What an Amazing Day!

Theodore Roosevelt reportedly said of Colorado, “The scenery bankrupts the English language.” That was certainly our experience on Tuesday. There were beautiful views around every bend. We would look one way and be awed by the view then turn our heads to be overwhelmed by an even more breathtaking view! This is a drive that even native Coloradans find inspiring. Where? Independence Pass – Highway 82 from Twin Lakes/Leadville to Aspen. There’s no shortage of amazing views as you twist up and around on the at times narrow two-lane road, eventually reaching the Pass and the Continental Divide at 12,095 feet. Hugging the Lake Creek (roaring river this time of year), the pass cuts through the Sawatch Mountains, running right between Mt. Elbert, the state’s highest at 14,433 feet and La Plata Peak, the fifth tallest in the state, while several other summits over 13,000 feet can be seen rising into the bold blue Rocky Mountain sky. Each mountain peak is colored with the crisp white of a winter’s snow, dark blue-green lodgepole pines and the bright green of Aspens. Below the towering peaks runs the roaring Lake Creek, and crashing waterfalls, all due to the massive snowmelt. One waterfall dropping from a great height was so close the to the road that it actually sprayed us as we drove past.

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About half way up from Twin Lakes to the pass we came across a small herd of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. We quickly found a place to pull off and walk back for a better view, of course as we got close they took to the steep rocky cliffs, but still in view. One ewe who was evidently in charge of protecting the group made sure to keep us in view, She seemed almost at interested in us as we were in them. That was a real treat and very rare to be able to actually see them at a relatively close range.IMG_1212-1 IMG_0444

On the pass, we were buffeted by winds so strong that we feared we might be blown right off the mountain. Everywhere was covered with snow and the glacial lakes at the pass were still frozen.IMG_0467

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Over the pass to the west, we stopped to overlook the old mining town of Independence. Once a thriving town with hotel and stagecoach stops, but now a ghost town with a few building still standing. At that point, we turned around and retraced our way back to the highway where we headed toward Leadville.

 

Remains of Independence

Remains of Independence

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Old Leadville Mine

 

The road between Salada and Leadville is known as the route of the 14ers or the Heart of the Rockies. It runs right along the Arkansas River.  Tthe headwaters of that mighty river are near Leadville which is the nation’s highest incorporated city and full of historic buildings.

IMG_0512We found a great place to have an early dinner tucked into one of those historic downtown building, Quincy’s Steakhouse. Sunday through Thursday they feature a 6 oz. Filet Mignon steak with baked potato and salad and freshly baked bread for under $10. It was mouth-wateringly delicious!

 

Our day was full exciting but we were exhausted by the time we returned to our cabin.

 

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The mountains are calling and I must go.” (John Muir)

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What glorious days of soaking up magnificent scenery.

On Saturday we struck out for Buena Vista and I had the privilege of sharing with Anita some of the sites that we have visited and loved in the past.  I have written about Buena Vista and Cottonwood Pass on more than one occasion (The first time in 2012 and again in 2014 in Slush, Mush, and Sunshine)

We had been told that Cottonwood Pass was closed due to proposed construction, they plan to pave the road on the west side of the pass and make improvements so the whole thing is to be closed all year. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived in Buena Vista that the sign to the pass had a bright orange sign on it saying that the pass was open!

Up we went.  

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As we begin to reach higher elevations snow lined the road and covered the open areas. What a thrill and so beautiful. After several pull-offs to enjoy the scenery we made it to the pass, sure enough the western side was closed by snow (no sign of construction yet).

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Looking West from Cottonwood Pass

20170610_122813 20170610_123339 20170610_123049 20170610_124847While we were there we we were entertained by a man with a German Shepard, he would throw a chunk of snow out into the field of snow, and the dog happily raced after it, but of course could never find it to bring back, but he clearly enjoyed the chase.    

Back in Buena Vista, we drove out to the Railroad Tunnel road to travel along the Arkansas River, the tunnels are always fun.            

