nederlandliving.com Life in the Mountains of Colorado - Adventures of Mountain Living

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Life in the Mountains of Colorado - Adventures of Mountain Living Life in the Mountains of Colorado Home Nederland Current Weather & Web Cam About Nederland Indian Peaks Wilderness About Frozen Dead Guy Days About Us Gallery Contact Us Beyond two miles Posted on August 16, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Enjoying some solitude with Simon and Shawnee The views kept getting better and better. As soon as we broke out of the woods, and got above timberline, high peaks appeared in almost every direction. I felt like breaking out into song. “Climb Every Mountain” seemed appropriate as we walked along the tundra, the large expanses of green bordering the trail on both sides. Wildflowers were popping out as well — a sprig of red here, a pop of purple there, with a dash of yellow appearing every so often, creating a colorful display. I stopped periodically just to take it all in, capturing the scene with my camera. This is why I moved to the mountains, to be able to enjoy the splendor and majesty of the Rocky Mountains within a few minutes drive from our home in Nederland. The peace and quiet of our hiking solitude enveloped me as we made our way even higher towards the pass. With all the craziness that goes on in the world, people rushing here and there to work harder and harder, traffic jams of people in their cars, as they commute back and forth to work, the natural world has become my refuge. The strange thing is that many of my friends shied away from going for a hike that day, because the day was supposed to be one of the busiest of the summer. Fourth of July holiday notoriously draws people to the mountains in droves. The weather is at its hottest, and many people have a 3-day weekend. Drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and you’ll be greeted by lines of cars waiting to get through the entrance gate, and no parking available along the popular Bear Lake Road. But after years of working and living in and near some of America’s most sought after national parks and wilderness areas, I’ve discovered a little secret. While Americans might crave the outdoors, most don’t want to earn those scenic views. Take any trail on any given weekend, and once you get beyond about 1.5 miles from the trail head, the people disappear. Suddenly, it will feel like a week day in November, and you’ll be surprised how few you will encounter. I’ve gone hiking on Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Rocky Mountain, as well as Desolation Wilderness in Lake Tahoe and the Indian Peaks Wilderness here near Nederland. Walk two miles in any direction from the closest parking area, and most of the people are gone. This year was no different, when we decided to tackle Mt. Flora off of Berthoud Pass, a mere hour outside of Denver. Sum total of people we saw after that first half-mile — six hearty souls. One of the funniest stories I ever heard from my Park Ranger friends was in Sequoia National Park. A long time ranger there described an odd phone call he’d had with a visitor, someone wanting to visit the park for the first time. She asked about things to do while visiting the park. He suggested to her she could hike the sequoia grove, walk up to the top of Moro Rock, take a stroll around Crescent Meadow. But, she lamented, “she didn’t want to have to leave her car.” After more conversation, and her resisting his suggestions, he hung up the phone, the visitor having concluded that “there really wasn’t anything for her to see at Sequoia National Park.” Don’t let the holidays or weekends scare you away from enjoying all the beauty this amazing state has to offer. Because I promise you this, despite how long it may take you to park, stick it out through those first two miles, and you will get all the solitude, peace and quiet you desire. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Bear Lake Road, Berthoud Pass, Crescent Meadow, Fourth of July, Moro Rock, Mt. Flora, Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountains, Sequoia National Park | Leave a comment | Around the Circle Posted on August 13, 2016 by lesliegb6720 “Round and round they go, where they’ll stop, nobody knows” says a popular children’s rhyme. But in the case, it’s more than an apt description of what I witness on a daily basis when I am at work. That’s because the museum I work at in the town of Nederland sits right on the infamous Nederland traffic circle. Three main roads, three very busy, popular roads come into the circle, and with most of those people being from out of town or even out of state, they seem to have no idea what to do. Especially when it’s super busy with long lines of cars in all three directions. Which way do I look? That seems to be the most pressing and confounding thing to most motorists. Programmed to look to your right at a typical 4-way intersection, it seems confusing. But in fact, when you are trying to enter the circle, you look to your left and wait for a break, before hopping into the circle. What to do once you’re in the circle seems equally confusing. I smile as I watch