Written by SeenThat on 29 Jul, 2006
In my way out of Denver, expecting another string of delays, I decided to continue writing the spooks story I began writing on the way to town. It had proven to be an amusing and effective pastime and my expected arrival at 2:35am to Santa…Read More
In my way out of Denver, expecting another string of delays, I decided to continue writing the spooks story I began writing on the way to town. It had proven to be an amusing and effective pastime and my expected arrival at 2:35am to Santa Fe, would provide an attractive setup for its end.
My few obligations in Denver were over, and after the much-awaited farewell, I was sitting in an almost empty bus, waiting for it to get filled. My imagination raced. Where would the counterintelligence professionals place themselves within the bus to comfortably watch over the protagonist? Most probably across and behind him. What would make then invisible? I could make them a young couple, not too attractive, and in love. How would my protagonist disclose them? He could photograph them and watch their reactions...
The bus left a few minutes before 7pm, less than 10 minutes late, almost full and with an air conditioner operating strongly enough to frighten polar bears. Thus, while holding the passengers unable to protest due to our trembling mouths, the driver announced that the next meal stop would be in Albuquerque, an hour after my leaving the bus in Santa Fe. However, by now considering myself well prepared to confront Greyhound oddities, I couldn't but congratulate myself for having prepared basic survival goods for at least a couple of days. You never know with them. A bag of fruits and snacks, bottled water, a thermos of coffee and an almost empty notebook promised salvation under most vicissitudes.
While writing in my notebook the former paragraphs, I noticed such a couple in the anticipated location and amused moved to one of the seats in the back of the bus. Would they follow? Would they enter the restrooms to make inconspicuous phone calls regarding my protagonist's moves? Or maybe to check if there was a message written with some invisible ink? The thoughts warmed me up and a coffee out of my thermos completed the job.
At 20:15 we stopped at Colorado Springs greyhound terminal for a bit over 10 minutes and then for 20 minutes—despite the announced 10—in Pueblo almost an hour later. My couple left here, and left me without material for my story.
Suddenly, at 22:11, the bus stopped at such a speed that the driver had difficulties to control the bus. He began moving between the seats, openly sniffing the passengers' heads. He left me for a few seconds wondering about the unexpected exposure of local oddities, when he picked up a passenger who was smoking and invited him to a motivation talk outside the bus. Moments later, he called his neighbor. Both returned to their seats with a mere warning and we left.
Twenty minutes before midnight, we stopped at Raton, the northern entrance to New Mexico for a few minutes. After 02:30am, I was left alone at Santa Fe's terminal and the hot weather melted the coffee in my thermos in a matter of minutes.
Written by SeenThat on 28 Jul, 2006
Oakland's Greyhound terminal resembles an aquarium, slightly round with many glass doors and a few of those ubiquitous video cameras in America watching over citizens. In my hour-long wait for the bus there, I began writing a short spooks story taking part in the place.…Read More
Oakland's Greyhound terminal resembles an aquarium, slightly round with many glass doors and a few of those ubiquitous video cameras in America watching over citizens. In my hour-long wait for the bus there, I began writing a short spooks story taking part in the place. I could imagine the American counterintelligence attempting to thwart a dead drop, or approaching a passenger and trying to tempt him or her to tell some dark, maybe inexistent, secret. A sudden voice over the speakers awaked me and told me it was time to leave the East Bay.After boarding quickly, we left on time, and, still susceptible after my writing, I thought that someone in Greyhound had read my journal's entries about their service and decided to do something about that. Soon, that was proved to be wishful thinking.We crossed Emeryville and Berkeley, continued over the northern East Bay settlements and after crossing a huge bridge and Vallejos, we were on the countryside, speeding eastwards.A few minutes before 3pm, we arrived to Sacramento and Greyhound matched its reputation. The driver announced that due to something, we would be staying an extra hour in Sacramento. Finishing that, he parked the bus in a dark parking place and shut off the air conditioner, thus hinting he didn't want us in the bus for the next eighty minutes.Seizing the opportunity to explore a new town in my list, I walked into the scorching sun and soon, the invariant attempt of American Suburbia to feel different disclosed itself: here it was in the form of a perfect grid with streets numbered in one direction and lettered in the other. Q corner 6th makes a perfect sense as an address here.However, the sun convinced me to search for a shelter, and pretty soon I located the Westfield Shopping Town at the Downtown Plaza. The big place was decorated with attractive and colorful statues and I soon settled down at the crowded and small Starbucks for a dose of inspiration. The set was right and my story advanced at a surprising pace. "Let's test the suspect in our territory," said master spook A to B and arranged an artificial delay somewhere. A web was set and while carefully moving my protagonist through it, I found myself in danger of missing the bus.We left next to four and an hour later, the landscape turned from an urban one into a lush forest of dark greens and we began a rapid ascent and in half an hour we reached almost 2000m above the sea level. A bit later, the beautiful Donner Lake and Peak appeared