical as we entered the structure…mostly because I wanted there to me more than just mere walls of snow and ice and a few icicles. As we continued walking through the structure, I was pleasantly surprised to find hidden narrow passageways, through icicle caverns, as well as a ton of happy, smiling and laughing kids and parents.

Characters from Star Wars had also joined in the tourist and locals mix with a couple of white storm troopers along with a black storm trooper. My girls went nuts when they saw the characters. This was perhaps the only time my youngest daughter actually would beg me to take a photo of her. It was too good to pass up, so I obliged her with a huge smile on my face.

After the Ice Castles, we stopped for a hot cup of coffee/latte/chai (take your pick) at Starbucks, then found the local Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a truffle and made our way back to the car and the hour and a half trek home.

Although it was a snowy, cloudy day, the day turned out beautifully.

Scenic Byway #4 – Exploring Colorado’s 25 Scenic and Historic Byways: A two-year tour by sport bike, auto and 4×4


Looking for a lot of Colorado history? Then try the South Platte River Trail Scenic and Historic Byway in the northeast corner of state. In just 19 miles, you will find a wealth of Colorado history. From William F. Cody’s early beginnings to history of the Transcontinental Railroad and sugar; all of which dot the landscape of the South Platte River Trail with markers, museums and abandoned buildings.

I began my tour of this byway by picking up my mother-in-law in Sterling, Colorado after completing my tour of the Pawnee Pioneer Trail byway that same day. It was still morning, since I began my tour much before the sun rose. I liked having her along, not only because she was delightful company, but she had some insight to some of the history in this part of the state…oh and she has a good sense of direction, too. Not that I don’t but I never had to pick up my map with her along.

The byway does not begin in Sterling though; we had to drive northeast for about 30 some-odd miles to Ovid to begin our tour. Along the way, I got a little taste of Colorado history as we passed through a few of the small towns that are part of eastern Colorado’s agriculture. When we passed through the town called Crook, I had to stop and snap a few photos….mostly because of the unique look of the architecture along the main road. After the fact, I learned that Crook was named for Civil War and Indian War General George Crook. I love what he’s wearing on his feet in his pose for the photo which later became this bronze sculpture.

The Byway Towns

Ovid: From Sterling, Connie (my mother-in-law) suggested we take hwy138 leaving Sterling and head northeast. As we arrived in the first town on the byway, I came upon the now defunct Amalgamated Sugar Company factory, which sits on the eastern edge of the town of Ovid. The first thing we noticed wasn’t the signage that depicted much of the history of the area, but rather the amount of old farming equipment which neatly lined the field in front of the factory…row after row of it. The signs also noted much of the history of the area in the early, mid and late 1800’s from Fort Sedgwick to sugar beets.

After shooting a few photos and while Connie and I were chatting about the factory and sugar beets, we were startled by loud and very noisy braying. We turned to see this little donkey in a field across the road running after several much larger horses. He seemed to be letting them know where he stood and seemed quite perturbed with them. After a while, he stopped his yammering and settled down, but then just stood in the field and stared back across the road at us. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to take a few more shots of the little guy…er, feisty little guy.

Connie and I giggled as we got back into my car and continued our journey northeast.

Julesburg: From Ovid, we drove a short distance (less than 10 miles) to the town of Julesburg. By this time, we were feeling our pangs of hunger, which had begun in Sterling. So, as we wandered around Julesburg, we searched for a nice place to sit down and eat. We figured that we would stay on the main road of town, since that’s typically where you find restaurants in small towns. We didn’t find any, but we did find the town theater, which had some neat architecture going on. Across from the theater was the local grocery store, so we stopped inside to find out if someone could point us in the right direction. We found out that there were a couple of places, but one of them was outside of town and into Nebraska…still along the same road, but not along the South Platte River Trail. We thought we’d try anyway, because the urge to eat was pretty strong. After not having any luck in Nebraska, we headed back to Julesburg and began to think that we would have to settle for fast food at Subway.

But, before we ate, I had found yet another piece of history to shoot along the byway.

