Sunday, September 27, 2009

Farewell to Colorado Springs

We have such wonderful friends and family here in Colorado Springs that we ALMOST hate to leave. On Friday night our very good friends, Joe and Nancy had us over for a farewell dinner. Lucy, Mike and Sal - our Einsteins coffee buddies - were there too.

Nancy cooked a most delicious lasagna and a dessert that wasn't a dessert - but better! She made homemade zucchini bread and served it with a sweet & delicious orange sauce with homemade whipped cream. Yum!!! We could barely move from the table to the living room.

Lucy put together a goodie bag for our long car ride - filled with nuts, chips, candy and other snacks. Sal made a punchbowl of red wine sangria with fresh peaches. It was a wonderful evening with great friends. Thanks guys!

Saturday afternoon we went to grandson Nate's football game at Hanover High School. They didn't win the game but they played great. After the game we headed to Midway for another get-together with daughters Laura and Terri and their families. Tim out-did himself cooking shrimp scampi, rib roast, smashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Here's Tim with unexpected company on the patio - a Taranchula spider! I had never seen one here in Colorado so this was a real treat. After we checked him out - and took lots of pictures, we put him in a nearby tree.

He scampered up the tree and we found another Taranchula in the flower garden. They were both small - but very friendly.

This is Zina, the Warrior Princess - Laura's new kitten. She wanted to come outside and join the fun. Laura hopes she will grow-up to be a good mouser - but right now she is way too small.

Just as Tim was getting ready to cut the chocolate cake for dessert, our grandson Quinton told his dad that it smelled funny. Tim said it was fine but Quinton insisted it had a strange odor. Tim leaned closer to the gooey dark chocolate frosting to smell for himself - and Quinton pushed his head into the cake. Tim emerged with a chocolate nose. It was a riot! They have the best family dynamics - it's great fun to watch. The evening was a real treat.

Today, Bill's mom, sister Terry, brother-in-law Ray, and niece Rhonda came for lunch. Ray has started making the most beautiful jewelry and he brought some to show me.

This gorgeous piece has pearls set into a piece of abalone shell. I'm trying to convince him they are beautiful pieces of art and will sell like hot cakes.

Tomorrow morning we will finish packing and start out on our 3000 plus mile journey. Our first stop is in Miami, Oklahoma then on to Shell Knob, Kansas City, Gilbertsville, Birdsboro, New York City, Silver Spring, Ocala and Fort Myers. I'm looking forward to visits with friends, children and grandchildren.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just One More

I can't help myself! The Hummingbirds are so cute and so photogenic that I had to post just one more picture.

Most of the hummingbirds have already headed south - "riding on the backs of the blackbirds." The first time I heard that, I just thought the old lady was senile and laughed it off. Then, one day I mentioned it to Bill's Mom and she also insisted that, yes, the hummingbirds head south, riding on the backs of the blackbirds. Both women once lived in Arizona so I can only assume it is an Indian legend. Please let me know if you know the origin.

Well, I'm not-very-patiently waiting for the blackbirds to come and get me and fly me south too. But there's still a lot to do - winterize the pond and yard, lock down the Colorado house, pack the car, forward the mail, etc. We did a dry-run, packing the car to make sure Bill has enough room for his beloved planes. I'm lucky that we do because, if not, he'd probably make me leave my clothes at home.

Our plan is to head out on Monday in our blue Toyota Camry Hybrid - loaded to the gills - and drive to Missouri to spend a few days with our friends, Mike and Mel. On Saturday, we're having brunch with a high-school friend that I haven't seen in almost 40 years. Then is on to the East Coast to visit with children and grandchildren before turning right and heading down the coast to Florida and our winter home in Fort Myers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fall in the Rockies

There has been a chill in the air signalling the onset of fall which, here in Colorado, is quickly followed by winter. Over the weekend, we drove west into the mountains to see the Aspen trees as their leaves turn beautiful shades of yellows and oranges before the icy fall winds chase them to the ground.

This picture of the backside of Pikes Peak was taken from Woodland Park. There is already snow on the tops of the mountains above treeline.

At Wilkerson Pass, about 50 miles west of Colorado Springs, we stopped to admire the scenery. This is a favorite spot of mine. I just love the expansive views that open up as you round the top of the pass and cross the Continental Divide. Some of the snow in the distance has been there all summer.

Further west, at the higher elevations near Cottonwood, the Aspens were beautiful, but not quite yet at their full peak of color, but beautiful just the same.

The shy was deep blue with puffy white clouds building in the distance.

I think this is a pair of Gadwall Ducks that were feeding on Cottonwood Lake.