at our right; some snow was still visible on the peak. At 18:30 we saw the Welcome to Nevada sign, but the rush hour delayed our arrival to the nearby Reno almost forty minutes. The gambling sites were prominent and lured me into changing my story into one about a laundering money operation; paper suffers anything.Reno wasn't a good place for dinner, the terminal lacked facilities, except for a tired vending machine offering bad coffee for three quarters. Reversing the historical trail, we advanced east and stopped for yet another coffee at a place called Winnemucca, around 22:30. Some of the passengers, maybe those belonging to my story or maybe those from another one, preferred to spend the short break at the gambling machines occupying much of the store.An hour later, we stopped for a meal at Battle Mountain in a place called Winner's Corner Convenience Store; the name hinted to the nearby casino, which from the kitty corner looked inactive. The driver seemed happy to have a big, hot and unidentifiable sandwich; the only other options for a hot meal were the languid Piccadilly's Pizzas.Effectively ruining the opportunity to sleep continuously, in an apparently old interrogators' trick, we stopped at 3am at Wendover and stared for a while at the gambling machines until the driver decided to complete the last leg of the trip and continue toward Salt Lake City, Utah, where we arrived a bit before 7am, counting by the new time zone.A flat city surrounded by attractive mountains at one side and a salt covered terrain on the other, I stayed enough to survive a metal detector check before boarding the next bus to Denver, my final destination. In my spooks story, by now occupying a significant part of my notebook, an inept counterintelligence agent was fooled by my protagonist into boarding a different bus and disappeared forever. A bit before 7:30am we left and began traveling along a narrow valley surrounded by gray rocks and low, but very green, vegetation.At a quarter to nine, we stopped for a thirty minutes breakfast at the Evarston Junction with Highway 80, and were formally announced we were in Wyoming. Those who hadn't managed to eat enough, had a second option at Rock Springs, some eighty minutes later. Thirty minutes are a long time while the only possible activity is to walk around a Mc Donald's branch, thus, spiritually broken, I stepped inside and bought a cup of coffee. However, the local humor was evident in the signs; one place advertised "Pasta with Altitude" and another was called "Outlaw Inn."Afterwards, we stopped at Rawlins, Laramie and Fort Collins, all that across an endless plateau wet with refreshing rain. Around 17:30, the bus entered Denver's Greyhound terminal, after a victorious and dramatic fight against the local rush-hour. And my spooks story was almost forgotten until, a couple of days later, it was time to leave Denver. Close
Written by enauman on 24 Jun, 2005
South Fork Trail was said to be beautiful. We turned onto Seedhead Road. I was wary now, at 7am in the morning, of other deer bounding up in front of me. On Route 129, I nearly had a doe as a hood…Read More
South Fork Trail was said to be beautiful. We turned onto Seedhead Road. I was wary now, at 7am in the morning, of other deer bounding up in front of me. On Route 129, I nearly had a doe as a hood ornament and she passed inches within of our car. Luckily, we missed her, but we were jumpy now. We turned onto Seedhead Road and Dave was watching. I rounded a curve on the Elk River and there was a long, wide swathe of sagebrush on the right. Dave yelled and said, "Two deer on the right!" I instantly braked. What we didn’t see was a third one that was down below us and he popped up right in front of the car. I couldn’t believe it! All three deer ran quickly across the road for higher ground. I just shook my head. Two close calls--but this second one, because we were on guard, didn’t even begin to compare to the first meeting.
I was so glad to get to South Fork and put on my hiking gear that it wasn’t even funny. There was a large meadow, flower strewn, ahead of us, and white-barked, spindly aspen in the distance. The day smelled young, fresh, and earthy. I hoped we would meet a deer--a third chance encounter--and this time, I’d have my camera ready. It was early in the day, and the deer were finishing up their eating and going home to sleep throughout the day.
The moment we started through the wide, lush meadow I found prairie smoke (Geum trifolium), her cute little pink heads popping up out of the grass, then deers ears. How appropriate. They are a white flower with green speckles on a towering spike that can reach nearly 10 feet tall when they are mature. Things got even better when we climbed the wide, smooth beginner’s trail into the Aspen groves. On top, we found a lovely purple-and-white Colorado columbine, the state flower. Farther, we found a small pond. And in that pond was spatterdock, or what is known as yellow pond lily. That was a find! We got eaten up by mosquitoes to get these photos!
The trail, this time, was wide and fairly smooth, nothing like Fish Creek Trail. We went 1,500 feet gradient over 3.32 miles. We hiked halfway around a mountain that was 9,800 feet tall at its base. Up on top, we found a beautiful, small lake with a beaver house at one end of it. The view from up there was spectacular! We at lunch and gave gifts of Fritos, cookies, and some of our sandwich to the spirit of the area. There are plenty of little chipmunks around who will find the fare sooner rather than later.
Coming back down, we detoured down a hill to the Elk River. There, in a small, muddy area where a tiny trickle of water winded through, were all kinds of butterflies! There where white-and-black swallowtails, yellow and black ones, painted ladies, and a dazzling blue butterfly. I spend many minutes and probably 50 photos to catch them or hope for a couple of good shots out of all of them.
All the way back, we had butterflies, deer and butterflies. Deer symbolize emotions and intuition, learning to be graceful and in sync with the world. Butterflies were always a sign of transformation. Yes, we almost had transformation out on that highway at 7 this morning! I saw by the astrology of the day that the moon was square with Mars at 7:30am, so that’s a ripe aspect for accidents. We damn near had one. Fortunately, we got lifted out of time, things slowed down, and the doe was allowed to live another day. It wasn’t her time to go, nor was it ours. I love how our guides for all of us interceded to make that sure accident did not happen. It was a magical day.
We hiked 6.75 miles today, and our knees and feet weren’t pounded into hamburger, as they were on the Fish Creek Trail. But then, South Fork is a beginner’s trail, and Fish Creek is rated the highest as "difficult." We arrived back into town to eat at the Egg and I for lunch. I had a tuna melt drizzled with sharp cheddar cheese and wolfed it down. Then I went shopping for some last-minute gifts for friends and family. That’s always fun. Of course, I bought something for myself, too.
Dave got up at 6am, and we wanted to be on the Mad Creek trailhead by no later than 7:30am, because it was reaching 85°F to 87°F daily, and at 7,000 feet, the sun is brutally hot at high altitude. In Arizona, you…Read More
Dave got up at 6am, and we wanted to be on the Mad Creek trailhead by no later than 7:30am, because it was reaching 85°F to 87°F daily, and at 7,000 feet, the sun is brutally hot at high altitude. In Arizona, you always got up at 5 in the morning and worked until about 1pm and then, like the smart reptiles, went and hid in the shade and did nothing until the heat broke for the day around 5pm. We decided that since the forecast is in the high 80s all this week, we’ll be on our "Zonie" schedule.
I packed a lunch and off we went north of Steamboat Springs at 7am. It was in the high 30s as we pulled into the trailhead. The Mad Creek was rushing, pounding, and racing nearby. Now, I see why it is called "mad" - we found out it is a 5 creek (creek of no return if you ask me – the water is swift, with a huge current, huge boulders, and nothing but white water).
We no sooner got on the wide, well-kept, but steep, trail, and I had photos of flowers to take. Of course, the salsify, a yellow flower, was still closed up tight because it doesn’t open until the sun’s rays grace her face. We were in deep shade as we stopped, clicked, and walked a few more feet. The Mad Creek was always on our right, always pounding, roaring, and plunging through the narrow canyon that our trail traversed among the sage brush and bushes at lower altitude, and later, oak trees (scrub), and then, pine and white-barked quaking Aspen groves. On the way up, we saw Hawk Rock, a huge, gray-granite rock on the side of our trail. I had to take a photo because it looks EXACTLY like a hawk head. It’s pretty cool stuff.
We wanted the Swamp Hike because I was hoping to find some rare mountain orchids in the seeps or near the water courses. It was 2.5 miles up into the area where the swamp was located. There were some mosquitoes, and they all went for Dave. Luckily, he had on long sleeves and his hat this time!
The air was cool, the sky a bright cerulean color, and the pines dark and thrusting upward along the steep walls of the canyon on the other side of us. I found gorgeous white evening primrose in all their glory on many slopes. There was the ever-beautiful wild rose in a variety of pink shades. The deep blue of delphinium was startling and rare between the grass and sagebrush of the lower altitude. We kept climbing and stopping and clicking. As we went higher, we saw the lighter blue flax; white, soft-looking Pussytoes; and the bright yellow of orange sneezeweed. There were plenty of chokecherry bushes, a bear’s favorite in the fall as it fattens up for the coming harsh winter.
We got to the Swamp Trail to look for orchids, which always like a water source nearby. We wanted to eat, so we went to a quaking Aspen grove in the shade, because the temperature was starting to rise and we had some food. I ate some cantaloupe to replace my fluids. At high-altitude hiking, you can lose a lot of water and not even know it. In Arizona, the same thing can happen, so we were drinking fluids, fruit or veggies, and Fritos.
As Dave rested in the shade, I scouted around the meadow for some elusive, rare orchids. I found none, but three other flowers that I couldn’t identify, but did photograph. We could always hear the roar of the Mad Creek, which wasn’t far away. Veratrum album, or Hellebore, is a highly poisonous plant. The huge, leafy, and tall plants were in the seeps and muddy, grassy flat. I was hunting for one that was blooming. There were hundreds of them, and some had buds, but no flowers. We'd hiked 3.5 miles, and that would be a round trip of 7 miles, which was plenty for a good day's hike.
We did detour on the way back to a small path that led right down to the turbulent, roaring Mad Creek. I found a Hellebore in bloom! Wow, was I happy! Dave lay on a rock in the sun, eye closed, like an old turtle warming up.
