Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blaine Basin Revisited

We decided to hike to Blaine Basin today. We haven't hiked all the way up since I broke my ankle crossing a stream at the top three? years ago and had to hike all the way out on a broken ankle.

To get there you drive through miles of Ralph Lauren's Double RL ranch until you reach the trailhead at the base of Mt. Sneffels. Usually the parking lot was empty but today it was very full.

The day was very dramatic.

The vehicles in the parking lot were all search and rescue trucks. I thought they must just be doing a rehearsal drill, but they were there for a rescue. They said they'd gotten word that the guy was going to be okay but they really didn't seem to want to tell us much. I misunderstood what the mumbly guy told me and thought the rescue was on the Blue Lakes trail, one of two choices at the trailhead.

We went on our walk, marvelling at the beautiful flowers, like this one which was actually a crimson maroon color but the bright sunlight washed it out.

As the hike got longer and we got hungrier we were getting crabby about where we were headed. Then two young guys in great shape approached and said they were with Search and Rescue. They passed us. Like the White Rabbit, they were very late to join the group.

What we learned from them: Search and Rescue here is all volunteer. A guy fell 100 feet while ice climbing on Mt. Sneffels. His bud placed the emergency call. They were on a steep ice field and he had a broken leg and injured back.

We hiked on. It got steeper and the vertigo was trying to kick in.

We reached Blaine Basin. There were other people there. Before we spoke to anyone we plopped down on a rock ledge and ate our excellent turkey sandwiches and split the bag of chips. Molly was distracted by other dogs at Blaine Basin, so we had to put the leash on. I looked at the stream where I'd broken my ankle with some anger. The deja vu aspect of the hike was another thing to deal with...

(notice I'm the Sherpa on all these hikes.)

Once we'd eaten our lunches without sharing, we joined the others up there. There were three search and rescue folks listening to two different radios. They also told us they're volunteers. I told them my broken ankle story. Got to get respect where you can.

Another beautiful alpine flower.

What we learned: The ice climber hadn't bought the $5 search and rescue card, so even though they had cel phone reception, the local helicopters wouldn't come. They had to get a rescue helicopter in from Moab Utah which is a long way off. The pilot of the very long helicopter which we saw fly in over the mountain tops was scared! We heard it on the radio! He wouldn't land. He'd never flown in high mountains before. So weird to hear a pilot just sounding worried while the ground people next to us were telling him where to go.

Those circles are the rescuers and the injured.

It's above 12,000 feet. It was a hot day even at Blaine Basin, so the footing must have been wet ice on a steep slope.

The pilot was heading back to a safe spot in hopes the six folks on the ice with the wounded guy (gal?) could move down to a spot with more clearance. The S & R folks we'd been talking to were heading up to the ice to help move the injured down.

Wow, if we'd had cel reception I'd have gotten this treatment. I know that sounds so self absorbed but this was the site of a major incident in my life.

It was 3:30 and time for us to start down. On the way down we ran into more S & R people coming up. The update was the pilot was not going to land anywhere and had gone back to Moab. The injured was stabilized. The new people were bringing sacks of headlamps because they were going to hand carry the injured out and down on a stretcher, and figured it would be a "slog of about five hours." In the dark- geez- it was perilous in the day. Log bridges, loose rocky NARROW trails.

We passed quite a few more coming up to help on our way down, including a super buff couple carrying two pizzas! We thought they must be high tech stretcher parts but no they were pizzas, because the folks up top had been there since morning without food. We thought maybe it should have been four or six pizzas but anyway... A straggler was eating a piece of pepperoni pizza. It looked so good.

Maybe we'll learn the outcome, maybe not. All in all we estimate 20-30 volunteers were involved in this rescue. I thought some good horses could have helped out in many ways. Photos thanks to Jon!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Like the Serengeti!

Our good friends Tom and Cath. came by for a hike today and we took them on our usual route. But we saw something we'd never seen before. A herd of elk so large it wouldn''t even fit in one frame. Tom estimated it at 200!

You can see there are SO MANY babies. The sounds they were making were incredible.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

French Rabbit

Every week or so when we've driven to Montrose for our groceries, there's been a big sign up outside City Market: "We Have French Rabbit 1 L. Boxes"

French Rabbit? Ooh, sounds kind of down and dirty. What could that be? Are the folks in Montrose getting so citified they order rabbit meat from France in big boxes?

I had to know.

Turns out it's a gloriously packaged French wine in a box that's entirely recyclable and just the thing for campers. We bought a box but haven't tried it yet.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mule Ears

About fifteen minutes after we took this picture a monster thunderstorm hit and outdoor chairs went sailing. We got back just in time. These beautiful big yellow flowers are mule ears.

