Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Georgia Pass

So, last month Sarah and I went backpacking on the Colorado Trail, making a loop from Jefferson Lake Road up toward Georgia Pass and back down the West Jefferson trail. This would be only the second backpacking trip I've done in the Colorado mountains; I am really not that familiar with them, and anyway each of the many ranges has different characteristics.

The mosquitoes were the defining aspect of the first part of our hike. I don't believe mosquitoes ought to exist in Colorado, as it's such a dry state, and it makes me especially angry when I get bitten by them here, even moreso when I can't stop hiking because ten of them latch onto me as soon as I stop.

Thankfully the mosquitoes thinned out as we progressed up the trail, into a rainstorm and finally up to treeline around 11,500', where we set up camp and I took pictures of the sunset, wearing full rain gear to keep the remaining mosquitoes from biting.

11,500' sounds very impressive, but then the parking lot was at about 10,000'. I am still getting used to these things... sometimes I tell my Colorado friends stories about backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where treeline starts around 4,800'. They do not believe this. "Why is it so low??" I don't know. The weather, I guess. Of course, the White Mountains have the worst weather in the country; also, the trails look like this:

Most of the Colorado trails I have been on are much smoother, enough that mountain biking is a big thing. And in fact it is allowed on the Colorado Trail, which runs almost 500 miles from Denver to Durango.

In the morning we continued on the Colorado Trail up to Georgia Pass, which sits on the continental divide. From here I wanted to climb that mountain in the picture above, Mt. Guyot, and return to our camp before setting off down the Jefferson Loop Trail the following day.

The frustrating thing about Mt. Guyot is that, while I could tell that it was climbable -- I was seeing people's trip reports on the web -- I could find no map of, or indeed even any mention of, a trail. Well, that's all right. Just look at it! It's not like you could get lost. Clearly you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually make it to the top.

Shortly before reaching a junction with a four-wheel-drive road, we saw something large and white.

It was a cooler packed with lots of ice, and snacks and sodas for CT thru-hikers. We would meet several thru-hikers, including one man who was eating an entire package of fig newtons for lunch, and I could imagine that they would be very grateful to find this stash. Click on one of the above photos to read the comments on the cooler.

We began to climb the slopes of Mt. Guyot. 

There was no trail. Instead, there were a lot of rocks. Tilty, pointy rocks. Other people were climbing up the rocks. A man and his toddler were climbing up the rocks, far above us. This seemed insane.

We climbed them for a while and then decided it was ridiculous, and that we should find something else to do. Mt. Guyot is ridiculous.

Here, Sarah walks down the mountain, with South Park visible in the distance. It was very windy by that point, enough to make me keep losing my balance. Are toddlers more or less susceptible to 40-mph gusts of wind than adults, do you think?

We had some candy and then walked out a ways on one of the four-wheel-drive roads, where these shots were taken:

Yes, that is Mt. Ridiculous in the background. And as it was starting to get stormy to the west we headed back toward camp, meeting some mountain bikers on the way, who took our photo together.

The storm arrived shortly after. Here is a picture of the hail landing outside our tent. I am going to stop taking pictures when I get hailed on in Colorado -- whether that is in a tent, in a raft on a river, or out for my afternoon walk at work -- because it has now happened to me so many times I feel it's losing its shock value.

Sarah decided to sleep through the precipitation. She slept for six hours. While she was sleeping, I wandered around taking pictures of things. Here is a picture of a log.

The rain stopped for a bit and we had dinner amidst the mosquitoes, and then I dragged Sarah out to the stream and took more pictures because I wanted to Do Something.

I forced her to take pictures with the sun behind her, which she believed would have the aesthetic appeal of high school yearbook photos. But look! I have turned her into a famous writer from the 70s. All she needs is a cigarette.

More photos:

And then we went to bed, and Sarah slept for a further 12 hours. I don't know why.

Then we hiked out. The West Jefferson Trail mostly had lots of trees, so I don't have any pictures from that. My last picture is from before we descended into the trees, of a bank of snow still remaining in late June, spawning tiny streams that were trickling down the slope to the pond below.

The final portion of the trip featured lots of mosquitoes. The end.

The next entry will be about our trip to Conundrum Hot Springs!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Yes to photography

I also have adventures without Sarah. Lately I had been thinking about improving my photography techniques, so I took a couple photography books out of the library. I learned many things about shooting landscapes with an object of interest in the foreground. But partway into the second book, I stopped enjoying the reading and gave up. So, this is one new thing I know how to do. In future posts, you will enjoy many photos of landscapes with an object of interest in the foreground. Also, there are some flowers peeking out of the shadow of a tree.

I also got to photograph a couple things I have always wanted to get shots of. Well, I have "always" wanted to photograph the Denver Chalk Art Fest since I heard about it last year. This year I got to catch part of it. Here are my pictures:

The other thing I always wanted to get a shot of was lightning. I have clicked my way through many storms on the horizon and have never actually gotten a picture of a bolt. But not long ago, there was a fantastic storm to the north of Denver that was tossing about a bolt a second, often cloud-to-cloud. So we drove up to the top of a parking garage and I kept taking shots. I might have gotten 20 shots with bolts in them. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, and none of them is particularly artful as a photograph, but hey, it's lightning.


I have finally been having some adventures, so here's a catch-up post, with pics from spring through early summer.

Above, a close-up of some snowflakes. As "spring" came to Denver, it just kept snowing. One storm had particularly large and well-formed snowflakes, and I got several photos of them. And here is a shot of a tree in the park.

This is Sarah. Together, we have been having adventures. We went to the little resort town of Manitou Springs...

I don't know what this is... er, I guess the sign on the building says it is the Miramont Castle Museum... but I lack photos from the more interesting parts of the trip, like when the car broke down on the highway in a blizzard.

Here we go on a spring snowshoeing trip at Echo Lake, with 70 degree weather and lovely sunshine.

Then, we went camping at White Ranch, the lovely park outside Denver with free hike-in campsites. While we were there, Sarah stumbled on a letterbox. From reading the materials inside, we learned that letterboxing is NOT geocaching (in which participants use their GPSes and a set of clues to find boxes filled with trinkets -- take a trinket, leave a trinket). The letterbox contained a book, a stamp and pad, and some pot.

Many people had written in the book and added their own stamps. Many people expressed that they weren't looking for the box when they found it (wedged in some rocks at the campsite). A couple people expressed that they were upset that it wasn't a secret drug stash. And someone else indicated that they were adding drugs, so no more disappointment would result.

We relaxed, and went on a hike and saw some cactus flowers.

And we went on a hike outside Boulder, yay! In the distance you can see the red tile roofs of the university. The end.