Last Friday, I was invited to join a group on a trail hike to the top of Flattop Mountain, an 8.8 mile (round trip) trek with a 2900' elevation gain. It's a strenuous climb but at this time of the year, it's not the trail that's the challenge but the weather as you transition in less than 3 miles from forest into the alpine tundra. Two members of the group had tried to reach the top before but weather made it impossible. We got lucky, as an early morning shower turned into a clear day.
That said, the well-defined path through the treeline leads you into open rocky tundra with a snow covering at 12,324'. The real challenge? Winds blowing at 35 mph offering a wind chill temp of 21 degrees! I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story of this great journey.
All Work & No Play?
Hardly! Aside from becoming oh-so-crafty, I have been spending my free days outdoors. I neglected to mention that the "Y" is at 8,000 feet so I've been adapting to the elevation with plenty of water, some slow pedaling, and 2-to-10 mile hikes with little gain.
Most of the hikes I've taken in the National Park are from trailheads at over 9,000 feet, so even hikes with less than a 1,000 foot elevation gain offer astounding views! Rocky Mountain NP is over 400 square miles & I plan to see as much of my little corner as I possibly can. I like this area because we're on the "dry side" of the Continental Divide so the downhill skiing (& its culture) is an hour or more away. This area is for hiking, snowshoeing, and x-c skiing, and in turn, Estes Park is not like Aspen. Don't get me wrong, there's money here but people are unpretentious.
We're also in "rut season", a new concept to me, and the male elk are butting horns and bugling on a frequent basis. I heard one 2 days ago, and when I looked out my window, I saw a huge elk walking right up the middle of the road in front of my dorm. Bizarre and amazing!
It's Fun to Stay at the ...
For nearly 2 weeks, I've been settling into the Y of the Rockies. This is not like any "Y" that I've ever seen; in fact, they don't have a fitness center. It's a small village surrounded on three sides by the Rocky Mountain National Park. We have our own post office, library and museum, and you can do nearly any indoor or outdoor activity imaginable. Deer, elk, and yes, bears roam freely in this area!
I found this volunteer opportunity online, and will be here for 6 weeks working as a "Craft & Design Instructor" in exchange for full room & board (a private room!), wifi, all activities, and a community of very nice people. My schedule is a grueling three, 8-hour days then 4 days to play. If winter weren't on its way, I'd definitely stay longer!
I've already biked, hiked, and visited the Park but I'll save those photos & stories for next week!
The Birthday, Revisited
Last weekend was the first time that I can recall spending my birthday solo but I planned accordingly. Since I was in Colorado, I decided that taking the cog railway up Pikes Peak would be a pretty spectacular event! So, I booked myself 3 nights in a very comfy AirBnB home in Fountain, CO (south of Colorado Springs), and made a reservation. I started the day with a 30 mile bike ride but I had a train to catch so I didn't hit my age in miles this year (slacking off).
As has been the case most of this journey, I had good karma. The reservation folks put me in seating with a 50+ year old guy who was also traveling solo, and wait for it -- half Portuguese, and from Saugus, MA. We sounded exactly alike, yucked it up the entire afternoon, and took the necessary photos at the Peak! Really fun! I then returned to Jutta's (my hostess) for wine & pie & a trip down memory lane with her Cuba photo album. Yes, she has biked Cuba. An all around fun birthday!
Did you know that Pike never reached the Peak? Also unknown to me is that America the Beautiful was written by Katharine Lee Bates on July 22, 1893 after being inspired by the majestic background of the Rocky Mountains seen from Pikes Peak. Where was she born? Falmouth, Massachusetts. An all around "locals" birthday location!
Many, many thanks to those of you who took the time to send me cards via my postal box. When I arrived in Estes Park, CO on the 31st, my mail was here and I spent an hour enjoying opening cards & setting up my display. I'll be staying in this location until Columbus Day; that story to come in a few days!
While I sadly rolled out of Utah, I was looking forward to my first visit, ever, to Colorado. Enroute I passed the famous "Four Corners" where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. Much to my surprise, the "official monument" is in The Navajo Nation.
In "Colorful Colorado", my first stop was Mancos State Park along the San Juan Skyway, and in close proximity to the Mesa Verde National Park. My camp site was gorgeous but on my 2nd night, my closest neighbor was 2 miles away! For the first time in 8 months, I slept in my car one night because I was too alone in the woods! Sometimes my imagination is just too wild!
I spent 2 days at Mesa Verde NP which preserves nearly 5,000 archeological sites of the Puebloans who made it their home from about A.D. 550 to 1300. While they primarily lived on the mesa top for over 600 years, sometime in the late 1190s, they began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. Nearly 600 of the sites found in Mesa Verde are cliff dwellings.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover