Into the fog

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50° this morning, clear, calm. Exciting times at the cabin. There is a resident black bear living on the hill behind the house who has taken a liking to our bird feeders. Elaine was napping and then heard a clatter outside. This character was the culprit. Sorry birds, I guess we'll have to hold off on the feeding for now. Luckily, there's lots of food for them this time of year. Last thing we want to do is get that little black bear in trouble.

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Been working lots, but when not working we've gotten up to the high country every chance we can. It's a great time to get up there regularly, because change is in the air, and it happens up there first. In a month, the tundra will be red. I'm anxious to see the little changes by the week. For now, it's still summer, although we did hike up to the divide a few mornings ago in a deep, crisp fog that felt awfully autumn like. We also heard numerous reports of snow flurries up on the highest peaks in Colorado. Time to get prepping for the change…just ask the bear!

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Rainy hike to King Lake

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57° this evening and breezy. Back to a work cycle tomorrow so it's evening writing. Enjoying the dining area, and the big open windows. Decided to light a camping style lantern for ambience tonight. The chimes are ringing, and the wind can be heard rustling through trees on the mountainside above, almost reminding me of the crashing rhythm of the ocean at my parents place on the coast. 

It rained for most of the afternoon, which made it fortuitous that we decided to hike early. Noticing that the weather forecast called for "heavy rain" after 2 pm, we decided to head up from the cabin to King Lake. King Lake sits right below the divide underneath the old railroad crossing at Rollins Pass. 

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A lay of the land update. To our east lies an open valley that eventually heads into the foothills and plains. It's the main access route to Happy Valley, and the way we go when mountain biking to work. It's the most sane of the four cardinal directions. To our south is Spencer Mountain, which is the gateway to Eldora Ski Area. Spencer is my place for a quick morning dog walk or run. It's a good little climb with a nice overlook of the town. To our due north is a vertical wall that quickly rises 1,000 feet. It's very steep and rocky. We've dabbled up here some, but haven't found a great route yet. There is a popular mountain bike route that heads up to the Caribou plateau above us on this side, cut by insane miners a century ago.

To our west is the gateway to the high peaks. As the crow flies, the Continental Divide is about five miles and 3,000 vertical feet from where I'm writing tonight. From the west, there are three main drainages that flow into our valley. The northernmost heads down from 4th July Campground, Arapaho Pass and some great spring skiing peaks. There is a rough dirt road that heads up to about 10,000 feet and from here nice trails head up. It's quicker access to the high peaks. The next two drainages turn off about a mile up the road from our home at an old mining town known as Hessie. The middle fork heads up to Devils Thumb and the Storm Lake, while the southern fork heads to Rollins Pass and King, Bob and Betty Lakes. 

P1100744Stella prowls the banks of King Lake. 

Today we decided on King Lake because it's the most sheltered of the routes and big lightning storms were predicted. The trail crosses through Lodgepole and Douglas Pine, as well as lots of sub-alpine firs. It's moist up here, and the canopy is covered with rotting pine, moss and mushrooms. Heading up about four miles, the trail pops above timberline, into a wonderland of grass meadows, wildflowers, flowing mountain creeks, tiny lakes and leftover snowfields (in the winter, this area might as well be the North Pole…it's brutal). In the summer it's a nice place.

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We were feeling much more spry today, and we made good time to the lake. The final mile or so steepens noticeably, and in all it's about 2,500 vertical feet of climbing from home. Tons of varieties of the Indian Paint Brush up there, ranging from blood reds to sunset purples. We hung out at the lake for a bit and watched the storm clouds build and roll in. It was time to start heading down. Unlike the climb, where we saw lots of folks, we hardly saw anybody on the return trip. Nearing the trailhead, the thunder started to rumble and the rain, and then hail, started to fall. No worries – we were a mere mile from home and a warm shower. The temperatures cooled noticeably, and the walking was enjoyable. Near the end of the road a couple asked us if we needed a ride – we must have looked a sorry lot – but we declined, not so much out of pride but because it was a beautiful walk and a great start to a day that included lots of purging of old stuff and emptying boxes from the move. 

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What a great evening. Pizza for dinner and marshmallows dipped in chocolate fondue for desert. That fondue plate was a great X-mas gift. It's getting well used – last night it was bread and cheese fondue. Meanwhile, off in the distance a fox sends off a shrieking cry, echoing off the valley walls. The wind is picking up and the smell of pine and rain is coming through the window. I'm quickly falling in love with this place. It feels more wild here. 

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Back to tundra

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54° and hazy. Rumor has it something is moving in and a change is brewing. Just in time too, because yesterday was a scorcher, with it crawling up to 87° here at 8,800 feet. July 24 today is historically the warmest day of the entire year but of course that's an average taken over the last hundred years. But it's good to know we're peaking out and the trend towards cooler temps starts soon. 

Yesterday Elaine and I learned about septic systems. We're pretty much neophytes when it comes to this home ownership stuff, but the goal is to learn it all. We were checking the circuit breaker and noticed the switch for the septic pump, as well as the septic alarm had been flipped to off. That seemed a little strange, so we flipped on the septic alarm and it sounded like somebody busted out of prison. Hmm. After getting online and a little consulting from Elaine's dad we realized that before we bought the place the previous owner (or somebody) had flipped the septic pump off and it was in danger of back flowing. That would have been a mess, so we flipped it on and the pump began doing its thing. Pretty soon the alarm went off. Good news for sure.  The tank got pumped six months ago, so we should be good to go for quite some time. A bit of a crisis for a moment, but the good news is Elaine and I now understand the workings of a septic system. 