The temperature was climbing rapidly now, and the trail, which had been about 50% in the shade coming in, was 95% in the sun now. As you get older, you don’t handle heat stress like you can when you’re younger. I found deer's ears, or what is known as the monument plant, a huge 7- to 10-foot tall plant when mature. The deer love to eat this plant, hence its name. It has wonderful and interesting flowers on the spike and is worthy of being photographed.
By the time we reached the parking lot at 10:30am, it was 80°F, and we headed back to Steamboat Springs. Our favorite restaurant is the Egg and I in Sunset Plaza. They have great food and are very creative, and the price is right. It is a good way to end a good day's hike and to celebrate finding deer's ears!
We arrived at Fish Creek Falls parking lot. As we emerged from our car, surrounded by evergreen-clad mountains and a pale-blue, sunless sky, we could hear the distinct roar to the Fish Creek lower falls. It was only a quarter mile walk up…Read More
We arrived at Fish Creek Falls parking lot. As we emerged from our car, surrounded by evergreen-clad mountains and a pale-blue, sunless sky, we could hear the distinct roar to the Fish Creek lower falls. It was only a quarter mile walk up a nice concrete path to the 270-foot-long falls. WOW! It was awe-inspiring. And with no one around except us at 6:40 in the morning, nothing but the sounds of nature surrounding us and this roaring, tumbling water fall that can easily compete with any other well-known waterfalls in the USA.
We went back down after taking some great shots of the falls and found trail no. 1102. This drops down to the base of the falls, crosses a footbridge, and then steeply (and I mean steep) switchbacks up the canyon. This trail climbs to the Upper Fish Creek Falls and continues onto long adventures to Long Lake at 9,800 feet. We wanted to get to at least the Upper Falls. The path was wide, but granite rocks sticking up all over the place. I’m so glad I bought my Swiss knapsack and Swiss hiking sticks with titanium points. I needed both! The path moved back and forth among the pines and brush like a sidewinder. The earth smelled sweet, moist and alive. A blue jay hackled at us and a chipmunk scurried in front of us. I was in no hurry up this ever-escalating trail because I was looking for wildflowers that I hadn’t shot yet. I found a lot of what I term UNID (unidentified flower), which means I will have to go home to my 1,000-book library and try to identify them. Sometimes I get lucky and sometimes I don’t.
Now, from the lower falls to Long Lake is 5.5 miles. It doesn’t sound like much until you realize it’s a 2,500-foot climb always upward. Some parts of the trail are wide and hard dirt. But many other parts are rocky or partly rock, or you are literally, at 8,000 feet, traversing over striped white, brown, and black granite. There was a 12-inch ledge we had to negotiate as well to get to the upper falls.
Morning around here is the time to hike from a temperature perspective, and there are NO PEOPLE are on them at 7:00am. They’re still sleeping. We had the world to ourselves. As we continued ever upward, Fish Creek, which is as wide as a river and roaring nonstop, just like Mad Creek had yesterday, was our dawn symphony. I was hoping against hope I would find an orchid today. Orchids only grow in seeps (water moving down beneath a hill or on top of it—a very muddy, moist area) or around river banks, ditches, or lakes. I knew we were going high enough, 8,800 feet, to potentially find some. And there were lots of little ditches and streams of water. At every one, we stopped and looked, with no success.
I also noticed a lot of spent glacier lilies. They resemble a tiger lily in that they have reflex petals, but they are a bright, sunny yellow. And they are very hard to find. I found lots of stems full of seeds on wilting, thick leaves, but they were all past flowering. I hoped as we climbed higher that I might get lucky.
On my pedometer that I wear, we had already walked 2.23 miles to the top of the lower Fish Creek waterfall. There, the sun came up, and at the top, before the water plunges downward, there’s a lot of spray. As the sun peeked over the mountain behind us, it hit that spray and created a rainbow of colors! Wow! I snapped about 40 shots, hoping to catch ONE photo that would show it. I haven’t seen them yet, so I don’t know, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. To be standing there beside that roaring cataract and to have the sun silently send her fingers through that spray and watch the creation of rainbow colors was simply breathtaking. What a way to start our hike up to the Upper Falls!
We climbed steadily. We went through a wondrous grove of white-barked aspen, their heart-shaped leaves dancing silently around us. It looked like a forest of white soldiers standing at attention. It was beautiful, and the bark on the trees had all kinds of black designs in them.
Fish Creek was always roaring on our left. We were traversing ridges above the canyon that contained the raging, greenish water. This water came off the snow melt and was ice-cold. Finally, we reached the bridge that crossed the creek. And then it was another 30-minute steep climb with much more granite on the trail than before. We kept huffing and climbing. We’d rest about every 10 minutes and enjoy the view from the top of the world. It was hot now at 10am, and there were a few more people and a lot of dogs on the trail.
When we finally found the Upper Fish Creek Falls, it gob-smacked us. Imagine climbing over smooth, striated, loaf-like granite rock and looking down to see this behemoth greenish-white water cascading in a roar with spray that you could feel 300 feet away. Not only that, but as we carefully made our way down the trail, I saw glacier lilies in bloom! All over the place! They were huge, healthy, and beautiful, because the spray from the waterfall kept them well supplied with fluid. Their yellow reflex petals danced with tiny pearls of water that held miniature rainbows within them. This place was Eden.
