Sanford and Son

Odd reference I know, but I did see a red fox today on my bike ride. I had an interesting ride, I started out from my house, and climbed up the village road to Beaver Creek Village. There I took a short break to catch my breath and have some water, admiring the fall colors on the ski slopes. Then I continued to climb up the dirt access road that goes to Allie's Cabin, which is an on-mountain high-end dining experience only open by reservation. There is single-track trail here that cuts across the mountain, rising slowly towards Red Tail Camp at an elevation of 8800 feet. From town, that means I climbed about 1400 feet on my bike. Quite a workout, but worth it as I saw a fox, a beaver, and 3 deer, one of which was a buck whose antlers were growing in quite nicely. One of the deer stayed on the side of the trail only about 5 feet away from me as I went by. It was cool, usually they hear something coming and run away, but this one was brave. From Red Tail Camp, I took the Village-To-Village trail towards Bachelor Gulch. The trail winds through an aspen forest which at this time of the year was a brilliant yellow, and the trail was scattered with fallen yellow leaves. I took the "short cut", a trail called Stack It, that leads back to Beaver Creek Village. The trail is fun, its mostly down hill as it switches back across the ski runs below the Strawberry Park chairlift. After that it was just a quick descent back down the bike path that parallels the village road back to town, and back home. It was a lot of fun, I had done a lot of these trails throughout the summer, but with the fall colors and the wildlife foraging for their evening meal, this was the most enjoyable


Return To Summer

Our weather has been very warm and sunny this past week, in fact according to the "local forecast", it was 81 here this afternoon! And last week there was 6 inches of snow in some places in the higher peaks, crazy. Well all of that snow from last week melted, at least from the local peaks, so I decided to take advantage. I finally have climbed the closest 14er to me, and highest point in the county, Mt of The Holy Cross. It barely makes it at 14,005 feet, but even though it is smaller in altitude, it is no small feat. Mt of the Holy Cross is sort of remote, the easiest route to climb it is almost 6 miles one way, and gains over 4,600 feet of total altitude, that is almost a mile up! The main reason is because the peak is buried in the wilderness area that carries its name, and wilderness areas mean no motorized uses or bikes. If you want in, you have to hoof it. This shy peak cannot be seen from any paved roads, and even from dirt ones, the view is distant. The closest view of the mountain without having to hike is from the top of the Gondola at Vail. The hike starts out with a climb almost 1,500 feet to reach Halfmoon Pass, then you drop almost 1,000 feet before you climb the peak itself. You cannot even see the peak until the pass. As if this climb isn't work enough, there is a way to make it touger, its called the Halo Ridge, which of course I had to go for. From the summit you continue around the basin below instead of backtracking. This adds about 3 miles to the return, but luckily you do not have to climb back up to Halfmoon Pass, as you go around it instead. I chose this route for that reason, but also because you cannot see the famous Cross Couloir from the standard route. As an added bonus, Point 13,831 on Holy Cross Ridge counts as another peak, the 91st tallest in the state, so I got a bonus of a centennial thirteener for my efforts as well. This ridge tour was worth it, the views of the Bowl of Tears Lake below, which is so blue it looks like its filled with paint, not water, and the Cross Couloir are magnificent. The Cross Couloir, for those who have never heard of the peak, is a deep sort of slit right down the middle of the mountain's entire west face. About 3/4 of the way up, there is a shelf. In winter these two fill with snow and, voila, it looks like an enormous cross, almost 3/4 of mile tall. It was first photographed in 1873 and has been accorded religious significance ever since. It is quite beautiful even without snow in it, and you can see where religious minded folks are inspired by it. Of course if they want to see it, they would have to climb Notch Mountain to see it. Notch is the mountain directly between Holy Cross, and the nearest paved road, and totally blocks the view for all but those with sturdy legs. Of course after a 15 mile ridge tour, mine are not as sturdy as they were at 6am when I started...


Part 2...

Well the snow continued at the higher elevations while we got some just some rain showers in the valley overnight. We awoke to see the upper half of Beaver Creek covered in a light snow! Typically throughout the state there was anywhere from a couple of inches to almost a foot at elevations as low as 9,000 feet. Our plans for the day were to head up and see Steamboat Springs, and along the way we stopped at a general store and the store owner said he already had one camper come in looking for help getting his camper trailer out of the 6 inches of snow that now covered the campground. Steamboat Springs was clear, but the ski area had snow, and at the top of our gondola ride we got a chance to enjoy an early winter. First we walked around town and had lunch, then headed over to the ski village where they were having a Labor Day festival will live music, kid’s activities, and craft booths. After our Gondola ride, we took a short drive to Fish Creek Falls, about 4 miles north of town. The falls are only about a 1/2 mile hike from the parking area, and they were over 200 feet tall. Eventually those falls join the Colorado River, and work their way through the Grand Canyon. The overlook had several Chipmunks running around, which my sister enjoyed. On the way back to the car we walked by some rocks that had a Pika on them. Those the little hamster/ guinea pig like creature that lives in the rocks at higher altitudes. My sister and I always had hamsters as kids, so I am glad she got to see one. After that we headed back to town where by the end of the day, the warm sun had melted out Beaver Creek once again.

Monday was their last day here, so I wanted to get a chance to show them some of the high country on the way to Denver. There was a decent amount of traffic building on I-70 anyway, so our side trips probably didn’t cost us much time, and got us away from the crowds. First, rather than going through the Eisenhower Tunnel, I took them over the Divide via Loveland Pass. I got to show them one of my favorite area ski resorts, Arapahoe Basin, and some great views of the Continental Divide as we crossed from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side. We rejoined the traffic on I-70, but only for a little while as we got off again to take a trip up Mount Evans Road. Mount Evans is the 14th tallest peak in the state at 14,264 feet, and has a road nearly all the way to the summit. Unfortunately, due to snow still lingering at the top, the Forest Service only had the road open to the parking area at 12,850 foot Summit Lake. Still, it was a great way to show them what the world looks like from above the trees. The road switches back around the side of the mountain with far reaching views all the way to the skyscrapers in downtown Denver, nearly 40 miles away, and nearly 8,000 feet below us. From the lake we could see the rugged north face of Mt Evans.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Denver at the Taste of Colorado, Denver’s version of Taste of Chicago. It was not as big as the one back home, and had fewer restaurant choices, but it was still enjoyable. Today it was back to work, and back to a bit more summer-like weather, as it was sunny and in the upper sixties. Later this week it is supposed to be 70, so maybe this weekend I will be able to sneak another peak summit in before the snows stick around for good.


Vacation Time!

My sister and her boyfriend Dan arrived safely on Friday. Seeing as I was at work all day, they decided to check out a few things in Denver and they went on a tour of Coors Field, and then over to Golden to take the tour of Coors Brewery as well. Then they drove up into the mountains and we all went out to dinner.

Saturday, we started off with a walk around the Vail Village, having lunch and doing some souvenir shopping. Unfortunately the weather called for some scattered showers throughout the afternoon. We decided to go on a little driving tour, but kept getting caught in the showers as we went. First we drove up to the top of Vail Pass, where we got off the highway to take a drive over Shrine Pass Road, a dirt road that goes around the back of Vail to the town of Red Cliff. There were a couple of places along the way that we got out to take pictures. The road is good, and would be easily passable in most passenger cars. It gives a taste of what it is like to be out in the wilderness, but without having to hike to do so. We got to see a couple of deer along the way too, and there are views of Mt of The Holy Cross, which you cannot see from any other road. When we got to Red Cliff we continued south over Tennessee Pass to the old mining city of Leadville. There we got a little break from the rain and went for a walk around town. In one of the gift stores we got to talking to the shop’s owner, who was a bit of a history buff. He told us all kinds of interesting things about Leadville, how Doc Holliday shot the last man he ever shot there before dying of Tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, and how the Unsinkable Molly Brown profited from mining and prostitution. Though never legal, prostitution helped pave the city’s streets because the city government would only fine them, and used that money to fund improvements to the town. Also during prohibition, it was never enforced, and one could openly drink at the towns many saloons. It’s not at all a wild town like in its past, but it was really interesting to hear about its lawless days.

We concluded our driving loop by going over Fremont Pass to Copper, but unfortunately at this point it was raining, and the clouds were encircling the peaks, so we didn’t get any opportunities to get out of the car and take pictures along the way. On the return over Vail Pass the rain actually mixed in with a little snow above 10,000 feet, nothing was sticking though. We then had dinner and came back to my house and watched some movies. This morning we woke up to see that the snow above 10,000 feet did begin to stick, as the top of Beaver Creek has snow on it, but not much as you can still see the grass through it. I hope this means we are going to have a really good ski season! It is supposed to be 60 and sunny today, so the snow will all melt by tomorrow. It was a short summer I guess, the last time there was new snowfall sticking on the resort was Memorial Day. I guess here the summer really is Memorial Day to Labor Day.