people come to a complete halt while driving the circle. No, no, no – don’t stop! I think to myself as I watch the craziness. Stopping in the circle is a sure recipe for an accident or at a minimum bringing the flow of traffic into the circle to a complete stop. They ought to have rules they post on a sign before entering the circle, or even better perhaps a short video clip on what to do. Nevertheless, the fun goes on. And actually, studies have proven, traffic circles (when driven properly) are much more efficient in keeping the flow of traffic moving than 4-way stops are. Of course, mountain towns in Colorado are not the only places to employ traffic circles. Back in Washington, DC, where I used to live, there were lots of circles — Dupont Circle, Washington Circle, Logan Circle and the list goes on. And outside the U.S., circles abound all over Europe and other continents. By far, the most frightened I have ever been in my life while driving was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the largest cities in the world. Many years ago, while visiting a friend down there, I was thrown to the wolves to drive the streets of a city I barely knew. All due to my friend becoming deathly ill with food poisoning because of bad seafood he had eaten. Too weak to drive after an outing at the beach, I drove his tiny Brazilian car back to Sao Paulo. As we entered the city limits, I approached the largest traffic circle I have ever seen with cars and buses zipping around it in multiple lanes. I realized quickly that counter to the normal philosophy and my gut reaction, rather than stopping as I approached the circle, I was going to have to gun it or risk getting crunched from behind. I sort of half-closed my eyes and stepped on the accelerator. Before I knew it, we were exiting the circle, and I had survived. Compared to that experience, our little Nederland traffic circle seems like a piece of cake. Try telling that to that tourist from Nebraska…. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Dupont Circle, Nederland, traffic circles | Leave a comment | Follow the cairns Posted on August 11, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Cairn on Mt. Flora I marveled at the sculpture of rocks, seemingly balancing one upon another, forming a sculpture that towered five feet high. It reminded me of the childhood game of Jenga, where you pile wooden blocks one on top of another without the pile crashing. How had they managed to balance one rock upon the other? I wondered too whether this was the some culmination of many a hiker who came before or one artistic hiker who had a lot of time on their hands. If you spend enough time scaling Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, you will ultimately come across a lot of cairns — piles of rocks that denote the trail as you climb above timberline across the tundra. Cairns a life savers when climbing Colorado’s Fourteeners, as otherwise, you could quite easily get off route into a precarious situation. Sometimes, a cairn is simply three, four or five rocks sort of plopped along the trail. But other cairns are towers of individual pieces of granite, that can reach up to six feet high along the summits of the peaks. They are works of art unto themselves and I feel inspired to keep pushing along when sighting these landmarks. Cairns have been around a lot longer than people have been hiking the Rocky Mountains. The use of cairns go back to prehistoric times, where they were not only used as landmarks but for other purposes as well. They have often been used for ceremonial purposes such as marking burial grounds, but also for hunting, as well as for marking caches. Hikers passing by often add a stone, as a small bit of maintenance to counteract the wind and snow that can topple the cairns. I’ve often heard people refer to cairns as “ducks” as well, supposedly because they sometimes have a “beak” pointing in the direction of the route. The expression “two rocks do not make a duck” reminds hikers that just one rock resting upon another could be the result of accident or nature rather than intentional trail marking. As a hiker, you have to be careful about adding new cairns as there is nothing more frustrating when scaling a peak than seeing an abundance of cairns seemingly going in every direction. Rather than providing clear direction, I become frustrated with not knowing which cairns to follow. Nevertheless, being directionally challenged myself when it comes to route-finding, a large pile of rocks is a welcome sight for me, much better than following the proverbial trail of bread crumbs. