02 December 2008

The Night of the Mountain Lions

Bill & I were coming home after a Utah canyoneering trip. I was driving Bill's Forerunner when this lion jumped in front of me. I didn't even have a chance to brake. After a lot of noises and bouncing lion, I could finally stop. We ran back up I-70 to check on the lion and pull if off the road if it was dead. Bill waved the flashlight to ward off traffic when I realized I didn't have the time to test the deadness factor. The traffic was scary close and scary fast. I grabbed the hind legs and pulled the sucker off the road. Luckily it didn't even raise it's head. What a beautiful animal! And oh my, the paws were huge.

Unfortunately this beautiful animal was going to cause us a lot of pain. This incident occurred on I-70 between Georgetown and the Eisenhower tunnel. We got back to the car and checked out the front end. Antifreeze was draining down the road. Much of the bumper and steel supporting structure was gone. The steering components and skid plate were also busted up. Of course I don't have a cell phone and Bill's ran out of juice as we were deciding who to call.

After 1/2 hour, a couple of state troopers pulled up, looked over the cat and took our story down. They also called a tow shop in Idaho Springs. The rest of the story involves the mysterious lost car key, the story of Idaho Springs resident, Scott Lancaster, who was killed by a lion back in 1991 and how the $5500 car damages will be paid for. I finally got home at 1:30am instead of 9:30pm.

Oh .. and to top it off ... on the way back to Boulder, I saw 2 more lions crossing the road North of the aggregate plant on Rt 93. In the last 9 years, I've seen 2 lions. Now in one night, I see 3 more lions. It was surely the NIGHT OF THE MOUNTAIN LIONS ...

02 October 2008

Boating the Colorado - West of Loma

This was a great trip between Loma, CO (map) and Westwater, UT (map). We had a two nights on the river. The kids had a riot in camp and in the boats and sometimes just swimming. The picture to the left captures Julia and Garett paddling. Suprisingly they even look sychronized.

Thanks to Chris & Bob for the boats and to Chris for setting things up and organizing the equipment.

Slideshow is here! Pics are here!

30 September 2008

Crestone Music Festival

Crestone is a pretty special place for music. The music could suck, which it didn't, and it would still be great! We were there for day 2 of 3 and saw Eileen Ivers and others.

Mia was just getting over her plantar fasciitis and blew her foot out on the first dance. Imagine the disabled (me) helping a cripple to the health center .. Mia wouldn't let me toss her over me shoulder. She had to hop! It was like a 3 legged race at a county fair.

More pics here!

24 July 2008

Chalk Creek Pass and a Marmot

After climbing at Monitor Rock and a stop at Princeton Resort Hot Springs we looked for a camp up Chalk Creek. All four National Forest camps had signs out - Campground Full. Luckily we don't need any smoky official campground to stay in. We headed higher and passed St. Elmo, an old mining town. We took the junction toward Hancock Lake. After many bumps, we started to find sites but they were taken. I was the master camp finder and not worried but it was getting late! I found a side road and put the truck into 4x4 for a bumpy but worthwhile cruise to one of the best campsites of recent memory. Certainly the best of this year. The picture shows us at timberline, about 11,500 ft. with a little receding sunlight. It doesn't get much better.

The next day we hiked up Chalk Creek Pass. A visitor suprised us at lunch. It hesitantly approached as Julia shot pictures. She captured the marmot pretty well, I'd say.

One more amazing thing we saw is a collapsing mining structure. This thing was just about to fall on the road! See this and other pics here!

22 July 2008

A day hike to 12,316

Julia wanted a story. So I told a story about Rebecca, the miner's daughter, all the way to the summit. The story revolved around an old miner and a harmonica. Of course, the miner taught her how to play it. We took a wrong turn so we didn't see Rebecca's cabin, though. I've seen it in the past on ski tours. We'll have to do another hike to find it or maybe a ski tour when Julia gets older, as it's a tough descent.