Drive through Railroad tunnels blasted in the mountains

Drive through Railroad tunnels blasted in the mountains

                                                                                        

 

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A Relaxing Get Away

The MtsHere we are in the amazingly beautiful Colorado mountains again.  Oh how I love the tall snow capped mountains, the swaying aspens, the fragrant pines.

This trip is a gift! A gift from my wonderful husband who so graciously is staying home with my elderly mother in order to give me time to relax and rejuvenate from her long-term care. It’s also a blessing to be spending this time apart with Anita, our first born. So here we are in a wonderful cabin/chalet in the heart of the Colorado mountains.

Our home away from home for nearly two weeks is in Monarch, about 6 miles from Monarch Pass, and right on the Garfield Creek (really a roaring river right now).Me at cabin

Anita at cabin

Anita at cabin

We are lulled into total relaxation by the coursing, swirling, hypnotic river. Our chalet has all the amenities needed for a retreat including a fully stocked kitchen, comfortable beds, satellite internet and phone, no TV service and last but not least a hot tub. We are within a few miles of Salida, so yesterday we took advantage of a trip into town to gather some supplies, but on day two, we are just chilling.  I put in a few hours this morning working in my zero gravity chair (we both brought ours from home) on the porch. A perk of my part time job is that I can take it anywhere.

We put out a hummingbird feeder and the amazing beautiful little wonders are taking full advantage.  The tiny ruby and iridescent green hummers swoop in for a drink then zoom off again, occasionally sitting down for a longer drink or driving off a rival.Hummingbird

Here is a link to where we are staying

The 1st chair Chalet.

Devils Stair Steps

Devils Stair Steps

 

 

 

Deer

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On the Gulf

Here we are again, on the coast – watching the surf, wiggling our toes in the sand!

What a great time to come to the coast (the Gulf Coast). It’s still warm enough to enjoy being outside, but not so hot you hunt shade or burn.

The Texas State Park on Galveston Island is a great place to settle down for a few days for some surf, sand and sea food. We are camped just across a sand dune from the ocean – awesome, long stretches of nearly empty beaches and easy access to shopping and dining.

We are planning on 4 nights here before heading back toward Dallas. 126

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Hallowed Ground

Death, Death all around! Boom, whiz, crash – severed limbs, blood and gore! 100,000 in this battle, 70,000 in the next. Who are they? So many – approximately 75% buried without names – just never going home again. What? Where? Right here!After the Battle

After the Battle

Anita and I have spent the last few days walking on hallowed ground, immersed in the stories of the Civil War. Battle of Bull Run where it started, Fredericksburg, Sunken Road, Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, Battle of the Crater, The Breakthrough, culminating where it ended at Appomattox Court House. Did you know that it wasn’t until during the Vietnam War that the number of American deaths in foreign wars eclipsed the number who died in the Civil War?map3

Virginia, so rich in history, was the epicenter of the war and the 110-mile corridor between the two capitals, Richmond and Washington DC, saw many bloody battles. We enjoyed the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier at Pamplin Historical Park. Hearing the stories of soldier experiences in their own words and seeing the way they lived.

Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson Statue at Bull Run

Home riddled with bullets during along the Sunken Road.

Home riddled with bullets  along the Sunken Road.

McLean House where Lee Surrendered

McLean House where Lee Surrendered

At Pamplin Historic Park

At Pamplin Historic Park

But not all our time was in the Civil War. We visited the house that Charles Washington (brother to George) built in 1760. It was converted into the Rising Sun Tavern where Thomas Jefferson drafted the statute that set the pattern for religious freedom in the US.

Tavvern of the Rising Sun

Rising Sun Tavern

The Chatham Plantation where Clara Barton an early founder of the American Red Cross assisted in caring for Union Soldiers. And so many beautiful Fredericksburg homes built in the 1700s.

1820s home in Fredricksburg

1820s home in Fredricksburg

view from Chatham to Fredricksbutg

view from Chatham to Fredricksbutg

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Graduation in Norwalk or When Did He Grow Up?