Whenever the weather gets wild here we lose our internet connection, but give it half an hour and the sun's back out.

Without using google, would you know what a big sign at City Market advertising "French Rabbit" means? Just curious. (I know the answer now.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not a Prairie Dog

This is not a prairie dog. This is a baby marmot, one more in the dynasty that has survived for at least the last thirty years in a rock pile right by the side of our main road.

The amazing thing is that these marmots wait until you're almost upon them and then run to the other side of the road and jump in a hole. Then they stick their heads back out of the hole as if to say, "Where are you off to?"

So I'm telling them here.

We're off on a three stop adventure: first the dump, then the hot springs, then this very nice restaurant at the Hotel Beaumont in Ouray. It's a combo Father's Day and Birthday dinner. The only thing I'm sure I'm ordering on that menu is the Raspberry Baked Alaska, or maybe I should order the whole meal off that dessert menu!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When in Nucla, go to the park

We went to Nucla today for a birthday trip. We were hoping the Atomic Drive-In sign would still be on the side of the road but it was gone. I wanted to see the prairie dog sculpture in the park.
And here it is. A few years ago Nucla and the adjacent sad town Naturita were in the news because of a prairie dog hunting season they initiated that was quite controversial. Maybe they erected the statue to make amends. The town park seemed to be part cemetery-- there is a fancy gravestone right near the prairie dog.

When it comes to sorry towns, Nucla is right up there. Even the public school is for sale! The library is closed, there's a superfund site right out of town, and the town actually wants the uranium mine to reopen. In fact when I googled Nucla looking for a hiking trail it came up in a list of worst places to live in the U.S.

The respiratory center was one of the only places open, aside from the hardware store, the courthouse, and the 5th Avenue Grill, where we had lunch, which was a nice Ortega cheeseburger and fries.

Somehow I couldn't bring myself to take sorry pictures of the town, because the people in the town are so friendly. Everyone waves to you as you drive down Main St! People are standing in the street. Some of the buildings are old and charming. Most of the buildings are for sale.

The garage sign was in Norwood, which is a lively ranch town on the way to Nucla. I couldn't stop laughing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snow White Moment

This little bird kept flying at the window screen while I was washing dishes. Not sure what it is, maybe a flycatcher?

We came upon this baby elk on our hike today. Molly was very good about it and didn't chase it even though it ran off.

This little chick ran right in front of our car. We were going slowly. There were four or five more chicks. I guess they're grouse, but it would be wild if they were Prairie Chickens, an endangered species.

Their mother was off to the side in the grass.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More Rockies Observed

I just have to mention this, that when you drive around the Rocky Mountains you wouldn't believe how many motorcycles are on the road, and all driven by OLD people. I know they're old because some of them don't wear helmets! If you ever wondered where department store Santas go off season, they go to Colorado and ride on really clean Harleys!

When we drove into Aspen the sun was shining and outdoor cafes were setting up for lunch. People were walking around with plastic ids on necklaces. They were there for the wine and food festival. After a couple of days of bad meals we were ready to mug one and grab the id!

You wouldn't believe the giant parking lot of private planes at the airport in Aspen as you drive out of town.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

In no particular order, but I have to say, of all the many old mining towns we've visited, Leadville is the sorriest.

The town has an incredible history, and still a lot of fine old buildings on the main street, but you can tell there's never been any zoning in the town and it just looks uncared for. Their water system is still affected by a Superfund cleanup attempt. The entry to the town is miles of debris and dumps and trailer parks, and the land is barren because it was over logged long ago and nothing grew back.

There are tourists in the tourist part of town, but there aren't many tourists and there aren't many restaurants either. Around dinner time we saw the same sorry group of folks crisscrossing our path, looking lost and hungry, wondering where they should eat dinner.

The favored spot had only one thing on the menu, beef filet, and some of the hungry ladies we talked to thought this was just the thing, because you told them exactly how many inches of filet you wanted and that's what they'd serve you. The image of the cook in the back room with ruler and giant slab of beef turned me off.

The sign in the window of the Chinese restaurant was peculiar- was it trying to be cute? Restaurant is hard to spell, so hmm...

Or there was the Italian restaurant and gifts-- the gifts part rang the wrong bell for me.

We ended up having our dinner delivered to us at the famous Silver Dollar Saloon-- slab of ribs and salad, though no utensils came with it which made it tricky at first.