The summit, 12,316, is in the background of the picture here.
Beautiful day. Lot's of green but not like the green we experienced on our recent trip to Bavaria. It felt great to get high again. Colorado mountains are good too! Peak 12,316 is just south of Vasquez Peak between Berthoud Pass and Jones Pass.

More pics here!

21 June 2008

Cuenca and the exit from Spain.

Cuenca's old center bristles with medieval buildings perched above the deep gorges surrounding the town. The hanging houses, casas colgadas, are architecturally unique. They date from the 16th century and hang out high above the river below.

Cuenca (map) was a fun town to stroll around. Lot's of old buildings and even gargoyles to look at. I wish I had this door at home. More Cuenca pics here!

Later, on the outskirts of Madrid, we found a hotel near the airport. Hotels near airposts are expensive but we found one that was reasonable. It was the fanciest hotel we've stayed at - and the toilet had 2 buttons. One for a big flush (left button). One for a small flush (right button). Not the first time I've seen this in Europe but the first time I thought - Why can't we do this in the Western US (where water is precious?)

Madrid's Barajas airport's rental car return was a nightmare. We missed what turned out to be the only road to return the rental car. We spent spent the next hour trying to find our way back. There was only one road and you had to hit the master combination! The trick - Stay right and don't commit to a right turn until you see the small orange sign.

Spain was fun and such a huge, beautiful country .. we'll be back.

Montanejos & beyond

1. Julia climbing at Montanejos, 2. Cliffs above the gorge, 3. Yikes, I think there's a reason for the NO TRESPASSING sign. Let's get out of here!, 4. Puebla de Arenosa above Montanejos, 5. Double aqueducts in an amazing location, 6. An aqueduct that was

Montanejos is a cool little town perched on the side of a hill. There's paved paths all over town. They are well used - especially to get to the warm springs. We stayed at the Rifugio at the base of a canyon. Climbs were just a short walk from here.

West of town is an amazing water project (#3 above). I haven't seen anything like this. Here's another pic which has a link to the corresponding satellite view.

Leaving Montanejos, we traveled the small and windy road towards Cuenco (the next post). Incredible scenery on the way - note the 2 lower pics above.

More Montanejos pictures here!

18 June 2008

The Mystery of Peniscola's Castle

We could have spent the trip climbing and exploring inland above Tarragona but we needed to see more of Spain. We drove South along the coast. The destination was Peñiscola which had a castle from the 14th century jutting above the old town.

First a little swimming was in order. We had learned that the spanish beaches are crazy busy with no parking so we scanned the map for road near the coast without a beach. We found a little cove where the waves wouldn't pulverize us against the rocks. Note the old town of Peñiscola in the background with the castle above it. Here's a close up satellite view of the castle. The castle was/is very defensible from the Mediterranean side as well as from land.

After swimming we found our way through the old town to the castle. It was a maze. It seemed like they wanted to keep people away from the castle. Even Papa Luna (Pope Benedict) seemed to be waving us away. As we entered the castle I wondered if an airborne virus had wiped out all the tourists. The place was eerily empty. There was no one but us. It was great but a little suspicious. We entered room after room and finally found the dungeons. Still no people but we found a human skeleton in an iron cage .. then we saw a knight templar (picture / wikipedia) hiding in the shadows. Did we walk thru a time warp? Yikes!

Once our eyes adjusted, we realized we were in a ... museum. And yes, the curator was at a desk in the next room and very much alive. Mystery solved. No airborne virus, no wayback machine to the 14th century. No need for me to break out my superhero costume ..

More Peñiscola shots here!

17 June 2008

La Mussara - the wind, the history, the climbing

We arrived at La Mussara in the clouds. We drove past the refugio to the ruins and had to backtrack. The ruins were cloaked in clouds. If we weren't tired and worried about a place to stay, we would have taken some pictures of the clouds swirling around the turret and broken stone walls.

