Monday, August 31, 2015

Slow Living in Salida

A much-needed Monday afternoon rain provides a perfect opportunity to play blog catch-up. It's hoped the precipitation will vanquish at least some of this vexing smoke and provide the stunning mountain views we crave. The effects of the haze are obvious in many of the following photos.

Above, on the left is, in my opinion, one of the Sawatch Range's showiest peaks and the one with the most bad-ass name: The Devil's Armchair. I believe the peak to the right is Mt. Ouray. Sadly, rather than the usual Hi-Def version, we currently view these magnificent giants on a 1956 Zenith topped with rabbit ears.

What a difference from this 2005 view from S Mountain to the Arkansas River Valley below! 

Folks climb S Mountain for its incomparable views of Salida, its river valley, and the mountain ranges beyond. Though the day was hot, muggy, and hazy, it was still good to be back climbing this big ol' hill that keeps watch over town.

The mountain's trail system is extensive and I spent a lot of time hiking it years ago but ... that was in the winter. I kept to the dirt road this time and here’s why.

Randy had a close encounter with a rattlesnake near camp recently and his experience is on my mind when I’m tempted to step onto a foot trail. However, the spiraling road is scenic enough as it winds through the rolling hills. 

The summit is in view.

This is my old rock perch (photo from 2005) where I would often pause during a winter climb to gaze forever and beyond to the magnificent Sangre de Cristo Range to the southeast.

One doesn't have to be a geologist to know that these are extinct volcanoes that once blew their tops. But good.

In fact, S Mountain itself is a result of that ancient volcanic upheaval.  Look closely and you can see the now-hardened rivulets of ash from the lava.

I reach the turn-around point ...

... followed by the descent and a mournfully indistinct view of valley and town. 

I spent the weekend days in town, strolling the mean streets of Salida. I love parking on a quiet side street and endlessly exploring what might be my all-time favorite jaywalk town. 

Meanwhile back at camp, peace reigns.  We take the occasional walk. Thanks, Randy, for the photo share! 

Randy, Me, Jeanne, Riley

We had a fun happy hour last night. Nancy and her fur-kid Dolly have joined us, so now we are four.

Randy philosophizes.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Salida, CO

Ahhh … I could easily live here.

In fact, I did!

Winter 2005

Ten years ago I accepted an assignment as a travel nurse with tiny Heart of the Rockies Medical Center. I’d never heard of Salida until my recruiter called with the offer.  Boy, did I luck out with that assignment!

My house then ....

My house now ...

I’ve had an ongoing love affair with Salida ever since. I wrote about my 4 months working here when I last visited in 2013. I’m always concerned that this delightful little gem will change, become faddish, and lose its defining unpretentious, artistic, funky character.

But I’m happy to report my fears are, thus far, unfounded.  I'm reassured when I get to town and see that there is still just one traffic light.

At present, the GDB and I are happily encamped in Bighorn Canyon - BLM land just a few miles outside of town.

Back to river living.

It's blissfully quiet here in the mornings as I enjoy the first cup of coffee. 

I’m in good company with Jeanne and Randy as we experience a succession of laid-back days during which we frequently comment on our good fortune. 

Although I truly believe, as Walt Whitman wrote ... I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.  

Speaking of fate and self-made fortune, I’ve been searching for artwork to display in the GDB foyer.  I found it a few days ago in a consignment shop. 

It’s a powerful reminder of the time, 3 years ago, when I lost the job I loved and was consumed with hopelessness, bitterness, and paralyzing fear for the future.

During those dark days it was impossible to imagine I would be living this life of peace, gratitude, and freedom. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turquoise Lake Hike

More of a stroll, really. At an elevation of 9,760 feet, surrounded by 13ers and 14ers, this reservoir is a real stunner. Combine the enticing scenery with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60's, two words come to mind. Per. Fect.

Located just a few miles outside Leadville, the 6.4 mile hiking trail bisects a lovely lodgepole pine forest and Turquoise Lake.

Believe it or not, the route posed some navigational challenges due to this typical trail signage.

The many soft sandy beach areas were pretty much deserted and oh-so-inviting. I stopped often to admire the crystal clear water and the most excellent views.

And for lunch.

Part of the trail is adjacent to Molly Brown Campground - another pristine National Forest Service facility.

With so much to see and do, combined with the cool temperatures and abundance of appealing camping spots (8 campgrounds!), I could spend the entire summer here.

After the hike, I made of couple of stops. One was to check out the Mt. Massive Golf Course, a 9-hole public course on the outskirts of Leadville.  At 9,680 feet, it's the highest course in North America.

These are for you, Sweetheart!  ;-)

 Here's the first tee with (hazy) Mt. Elbert in the background.

This sweet girl works in the Pro Shop.

Imagine the views out the living room windows from this house across from the course!

Next, it was on to the glamorous task of dumping the tanks. The nice folks at the Leadville Sanitation Department charge $5 for the privilege. This floral display outside the office cracked me up.

I'll be moving on over the next few days. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Leadville, CO

The Big Race

It occurs to me that I never posted photos of the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge that raced through Buena Vista last week. 

It was exciting to get a glimpse some of the elite athletes that John and I watch every year competing in the Tour de France. This was a 5-man breakaway with a 5-minute lead. The final standings can be found here. 

The riders flew by in the click of a shutter, but it was a thrilling 6 seconds! 

Like the turtle told the police after being mugged by a garden slug: It all happened so fast!

I continued to hang out in Buena Vista until the forecast turned ugly – that is, hot and humid. (The very circumstance I drove 1,700 miles to escape).  Before leaving, I took one last hike from my daytime home - my you-know-what down by the you-know-where.

Aren’t these wildflowers beautiful? Anyone know what species they are?

Gee, thanks. This sign would have been much more helpful before I made my way down that steep loose rock.

The smoke from the terrible Pacific Northwest fires continue to plague us here in the west. The result is a hazy Buena Vista sunset.

On to Leadville

The former mining town of Leadville - altitude 10,152 feet - provided the temperatures I was longing for with highs in the upper 60s and low humidity. 

This Main Street antique shop, with 10,000 square feet of merchandise, captured me with its gravitational pull. I never had a chance. 

You can browse for hours. In fact, I did!

In addition to comfortable temps, I was craving some peaceful quiet.  I found it at Father Dyer Campground, one of the many National Forest Service campgrounds surrounding Turquoise Lake. Every campground I toured is absolutely spotless. Even the fire pits are pristine.

The only sounds I hear in my massive back yard are birds and the wind through the leaves. Heaven! Add to that, 3 bars of 4G wi-fi and sites so spacious one can't see one's neighbors and ... I'm a happy camper.

The elegant and practically deserted Turquoise Lake was a short hike away. That's Mt. Elbert in the background, Colorado's highest peak at 14,439 feet. 

The next day, I would re-visit Turquoise Lake for a lovely hike.  I’ll post the details next time.