*****

Merikay on bridge at Royal Gorge, CO, 2019

Friday, June 28, 2019

Cottonwood Fluff

[From Craig] Our last post was about snow in Rocky Mountain National Park.  This one may look a little similar, but the images were shot in 90° F.  Here at Riverview Park near Loveland CO, there are many cottonwood trees.  I think cottonwood trees like riversides.

It is their time to make cotton fluff.










For us this is fun because we just didn't have Cottonwood trees in Wisconsin where we both grew up.  Just real snow. 😉

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Drive Through Rocky Mountain National Park



It's June. Although we are not suffering from many heat waves around the country, there are not many places where we can drive to a snow field.




Unless you are in Colorado. Last week it was Pike's Peak with two feet of new snow, and today it was the Rocky Mountain National Park. 



We are staying at the Riverview RV Park in Loveland, which is about 26 miles from the entrance to the National Park.

When we left in the morning, the sky was clear blue with just a few little puffy clouds. The picture above was taken at the park entrance. 



The scenery throughout the park was breathtaking. As I look through the many pictures we took today, of course no single image fully captures the vastness and variety of the views.





I have always been fascinated by the shadows cast by individual clouds.  The cloud above cast the shadow in the image below it.



The road through the park was smooth and easy to drive. Although there were many cars at every pull-out and parking lot, it was possible to find a place to park at most of them. 



Sometimes it is helpful to put a person in a picture to show "scale". I think we saw at least a half dozen people posing with the roadside snow.  



The edge of the tree line.



The top of the Rockies.



The elk are up in the high country for the summer. We saw a couple of herds of all female and calves peacefully grazing in the large Alpine meadows. The bull elk hang out in smaller groups. The bull above is still growing his antlers for the year and is still losing his heavy winter coat. [From Craig] The one above really needed a visit to the elk groomer.



We spotted these bighorn sheep right at the parking area for the station called "Sheep Lakes". They are much lighter in color than other bighorns we have seen in the wild and in wildlife parks. We wondered if other bighorn sheep tell "blonde" jokes about them.



The one above is a much younger male. I guess no one has told him it is time to take his winter coat off. Still fluffy.

All in all I think we were lucky to have such a beautiful day for this drive. Rain in the high country is in the forecast for the rest of the week. We plan on exploring a couple of Loveland places before we move on.

Tomorrows plan is to hike in the Devil's Backbone area and also go to a sculpture garden. Hope it doesn't rain.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Royal Gorge and Colorado Springs

On our last day in Pueblo West we went to a scenic tourist attraction just outside of Canon CO. They Royal Gorge is a deep canyon carved out by the Arkansas River. Just before the 1929 stock market crash, a suspension bridge over the gorge was started. Unlike many projects, it was not postponed and was completed within the year.

Royal Gorge had been a tourist destination long before that and has continued to be to this day. 



It is a City park with free entry, but there is a $22 per Senior charge to ride the Gondola and walk across the bridge.

Note: I often mention the cost of things for other RVers, and for my own memories.




















For additional charges, a person could also ride a Zip Line over the Gorge, or ride the Skycoaster.


The Skycoaster involves being strapped into a harness with one or two other people, pulled backward toward the top of another high tower, and then dropped so that you swing back and forth over the edge of the gorge. 




Neither of us had the desire to do either of these things, but it was fun to watch.

On Thursday we headed north to Colorado Springs. 

Image from Web
Since we arrived and got settled by early afternoon, we had time to go and explore the small town of Manatou Springs.


The historic storefronts are now mostly gift shops and eateries catering to tourists. We did not walk around town because the parking was so limited, and this type of shopping doesn't interest us.


Instead we went to the Miramont Castle, which isn't really a castle at all. It is a 14,000 square Foot National Historic Landmark that was built in 1895 as a private residence, for a very rich priest and his mother.  It seems he never really took to the concpt of the vows of poverty followed by his order!

Over the years it has seen several other uses including apartments for returning soldiers after WWII,  and now belongs to the Manitou Historic Society which has restored it and uses it as a museum.


I thought the $8 each admission was quite reasonable, and enjoyed the many collections on display.

We stayed at Goldfields RV Park, which although small, with relatively tight spaces, was conveniently located near our two main destinations, Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods.





We decided to go up Pikes Peak first, but as we headed out, we noticed the sky was a bit overcast. We thought the weather looked bad on the mountain, so we turned around and went to the Garden. 



Sure enough, although there was no rain at the lower levels in the morning, the clouds were heavy on the mountain tops.  Later that afternoon, after we had returned to the Alfa, there was a brief but very heavy rain.

The Garden of the Gods is not really a "garden." The story goes that one of the early land speculators commented that it would be a good place for a Beer Garden. Another then said it would be a good place for a gathering of the Gods. Since then it has been known as the Garden of the Gods.

By now, my readers know we love to see and photograph interesting rocks.



The formations in the Garden of the Gods are large sandstone masses that have been thrust up to be perpendicular to their original  horizontal orientation. 