As we got closer to the waterfall, which was very short in comparison to the other one, it more than made up with power of moving millions of gallons of water along its sleek, black-granite banks. Rivulets of water ran down the gleaming ebony rocks, and the spray lifted so high in the air that you instantly got body-sprayed by it. Let me tell you, the cooling water droplets felt like heaven after sweating and hiking 2,500 feet in a blistering sun overhead. It was manna from heaven. We just stood there, opened our arms to the waterfall’s might and glory, and let it soak us, cools us down, and revive and refresh us all in the same moment.
And, best of all, at this altitude, we had sub-alpine flowers--and there’s nowhere else you can find them. I found purple mint plant, but don’t know the name of it, and mountain pussytoes, with their small, white heads looking like Q-tips sticking out of green leaves. There was teeny, tiny Alpine Sandwort, a wonderful little five-petaled, white flower that raises its head from a matt of short tufted leaves in a colony across the granite escarpment. Short, conspicuous Oregon Grape, with its bright, beaded-like yellow flowers, were here and there. And best of all were plenty of nodding Glacier Lilies to satisfy any connoisseur.
After we took dozens of photos of this incredibly powerful waterfall, we wanted to climb up above it to take some other shots. There was a seep that seemed good to look for new flowers, so we went up it instead of on the trail. Dave found shooting stars! Oh, my! That was the second flower of the day that had knocked my socks off. Shooting stars are a pretty fuchsia/pink color with reflex petals, too. They were very small, and best of all, they were in colonies. I was down on my hands and knees in the mud and water trying to take good photos of these shy beauties. I also found some pinedrops, which are bright-red stems coming out of the dried, brown pine needles, a parasite plant, in the woods at the head of the lower falls, as well. So, for me, I found three great finds in the flower world this day.
After taking photos and getting drenched one more time by that spray, we started back. Just before the bridge, I told Dave my feet hurt and I wanted to take boots/socks off and soak them in a stream to cool them down. We pulled up in the shade at a lovely little trickling stream and I did just that. This water is ice-cold. I couldn’t leave my grateful feet in that icy chill for more than 20 seconds. After doing that four times, my feet and I were smiling once again. I’m breaking in that new pair of hiking books, and to ask 10 miles of them in a 2-day period is a lot.
We finally made it to the Hot Springs area after a 4.11-mile hike. We could smell sulphur on the air in a little grotto with a granite overhang. I was slowing down because any seep or standing water could signal an orchid.…Read More
We finally made it to the Hot Springs area after a 4.11-mile hike. We could smell sulphur on the air in a little grotto with a granite overhang. I was slowing down because any seep or standing water could signal an orchid. My fondest wish was to find one and nary one on this trip. Of course, on all my other trips in the USA, I never found a terrestrial (earthbound) orchid, either. I found orchids in proliferation on hikes with Michele Burdet in the Alps of Switzerland, and they were wonderful to photograph, but none here. I was REALLY bummed out about this. Every trip, I looked forward to finding an orchid--any orchid--but nada.
We also found Shooting Stars at this grotto, so I photographed them. It was the only place on this 4.11-mile hike, one-way, that we saw. That was a find in itself!
We crested the hill, and this stone-and-redwood building stood out gracefully, and we got excited about getting in! We finally found someone, and he was walking down the road (We discovered there was a dirt road into the place. Before, we thought the only way you could reach this place was by trail--silly us). We asked if we could use the hot springs, and he said it didn’t open until 10am. It was 8:30am. I was so bummed. He also added that Thursday was their cleaning day and you could hear equipment down below us making a lot of noise.
What an absolute bummer! We glumly thanked him and found a place to sit down. I had to get my feet out of these wet socks. As I pulled off my first boot, water ran out of it. NOT a good sign. Great. I took the second one off. More water. Dave said that I did a good job of getting wet. I took off my socks and squeezed about a quarter cup of water out of each of them.
Well, our towel was going to be used to dry off my water-soaked feet. I asked Dave if he had any plastic bags in his pack. What my thinking was: dry my feet off; put on my nice, thick, dry socks; put them each into a plastic bag; and then put my soaking-wet hiking boots back on. He thought that was a creative idea, and we found one plastic bag from a store and one 1-gallon Ziploc bag. Perfect! At least I wouldn’t have wet, soggy feet or blisters on a 4.11-mile return trip.
And no hot springs. What crap. I was NOT in a good mood at this point.
But, little Chipmunks, fat buggers for sure, used to tourists, approached us. After I got my feet dried off and in warm, comforting socks, I put the towel on the ground and my feet on top of it. Dave threw some Fritos to the chippies, and here they came! We sat there resting, eating a sandwich and restoring our water as they entertained us.