This art gallery seemed completely out of place. The owner beckoned us inside, including Molly.

The artwork was really nice. I noticed that two different artists whose work I liked a lot both were favoring extremely asymmetrical compositions- one was doing pastels of horses in black and white where the horse was only partial and in a corner of the image, and the other acrylics that made me think of Albert Pynkham Ryder but again with the odd compositions where everything is happening way off on one side or the other. I didn't think it was right to take a straight on shot of the pictures, but maybe I should have.

I believe the second artist's name was Frank Sampson. His paintings are on the right.

(to be continued maybe)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On Top of the World

This was my favorite part of our loop through the Rocky Mtns. trip. I'm sure there are a million pictures of this sign, and here's one more. The altitude... the insanely scary drive... the alpine flowers... the bare beauty of it all...

More on Leadville later.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Birdcage Evening Primrose

This pretty flower grows in the rockiest places here. It's pinkish until it opens. I love the symmetry of the flower with its four heart shaped petals. The medical supplement evening primrose oil is made from the seeds, not sure of this particular evening primrose or not. Supposedly when the plant dies it curls up to form a bird cage structure, but I haven't seen that either.

We're taking an overnight trip to Leadville, Colorado. I'll post all about it when I return Friday night or Saturday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why you hire a professional

We're planning an overnight trip to Leadville, Colorado, the town at the highest elevation in the US (over 10,000 feet) and a town with a big mining history in the 19th century. Baby Doe? We're going Thursday.

We almost made the mistake of going a day earlier, when 2000 cyclists will be on the road on a mad journey around the Rockies with one night in Leadville. Can you imagine having to pass 2000 cyclists on a two lane highway?

The places where we can stay are limited because Molly's coming along, but I'm sure you'll agree the web site designer at the Alps motel could have found a more appealing picture than the one above.

Even better, though, is the copy on the pet policy page:

All pets must be registered. Guest concealing and not paying for their pets will be charged $ 200.00 Your pet may not use the parking lot as a toilet. We don't allow any of our guests to do that.

Well I'm glad to know there will be quality guests at the establishment that don't use the parking lot as a toilet!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Perils of Hiking

No, I'm not trying to imitate the Wyeth painting of "Christina's World". Hiking around here requires a lot of wiggling under barbed wire.

We set out on an adventure hike today deep into a canyon via bear and elk trails, down to a stream which seems very remote. But somehow we took a wrong turn and ended about 1000 feet above the stream where we thought we'd have lunch.

We discovered this as we were crossing a narrow rocky trail ledge. Looking far down below I saw a person walking in circles in a meadow, right by the stream. It was crazy. A place where you'd never think you'd see anyone else. I sat down to look at him thru binoculars because I was getting a bad case of vertigo and couldn't stand and hold binoculars too. My palms were sweating. To sit down there you had to just lean back, it was that steep.

Such a remote area, and it was obvious he was talking on a cel phone, making hand gestures as he kept circling. What could he be talking about? I said to Jon, "Either he's the manager of a small store and all the wrong orders came in, or the stock market has just tanked." woah, psychic sal on the trail. (maket did tank in case you didn't know)

Then Molly saw him and she got that "Rin Tin Tin must rescue" look that German Shepherds can get so I had to grab her by the collar and we quickly turned back and chose a different route home. 3 1/2 hours later I am mighty weary.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On a Rainy Day

The weather here has been really wet, so we have to look for activities inside. I've read quite a few books I've enjoyed, two by favorite Scandinavian author Henning Mankell, also Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel. (The titles are impossible to remember.) Now I'm reading "Fifty Grand", by Adrian McKinty. The librarian recommended it, and it's exciting, set in a fictional Telluride. Also read "Beggars of Life" an autobiography of a hobo named Jim Tully, which sounds better than it was. For a while in the early 20th century he was very highly regarded as a writer.

I also play Pet Society on Facebook. Here's a race with three friends. I thought Skeezix would win, but Albie (my friend Jane aka prb won) Go Albie! Namowal also ran. Funny to see other Pet Society friends in the stands! But since I don't have many friends, they start repeating in bleacher groups. I'm not sure it's possible to win anything in the arena.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rocky Mountain Bluebird

It wishes you a lucky weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hot on the Trail

We tried to go for a walk this morning but got rained on so turned around. It stopped raining as soon as we got home. We noticed that the caramel buns I'd put in the meadow yesterday were entirely gone. Hmm...

It looked ominous all day but never rained, so around 4:30 we decided to walk up the cut and back to get some exercise. The cut is the way too vertical trail that takes you to the mesa top.

