Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 32, Black Canyon of the Gunnison


(yeah, still paying by the minute for internet access...)

We packed up camp and headed to the visitor center of the park. There we got a hiking permit to get down to the bottom of the canyon. The ranger had a whole binder of things to go over with us before letting us take the hike. He had to show us how steep the trail was, how to side step at tricky parts, how to identify route-finding landmarks (boulders, sticks and the like), and how to identify poison ivy (oh, joy!).

We started the hike at about 9:00. The one-mile long, 1,800 foot elevation drop scramble took us almost two hours. The river was green and the 2,000 foot cliffs that surrounded us were gorgeous. We walked around along the river (movie) for a little while and then started the long ascent. Surprisingly, it was faster to go up than down! The hike back only took an hour and a half.

Before leaving the park we drove the South Rim Road and took in all the beautiful vistas (yes, there was a Devil's Overlook). At around 3:00 we hit the road bound for Leadville and Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest peak at 14,443 feet.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Day 31, Devilish things


First, a little commentary.

This country is full of things that belong to the Devil. We've been to Devil's Hole State Park in NY, Devil's Lake State Park in WI, Devils Tower in WY. Not to mention Purgatory Chasm in MA and I'm sure numerous other places.

Well, we discovered Devil's Radiant Heat last night. It was cool in the park, in the 60's, but the ground was still very hot (even in the morning) and so we had a very warm night in our tent.

After we got up and repacked the car we headed to the Devil's Garden area of Arches and headed out to see some arches. This 7 mile hike was spectacular -- really put the rest of the park to shame. Took lots of pictures of arches and other scenery. One stop on the trip was "Dark Angel", I wonder what that could be referring to?

Around 2pm we left the park. First stop was to see more arches:

Dan tried the Devil's Milkshake. It was Shrek flavored or something. It tasted OK but gave him one helluva bellyache.

We drove to Colorado National Monument. It's a smaller one but has some breathtaking views -- one to revisit someday. Took more pictures.

Then drove to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We set up camp and started cooking dinner. Dan discovered the Devil's Anthill just below the picnic table. A whole metropolis of biting ants living in 3 anthills that were each the size of a cereal bowl. How do we know they were biting ants? Well, when you have ants in your pants you just know.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Day 30, Goodbye Justin and Shantel, Hello Arches!


(Paying for internet access right now...)

We had a good breakfast at Sage's Cafe with Justin and Shantel, did a little grocery shopping, and hit the road for Arches.

Arches was neat. We drove around the lower half of the park in the evening and then hiked to Delicate Arch. There were a ton of people, all trying to get beneath the arch to have their pictures taken. When the sun started to set people backed off and we took pictures along with 50-100 other people.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Day 29, Part 2


After getting back to SLC Justin made us some delicious tofu salad for lunch. It's like tuna salad but vegan. Then he gave us a walking tour of downtown and we looked at some Mormon stuff, including an organ. We played a few games of skee ball at Tilt and got smoothies at Haggen Dazs. Back at Justin's place we played a game of Scrabble. It was another fun day. More fun than I have the energy to make it sound right now...

Justin and Shantel have been great hosts and we've had a great time hanging out with them. Tomorrow we take off for Arches NP. Might do some climbing there.

Day 29, The Great Salt Lake


The Great Salt Lake. Must be neat to swim in since the super-saltiness will make you super-buoyant. Should be fun, that's what we thought.

Justin and Shantel warned us that it is disgusting. They said it smells and you really don't want to go in it or even near it. They said there were mosquitoes. They said the bottom of the lake had sharp salt crystals that hurt feet. They said you really don't want to get any water in your mouth.

C'mon guys, how bad could it be? Laurel and I figured they must have gone to the wrong part of the lake or something. The internets said that "Swimming and sunbathing are popular on the clean, white sand beaches at Antelope Island State Park."

So we drove out to the island with Justin. Allow me to walk you through the experience. At first the sand is very hot and burns your feet -- and it's too soft to walk in with flip flops. Then there's a hard-packed sharp part to the "beach", so you put your flops back on.

Then the smell hits you. It's like something died under the dock at low tide in the Long Island Sound. Something too putrid for any animal to eat. Imagine taking that something and putting it in a pickle jar full of brine. Except it won't fit, the smell is too big.

OK, try to get over the smell. Now notice that there are fleas or mosquitoes or some evil kind of fly all over your legs and swarming around them. Thousands of them. You have to walk through a patch of ground that is fully covered in bugs. There's really no good place to lay down a blanket or towels on this "beach".