It's hard to imagine these huge formations were once far underground, or that at one time the land, which has now eroded away, was high enough to cover them.


The Hall of Time illustrated the passage of time and the changes to the land over the eons.





This was one of our favorites

We got a little lost as we walked among the huge sandstone rocks, and ended up walking down one of the roads toward the shuttle stop, rather than staying on the labyrinth of paved pathways. We probably walked more than two miles, but the day was cool and sunny, and the scenery was fantastic. 

The following morning the air was crisp and clear. From our spot in the park the sky was a clear bight blue.  So after a leisurely breakfast, we set out to drive up Pikes Peak. 



When we paid the modest toll at the park entrance, we were told we would not be able to go all the way to the top, because about two feet of snow had fallen the night before.






The two lane road up was winding but smoothly paved. There was no snow or ice on the pavement.



We stopped at many of the scenic pullouts. 



As we went higher there were patches of snow among the rocks.

We were able to drive to about 12,800 ft., and stop at the "16 mile" lot where there was parking for the summit shuttles. Several were parked, waiting for word that the road was open above.


It was quite cold (about 28 F), with a brisk wind. We got out of the Jeep to take a few pictures, crunching across the ice-covered muddy lot.



We decided not to climb the rocks like some of the others, preferring the sheltering warmth of the Jeep.

We stayed there for about a half hour, but the attendants did not think the road to the summit would be opened for the shuttles anytime soon. We may come back this way again someday and be able to go to the top, but for now we are satisfied by what we saw.

The drive back down was equally exciting. I have to admit that I was glad we were on the inside lane for most of the way.

I really like Colorado Springs, and wouldn't mind returning. We were able to take care of several "city" errands, including an appointment at an Apple store for a minor, free repair, a stop at a Costco, a stop at a Trader Joe's, and dinner at a Schlotzsky's sandwich shop.  I think a "Colorado Fall Tour", when the aspens are turning color, may be in our future plans. 

Next stop: Loveland, Estes Park, and the Rocky Mountain National Park. 




Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Moving East: a Visit to Bishops Castle near Pueblo Colorado



We stayed one more day in Montrose, CO so that we could drive our Jeep to visit the less accessible North Rim of the Black Canyon. 






The scenery on the way was well worth the time and miles.



As we drove through the countryside in the Crawford area, I spotted Needle Rock in the distance.




Craig pulled over so I could get a better look and take some pictures. 

This is  zoomed in image of the rock. 







The North Rim has fewer viewpoints, and an unpaved road, but it was very well maintained and the canyon views were as spectacular as on the South Rim. All of the viewpoints were close to the road and had sturdy rails or fencing. We have been reading about stupid tourists falling into the Grand Canyon while taking pictures, so we appreciate these saftey measures and did not climb over them!




I definitly had the feeling we were looking below the "surface" of the earth. The flat plain of the mesa we stood on felt like the skin, and looking across the canyon reinforced the knowledge of how tiny we are. 


We have been enjoying some wonderful Colorado sunsets.








The sky seems bigger here!  I have also been amazed by how green the fields and hillsides are. Of course the brief daily afternoon thunderstorms give everything a nice daily drink, and the build up of the storm clouds is very dramatic.

On Sunday we drove 215 miles East to Haggard's RV Park in West Pueblo, CO. where we are staying for four nights. 

I am trying to be sure to leave reviews on CAMPGROUND REVIEWS this year, so if you are interested in knowing more about where we stay, check them out there. 

Monday, we drove the Jeep along the very scenic Highways 165 and 96 through the San Isabel National Forest. Our destination was Bishop Castle.



I came across a Google listing for it under "things to do near Pueblo CO".

I could write all sorths of words about it, but the online article at: Bishop Castle is well written and tells the complete story.



The Castle is right at the road's edge. The parking is just along the shoulder. The ground is a bit rough, and the signs warn "enter at your own risk."


The truely brave (see the tiny red figure at the top of the tower) can climb up the winding stair ways that slither around the outside of the structure to the base of the tower, and then continue inside the tower.


Personally, I stuck to exploring only the inside stairs and chambers.


Above is the outside view of one of the large windows. The lower half had a large open doorway and clear glass panels.


The inside view of the same window. It takes a bit of study to recognize the top six rows of smaller windows depicts a separate scene from the panels below them.


The windows in the opposite wall are mostly clear. I assume the plan is that additional stained glass will be added. Speaking of "plans" in the article mentioned above, it was written there were no plans or blueprints used. The creator of this place, Jim Bishop, built it based only on his visualizations that grew as the structure grew!




A fire breathing dragon head extends from the roof line. It was constructed from many donated stainless steel warming plates. On summer weekends it sometimes will breathe fire, thanks to a donated hot air balloon gas burner.  I sure would have liked to see that!

We made the loop back to our campground by going through Pueblo, stopping for lunch in town. 

Today, Tuesday, is a rest day, and tomorrow we are planning to go to the Royal Gorge. 

Check back in a few days to read about it.