‘In response to those who say to stop dreaming and face reality, I say keep dreaming and make reality.’ Kristian-Kan, author and editor.

What a wonderful week.  Anita arrived in Norwalk to the welcoming arms of Celeste, Joe, Justin and Madison.  My first impression walking in the door – WOW! how tall Justin is. He has matured into a responsible, considerate young man. While I was proud of each of our girls at this important milestone, I found myself a little emotional seeing our first grandson walk across the stage.  I’m excited for all the opportunities that lie ahead but a little afraid that he and the younger ones won’t have the opportunities that we have had. Justin graduated with honors as a member of the National Honor society and Capt. Cap. Honors. He is headed for the University of Connecticut and aiming for a degree in Chemical Engineering.

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Graduation was held at the high school stadium and the graduates marching in with the boys in green and the girls in white was very impressive. There were lots of speeches followed by the handing out of diplomas. His class was over 300 strong, so it took awhile. After the ceremony we were off to an outstanding Italian restaurant for scrumptious food and fun.

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Joe is an outstanding cook and loves to grill, I’ll be surprised if I haven’t put on a few pounds. Thanks to my Fitbit I have managed to put in a reasonable amount of walking, so hopefully it the day of reckoning won’t be too bad. Last night we enjoyed an evening of out door movies and smores fixed over an open fire. The weather has been perfect, sunny but not hot. Actually we have had to scramble for a wrap when we were outdoors in the evenings.

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We are sad to be leaving tomorrow, but excited for the next leg of our girls trip and to reach home and the family left behind.

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Smokey Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway

mapFor the last two days we have spent time in the Smokey Mountains and the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway! Those beautiful green mountains! Trees clinging to the swell of mountains giving them the look of giant green beasts lying off in a hazy distance. Roads swooping up and down, weaving back and forth in a dizzying way not even matched by the Rockies.  Rhododendrons bursting with purple and pink blooms decorate most every turn of those roads which are frequently dappled with sun that sneaked through the canopy of overhanging trees.20160610_154404 20160610_164200

I’m always refreshed coming to the mountains. My soul sings and I marvel at the majesty of God’s beautiful world.20160610_163925 20160610_112112 20160609_155618

We drove US 74 from Cleveland, Tn. along the Ocoee River through the Smokey Mts. spending the night in Murphy, NC then continuing on past Cherokee. We stopped for lunch at Lulu’s Café in Sylva, NC., before heading to connect with the Blue Ridge at Asheville. Tonight we are in Little Switzerland, NC. a small town just off of the Blue Ridge.20160609_170656

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Stone River Civil War Battlefield

Stone River Civil War Battlefield

CaptureI am on a very special trip. A road trip with Anita, our eldest daughter, to Norwalk, Connecticut to celebrate with our eldest grandson as he graduates from high school. Our trip involves a bit of wanderings on the way, too much to see and enjoy for two girls to rush from one point to the next.

One of the things we enjoy is visiting historic sites. Today we went to the Stones River Civil War Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. War is a horrific thing. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in a battle with bullets whizzing by, fear gripping you as you hear friends scream in pain. Our current war causes much pain and the tole on those who return is great. But we forget the horrors of the Civil War battles.  Roughly 1,264,000 American soldiers have died in the nation’s wars–620,000 in the Civil War and 644,000 in all other conflicts. It was only as recently as the Vietnam War that the amount of American deaths in foreign wars eclipsed the number who died in the Civil War. In just this one 3-day battle at Stones Creek there were a total of 24,645 casualties: 12,906 on the Union side and 11,739 Confederates. Considering that only about 76,400 men were engaged, this was the highest percentage of killed and wounded of any major battle in the Civil War.  Even so the battle itself was inconclusive, but it dashed Confederate aspirations for control of Middle Tennessee. Today the battle field provides an opportunity to stop and remember.

