Friday, December 31, 2010

Road trip pictures

Pictures from our road trip are posted (finally).

We got the snow that was predicted and the high may have been 15 degrees today in Boulder, so we stayed in. It's going to be a quiet New Year's eve for us. Just the weekend left now before vacation is over.

Happy 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sand Dunes

Well, Alamosa was nothing to write home about in the dark and in the light it was not much better. We were glad to get back on the road. Our first stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was so cool to see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with huge sand dunes in front of them.

It was cold when we arrived at the park just before 9, and it was really windy. Despite the conditions, Dan wanted to hike the sand dunes and summit the tallest one we could see. At the car we put on some layers (we still had jeans on though---Nick Weighton would NOT have been happy!), and headed out for the sand.

Two families were turning back as we headed out. Boy, did they look cold. We managed to brave the 30mph winds and excessive blowing sands and made it to the summit in 40 minutes. It was really fun running and glissading down the big, steep dunes on the way back. Some of the slopes were around 30 degrees which seemed really steep (yes, we measured them with our new slopemeter).

We drove over the mountains to Walsenburg and then on north to Colorado Springs. We stopped for an hour to say hello to Melanie, Ryan, Josh, and Vincent and to see all the boys' Christmas gifts. It was a lot of fun to play for a while.

We got back to Boulder around 4:00 today. The weatherman is predicting 5-10 inches of snow and single-digit temps, so I'm glad we're back in our nice warm house. A fun road trip, albeit short.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mesa Verde

Ever since we moved here I have wanted to got to Mesa Verde National Park. Today I finally got to go! It is a long haul from anywhere (except Cortez--luck us!) and once you get into the park, it's like 30 miles to the actual sites.

We drove to the visitor's center just in time to go on the first tour to the only site that's open in the winter. Lucky for us, the ranger decided to just open the gates and let people come and go as they please. It was really neat seeing the Spruce House from the opposite mesa from afar and then to get to see it up close.

We even got to climb into a Kiva (5-foot deep round ceremonial/winter home). It was much warmer down there.

We then drove down one of the park loops and saw ancient Puebloan homes dating back more than a thousand years. The Cliff Palace was awesome, even if we didn't get to walk around in them.

We then drove to Durango and walked around the cool Victorian-era downtown. Then it was off to Alamosa to try to get in front of the storm.

Monday, December 27, 2010


We left Fruita this morning and headed west. The first hour or so we drove through a lot of dense fog. It was strange how we could see the clouds as we entered and exited them. Once we got off the interstate and headed more south towards Moab, the fog disappeared and the huge canyon walls appeared. We felt like we were in a small Grand Canyon for much of the drive--especially since we were driving along the Colorado River.

We stopped at Fisher Tower, a very famous (and super hard!) rock climbing area. The spires were incredible.

After many photos, we hit the road for Moab. We passed the area where we camped in 2007 when we visited Arches. Today, though, we kept driving to Canyonlands National Park.

The canyons carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers were very impressive and incredibly expansive. The camera can hardly do it justice.

All day we were intrigued by some snow-capped mountains to the east. We're still debating if they were Utah's LaSal Mountains or Colorado's San Juans.

As the sun was setting, we drove back to Moab but decided to keep going all the way to Cortez, Colorado. Unfortunately, it seems that we are going to have to cut our trip short as another winter storm is on its way. Though it would be nice to be stuck in the mountains (say at Telluride :-) for a few days, we do need to get back to Boulder so Dan is ready to start his new job on Monday. Plus, driving through two feet of snow doesn't sound like that much fun anyway.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Colorado National Monument

After another waffle breakfast we left Gunnison and headed west. The road travels along a river that is dammed in two places, forming the huge Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Morrow Point Reservoir.

We stopped at the second dam near the town of Cimarron to check out the part of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison -- a different part than when we were there in 2007. It was still cold in the morning (not yet the predicted 45 degrees), so our hike turned into a bit of a trail run.

We continued through Montrose towards Grand Junction, and turned off towards Colorado National Monument for some more hiking. Just inside the south entrance to the park we took a trail to the Devil's Kitchen and played on the rocks for a while.

Our next stop was the Ute Canyon trail. This is considered a "backcountry" trail within the park, but it was no problem to follow. The entire trail is 7 miles one way, so our intent was not to round-trip it (since it was already 1:30pm). Instead our goal was to just get into the valley, check out what the bottom of Colorado National Monument looks like, and check out the Fallen Rock that we had seen on our previous trip.

We ended up going about 3 miles and got just about to the mouth of the canyon. Unfortunately we didn't have a topo map with us, so we didn't know how close we were. It would have been neat to get to that point and look down another 500 vertical feet to the next level.

The weather was not sunny and 40s as forecast. Instead it was snowy, humid, and cold. Tomorrow should be better.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ski Crested Butte

Christmas morning we got up, made yummy waffles at the hotel, and then drove north to Crested Butte.

We skied all day on groomed trails. We tried hard to find bumps and powder, with some success, but we learned quickly why this was the "Corduroy Capital of Colorado."

It was another fun, sunny day, but we both preferred skiing at Monarch. We drove back to Gunnison for another night.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ski Monarch

Friday morning we left Boulder headed for Gunnison and Crested Butte. However, on the way we realized that we would pass the Monarch Ski Area. We skied Monarch back in February 2007 on our way back from ice climbing in Ouray.

Anyway, we skied Monarch all day Friday. It was awesome! I spent most of the time on black diamonds! Woohoo! Then we drove to Gunnison and had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wonderland Lake walk

We went for a walk near Wonderland Lake today. While still on the main trail, we saw a coyote prowling about, probably in search of a prairie dog lunch.