South Platte River: Despite the fact that it’s called the “South” Platte River, this particular river actually runs north. It has its start in the Rocky Mountains close to the South Park area. As it meanders across the plains, the river widens a bit and flattens out, making it not too deep in many spots. As it crosses the plains, you will find many small towns dotted along its banks, mostly because it means life. Also dotting the landscape in this part of the state, you will find many windmills. Just before Connie and I reached our lunch destination, we noticed a train caboose and a windmill neatly posing in a field along the road outside of Julesburg. Yep, again I just had to take a few photos.

Platte Valley Inn: This little hotel that sits off the main highway just outside of Julesburg also includes a nice little restaurant with a typical small town lunch menu. Ah, but it was nice to have a sit down meal with good conversation all for the same price of a fast food joint. At the Platte Valley Inn, I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, while Connie ordered a cheeseburger. The chicken was pretty tasty. It didn’t seem to have that frozen sort of taste, but was quite fresh. I was pleasantly surprised.

Pony Express: I missed the Pony Express station. From Julesburg, if you want to continue on the South Platte River Trail, which now heads south to County Road 28, you need to take hwy385 south and then go west onto CR28. This turn is just a tad deceptive, because the byway sign tells you to turn west, but this sign is also close to the I-76 hwy entrance. So, if you want to stay on the South Platte River Trail byway, take an immediate right just after the Platte Valley Inn and you will first come to the Colorado Welcome Center which also boasts a very nice bronze statue of a Pony Express rider.

Close by the Colorado Welcome Center in Julesburg, you will find a free campsite named for the Pony Express. After this point, you can continue on CR28 and find other historic sites, such as:

  • Devil’s Dive
  • Julesburg #2 (there were four Julesburg town sites)
  • The original Julesburg site
  • Fort Sedgwick (named for Major General John Sedgwick)

Back home in Sterling: I was feeling quite exhausted by the time I got Connie back home in Sterling. So, I stayed a while and chatted and she made a huge pot of coffee, loading me up for my long drive home. And because I’m newly married to her second son, it was a great chance to get to know one another a little more. We talked about the typical things…life, living on the plains, family, history and our dreams.

Denver bound: After about an hour and a half of good conversation and strong coffee, I was ready for my drive home to Denver, which took me about two and a half hours. I finally arrived home around 6:30 p.m. and after my 2:30 a.m. start much earlier in the day, I had about 300 photos, 481 total miles across the Colorado high plains and many more memories to live on neatly tucked away in my mind.

Sitting here and typing away, I smile as I relive the day and all the little moments that took my breath away and put a smile on my face.

 

The South Platte River Trail Scenic and Historic Byway photo gallery…

 

 

Suffering for the sake of art? A Cautionary Tale


Warning: a not-so-pretty rashed leg photo accompanies this tale later in the blog.

In my excursions and explorations to find the best vantage points for taking a photo, I have never truly considered where I was standing, or what was surrounding me…not necessarily. Typically, when I see something that catches my eye, I look for the right place to stand or crouch, which means that it’s typically a clear space, free from branches, metals, and other poky things. I mean, who wants to be stuck by a rusty piece of metal anyway?

So, when I found this wetland area close to my neighborhood lake on a bike ride a few days ago, I approached the pond by way of the clearest path, aka, the goose, duck, dog path. Then after gazing at a tree reflection in the water, I shot a few photos. After being satisfied with one set of photos, I walked along the pond’s edge to see if there were any other vantage points. Unfortunately, the edge of the pond wasn’t as clear a path, so I put up with a few sticker pokes and some weed scratches on my legs (I was wearing my workout capris) to find a few more vantage points. And after wandering around the wetland area for about 20 minutes, I finally decided to get back on my mountain bike and keep on riding.

Little did I know that one of those sticker pokes would soon put me down and out for the count.