About 2/3 of the way up it started to rain, of course, but we kept going. We figured in the aspen groves it wouldn't be so bad.

We reached the top, Just over the ridge, and Molly rushed at some dark forms. A herd of cattle! We called her back, and good dog Molly returned, but not without turning around to make sure it was the right decision.

Jon grabbed her by the collar and said, "Take off my belt!" Huh? I thought, then remembered belts can work as leashes. But they were REI [pants with sewn in belt.)

You'd think the cattle would rush off the way elk or deer will, but instead they were moving in on us in a semi-circle! And in the second row a bull was humping a cow while looking at us!! BULL? RUN!

We scurried down that cut in record time. Molly stayed with us. The rain came harder and harder and we squished along home, soaked through. Now the rain has stopped.

(image from my Celestial Seasonings tea box.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Namowal's "I'm So Tired"

Fellow artist Namowal has just completed her first Flash animated musical piece and it is stunning!!

It's a song I never thought about much but here it takes on a mystery and beauty-- love the way the spiral movements echo the clock's movements, the way it captures the beat and the obsessive feeling, the refined and elegant while also charming animation of the girl and the phone. I think the teapot section is my favorite. The backgrounds work well to add depth while keeping focus on what's animating.

It's not easy to use Flash tweens so smoothly and effectively and for emotional effect too. Great work, Namowal. And a brilliant ending too, with such innovation and yet feels just right.

Truly amazing that this is your first drawn animated work as it is quite masterly. I hope some new form of animation will open up so your talent can be more widely seen.

You can read more about it at her blog here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Social Life

We're having friends over for dinner tonight- the first time since we got here three weeks ago that we'll be with friends.

We're serving turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted vegetables, blueberry pie and a few other things. The "friends + leftovers" special. We've known our friend Mysterian for many years and like his girl friend too.

Name changed to protect a secret revealed: Mysterian is the only person we know who didn't lose money last year. You know why? He buried it in the back yard! We all thought he was a nut to do it but he gets the last laugh. And no, he's not a dog.

Speaking of nuts, there's the scary survivalist at the top of the hill. I've written about him before. He's the one who posts angry signs and drills holes in rocks for fun. He's been up the hill this year since April, with no running water, and says he plans to leave soon. We're hoping. He's a smiling belligerent, if you know the type. Let's call him Stagolee.

Years ago before we knew better, we'd heard if you leave stale jelly donuts out in a field you'll attract bears. We considered it. But we thought we might attract Stagolee instead.

He left these buns in a gift bag on our front step with a weird note about snacks, and some avocados. In the past when he's dropped off gifts they've been followed a few days later by documents in a plastic bag that he wants us to sign. Almost appealing, because it's so childish.

Think the bears will want the gourmet buns? Not leaving them my two nice pieces of chocolate, the reward for spending hours on a black slate floor that won't get clean.

(yeah I know I'll probably get anonymous comments about what a bitch I am for this post. can't help it folks.) But Stagolee cannot even type, much less use a computer.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Racing Redux

Jon came with me to the second day of racing in Norwood, Co. today. We got there before the second race.

I liked this jockey. He seemed a cut above. He won for me twice the day before and he won two of three times today too. I'll be watching for him next month in Ridgway when the bush league racing circuit picks up again locally.

(See Ms. Frazzle in background?)

I MISSED the Belmont race entirely. I left Norwood early so I could watch it on my computer and still have time to pick up Jon from his fishing lesson, (which he didn't like.) But my source for races on line was BLACKED OUT for this final race of the Triple Crown. My pick, Chocolate Candy, seemed to have stopped to offer samples and took his time to the finish line. If favorite jockey Joe Talamo had still been on Summer Bird I would have bet that horse and done well. But the trainer of Summer Bird got changed and Joe lost the ride last week I think.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Racing Saturday

While million dollar horses raced each other at Belmont today, bush league two year olds competed in Norwood, Colorado. I watched several races.

I thought this horse looked like real quality in the first race and bet on him. You can only place bets to win at the options window, and the people at the window use paper punchers and plastic cups to keep track of what's been bet.

My horse came in last.

Next race I had a winning bet. But out of six horses, only two crossed the finish line with riders on them.

This long line is all the ticket holders who'd picked the horse I picked!

This auctioneer was handling the Calcutta bets, where you bet to own the horse in that race or something. The bets are way too big for me to consider. ($100 dollar range.)

This woman was running the race. She looked pretty frazzled, and so did her hair.

These two were leaving when I was leaving. He ignored my camera.

We might go back tomorrow.