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Some of the Sites Around the Upper Arkansas River Valley

 

Map of most of our travels through the valley

This posting is going to be more pictures than words.  A couple of years ago (see the 2012 link above) I wrote several post about the area.  To wind up our stay here, I am going to share some of our favorite sights.

Rivers, Lakes and Streams:  The Arkansas River dominates the area as you might expect.  It is famous for its wicked whitewater through the area.  It begins as a small stream at the Continental Divide near Leadville and from there plunges almost 5,000 feet in its first 125 miles.

Along Brown's Canyon

The River

Horses grazing along the river

Turquoise Lake

Looking down on beaver dams along the road to Independence Pass

A stream along Independence Pass road

Panning for gold

Mountains:  The Sawatch Range which forms the western rim of the valley has the highest concentration of mountains over 14,000 feet in Colorado.  Cutting across this range are three very high drivable passes.  The Cottonwood and Independence and Monarch.

Early September snow on the peak

Cottonwood pass is the highest paved pass.

Cottonwood pass

Independence is just a little shorter but is spectacular with tight hair pin curves and steep drop offs.

Looking out on rugged terrain near Independence Pass

Monarch is on a major highway, the drive is beautiful, but not as dramatic as the other two.

Monarch Pass Looking west over Gunnison Valley

Big Horn Sheep Canyon east of Salida is breath taking with steep uplifted walls of shear granite.

Big Horn Sheep Cannyon

Glacial valleys and side canyons are traversed by tributary streams rushing down to meet the river. Out in the valley, huge boulders are strewn about the landscape like abandoned children’s toys.

Giant Sentinels

Drive through Railroad tunnels blasted in the mountains

Animals in the wilds

Look close! Do you see two deer?

Least Chipmunk

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Life Around Camp

We have spent a very enjoyable month at Arkansas River Rim Campground.  While we have been out exploring a good bit of the time, there is still plenty of down time at the camp; evenings or lazy days hanging out relaxing.  Those of us who are “long termers” are mostly located around a circle at one end of the campground, so getting acquainted is even easier. We’ve renewed old friendships and turned acquaintances into new friends.  Fred and Karen Peterman, whom we had met a couple of years ago have become fast friends.  John and Laurna Woolever are new acquaintances that we have enjoyed spending time with and getting to know.  Just pulling up chairs outside and swapping stories, chewing the fat, sharing where we have been and what to see, or do.  The guys have particularly gotten to know each other while running potty duty forays for the dogs, or helping each other working on this issue or that around the trailers.

The guys stop for a chat (Charlie, Fred & John w/Scooter, Bella & Katie)

Karen and Laurna compare crafts

Heidi has Bella over for a visit

We have gone on outings to places in the area, gone for ice cream, eaten out and shared meals together.  A couple of years ago Fred introduced Brady to trout fishing.  This year John has shared his fishing bounty with us all.  One of those shared meals was some of the trout grilled with fresh local corn, green beans and salad, YUM!  With time short for the others, (they are leaving before we do) we all put together a hamburger shared meal.  One last time to sit out and visit.  They are now missed, the camp seems so empty.

Come and Get It!

Brady, Fred and John enjoy Happy Hour

Jeff, the camp owner, holds an annual Labor Day BBQ/Band Bash, featuring live music with Jeff’s band Derringer. All at the campground are invited, they provide hot dog and BBQ fixins and others bring dishes to round out the meal.  His band entertains and everyone has a great time.  This year, the day was cool/cold and rainy, but the party mood was not dampened.

Some of our other neighbors have been intent on gold mining in the Arkansas River.  The group that holds the claim for the part of the river behind us, use snorkels and vacuum to hunt for the elusive glittery stuff.  Others pan, but I doubt that any are making a fortune.

Wild life always provides entertainment.  We have enjoyed watching hummingbirds on a feeder we attached to the dining room window. Rabbits hop around just outside and of course chipmunks and squirrels romp through the area. A trip into town never fails to bring sightings of deer.  The other day a couple of bucks were grazing along the highway, Some in camp reporting seeing a bear wander through camp, but that was before we arrived.

What! You can see me?

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