We set up a tent at the refugio and had a great dinner there. Why cook when the food is good and relatively cheap? We climbed at a couple of the La Mussara TV crags. Nice view of the Mediterranean sea from the crags. We climbed there 2 days. It was wild to watch & feel the moisture laden clouds rolling in every afternoon. The temps dropped and it turned cold - even in the hut during dinner.

The ruins were pretty special and trails wound down the mountainside to villages 3000 ft below. The rest of our La Mussara pics are here!

What did I miss? Oh yeah, the endless windy roads getting to La Mussara from Rodellar. As the hours wore on, I pushed the speeds and the shifting on the mountain roads. It was fun until Julia let me know that all was not good. She puked on everything nearby in the backseat. Poor girl. She was a good sport though. We also went to the Med near Tarragona. It was fun swimming where we went but we drove throught the tourist area on the way back. It was uncomfortably crazy full of tourists. Back to the refugio we went.

14 June 2008

Rained out in Rodellar

We arrived in Rodellar, Spain excited but exhausted. Staying awake while driving from the Madrid airport was tough - except for the part where the police pulled me over for an alchohol test. If they would have known, they would not have pulled me over. They gave me a little plastic thing. I looked at him and asked if it was a kazoo. I blew one direction, then flipped it over. No sound in the other direction either. Looking serious now, he shook his head as he struggled to pull something off his belt. Finally he motioned I should put my device in the hole of this instrument he held. The hole was too small. I shrugged. He sighed. He motioned I should flip it over. Then the kazoo fit nicely. Finally, it dawned on the jetlagged driver, me, that this was an breathalyzer test - not a test of geometry. It took a couple of tries before I understood that the policeman was after duration - not pressure. Finally he waved me away with a shake of his head.

We arrived in Rodellar in shaky weather which turned worse. The campground served great food but was suprised we wanted it before 10pm. When we said early was fine, we were still served at 10pm. We found this was normal even if they spoke English - which was rare. It rained that night and the next day. We could have slept well except for the canyoneering groups partying. We finally had a talk with the closest group at 3am. They were still drinking. I was in a fighting mood. Mia was more diplomatic though and told them to go to beddy-bye. It appears that basic canyoneering in Spain is like frisbee in the U.S. - a fun thing to do but little commitment required. Canyon trailheads, which start in town, are well signed with maps, descriptions, equipment lists, rope length and self administered breathalyzer testing equipment etc. This is sort of cool, especially being able to drop into the canyons from a beautiful town. What a place to live!

We took a beautiful hike in the rain the next day. As we headed back out of the canyon at 1pm, we saw the canyoneering groups stumbling in. (They must have skipped the self administered breathalyzer test. hah!) The Pyrenees forecast was bleak and we only had a week in Spain, so we headed toward the coast - toward La Mussara.

More Rodellar pictures here!

10 June 2008

Obituary of my Prosthetic Foot

I was running back to the cave, with headlamps for the kids. I hear the sound of a gunshot coming from the ground. Everyone looked at me as I looked at my foot. I had a strong suspicion that it was not a gunshot but a catastropic failure of my Vari-flex carbon fiber foot. I took a tentative step and confirmed my foot was a goner. It had lived a long life and handled a lot of shit. 8-1/2 years is a pretty good life I'd guess.

Without further ado, here is my maximally delaminated foot. Luckily I had an old backup in the truck.

09 June 2008

Spring in Dinosaur National Monument

We've been to Dinosaur National Monument before but this trip was special. Maybe it was because it had been a long, cold winter and spring had not really taken hold .. The air was crisp. The flowers were abundant and the cloud shadows made for special views. Without a further attempt at inadequate prose, here's the Yampa River in full flood conditions. The Green River is making an entrance from the left. The confluence is near but out of sight.

Most of the following flower pictures were taken on the Sound of Silence trail - a nice 3 mile loop.