OK, now try to get over the flies. You're at the edge of the water. It looks like normal water with normal sand on the bottom. But there are lots of little brine shrimp swimming around and the top of the lake is covered with those flies. Someone in the water says, "don't worry, it's not that bad once you get in a ways."

So you wade out into the shallow water. The smell starts to recede. The shrimp don't bother you. The flies get out of the way. You're knee deep, then waist deep. The water feels a little itchy, but otherwise normal. There's a band of flies (dead and alive) floating around at one point that you shoo away with your flip flops before passing through to deeper water. Finally you try to float.

Hey, it really is buoyant! You can lie on your back, completely exhale, and still float! Fun!

At this point Laurel and I spotted an island and decided to swim to it. We quickly discovered that getting the water on your lips is a little disgusting, but getting it splashed in your eyes is downright painful.

We swam out for 30 minutes maybe but seemed to make little progress so we turned back. Our stack of beach bag, clothes, and towels was covered in flies. As we walked to the showers our skin dried off enough for us to notice a layer of salt crust all over us.

The showers felt great.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 28, Climbing in the Salt Lake City area


Justin took us out in the Wasatch Mountains to do some sport climbing. First up was a 150-foot 5.7ish climb in the amphitheater area.

Aside from the 30+ foot runout after the third bolt and the manky anchors at the top it was a lot of fun.

Then we hiked over to the creek for some shorter 5.10s. Dan led a 60-foot 5.10a with only one hang. Justin calls this OHRP (one hang redpoint). He led it with ease and Laurel toproped the climb (and made it with only one fall!).

The final climb of the day was a buckety 5.10b right next to the 10a. Justin led it and set up a top rope for us. We almost made it to the anchors but it was too "burly" and overhanging for us, especially with the condition we were in after the other climbs.

After getting back to Justin and Shantel's place, Justin made awesome burritos. The four of us hung out and watched a movie (well, actually the big wall nuts fell asleep within 20 minutes).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day 27, a new state!


Our tent is waterproof (enough)! I think there was an inch of rain last night and we didn't drown. Took a dip in the springs this morning and then took some pictures before we left. Stopped at Diagon Alley to watch a local practice his magic.

It was a long drive to Dinosaur NP. In the visitor center we saw a sign which informed us that "No human has ever seen a living dinosaur" -- at first I thought this contradicted what Brian learned in KY, but then I realized that the dinosaurs must have been invisible 6,000 years ago.

We saw some neat bone and "clam" fossils in the field. Maybe Rob the archaeologist can tell us what we're looking at?

Also saw some petroglyphs, which made me wonder why you never see petroglyphs of dinosaurs. Can you field that one Brian? Oh, never mind, it's because they were invisible. Duh.

Into Utah!

Got gas in Vernal, UT, where this pink dinosaur resides and where we saw a Halliburton truck.

Drove forever to get to Salt Lake City. Found Justin's new pad and the three of us went to Sage's Cafe for dinner. Delicious!

It was a fun night hanging out with Justin and catching up. Tomorrow we'll go climb somewhere. He's really good so we'll probably be struggling to follow him. Should be a fun challenge!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 26, Ahh, Steamboat Springs

After repacking the car and roofbag, we left the Boulder Mountain Lodge with heavy hearts. We absolutely loved our time in Boulder and didn't want to leave. Luckily, we were able to spend the morning in town with Brian before hitting the road.

After a couple of exciting loads of laundry, we made one last stop to the Great Harvest Bread Company (Laurel's favorite) and then headed to Pearl Street for some window shopping. Walking up and down the mall made the boys very hungry so we stopped for an excellent sushi lunch at Kasa (the sashimi lunch special had red tuna, white tuna, albacore, yellowtail, and salmon). Dessert was at the Belgian chocolate shop next door. Dan and Brian had to try the dark chocolate covered walnuts and Laurel tried the shop's special frozen hot chocolate...yum! Then it was off to the meadery for a tasting and to purchase some gifts.

Brian headed south to the Great Sand Dunes National Park as we headed west through the mountains. The drive out I-70 was breathtaking, and rainy. We saw countless high peaks and drove through the Eisenhower Tunnel (about 1.5 miles through a mountain). We stopped in Vail and walked around the village a bit. What a place! I can only imagine what it must be like in ski season.