We decided, at 8:50am, to leave. I was really grumpy, because I had so longed to come here and have a good mineral soak, sort of a dream come true. But they were closed.
As we started back down the trail, my feet were fine in the plastic bags within my boots.
We stopped again at the little grotto where the Shooting Stars were. "There could be orchids around here," I told Dave. The soil was right, the water was right. I peered over and over again around the grotto and saw nothing.
"Hell," I muttered defiantly as I turned back to the path, "there aren’t any orchids around here anywhere..." and I was, again, bummed.
But then, my eye caught a bright red stem no more than 50 feet down on the bank under some pine-needled area. What was it? I then recognized the red stems that I had seen at the Lower Fish Falls--and taken photos of. They had not bloomed out, so they were just red stems sticking up out of the dry, brown pine needles. I thought they were a parasitic plant, Orobranche, that has a bright red stem, too.
Oh, well, I thought, I might as well photograph the Orobranche in bloom. As I got down, squinting because it was in deep, dark shade and my eyes aren’t great, I realized I was not looking at Orobranche.
"Oh, my god, Dave!" I screeched. "It’s an ORCHID! An ORCHID!!!" I dropped to my knees, hunkered down, and took a good look at it. Yes, sir, it WAS an orchid. I sat there gasping, filled with joy and shock. Dave was leaning over and admiring it, too.
"I’ll be darned," he said. "An orchid. Finally."
Well! My grumpiness disappeared in a flash. The hot springs was completely forgotten. I knelt there with shaking hands, taking 40 photographs of this beautiful little orchid in bloom. I had no idea what kind it was at the time, and it didn’t matter. It was an ORCHID. It has six petals and the lower lip was wide, flat, and white,with purple spots on it. When I realized that I had photographed the SAME orchid, not in bloom, at Lower Fish Creek Falls headwaters, I just shook my head. It just goes to show you that without something in bloom, you can easily misidentify it. I later was able to identify it as a coral root orchid from one of the flower ID books I’d bought here in Steamboat Springs. Too cool.
My whole week was anchored in finding this one orchid. What a GIFT! I was delirious with happiness. I photographed that orchid in every possible perspective and angle. It was only about 10 inches tall, and I had missed it coming up the trail. Only coming down the trail, slowing and looking because it was good orchid area, did I see it. And even then, you could easily miss it in the deep shade. But the red stem stood out, flashing at me like a big, red stoplight.
Wow, this was a million times better than a hot springs!
Written by Gerry May on 06 Aug, 2002
This was our fourth trip to Breckenridge, which is one of our favorite ski areas. There is an excellent variety of skiing terrain for all ability levels, with skiing spread over three main base areas and four separate mountain peaks.
This was our fourth trip to Breckenridge, which is one of our favorite ski areas. There is an excellent variety of skiing terrain for all ability levels, with skiing spread over three main base areas and four separate mountain peaks.
Let’s start with the base areas. If you park in the large skier lots, you can take a free shuttle bus to any of the base areas. If you are staying in town, the base area you choose might be determined by its accessibility from you lodging. You can ski to any part of the mountain from any other part, but it might be easier to start where you think that you will ski the most. All three areas have full services, including rentals, ski school, and tickets. The Village Base Area is essentially in downtown Breckenridge and is surrounded by condos, shops, and restaurants. The main lodging nearby includes The Village of Breckenridge Resort, Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge, and the new hotel/timeshare at Main Street Station. The Village Base is often referred to as "Maggie’s" by the locals, after Maggie’s Pond, which is located here. The Quicksilver Super 6 high-speed lift departs from this base and serves all skiing abilities. Start here if you plan to ski mostly on Peaks 9 and 10. The Beaver Run Base Area is only a short distance away from the Village. It is located at the huge Beaver Run Resort, but shuttle busses also unload and depart from here. Beaver Run Super Chair takes intermediate and advanced skiers directly to the top of Peak 9. Beginner skiers can take an easy ski around the corner to the Quicksilver Super 6 chair. The Peak 8 Base Area is furthest away from the town and is away from all the hustle and bustle. It is accessible mainly by shuttle bus from anywhere in town or by skiing over from Peak 9. Peak 8 is a good place to start if your lodging is along Ski Hill Road. Five lifts depart from the Peak 8 base, serving all abilities on Peaks 7 and 8.
