Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zapata Falls

"In wilderness is the preservation of the world." — Henry David Thoreau 

GOOD FOR Paul for researching the area near the Great Sand Dunes the night before we set out for there. (There are no phones and no television where we're staying, but there's wifi, and we brought our laptops.) I would have blown right past the sign next to a gravel road in the Sangre de Cristos pointing out Zapata Falls

We were so awestruck by the falls and cave that we took more than 100 photos, and this was before we even made it to the dunes.

The crack in the rock is the mouth of the cave.










In front is the frozen waterfall and behind is the free-flowing waterfall.


On the way back out.

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Blowout

"It's hard to take when you run 490 laps and have a flat tire with 10 to go."Jamie McMurray, NASCAR driver

YESTERDAY WE drove to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes. I had on my hiking clothes for the day's planned adventure, except I wore my flats on the drive for comfort and simplicity's sake. My boots were still in the car from the previous day, and I figured I'd switch when we got to the park.

When we arrived, I kicked off my flats to put on my boots, and as I looked at the boot in my hand, I discovered to my astonishment that the sole had completely detached itself from the rest of the boot — and a stream of decomposed rubber was pouring out of it.

I grabbed the other boot, only to find that it was in exactly the same state of disintegration! 

I had worn them just the day before, for crying out loud, and they were fine. Overnight the soles had detached themselves on both boots! The wonderment isn't that one of them did; it's that they both did — literally overnight!

Paul said, "Okay, back to the nearest town to get you some boots." 

He was right that I couldn't hike in my fashion flats! But I was reluctant to waste the hour or more it would take, so I said, "Nah. Let's just go up to the visitors center and see if they have any duct tape." 

I put on my boots and flapped my way up to the center, leaving a trail of decayed black rubber that came squishing out of my boots with every step.

Ranger Dan to the rescue. Fortunately he had duct tape, and Paul taped me into my boots.


The sole had completely detached except at the toe and very back 
of the heel. That's the carpeted floor you're seeing between boot and sole.

Duct tape, the universal cure for most anything.

Paul wrapped me feet up like a mummy's.

Paul was dubious about the wisdom of hiking in boots held together by duct tape 
and also because my "boots" now had slippery tape soles instead of tread.

I'm glad I prevailed with the duct tape; we wouldn't have wanted to miss an hour of the amazing day we had. Pictures in the next post!
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Our private park

 “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

BTW: The above quote is the one I read by Thoreau that brought me almost to tears before we planned this trip. 

When Paul and I arrived Thursday night, there was only one other person staying at the lodge; Friday night there were two or three besides us. Saturday a group of Catholic women came for the day and night and left; we've been alone ever since. 

Sunday we drove to Pueblo for lunch and then came back to hike in our own park. We took trails that we hadn't covered Friday and encountered a total of three other people during the three hours we were hiking. Here are pictures.















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Monday, April 29, 2013

Royal Gorge

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below. He saw everything as far as you can see. John Denver, Rocky Mountain High

THE Royal Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas, is only about 50 feet wide at the the base and a few hundred feet wide at its top, but at 1250 feet deep, it's one of the deepest canyons in Colorado

Paul and I drove there yesterday to take the tram across the gorge and the incline tram down to the bottom of it. Here are some pictures from the day.

On the way to Royal Gorge.

After we took the tram across the gorge, 
we walked back on the suspension bridge.

Gorgeous.

The Arkansas River is way, way down.


Closer to the river as we descend, you can see kayakers.


The Arkansas as the bottom of the gorge.










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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Restoration

"After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains." — Walt Whitman 

FOR MONTHS and months I've felt starved for the natural world, desperate to be where the only sights meeting my eyes would be trees and plants, sky and clouds, birds and animals, and the only sounds I would hear besides animals and birds would be wind and water. 

It felt as though my soul was shriveling up inside me, withering away. A few weeks ago, I came across a few lines by Henry David Thoreua about being outdoors, and I almost cried. 

Paul told me he felt the same desperation, but the obstacles between us and escape were time and money. A gift from a friend, however, literally sent us packing. 

Kit gave us an unused credit of $70 on Southwest Airlines. I don't think she expected that it would end up being the means for removing both of our impediments.

The credit had a use-by date of May 2 which forced us to figure out how we could structure our work so as to leave and return in time. Southwest happened to be running an online ticket sale which meant that her $70 paid almost half of one of our tickets, and the sale destinations were limited making it easy for us to choose a direct flight from Kansas City to Denver which we would use as our jumping off point to salvation.

Paul has been hearing about the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from me for 21 years. I'd been there before I met Paul, and I've been wanting the two of us to see them together ever since. 

I searched for accommodation that would not be in town or a cheesy tourist motel but still be within a couple of hours or less driving time to the Sangre de Cristos and the Great Sand Dunes. I found Horseshoe Lodge which is part of the Mountain Park Environmental Center in Pueblo Mountain Park situated in the Wet Mountains, so named because of the amount of snow they receive in winter. The rates seemed too expensive, but the manager of the Center gave us a substantial discount so we could stay for six nights.

So here we are. We're as happy as clams. (Does anyone know why clams are supposed to be happy?) Getting out was dicey. At 3:00 PM on the day before we were scheduled to leave, our biggest client told us they needed three new two-page sell sheets by May 1. That meant we had to somehow get them designed before we left and figure out how to have them printed and delivered while we're gone. We worked until 4:30 in the morning the day of our departure to get them done — and arrived at our destination about 10:00 at night. Long day!

Yesterday, our first actual day here, we went for a long hike on a couple of trails here, then we went for a drive on South Hardscrabble Road (really, that's it's name) into the San Isabel National Forest and almost made it to San Isabel Lake before we headed back to the lodge.

Here are some pictures from our hike.


This is one of the views from the trail we hiked yesterday in the park where we're staying.

The trails here are made of pink granite.

The sweet-hearted, two-legged hiking partner. PS: I told Paul that he
is not allowed to be bitten by anything except possibly me.

Another view from the hike.

Lichens and little plants along the way. There was one tiny plant that smelled exactly like Mentholatum  when you crushed it. I rubbed it all around under my nose.



Okay, it's true. I'm literally a tree hugger. I couldn't help it.
I was just so glad to see them.

A Mountain Chickadee.

Here are pictures from our drive.

Two wild turkeys scurrying up a ridge. They look like gigantic water beetles to me.

Mule Deer kicking up dust as they dash away.






There were a whole series of beaver dams, level after level, on this creek.


More wild turkeys.

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