On the second morning after my photographic mountain biking wetland adventure, I awoke feeling not quite 100 percent. I shrugged it off as best I could and started ironing my clothes for work after my shower. But, I really wasn’t feeling good. About three minutes into the ironing, I felt compelled to lay down in bed in the fetal position. I really needed to get ready for work, so after a couple of minutes of deep breathing, I forced myself back up and finished my ironing and got dressed. Just in case though, I grabbed my thermometer and took my temp. Sure enough, I had an elevated temperature. That’s when I decided there wasn’t a chance I was going in to work. So, I took off my work clothes and donned my comfy clothes and waited for the doctor’s office to open to make my appointment.

Let’s fast forward a bit:

  • Doctor could not find a reason for my fever, chills, body aches and pains and headache and sent me home with a note suggesting I stay home for the rest of the week because something had to be brewing and was likely to show up.
  • 24 hours later, the few little red dots on my leg from my bike ride blew up into a full blown rash taking up half my lower leg.
  • Back at the doctor’s office, the diagnosis was Cellulitis.
  • So, a shot of penicillin in the hip, a filled prescription of Dicloxacillin and a quart of Bourdeaux Cherry Chocolate ice cream later and I was back home laying on the couch with my leg propped up and wrapped in a hot moist towel.

What’s so bad about Cellulitis? It can kill you!

Even though my doctor explained what it was and what I needed to do to keep the infection from causing further harm, I did a little research to find out what causes it and what the remedies are. This is pretty scary stuff and not to be taken lightly. And, because I rarely get sick and consider myself a tough person, this particular infection, is figuratively killing me. I understand I need to take it easy and rest and be diligent about following doctor’s orders, but I am always outside barring hazardous weather…always! It’s killing me to sit here, in my home, gazing outside at the bright blue sky on this amazing March day.

Photo Gear

Sitting here lamenting my condition, I have been considering what I can do to protect myself from having this happen again. The typical photo gear from what I’ve seen is a tripod, a couple of extra lenses and maybe a camera case. I think my photo gear list is going to include either long pants, or if riding a bicycle in capris, then long socks. I can always roll the socks down when I ride to keep from getting too hot and then roll them up when I feel like wandering through the bushes and weeds to capture nature. I’m just not sure which socks I like best…stripes, or penguins…

Something positive out of all of this?

I had a not-so-good first marriage of 16 years where I felt pretty much like a single parent. Because my children were quite young, I couldn’t rely on them when I had a gall bladder attack in the middle of the night when I was three months pregnant with their baby sister in 1997. And because gall bladder attacks radiate from the center of your chest, I thought it was a heart attack. I couldn’t rely on their Dad because of his late nights of so-called “work” until 3 a.m. in the morning when he’d coming home stumbling through the door…drunk. Fast forward to present-day and I don’t feel like a single parent anymore. Not with my new husband and not with my grown children. The love and attention I have received in only 24 hours is more than my dreams could have imagined…more than I had ever expected. A simple, “How are you doing today, Mom?” Or, “You are the love of my life. I will always be here for you,” means the world to me. And it isn’t just the words, it’s the actions that have made me grateful for my family and for my one and only MtnMan.

Am I suffering? Yes and no. Am I suffering for the sake of art? I am in no way a Van Gogh. And while the amazingly quiet, bright blue-sky mornings of early March have been torture to me only because I cannot be in them, I know that with some patience and time, the pain and lack of mobility will eventually subside. And because I am lucky enough to have married a wonderful man this second go-round, I was still able to enjoy the sunshine and nature on an evening drive, albeit from the passenger seat of my husband’s truck. Oh and yes, that blue square is actually a photo of the Colorado early evening sky on March 9th.

Rocky Mountain Dreams


If you had the ability to give back, how would you do it?

I grew up in the mountains…not necessarily living in the mountains, but I always find myself in them, hiking, walking, laughing, dreaming…

Ever since I was born, my parents would take myself and my siblings into the mountains. We started off enjoying the mountains of California, since I was born in San Francisco. And then, after my Dad finished his Masters at Berkeley, we moved to Colorado. In between the time from graduating to starting his new teaching job at CSU, my Dad worked as a Park Ranger in Glacier National Park.

At two years old, this may have been my first visit to the park, but it was not my last…

Daydreaming

I’ve been reminiscing again today….spending the morning searching through the photos I took when me and my youngest daughter spent three days in the Crested Butte area of Colorado in August of 2011.