Breckenridge is a huge ski area with something for everyone. We will take a tour as you look at the mountain from left to right. Peak 10 can be accessed from the top of Quicksilver lift or by following the signs from the top of Peak 9. Peak 10 is not the place for beginners or lower intermediates. Most of the trails run along an exposed ridge giving fantastic views, but also exposing you to strong winds at times. This is my favorite part of the resort, with wide-open, groomed slopes that are rolling and relatively steep. Also, a maze of advanced trails takes you in and out of trees on the side of the ridge. Between Peaks 9 and 10 is an excellent beginners area with a variety of long, flat trails. This is where most of the beginner ski school classes go. The new Tenmile Station day lodge, located at the top of Quicksilver lift, is a great place for a break as long as you avoid the lunch time rush on busy days, Peak 9 is probably the busiest part of the mountain and is an intermediate heaven. Get there early to experience the velvet grooming on most of these trails. The relatively new Mercury Super chair allows you to ski Peak 9 without having to go all the way down to crowds at Beaver Run or the Village. The steep canyon between Peaks 8 and 9 is one of many expert slopes. Peak 8 is a good place to go when your group consists of skiers of varying abilities. Both green and blue slopes come together at the base of Peak 8 and your extreme skiing friends can join you there or meet you at the Vista Haus day lodge up top. Up above the fabulous views from the Vista Haus is the open bowl skiing served by the T-bar as well as the walking access to Peak 7. Peak 7 will soon be home to five or six new intermediate trails. As of January 2002, these trails had been cut, but there was no lift access.
The skiing conditions at Breckenridge are generally excellent due to the high altitude. (IMPORTANT NOTE: With a base altitude of 9600 feet, you really do need to be aware of the effects of altitude on your endurance and your health.) Snowmaking is extensive to provide cover for early seasons and dry spells. We have skied there at various times from Christmas until late March and found conditions always good. Of course whims of the weather gods will determine whether you have an abundance of fresh powder. Enjoy!
Written by Composthp on 23 Jan, 2004
Restricted by time and transport, we approached the concierge at the hotel to arrange for a personalised tour to the Rocky Mountains. Sid, an old timer with the tour agency and an avid historian/retired newspaper editor, took us on a tour of the rugged back…Read More
Restricted by time and transport, we approached the concierge at the hotel to arrange for a personalised tour to the Rocky Mountains. Sid, an old timer with the tour agency and an avid historian/retired newspaper editor, took us on a tour of the rugged back roads of the Rockies, following the trail of the old railways through narrow gorges and canyons, down the "Oh My God" road, passing through some quaint little Western towns, and concluding our tour with a little ride on the steam rail of the Georgetown loop.
Sid, a huge burly Santa Claus, arrived on time at 9am. We drove through the Flat Irons, past the town of Boulder, and finally headed for the mountains. Sid had decided not to head for the national park: "Too many tourists" he groused; we agreed promptly and settled for a surprise.
Our first stop was at a mill site once owned/owned by the Wall Street gold extraction company. Sid gave us a brief history lesson and a description of the gold mining process here before we were off again, passing very small towns (population: 4), driving on dirt/gravel off-the-map roads, stopping en route to admire a quaint log house named "Summerville" and at various vintage points for breathtaking photo shoots of Pike's peak and the surrounds.
Near midday, we stopped at a lovely picnic spot with an outdoor chimney for BBQs and beautiful panoramic views of the surrounds. This used to be a popular picnic spot with the locals. According to Sid, this spot was accessible by train in the good ole days and locals would catch the early train, hop off, have fun, and hop back on the train again at the end of the day. The rail tracks are gone and there’s a dirt road in its place, but it is still a perfect picnic spot popular with locals. Alas, we did not managed to spot any bighorn sheep, although we did catch a glimpse of deer and the odd squirrel.
For lunch, we opted for a nearby casino town. For just a mere US$6, we had a delicious steak and potatoes set lunch at one of the casinos. Meals were set deliberately cheap and service was reasonably fast. The aim was to encourage gamblers, well, to continue gambling. Many of these towns had retained its original Victorian buildings as early settlers were from England, while new buildings blend in with the old. It was almost like walking into a Western movie set, if you ignored the modern vehicles.
We were soon on the "Oh My God" road, so named as the drop-offs could be over 1000' in elevation. It reminded us of the Great Ocean road of Melbourne, Australia with its twists and turns through pine and Aspen forests. The only difference was the many abandoned mines and mills that dot the mountainsides.
In all, it was a relaxing, entertaining day for us as Sid regaled us the local tidbits, gossip, and stories throughout the day. The journey back took us through Clear Creek Canyon, another scenic route and we arrived back to our hotel, in time to catch a spectacular sunset. The total costs of the tour, including car rental, was about US$150 per person.
Written by lcampbell on 23 Mar, 2002
Here is a list of the "10 Essentials" that you should have with you on all hikes, no matter how short. These things are determined to be what you will need if you are unexpectedly caught in the backcountry for a longer time than…Read More
Here is a list of the "10 Essentials" that you should have with you on all hikes, no matter how short. These things are determined to be what you will need if you are unexpectedly caught in the backcountry for a longer time than you planned.
1. Map and Compass – know how to use them!
2. Flashlight/headlamp and extra batteries
3. Extra food and water – I always bring water purification tablets, which only weigh about an ounce. I keep a couple Power Bars in my pack – I use these because I don’t like them, so I won’t be tempted to eat them during a non-emergency situation.
4. Extra clothes – At minimum, I bring silk long underwear, hat and mittens – all very light items. Number one heat loss is through the head, number two is through the hands. I pack other extra clothing as needed. Usually I have a fleece jacket, and one of those really cheap rain ponchos (weighs about an ounce).
