Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Denver and the Rockies - Day Two - Part Two

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After the Trail Ride we stopped for lunch in Estes Park and then headed for Trail Ridge Road for a drive through the Rocky Mountains. Trail Ridge Road is possibly one of the most spectacular drives you will ever take - it is the highest (12,000 ft ) continuous highway in the US, and takes you way above the tree line to see sweeping panoramas of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We went from a temperature of about 72 to 34 in less than an hour driving up to the Alpine Visitor Center. Along the way we drove through a forest of evergreens, through flower covered meadows of the tundra, glacial landscapes, lava cliffs, a view of Never Summer Mountain Range, Longs Peak and more. We saw elk and marmots, and one of the prettiest rainbows I've ever seen. We even got snowed on. It was very windy and cold up there and Taylor wasn't really prepared so she finally gave in and took my little red jacket - who cares that it was 3 inches short on her.

Again our time was too short.
We were disappointed that the Alpine Center was as far as we could go. We had wanted to cross the Continential Divide and reach Grand Lake before heading back but the sun was setting and we had to get back to Denver.
On the way out Taylor and I wanted to make one more stop. We had seen a small Aspen forest along a little creek when we first entered the trail and we wanted to take some photos before leaving the area. Taylor said she could live back there. It was very peaceful.

I was the designated driver for the trip back to Denver and I needed a cup of coffee. It was the perfect way to end the day in Estes Park. We stopped at a cute little coffee shop called, KIND coffee. Nice comfy chairs to sit in and rest for a minute or two before driving back to Denver. An extra bonus was a nice comment on the feather necklace I was wearing. In fact she wanted my shop information and said she would be in contact because she knew just the person she wanted to buy it for. yay!

The drive back was wonderful. I didn't have anyone on my tail end trying to make me go faster - the only thing in the rear view mirror was a gorgeous sunset.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Denver and the Rockies - Day Two - Part One

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Friday we were excited to head up through Boulder to Estes Park. First however, Keith had to pick up his festival stuff at the Denver FedEx so Taylor and I went into Starbucks to grab a coffee. But we didn't just order and go. The line was about 8 people long to order and about 15 long to pick up the drinks. I'd never seen such a crowded Starbucks but I forgot that this was early morning on a business day in the city. Anyway we were soon on our way out of the city.

Our first mission was to find a place that offered a trail ride on horses - with opportunities to see the beautiful snow-capped mountains of the rockies. We found what we were looking for at Cowpoke Corner Corral just inside Estes Park. Upon arriving, Taylor first spotted a pretty paint pony that she said she hoped she could ride. That was the very horse they assigned her. His name was Scout. Taylor and Scout looked good together. Giving us a private 2 hour ride through the Roosevelt National Forest, Chad, our guide, offered opportunities to stop for photos. He was funny and friendly. My horse's name was Rascal and he did prove to live up to his name a few times but gave me a good ride anyway.

We climbed from the stables at 7,000 ft to 9,000 ft. The air was cool and fresh and the views spectacular. The trail was so narrow and steep that we had to duck for trees and lift our legs to avoid hitting big boulders. To say the least, I didn't feel comfortable taking my hands off the horn for photo taking very often, but I was able to snap off a few shots (most of them from the hip) and the visuals are stored deep in my memory. The way down was a little more treacherous and rough. Our horses managed sharp turns and short, deep steps down called The Devils Staircase like masters - they'd being riding this trail for 15 years or so.

My cowboy boots certainly got properly worn in with trail dirt and scratches. And our legs and back ends were a little sore the next day but nothing like I expected. It was a great ride.

This horse is right in fashion with his perfect ombre mane.

Denver and the Rockies - Day One - Part Two

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After Garden of the Gods we drove to Red Rocks for what I'm sure will probably be one of the most spectacular concerts we will see in our lives. Bon Iver and Feist played at the famous Red Rocks Ampitheatre and we had tickets.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. At 6,450 feet above sea level, the Park is a unique transitional zone where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains.

The area of Red Rocks, originally known as the Garden of Angels, has attracted the attention of musical performers since before the turn of the century. The majestic setting of the Amphitheatre, along with the panoramic view of Denver, makes for a breathtaking scene. Certainly the best venue we have ever had a chance to visit.

The southern monolith, that bears resemblance to a ship, is named "Ship Rock." On the opposite side of the Amphitheatre stands "Creation Rock." Both of the monoliths are taller than Niagara Falls, and the Red Rocks Amphitheatre was once listed as among the Seven Wonders of the World.

After finding our seats on row 32, and eating our hotdogs, we decided to climb to the top - there are 192 steps to the top! From there you can see the city of Denver way in the distance.

from the top

setting sun

Again I wish we had taken time to move about and take more photos. It was a sold out show and very crowded but if we had gone back up to the top I bet we could have gotten a nice sunset photo. I did manage to get a decent almost-full moon shot with my iphone. It was a beautiful, yet chilly night and the concert was awesome. Three sisters, called The Staves was the opening act followed by Feist and then Bon Iver. All three - outstanding, and in the magnificent setting - unbelievable.

almost-full moon over Shiprock

Denver and the Rockies - Day One

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Keith, Taylor and I just got back from a 5 day vacation in the Rockies. The initial purpose of the trip was for a festival that Keith was participating in called the People's Fair in Denver but with a few extra days we made it a full-out vacation of fun.
After flying in to Denver, we drove to Colorado Springs to hike through the Garden of the Gods - what a magnificent introduction to this part of the country. The drive down to Colorado Springs was beautiful - the sweeping pastoral greens being hit by the setting sun was gorgeous.
Thursday morning, first on the list was hiking boots for Taylor. We found some that she loved and headed out to hike through the gardens. I have to say those hiking boots gave Taylor a little more confidence that I was comfortable with. She hiked to high grounds... and I followed. But it was worth it because the views where outstanding.

Cathedral Spires

That rock above looks pretty precarious don't you think?

Cathedral Valley

Balanced Rock

Three Graces

a sweet spot

siamese twins

a view of Pikes Peak

I wish we had had several more hours here to hike and take photos but we had to make our way towards Red Rocks for the concert of our lives.

Looking at the photos now it seems we were in some pretty dangerous situations. At the time it almost felt like these structures were man-made - just inviting you to climb and explore wherever you wanted without fear of mishap. But if your think about it these rocks and sandstone structures could shift at any time, anyplace. I'm glad our play was safe. We had a blast and it truly is some of the most spectacular scenery you'll see anywhere.