What an amazing place.

 

 

Full of color and beauty….

 

 

 

I just wanted to freeze time…

A Reason to Give Back

So, besides my reminiscing, I’ve been thinking…I don’t just want to share the places I’ve been, I want to give back. And while I don’t have the monetary means to do it, I think I have the ideas that will get me there.

A big part of my life was spent being hurt…for a lot of various reasons. But, the things that kept me going were not only my attitude that there is something better even if I have to struggle to get it…it was my kids and the positive encouragement and small gifts along my journey.

One of those small gifts happened to be a friend who helped me get school supplies for my kids when I couldn’t. It happened around 2005, and it came at a time when I was hurting deeply. This gesture…as small as it may seem to others, meant the world to me.

So now, my idea is to give back in some way…to pay it forward. To do that, I’ve been hashing out a plan. This plan has time to fester and grow, because it will coincide with my Colorado Byways Tour. For now, I won’t share it, but I think it has a chance to be a reality.

Never Give Up

I think what might help here is a couple of example stories…not my own, because honestly, my struggles were not unlike so many others in the world. So, I would like to share a few stories from TEDtv…links to some amazing people…

What do these stories have to do with me?

They are someone’s dreams!

It’s a kid’s life


Kids

My kids make me laugh so hard at times that tears stream down my face and my sides ache.

This 8-year-old’s chronological age is 47, who at times thinks she’s too old to do some things…but tubing? Well, that’s another story. My theory is that if it makes me laugh more than ache, then I’m doing it.

They say that laughter is the best medicine and to prove that, check out this Science Daily article on laughter and hormones. This is one of the reasons I choose to let my inner child come out to play every now and then. A great way to do that in the winter is to gather a huge group of friends and family and hit a snow tubing hill in the high country.

Our tubing hill of choice is the historic hill in Fraser, Colorado. Fraser is at about 8574 feet above sea level. The hill is in between Fraser and Winter Park.

Body check

Twelve hours after my tubing adventure, I’ve stretched all points of my body and have discovered all the muscles that were most affected by my tubing excursion. Mostly, it’s my triceps, deltoids and pectorals.

Like I’ve mentioned in another blog, I’m not exactly tiny. But, I don’t let that keep me from enjoying things I enjoyed when I was much younger and thinner. I just take my time and approach things, like the edge of the tubing hill, with just an air of cautious understanding in what my body can do. So, my first approach wasn’t exactly as enthusiastic as my friends, Maria and Erik…

The thought of taking a running leap onto the lip of the hill conjured pictures of my body bouncing off the tube and rolling down the hill. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I did entertain the idea of lying down gently onto my blue and green tube and with face forward pushing off the lip of the hill with my feet. But, my first rip down the hill was actually in a seated position, hands in the air, screaming, bouncing, catching air and laughing all the way.

So, why do my upper body muscles ache? Simple.  My next run and many more runs were in the superman position. Picturing it really did help.

Laughter

No matter how old I get, I will never turn down a chance to split my sides with bowlfuls of laughter; sharing that laughter with family and friends always makes life just a little more enjoyable. As my friends and I met at the top of the hill, time after time, we stopped, smiled, and then approached the edge with child-like glee. A few times, instead of lying down face-first, we placed our tubes close to each other and grabbed each others tube straps to fly down the hill as a group.

Bouncing not only off the bumps on the hill, but up against each others tube from one side to another made me laugh so hard that by the time I stopped at the bottom of the hill, I had to catch my breath before getting up and walking to catch the lift back up to the top.

 

Scenery

Sharing in laughter isn’t the only thing that makes my life full. If you’ve been following my blog, or you know me personally, you know how I tend to enjoy life. Being outside for me is heaven on Earth. Sharing that enjoyment with those around me makes this time on Earth a paradise.

An ode to the kid inside…

My thought is that when a person forgets about their inner child…about that child-like wonder at the simplicity of things…that’s when life becomes unbearable. So, I never forget to let out my inner child.

…watch