It was a great trip with the Coopers. Jessica and Julia have so much fun playing together. I'd really like to spend some time exploring here. So much to check out - especially off the beaten path. The last day my foot broke but that's another post.

The full set of pictures are here!

04 June 2008

The Department Mascot - Our Scorpion

Once upon a time, I came back from a Utah trip with a scorpion - actually 2 scorpions and a huge, scary looking bug. The bug ate one of the scorpions - or maybe the scorpion escaped ... not a good thought.

Our department definitely needed a mascot. The scorpion was perfect. I put it in a terrarium and brought it in. From the start, the scorpion was "under-appreciated". While I thought it was the coolest mascot on the planet, my marketing job must not have been so great. A few people thought it was sort of cool but no one was ... really excited. I kept up my marketing job though and showed everyone that walked by my office. The word spread to the upper echelons of management as I stepped up my marketing job. We needed a cool mascot, right?

Finally our 3rd level manager, Lori Shaw, stopped by to see it. My manager, Diane McGinty, seemed to be ok with it. If Lori was cool, I might be able to keep it but this was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Mascot be damned. Mischievousness is 2nd nature to me so ..

Lori walked in and I displayed the terrarium w/ a sweep of my hand. Yep, our mascot is in there somewhere. Probably sleeping at this time of day. Let me see if I can find Mr. Scorpion. I looked this way and that way but I couldn't find the little guy. Finally I stood up, stepped back, looked at Lori, looked at the floor and pointed at her feet as I quickly jumped back and yelled "SCORPION". She jumped into the aisle as I roared out in laughter. She was a good sport and quickly recovered with a better appreciation of my humor or lack thereof.

A little before my fun stunt with Lori, I started hearing grumbling from my colleagues. Nothing direct but word got around. The word was 'Thumbs down' on the mascot. Just like in the Roman coliseums but the gladiator - our mascot - wouldn't stand a chance amoung the discord. I think it was Jim Logan, my 2nd level manager, who gave the final Thumbs Down. I relented and drove the little guy home as he wagged his stinger around and cried - "I was only trying to help". That was about the time when the shit hit the fan and our project & products were sold to CSG Systems. Oh, if we had only kept the magical mascot ..

For the record, this instance of "once upon a time" was autumn 1997.

27 May 2008

Rafting the Colorado - Downstream of Kremmling

Jaimie, Brianna and Ben-Ben invited us to on a raft trip near Kremmling. Down the Colorado River we went! Lots of fun. I might have to get those canoes from Dad.

More pics HERE!

20 May 2008

Rappelling Off a Wedged Pebble

This was one of our blitz weekend trips to Utah. The Haaland & Wood families brought their kids, Emma and Garett. Bob also brought his dog, Jupiter, which quickly stole my headlamp off the tailgate and it didn't stop there. Let's just say the the weekend was great .. otherwise!

We did the North Fork of No Man's Canyon on Saturday while Chris hiked with the kids. The high point was the 130 foot rap off a wedged pebble. It was backed by a small hex. This was one of my first undocumented descents a number of years ago.

Sunday we did the Lost Springs Fork (LSF) of the South Fork of Robber's Roost Canyon while the girls took the kids down the north variation. We met near the junction. The LSF is a nice bang for the buck with 4 short rappels and nice downclimbing. The kids had a lot of fun chimneying down the northern variation.

13 May 2008

Snow in mid-May

A late spring snow is not that unusual but it is getting a bit late. It has been a long winter. The first picture shows Daffodils in Mia's garden. I took that picture yesterday. It was a nice mid 60 degree day. The Daffodils are peaking about 3-1/2 weeks later than usual. Click the image for the full effect.

This second image shows the same view 24 hours later. The Daffodils are buried and flattened and most of the snow has already melted.

01 May 2008

Julia's 6th Birthday

Julia scored BIG on the dresses from her grandparents, aunt and us. I don't know why she's so much into dresses but it is what it is. Her friends gave her many fun gifts also. Take a look at that expression!