After Vail we headed north for Steamboat Springs. After driving two hours on twisty mountain roads, it was time for another rest stop. We inquired what the "big deal was" about Steamboat Springs and were told it was all about the hot springs up on Strawberry Hill (long, windy, dirt road in the middle of no where!). Once we submerged ourselves in the pools, we immediately understood what the "big deal was." The natural springs are over 100 degrees and luxurious after two weeks of hiking, climbing, biking, and blading in Boulder. We were fortunate enough to be able to camp there as well and got a dip in the morning before any one else was up. After a long, rainy night in the tent it was a nice treat.

Off to Dinosaur.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day 25, RMNP pop quiz


Please answer these questions, we're stumped!

1. If a mountain lion and a bear met in the woods, who would win the fight?

2. Why do the animals need a waffle iron?

3. Why are elk and sheep butts white?


4. There are lots of twisted trees in these forests. How does this happen?


Check out our photo album for the day, lots and lots of flower pictures today.

Oh yeah, and the three of us made it to the top of Twin Sisters. The Rockies are truly an impressive result of millions of years of geological activity!

Quesadillas for dinner and ice cream from Glacier on the Hill.

Tomorrow morning we pack up and check out.

Monday, July 23, 2007


The Colorado State Vehicle is the Volkswagon Bus, Slugbuggibus volkswagonus:

This species can be seen widely throughout Colorado.

A lesser seen species of vehicle in these parts is the Connecticutus licenseplateus:

It is extremely rare to see two such vehicles together.

This can only mean one thing.... Brian Doki has arrived in Boulder!

Day 24, climbing at Castle Rock with friends


Today we took Jim the Violinist and his friends Jill and Barrie climbing at Castle Rock. Everyone had a chance to climb twice and we all made it to the top. It was a lot of fun.

This is Jim:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 23, long bike ride

Since we rented the bikes overnight we decided to go for a nice long ride today. This map isn't exactly our route, but it's pretty close. We had a hard time reading the bike map a few times so the trip was more like 25-30 miles. Good 5 hour bike ride. Except for the few miles we were on US-36. That was a little scary.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chill, then we headed to Chautauqua park for another Colorado Music Festival concert -- Violin Jim got us comp tickets again! The Klezmer Clarinet Concerto (and the clarinetist's encore) was incredible. Bernstein was fun too.

No pictures from today.

Tomorrow we're going to set up a toprope on the first pitch of the Castle Rock climb we did so we can get Jim (and maybe a few of his friends) on the rock.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

First Flatiron, yet again....

Ok, so you're tired of hearing about the 1st Flatiron. I won't blog about it after tonight. Probably.

Compare these pictures, first one taken from further to the left (south):


That's the same rock (and the same rock at the top of this page)! See all those jaggies that show up? Those are all the false summits we ran into.

To give some scale to those jaggies... see the climbers at the top (click for larger image):

Ok. Enough of the First. Soon I'll be obsessed with the Third :)

Day 22, Hiking, Biking, etc.


We started the day by hiking to the Royal Arch, where we saw this chipmunk. Then we scoped out access to the Third Flatiron, which we're thinking about climbing on Monday. This shot looks up the climb we'll do (there are people at the top of the first pitch, and another party higher up). 8 pitches total.

After a few hours of hiking we went to the Farmers' market for lunch and some veggies. Then we rented bikes and toured the city. It's impressive how much of the city is bike-friendly. There are miles of "multi-use paths" that weave under road crossings so there's no need to watch for traffic.

Halfway through our bike ride we came upon the Redstone Meadery, which we had wanted to visit to sample their mead. Since we were already there... some of their 9 varieties were quite tasty!

After a few hours of biking we walked through an art fair on Pearl Street.

And now... Laurel's reading Harry Potter. She says maybe I can read it while she's sleeping :)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Day 21, Castle Rock and Gold Hill


We climbed in the canyon today at Castle Rock. Five years ago we were in awe of this 250 (?) foot high chunk of rock. You can walk all the way around it but can't get to the top without technical rock climbing skills.

Dan started to lead a chimney/crack but it was lousy (in other words, too hard). So we switched over to a more straightforward 5.5. Parts of the rock are boulder jumbles and hollow flakes, so the protection was a little sparse or creative in places. Three pitches to the top and it was time for lunch. There are a surprising number of houses on the nearby mountaintops that you can see from the top of the rock.

The trip down took as long as the trip up. The guide book clearly illustrated a fourth class scramble to the road... However, the trail was not marked or easy to find. We scrambled for over an hour before finding a rappel station which got us to an easy trail. Mental note: check out the descent before ascending!!!