Typical of the species, they feed by tipping their bodies tail-up and diving for aquatic plants and seeds.

One of the many ranches in the area; I'm sure the name High Winds is apropos.

Another view of Cottonwood Lake. I think this would be a wonderful place to camp for a few days. I wonder if anyone would mind if we borrowed the small boat that is tied to the pine tree along the edge of the lake so we can try our hand at catching fish for our dinner. I can smell the trout cooking over an open camp fire now.

The clouds were building over the snow-covered peaks in the distance.

This picture reminds me of the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina's World (minus Christina). In the painting, Christina Olson is crawling across the field towards a farmhouse in the distance. As a youngster, I thought the painting was odd - ugly and drab. I did not know the woman in the scene was actually a neighbor of Andrew Wyeth's that had an undiagnosed muscular deterioration, paralyzing her lower body and that's why she was crawling.

We stopped at Cripple Creek for dinner. I had enough points at one of the casinos for a "free" dinner. Of course, I had to play the slots for a few minutes before we ate. The dinner wasn't free anymore. Oh well.

The Hummingbirds are still stopping to fill their small bellies with sugar water on their way south for the winter - but not in the numbers we saw earlier in the month. I'm seeing more males now - with their bright red throats.

We are getting the ponds ready for winter. All of the fish have been moved to the lower pond and the upper pond is partially drained. We've turned off the falls but left the bubbler running so the fish have air. As the water gets colder (below 50 degrees) we will stop feeding them and the fish will hibernate in the mud at the bottom of the pond until the days start getting longer and the water warms.

In just two weeks we will leave Colorado to spend the winter in Fort Myers. I'm ready.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grasshopper Nostalgia

This is a Colorado grasshopper. Bill took the picture of this green hopper because I told him I was going through a dry period and had nothing to blog about and nothing new to photograph. He carefully placed the large insect on a volunteer sunflower in the back yard for more interest. Isn't he just the best?! (Bill - not the grasshopper!)

The grasshopper reminded me of my father. Daddy did his Ph.D. thesis on grasshoppers - but before he had the chance to present it, there was a fire and all his hard work and research was destroyed - all but this pen & ink illustration. Daddy was a meticulous draftsman.

In order to complete his doctorate, Daddy needed to duplicate all his work. Since he didn't want to do the same research twice, he selected a completely different topic.

This picture of my father was taken around 1914, the beginning of WWI. He was 25 years old and had been teaching zoology at Colorado College here in Colorado Springs since he graduated from the University of Michigan. Sometimes when I walk around downtown, on the CC campus, or hike in the mountains, I wonder what it must have been like 100 years ago when he lived here. I wonder if I'm walking where he once walked, or looking at the same view he had outside his classroom. I wish I'd known him better.

After the war, Dr. Horace Burrington Baker (HB to his friends) relocated to Philadelphia to teach zoology at the University of Pennsylvania. He didn't meet my mother until 1941 at the age of 52.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hiking in the Huerfano River Valley

* If you are interested in the history of the Huerfano Valley, be sure to read the comment section.

Bill and I headed out at 6:00 a.m. for an 8 o'clock rendezvous with Bill's daughter, Laura, grandson, Quinton and friend, Nathan in Walsenburg, Colorado - gateway to the Huerfano (pronounced War-fan-oh) Valley.

The sun was bright red as it came up over the horizon and broke through the clouds and the lingering smoke from the Los Angeles fires. "Red sky in the morning, Sailors take warning..."

After a huge breakfast at George's Restaurant (they have the BEST breakfast burrito with green chili!), we drove west along Route 69 towards Gardner, CO - a small historic town that was over-run with hippies in the 60's - turned onto CR550 to Red Wing - more of a bend in the road than an actual town - and through the Huerfano State Wildlife Area to the Upper Huerfano trail heads at the foot of Mt. Blanca in the San Isabel National Forest. Most of the trip was slow and extremely bumpy as we crawled over rocks and boulders on the poorly maintained jeep trails - but the views were worth it!

This cute little fixer-upper was along the trail at exactly 10,000 feet. I would love to know the history - who, when, how and why.

Finally, a little after 10:00 a.m. we headed out on the trail. The youngsters, Laura, Quinton and Nathan were already way ahead of us old folks. They took a detour up to Lily Lake on Blanca Peak as we headed further west to the high mountain canyon on the back side of Mount Blanca. The elevation at the trail head was about 10,600 feet, over 4000 feet above Colorado Springs. Hiking was much more of a challenge for me at that elevation - so we took it easy.

The trail wound up and through some of the most beautiful scenery in Colorado, roughly following the Huerfano River back to its headwaters.