We were lucky with the weather. It was not too cold and not snowing. Good enough for whacking the pinata outside.

More pics here.

Spring Break 2008 Trip Mapped

Here's the spring break trip route through New Mexico and Texas. The main destinations are labeled. See the browseable route here or for quicker gratification, just see the static screenshot below.

28 April 2008

Heading home from 2008 Spring Break

We took the slow route from Tajique to Sante Fe - the Turquoise Trail. Beautiful country! We had to walk around old town Sante Fe. Julia bought a bracelet from an Indian woman. Lunch at the La Fonda hotel. Sante Fe is always a joy.

We headed North along the Rio Grande and camped at the Wild Rivers Scenic Area. This is a BLM area. Our camp was spectacularly perched along the cliffs lining the Rio Grande. Another day here would have been nice but .. another time.

Our last day we headed towards Fort Garland and hopefully, cheaper oil. I couldn't bear to spend more than $4 a gallon for oil that we've been seeing in New Mexico. We rolled into the Fort at 624 miles to the tank and $3.99/gallon. The San Luis Valley is always a beautiful drive.

Pictures from the trip are HERE!

24 April 2008

Military Checkpoint in New Mexico, Amerika!

I couldn't believe it! Between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, we approached what appeared to be a border crossing. Not in America! I was pissed! We were at least 60 miles from the Mexican border - not that it should matter. We waited for the car in front of clear and then it was our turn. The soldier asked if we were U.S. citizens. I said my wife was German and he waived us through. I was too stunned to complain.

What has Bush and our administration wrought? I'm damn glad that citizens have the right to bear arms because I'm worried where our government is going.

That night, we had a nice camp at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, south of Alamogordo. There's a very nice visitor center and a trail which wanders through the lush vegetation by the creek. What I really want to do is a car shuttle and walk the trail down Dog Canyon National Recreational Trail. Julia wouldn't have much fun hiking up a steep 6 miles but the downhill .. that'd be fun.

We headed north through some beautiful country, Cloudcroft, Rudioso, Carrizozo, Mountainair and then weaved through the Spanish Land Grants near and north of Manzano. We finally found a camp in a closed Cibola National Forest campground west of Tajique. On the way we explored Gran Quivira, one of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monuments. This was a real treat from the historical end. It was also fun to run around the ruins after a day in the truck. Here is Julia in a massive unfinished church.

We were relieved, at the end of the day, to find the campground. The sun was down and it was getting cold. Everything is closed at this time of year. The gate was open on this one. We stayed at a nice site without snow and roasted marshmellows.

14 April 2008

Last Chance Canyon and on to Texas

The camp and trailhead to Last Chance canyon was high for these parts - near 7000 ft. There were icicles hanging off the Junipers and Pinyons as we set up camp. It cleared in the night when the wind came. The wind was constant after that but it did warm up nicely. Especially down in the canyon. Tendonitis forced me into belay duty. Climbing was good though. We'll be back.

After a couple days at Last Chance canyon, we moved on to the North Entrance of Guadalupe Mountain National Park. There were three other campers. The next morning, the others left leaving us. Imagine being alone in a National Park! Well there was one ranger .. Beautiful place. I'd like to do some backpacking here in the future.

After a hike, we drove through El Paso Gap to Dell City. As can be seen from this picture of the local school, it is a remote & dry region. We ended up at Hueco Tanks State Park (official site, climbing site), a mecca for bouldering. Even w/ my arm, I had to get on the rock a bit. FUN! This place is like a candy store. Here's a shot of Mia. Julia liked the bouldering too. We stayed at the park campground for a beautifully warm night w/ nice views across the valley. We drove by the private climber's camp on our way out. If you're really into the spray & beta scene it might be worth staying there but it's basically a dirt pile.

After bouldering, we headed into El Paso for the cultural experience. Quite a difference to look across the Rio Grande into Mexico. We had reached the apex of our journey South. From here, it was North for us.