An unnamed trail headed up the hogback. It looked like a traveled trail and had no closure signs, so we took it through the golden grasses. After forking off that trail and then another, we were high up on the ridge. We saw a bunch of deer sitting in the grass; two of the males sparred briefly.

We continued on trails heading north and downhill as much as possible to complete our loop, but after some time the trails either turned uphill or petered out. We weren't far from the Old Kiln trail so we cut a few hundred yards through the grass to connect with it. In total we covered just over 3 miles in about an hour.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Today we skied at Eldora. The original plan was to go to Winter Park, but the mountains have gotten so much snow in the last two days that the avalanche danger was high. So high, in fact, that they were closing route 40 to Winter Park intermittently for avalanche mitigation. We decided we didn't want to get caught in an avalanche, or mitigation traffic, so we opted for Eldora.

There was five fresh inches of heavy powder and it snowed the whole time we were there. The day was much warmer than we expected. The temps hovered around freezing and the snow got wetter as the day went on. Still, it was a great day and we had a lot of fun. Plus, we got home before it was dark!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mount Sanitas and west

Last week I was looking at some of the OSMP maps, and I noticed that the trail going up Mt. Sanitas doesn't actually go all the way to the summit! It stops at a great vista that is 800' south of the true summit and one contour line (40') lower in elevation.

Our goal today was to find the real summit and explore some unofficial trails that also appeared on the OSMP maps. There's also a higher point marked 6979', aka "Upper West Point", aka "NW Sanitas" that we thought we might be able to reach. However, after hiking towards it for a while and leaving the OSMP boundary, it appeared that the 6979 summit (behind us in the photo below) was on private property and had at least one house on top.

The unofficial trails (perhaps soon to be designated trails) were really nice -- not at all crowded like the standard Sanitas trails, and not rocky. They'll be good to run someday. We had good views to the west of Sugarloaf Mountain, southwest to the Boulder Filtration Plant near Betasso, and south to Green Mountain.

We took a trail back down to Sunshine Drive and hiked down the road half a mile before picking up a trail that paralleled the road on the other side.

It was getting dark on the way back but we managed to get back to the car before nightfall. In all we covered about 6 miles in 3:15 this afternoon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Caribou Ranch Open Space

We were going to go snowshoeing today at CROS, but once we got there and saw how little snow there was, we decided to leave the shoes in the car. It was a fun hike anyway.

Parts of the trail are along the old Switzerland Trail rail bed, so it was a pretty easy hike. We checked out an old homestead along the way that had a large meadow and barn nearby.

We continued on the loop and came to an old silver mine. There were a bunch of boarded up buildings -- a stone house for the owners, a bunkhouse for the miners, various outhouses and outbuildings. It was neat walking around the area and reading the interpretive signs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowy Flatirons

Boulder finally got some snow this week. I went for a short hike around Chautauqua on Friday.

On the drive over, I stopped by to check out the sculpture that some mystery artist deposited on some lady's front lawn. For some background, see these Daily Camera articles.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Marshall Mesa December Run

It was 60 and sunny today so I met Laurel at Marshall Mesa for a trail run. Last time we saw lots of cows and a car accident -- I brought the camera today to ensure nothing that exciting would happen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Avalanche

So, today we were back for more....avalanche training, that is. As Dan mentioned, we enrolled in a CMC/National Ski Patrol Avalanche Level 1 class. We had two nights of 4-hour lectures, yesterday's field trip and then today's all-day outing.

We drove up past Berthoud Pass to Second Creek. Here we hiked up about a mile while spending an hour at different stations. There was backcountry travel, snow pits, decision making, beacon search, and simple and complex rescue simulations. Thankfully, it was much warmer than yesterday and the wind was not quite as bad. We still didn't see the sun, but I'll take 30 degrees with wind over 16 degrees with wind any day.

Overall, it was a good day and a great course. We learned a lot and hopefully we will never be caught in an avalanche or will never have to rescue anyone from one.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Avalanche school, that is. We had two long nights of instruction this week, have been reading for homework, and today had our first field day at St. Mary's Glacier.

First, the weather. It was cold, windy, and snowing. At times visibility was less than 100'. The high was 16°F but with the wind chill was -8°F. In the morning it must have been even cooler.

We did some decision making exercises, practiced searching with beacons, dug snow pits to analyze the snowpack, and practiced probing and digging for victims. (The "victims" were buried pieces of clothing or 1'x1' plywood.)

Very enlightening. It's hard to imagine actually finding someone (in time) who was buried in an avalanche without a beacon. Even with beacons, you first have to find a signal, which could require scanning a large area depending on the size of the slide. Trying to track a signal, probe, or dig on a slope adds to the challenge.

Day two is tomorrow at Berthoud Pass... if the roads stay open. The avalanche report looks pretty bad given all the new snow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cross Country Skiing

I went skiing up at Brainard Lake today. I skied the South CMC Ski Trail to Brainard Lake. I picked up another trail south of the lake at the junction with the Little Raven Trail. At the Niwot Mountain picnic area I found the Niwot Cutoff Trail. I took it up to Long Lake where the wind really started to blow.

I got back in the trees and took the Pawnee Pass Trail back to the parking lot/trailhead. I skied on the road for a bit and then made my way up to the cabin. Unfortunately, no one was up there, so no hot chocolate for me. I skied back on the Waldrop Trail for a 4-hour approximately 6 mile trip.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I made Laurel a pair of huaraches from materials she ordered from

Using a drill instead of a hole punch didn't really work that well, but I managed with help from a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

Now she's gotta figure out how she wants to tie them.