After that high excitement we headed up valley to Arapaho Pass. This is an old stand-by – a simple 2,000 climb up to the western edge of the valley we live in along the Continental Divide. Great to be back on the tundra for real after eight straight days of work and some days that crept into the 17 hour range. Back in the 50's they debated putting the Interstate over the pass, and I'm glad they found an alternative. That would certainly have changed the place. 

IMG_1184Quite glad there is not an Interstate highway crossing this place. 

The flowers are simply erupting, with a cornucopia of purples, yellows, reds and pinks dotting the tundra. The mosquitos are out strong in their hell-bent mission for blood and the marmots are enjoying their brief respite from winter. It's strange to think that in just over a month all those flowers will be dead. It's a short but brilliant life they lead. Why anybody who plants flowers up here would want to grow anything but native flowers is beyond me. They are so brilliant. I suppose some folks want flowers that would grow in a flower bed in Paris or Zurich at their cabin in Colorado. Humans are a strange breed. 

IMG_1192The wild flowers are out in force. 

We headed up to the pass, giving the legs and lungs a little work, and hung out on the tundra for a bit identifying flowers and enjoying the evening light. Even got a little chilled, which was kind of nice. There are still some good snow fields under Neva to enjoy some summer turns on. On the way back down I noticed a more centered, relaxed feeling that I have not had in a week. Nature gets you fit, but it also is the best healer for the mind too. 

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On the way up another hiker commented on Elaine's Elk Mountain Traverse shirt. It got us thinking – it's time to get serious about ski season so when the snows of winter come, we're ready. Going to head back up to the divide today, and hopefully if the weather holds, along it, for a 20 mile loop. Time to cook some pancakes, because we're going to need the fuel!

Catching up, glacier country

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55° and clear this morning. After a nine-in-a-row work day stretch, we've finally earned ourselves a day off. There's lots to do with the house, but after so much work a hike up to the divide is a necessity. It'll be good to see the high country and what's been going on up there for the last two weeks. The flowers should be in full regalia and perhaps the elk have migrated up too. 

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Elaine and I bought a cabin this month up in Happy Valley.  It's fantastic. It sits at 8,800 feet above sea level (the highest I've ever lived), is perched up on the hill above the valley and gets great sun. The land backs Forest Service land with lots of trails, and there is plenty of room for growing a great garden.  That's be a project for next spring. There is also an area with aspen trees and a Kinnikinnick and moss bedding that'll make for a great reading and relaxing spot. The original cabin was built in 1909 and you can feel the history dripping from the walls. Who lived here, what were their stories? This place is a true sanctuary. There are mountains on all sides, and even with this busy week of being into work at 7 am on some days and working 15 hour days, I was able to sneak in trail runs and power hikes with 1,000 feet of climbing almost every day. It was a good chance to work on going fast as opposed to going all day. One things for sure – there are no flat adventures in Happy Valley. It's good to be back on the western front. 

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In addition to getting up into the mountains, the goal for the next couple of days is to syphon through the rest of our moving boxes, toss the junk and get the well insulated. In addition, it's time to start writing more and journaling about the transition into our new home. The crazy thing is, in less than two months time, there will be snow on the high peaks of Colorado, and I want to chronicle that change from this new locale.

We did have a nice adventure before the move and the work spell. Headed up to a remote valley in the Indian Peaks with rumors of massive glaciers. The rumors proved to be true, but it wasn't easy going getting there. Huge talus fields with chock stones, Alaska-style bushwhacking and just big distances made the adventure a challenge. The plus: we were able to camp during the 4th of July period at a beautiful mountain lake and didn't see a soul. If you're willing to get out there, you can find solitude anywhere, anytime.

Made some nice turns on the glaciers and spent a lot of time watching the ice break-up on the lake. The sound it made was sort of like chimes, like an orchestra in nature. Very enjoyable and relaxing. Swear we saw a wolverine too, but it was a little too quick for positive identification. That would certainly be something, as I've never seen one of those creatures in the wild. 

Here are a few images from the adventure. 

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Colorado's native plant, the Columbine, at home amongst the glaciers.


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Heck of a campsite. That was a tempting line staring us in the face, but we fore-goed it as a result of a massive cornice on top. It would have been like climbing up the barrel of a loaded gun. 


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 Elaine climbing up to the far western edge of Boulder County. I suspect this might be the coldest place in the county on average. Hence, the rather large glacier! 


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Blow this picture up. Elaine is in the middle of the cirque arcing some turns. Better than any cathedral in my book.


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We did a bit of Euro-style alpine touring, linking glacier 1 and glacier 2. This one had a more gnarly feel, with rocks strewn all about. We're a bit late in the season, but I suspect a few weeks earlier we could have linked up 5 or 6 glaciers without any walking. Next year! 


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After a good adventure, we enjoyed a rainy, cool afternoon at camp with lots of reading and relaxing.


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Evening tea with my lovely wife and pup. 


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Ice chimes from break-up. 


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Evening fun on the 4th of July playing with time exposures and mountain creeks. 


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Great adventure up in glacier country. We'll be back for sure.