5. Sunglasses and sunscreen
6. Waterproof matches
7. Firestarter – a good one is cotton balls, saturated in patroleum jelly, then stored in an empty film container. Very light and good firestarter.
8. First Aid Supplies
9. Pocket knife
10. Emergency shelter – I keep one of those silver emergency blankets, but I’d really like to get a lightweight bivy sack, when I have some extra money.
Other valuable information to have before heading into the backcountry is how to use the wilderness responsibly. Check out Leave No Trace, which is a non-profit organization that preaches outdoor ethics. Great info! The six main concepts of Leave No Trace are:
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3. Pack It In, Pack It Out
4. Properly Dispose of What You Can’t Pack Out
5. Leave What You Find
6. Minimize Use and Impacts of Fire
Their web site elaborates on each of these.
A couple of other notes:
Mountain Bikes and pets are not allowed on trails in National Parks. They are allowed on National Forest land, though – ask a ranger for suggestions if you want to bike or hike with your dog.
Don’t try to hike up to high elevations on your first day at Rocky. Most people feel the effects of the elevation even just while in the town of Estes Park, which is at 7500 feet. They may be dehydrated, have a headache, feel very tired, and possibly nauseous. Hiking up to 12,000 feet right away will kick your butt, and could potentially be dangerous. Instead, hang out in Estes Park and the lower Visitor Centers of Rocky for a bit. Take some scenic drives down lower, maybe to Bear Lake. Then you can venture up to Alpine Visitor Center (at about 12,000 feet). After about 2 days doing these things, and possibly a short hike or two at lower elevation (below 10,000 feet), then head UP UP UP! Two serious medical conditions cause by high elevation that some people develop (even those who are otherwise perfectly healthy) are HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema). If you have trouble breathing, feel chest pain, or head pain – go down low as soon as possible! Don’t mess around with these – they can kill you! They are not super common, but it is good to be aware of them. They are more of a concern above 14,000 feet.
Even if it is 80 degrees when you start hiking, bring along a warm jacket and a hat and mittens. You will likely need them when you get up high. Also, keep hypothermia at bay by wearing synthetic clothing. Sweat will get your cotton clothing wet, and cotton does not dry quickly, so you may end up being wet and COLD when you get up high. Synthetic materials dry almost as fast as they get wet, keeping you much warmer.
Written by Armed With Passport on 18 Apr, 2002
I had found my seat on the United Airlines plane, buckled into my seat in coach next to my wife, and started to read a travel article in the in-flight magazine "Hemispheres". I was getting into some article about a faraway place and wondering…Read More
I had found my seat on the United Airlines plane, buckled into my seat in coach next to my wife, and started to read a travel article in the in-flight magazine "Hemispheres". I was getting into some article about a faraway place and wondering when the rest of the plane was going to file in and get situated so that we could get underway with the second leg of our trip from Denver to Hayden/Steamboat Springs.
I was disrupted by a small ruckus maybe about ten rows in front of me. I hadn't been paying close attention because I was reading, but I could see that all the flight attendants were making a fuss over one of the passengers. They all wore silly smiles on their faces and seemed to all want to talk with the passenger. All I could see of the person in question was a yellow hat, a yellow cowboy hat to be exact.
The flight soon filled up and I forgot about it.
When we landed about forty minutes later (the plane had trouble finding the runway), we quickly exited via a slippery and freezing sidewalk. We entered the ground transportation area, which was all abuzz because of the famous man standing there waiting for his snowboard to come down the baggage shoot.
It wasn't someone that I recognized, but the man in question certainly stood out. Everything that he wore and that he carried with him was yellow. He had on the aforementioned yellow cowboy hat, yellow sunglasses, a yellow winter coat, yellow slacks, and wonderful yellow cowboy boots. To round out the ensemble, the man carried a bright yellow breifcase.
I asked the lady at the Alpine Taxi counter, "Who is that?"
She said, "That's Banana George!"
Banana George was surrounded by adoring fans, mostly young women, who all posed for pictures with him. Banana George's wife stood by and seemed to take in all in stride.
The Alpine Taxi porter told me that Banana George was famous for his barefoot water skiing jumps and tricks and that he comes to Steamboat because he also likes to snowboard.
Toni got some shots of Banana George when the hordes of admirers gave him a little break.
Banana George's full name is George Blair, born in Toledo, Ohio in 1915! 1915! That means he just turned 87! He still snowboards and barefoot skis as well as appears for television and public speaking engagements. He has starred in a movie, Captiva Island (with Arte Johnson and Earnest Borgnine), been on the Today show, Letterman, Regis and Kathy Lee, and Entertainment Tonight. He learned to barefoot waterski at age 46 and is in the Waterski Hall of Fame. He has also broken his back five times during his life. When he is not water-skiing, he is a real estate developer and the holder of three patents.
You can learn more about George Blair (whose favorite food is, not surprisingly, bananas) at bananageorge.com.
May we all live as long and as well as Banana George!