The flora was colorful but most of the wildflowers were past unlike last year when we hiked there in early summer.

We could see Mount Blanca and Mount Lindsey through the trees. There were pockets of snow on the barren rocks above treeline.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

This time of year, most of the mountain snows have already melted so it was a dryer walk than earlier in the year. We crossed the stream almost a dozen times and still kept our feet dry. That's because, this trip, we remembered to pack dry socks.

This is an American Dipper, a strange little non-descript stout, dark gray bird that lives along the river banks. He feeds on aquatic larvae by jumping head first into rushing water.

We stopped and watched this little guy as jumped from rock to rock before diving into the cold water for a light snack. What a hoot!

Further up the trail we could hear voices. Looking out of the woods towards the river we saw a group of horseback riders with pack mules walking single file back along the lower trail.

Two of them came over to talk to us. They were Rangers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They had just ridden up to stock Lily Lake with fish and were on their way back to the trail head. They told us to be careful as it was archery season and there there hunters in the area; not to mention the bear and mountain lion.

We were almost to the McMillian Mill, an old, long-ago abandoned, mill site set deep in the canyon.

I don't know much of the history of the mill site, except it was built to support the MacMillan Gold Mine higher in the mountains. The mine was once owned by Bill's father-in-law, Jay Parsons and his friend, Harold Brown. As far as we know, it was sold after the Forest Service blocked motorized access (they blew-up the road) and made it a wilderness area.

This is a quote from an printed interview with Alton & Mary Tirey, long-time residents in the area:

"The MacMillan Mine mined gold and some silver. It was a hard rock mine at the foot of Mt. Blanca. There were 2-3 boarding houses and many family residences. They were snowbound November through April or May. They had a six or eight horse team they used to freight ore out and bring supplies in. They were all white horses, and they were rigged up with sleigh bells all over them because they hauled that wagon in and out fast and wanted everyone on the road to get out of their way. Alton's mom remembers two or three saloons up there. They were still standing when I was a kid. The MacMillan Mine operated years before I was born in 1906."

All along the trail, we crossed thick cable lines and timbers that were laid to support the wagon trains that brought in the workers and heavy equipment and carried out the the gold and silver ore.

Hendrie & Bolthoff Mfg. and Supply Co, Denver, Col. These are the steam boilers that powered the crushers and ran the tram that brought the ore down from the mines.

We stopped at the mill site for a light lunch. It was obvious that many, many people had been there before us. Behind me is a decaying wood pile with enough firewood to keep a fire going through a long, cold winter.

This is the view from above the old mill looking down towards the river and east - back to the trail head. Just behind where I was standing to take this picture was the foundation of an old mountain cabin - or maybe one of the boarding houses. I need to do some more research on the area...

Above the mill, almost to timberline, in the heart of the canyon. There were high walls of mountains on three sides. You can see the snow on the mountain. There were several thick wrapped steel cables coming down the side of the mountain from the abandoned mines.

At timberline, over 11,000 feet, we could look up and through the pass to Blanca Peak. Bill has been to this area many, many times - hiking, fishing and hunting. He even owns land near the peak on the Alamosa side of the mountain - but you can't get to it! It's interesting to hear his stories especially those from the 70's when he farmed in the San Luis Valley and hunted in these mountains for Bear, Elk and Deer - meat for the family. He came in on horseback and camped for weeks while he hunted. He tells one story about hippies from Gardner that ate his horse.....

This is one of the waterfalls that marks the headwaters of the Huerfano River. This time of year, it's just a trickle - but that's not the case in the Spring when the snow begins to melt.

Our GPS was useless as the mountain walls blocked the signals from the satellites. It stopped at 11,059 feet - back by the mill site.

We explored the area and took lots of pictures before the clouds began to darken and we heard thunder in the distance. We decided it was time to start the long hike back to the car. The "kids" caught up with us about the half-way point. They had reached Lily Lake (12,400 feet elevation) and come down around the mountain, through the pass to the canyon where we had been earlier.

They went on ahead waiting in the car where it was warm and dry - while we battled rain, sleet, hail and snow the last mile of our trek. It was a wonderful hike and we enjoyed every minute!

On the way back we detoured to see some more of the area. This picturesque duck pond was near Gardner.

There were two deer on the other side of the pond.

And even more deer down the road.

Every time I see a Great Blue Heron here in Colorado, I wonder when he will head back to Florida.

Wild Turkeys.

All-in-all, we saw dozens of deer, chipmunks and black mountain squirrels; several marmots, and lots and lots of birds. We didn't see any elk, bear, mountain lions or hippies.