After a long day in the sun, we decided to drive up to what had been described to us as a hippie community in the middle of the mountains. The village of Gold Hill is only about 9 miles from the lodge but it took us 30 minutes to get there because of the switchbacks and sections of dirt road. What a drive! 2nd gear all the way up, 1st all the way down. We were literally in the middle of the mountains, but there were gorgeous houses throughout the trip -- not shacks, we're talking huge bay windows and porches overlooking the most beautiful vistas in greater Boulder.

When we finally arrived in Gold Hill there was an inn, a restaurant, a general store, and a couple dozen homes. The whole place reminded us of an old mining town. The restaurant is on the historic places registry and is made from logs and mud. Very rustic!

The food was superb. Dinner was a 6-course meal that took almost two hours. There was a pork salad appetizer, tomatillo or Russian spinach soup, fresh baked bread with homemade jam, salads, entrees (Laurel had shrimp and Dan had venison), then delicious desserts (mint chocolate cup and orange rhubarb pie), and selections from their fruit and cheese plate. Everything was just outstanding.

After we rolled ourselves back down the mountain, we headed to the jacuzzi and called it a night.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 20, rest?

Thursday started out as a rest day after hiking Mt. Ida. We did some laundry then drove around parts of South Boulder, out to Loiusville / Lafayette, up to Erie / Longmont, had lunch at a Chipotle's (why don't we have these in MA?) and back through North Boulder (Nobo). We then stopped to do a little shopping on Pearl Street before heading back to the Lodge where we hung out for most of the evening.

There was a talk at Neptune by a Jason McDonald. The writeup on their webpage says:
Join mountaineer Jason McDonald for a slide show of the ultimate extremes the other side of the world has to offer. Jason tackles the Australia Ironman Triathlon and the Snowy Mountain Range of New South Wales - including Mt. Kosciuszko, the continents highest point. Jason also races in the 2003 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Queenstown, New Zealand, then climbs the highest peaks in the Southern Alps - including Mt. Cook. His pictures and stories will inspire the climber and racer alike.

Well, about an hour before it started we were bored and decided to do some rollerblading. We were having fun so we decided to keep blading and skip the talk. Except then we noticed we were sorta heading towards Neptune anyway, so we bladed all the way there on the Broadway Boogie Trail, making it just in time (8PM, 3.5 miles). Around 9:15 we ducked out and bladed back in the dark along the well-lit (in most places) path. Good night!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day 19, Rocky Mountain High


Today we tried to get a reasonably early start (not 4am!) and left the lodge around 9:00 for Rocky Mountain National Park. The hour or so drive north was very scenic on the Peak to Peak Scenic Drive. In less than 20 minutes we had gained 3,000 feet of elevation.

The first stop was in Nederland where Dan found Mike Mulligan's steam shovel on the side of the road.

From there we went straight to the park and followed the Trail Ridge Road for about 50 miles. There were countless beautiful vistas of mountains, lakes, and pine forests. We stopped at quite a few overlooks and road pull-offs to take pictures. The road gets to an elevation of over 12,000 feet.

About halfway through the park we stopped at Milner Pass where the road crosses the Continental Divide. Here there is a trailhead to hike Mount Ida, a 12,800 peak that lies right on the divide.

We decided to embark on the 4.9 mile hike just before the afternoon thunderstorms were forecast (brilliant!). We watched the clouds carefully and were very lucky to reach the summit with just a few drops of rain.

On the way to the top we saw patches of snow (mini glaciers?),


many yellow-bellied marmots,

a bumblebee,

singing birds (that sounded exactly like the birds in the beginning of Pink Floyd's Goodbye Blue Sky),

a camouflaged bird (White-tailed ptarmigan),

a pika (fast critter, looked like a vole),

a blue spider,

and beautiful alpine wildflowers.

As we got closer and closer to the summit it became painfully obvious why these mountains are called the rockies!

After 3.5 hours to the top, we took a couple of quick pictures and began the descent. The trail was not a loop, so familiar scenery followed us the whole way. Fortunately, a small family of bighorn sheep decided to graze near the trail and we got a peek of them before getting back below the tree line.

Round trip time was 6 hours for a total of ten miles. We gained 2130 feet in elevation to a toal of 12,880.

After the breathtaking views from the trail, the rest of the park seemed rather dull in comparison. The western portion of the park boasts valleys and the headwaters of the Colorado River. (Many of the pine trees in the western part have been killed by some kind of beetle -- whole forests are red, orange, and brown, as if it were autumn and the pine trees were changing colors.)

Though we did get a glimpse of these things, we were too hungry to stop and drove to nearby Granby for dinner. From there, it was a 2.5 hour drive back to Boulder through windy, wet, dark mountain roads. It was good to be back!