Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Denver, part 2

Once Toby's surgery was over I could get in some exploring. First on the hit list was Rocky Mountain National Park. I picked what seemed to be the best weather day in the near future, packed a lunch, loaded dogs into Gigantor, and headed up there. It was a beautiful day in the Denver area - sunny and near 70 degrees. I drove through Boulder, and immediately found myself driving through a large scale bicycle race. There was spandex and lycra everywhere! A veritable peleton, if you can believe it. I gave them as much room as I could and felt a little bit bad expelling diesel fumes in their direction as I passed. But pass I did, and began to climb into the mountains. As I neared the park I could see a massive cloud bank stuck there, and sure enough, right about at the park boundary, I drove into a snowstorm. The temperature at elevation was hovering right around the freezing point, and the visibility was quite poor. As it turns out, not a good day to go looking at mountains. I did come across several herds of elk, however. Unlike those we observed in the Smokies, these were not wearing radio collars:

The landscape was pretty, what I could see of it:

I let the dogs out here and there so they could sniff about. Here is Toby modeling his Subway sandwich bag which he puts on to keep his bandages dry (he likes the cold-cut combo, double meat, no veggies, hold the bread):

After a few hours of driving around to various scenic overlooks, where I would get out and strain to see some shadow of what must have been a fabulous vista, hidden by low clouds and blowing snow, I bailed out and headed for lower elevation. I had spotted a trailhead on the drive up and, finding it sunny down there, had myself a nice hike to salvage the day. What a difference a couple o' thousand feet makes:

Then we stopped in Boulder to see the town. Great city center pedestrian zone, full of shops, restaurants and such, teeming with tourists and locals alike, soaking in the warm spring sunshine. I stopped to listen to a very good bluegrass band performing for passers-by. Then I stopped again and bought what turned out to be the best gyro sandwich that I have ever consumed, and I consider myself qualified to pass judgement. Makes my mouth water to think of it...

After getting Toby in for a follow up appointment and bandage change, we packed up camp and headed west. Less than two hours away, but nearly 4000 feet higher, we stopped to camp at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. The last 30 mintues of driving were where most of the elevation change took place, and Gigantor dug deep to haul the bulk of the Whale up that last 1500 feet, to make camp 9100 feet above sea level:

I was the only one camped there - it was so quiet and peaceful with nothing but wind and birds to break the silence. Why no-one else? Because it's friggin' cold up there, that's why. I had a nice hike which started out in brilliant sunshine...

...but as I hiked along I observed what appeared to be a snowflake blow over my shoulder. I turned to look the way I'd come and saw an enormous storm cloud bearing down. I turned up my collar and let it come, and found myself hiking in blowing snow. Just as I was considering what I would do to survive in this high, cold, snowy forest, home to bears and mountain lions, the storm blew past and restored the sunny afternoon that I'd ordered. What would I have done, you ask? I'd have whittled a spear from an aspen tree, skewered that bear that was stalking me, skinned it, ate it's flesh and slept in it's hide, that's what I'd have done.

But that didn't happen. What did happen is that I finished my hike with no drama, and awoke the next morning having decided that camping is better about 3000 feet closer to the earth's core. So I left, heading west once more, and you (if anyone still reads this) can learn about that in my next post.


  1. The snow and the cold are so over rated! Get yourself back to the warmth and the sunshine. I love the Subway photo of Toby. Glad to see he is able to hobble around and enjoy the great outdoors. I am jealous of your GYRO sandwich. I have not had a good one in a long time. Travel safe!!!

  2. Your writing is too funny!! Looks beautiful up there, but waaaaay too cold.

  3. Great post. The weather at camp sounds like much of our time in Utah. Sunny and warm one sec, snowing the next, wait...sunny again. Makes it more interesting :D