11 April 2008

Easter, miserable weather and the CAVE

We camped East of Carlsbad Caverns NP in a somewhat desolate but warm desert basin. The weather didn't look promising but that was ok. It was Easter Eve! Julia & I explored while Mia cooked dinner.

I told Julia there were caves under our feet - as indeed there was. I had been here 10 years ago and w/ directions from a ranger camped next to a cave. After 10 years, I couldn't find the cave but we knew it was there.

I could see the weather move in overnight. Wind and cold with a light drizzle. It was going to be heck for the easter bunny to hide the eggs. Mia prodded the easter bunny out of bed in the morning. Twenty minutes later, a frozen bunny stumbled back in bed. Mission accomplished! Soon after, the easter egg hunt began. Here's a shot of Julia showing off her take (out of the wind, of course.)

We couldn't think of a better day for being in a cave. Carlsbad Cavern it would be. The drive up was spectacular at this time of year. Flowers were everywhere. It seemed like a lot of people thought a rainy Easter was a good day to be in a cave. Looking at the people milling about was interesting. Many men had a white forehead capping a tan, weather worn face. Cowboying is still a staple down here. These guys were lean from work, too. Also interesting were other lean men paired with women in pioneer dresses. The woman had there hair in buns and wore simple hat. Even more interesting were that these caucasians spoke Spanish!

We walked down the natural entrance into the cave. This is so wild as the trail drops and drops as it finally enters the blackness. Cliff swallows flittered about until the cave became dark. The cave was magnificent, of course.

08 April 2008

Starting our Quest for Sun

Now that Julia is in kindergarden, our schedules are dictated by the school system. It has been, and still is, a long winter. Spring break, hopefully, means a sunny week long vacation.

Friday night saw us camping in Mills Canyon Campground, a bit West of Mills, New Mexico. Mills apparently has a population of 3 residences. The drive to and from the campground winds around a nice looking windmill. The road to the Canadian River Canyon was under construction so we'll have to check that out another trip. The canyon's history makes it sound like it's worth a visit .. especially when we have time to poke around. Maybe when we're retired. In any case, it was a water freezing cold night. Our quest for sun was successful. Now we needed warmth!

A bit cold for milk and cereal, we headed to Roy hoping it was big enough for a breakfast joint. As is the case with many rural western town, it's in dire need of love before it drys up and blows away. There was a restaurant of sorts. It seemed like the locals were helping the owner/ cook/ waitress to keep it running since occasionally someone would get up from their table to run the coffee pot around or take an order and drop it back in the kitchen. Keeping a restaurant alive is was a high priority for Roy (map, writeup). Interestingly, one of Roy's exports is CO2. That's right. Carbon Dioxide is mined for use in enhancing oil recovery.

We drove South through some amazingly remote country with a few large ranches too far off the road to see. Want to escape from civilization? This is where you want to come.

More to come.

09 March 2008

Two teeth down

One tooth came out and before I could get a picture the 2nd one followed it. Getting a good picture of missing teeth is tough. Finally as one tooth is coming up, I threw down a last ditch effort and wa-la. Here's another.

17 January 2008

Julia's skiing in the trees

Tom said - I'll see you on the slopes, Julia.
Julia, with a gleam in her eye, replied - You'll have to look in the trees because that's where I'll be.

Those who ski, know that trees are tough - especially at 5 years old. What are we creating?

16 January 2008

Julia's first, and 2nd, sleep over

Julia has this really good friend from school, Alexandra. It was Christmas break and everyone - especially Julia and Alexandra - thought it was time for sleep overs. Julia went first at Alexandra's house. The next night Alexandra came to our place. The kids were great - and actually slept pretty good once they fell asleep. Here's another picture.

I don't know what it is with girls and clothes ... In the picture here, Alexandra is wearing Julia's jammies and Julia is wearing Alexandra's jammies.