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Colorado Rocky Mountains, Fourteeners, Mt. Flora | Leave a comment | Early Color Change? Posted on August 9, 2016 by lesliegb6720 A glimmer of yellow caught my eye. Then another one. And another one. Yes, it was true, those were Aspen leaves I had seen. And they weren’t brown, they were yellow. And yet, it was the first week of August. How could that be? I already wrote how this past July was one of the driest ones we’ve had in Nederland, well below 50% of normal precipitation. I wondered what this would mean for the Aspens and the fall color change. Well, apparently, I’m getting my answer. Water is critical to Aspen trees making food for the trees, or producing chlorophyll which is what gives the Aspen leave their green color. Per the Forest Service, “water and nutrients flow from the roots, through the branches, and into the leaves. Photosynthesis produces sugars that flow from the leaves to other tree parts where some of the chemical energy is used for growth and some is stored.” But this year, with so little water, the guess is Aspens would have very little energy left to be stored. Usually as part of the color changing process, the Aspen will grow a corky membrane between the branch and the leaf stem that stops the flow of nutrients, essentially depriving the tree of food. Once the tree stops getting food, the production of chlorophyll stops which means the end of green leave. In fact the chlorophyll masks the yellows, reds and oranges, so when chlorophyll stops, the beautiful fall colors come out. I suspect the lack of water is contributing to the Aspen trees losing their nutrient flow earlier, and will prematurely stop photosynthesis and producing chlorophyll. Here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, we normally expect to see peak fall colors from the third week to September to the first week of October. This year may bring about a very early color change, and in the process disappoint many of our fall visitors who might arrive only to find dead leaves and empty branches. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Aspen color change, Colorado Rocky Mountains | Leave a comment | Rollins Pass Posted on August 6, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Our little 2-wheel drive Mazda hatchback bounced along the dirt road, climbing ever higher. At times I was sure we were going to bottom out completely. As we continued on, the road got narrower and more rutted. This didn’t seem like such a direct and certain route to Nederland and ultimately Boulder. In fact, it was getting rougher by the minute. As we mulled over whether to call it quits and turn around, we spied a bright orange sign — “Road closed five miles ahead”. Well that was it, there was no way forward. Back to Winter Park we went, with me pulling out the trusty Colorado state map, trying my best to figure out another “short cut” to Boulder. Our first introduction to Rollins Pass (also known as Corona Pass) was six years ago this month, when we left our home in Palisade, Colorado to drive to Boulder for a conference that Bryon was presenting at. Having recently moved to the state, we were rookies when it came to navigating Colorado mountain roads. And that trip only proved that over and over. Trestles from old railroad on Rollins Pass My trusty Colorado map had showed a thin gray line connecting Winter Park to Highway 72 just south of Nederland, a route we had thought we could drive, with a low clearance hatchback to boot. After our aborted attempt, I did a little research on Rollins Pass. Turns out it hasn’t been a through road for some 20 years or more, and even then, in the early 1990s, was passable to only a high clearance jeep. The road was blocked by what was a stone tunnel — “The Eye of the Needle” that had collapsed and never been repaired. But that trip did lead me to find out a whole lot more about Rollins Pass and Colorado’s unique railroad history. In 1902, David Moffat sought to build a through railway connecting Denver with the western slope of Colorado via the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railway. The railroad was built using thirty-three tunnels to go through the mountains, ultimately climbing over 11,660 feet over Rollins Pass, the highest elevation of any railroad in the country. When the railroad was constructed, it was intended as a temporary route, meant to only be in service for a few years until a more permanent tunnel could be built boring through the Continental Divide. Because of this the railroad, building was done cheaply with sharp curves and steep grades to cut costs. Every winter, the blizzards and winds would usher in massive amounts of snow and huge drifts, often shutting the railroad down for days and weeks at time, sometime stranding trains at the top of the pass. The attempts to keep the line clear drained funding for the railroad. As years turned into decades, it seemed an alternative route would never been constructed. Finally in the 1920s, through some political deal-making, funding became available to finally construct the much needed tunnel through the mountain. The Moffat Tunnel opened in 1928, and Rollins Pass quickly became a piece of history. By 1935, the tracks had been torn up, and its stories long forgotten. However, in the 1950s, Rollins Pass was reopened as a scenic tourist road during summer and fall. It remained open to vehicle traffic until 1979 when the stone tunnel collapsed closing it. After construction work, it briefly reopened in 1988, only to permanently close in 1990. Today, the only way over Rollins Pass is either by mountain biking (and hike-a-biking over the tunnel) or hiking. You have to earn those spectacular views. As I gazed upon the trestles during a recent hike, I thought of what a spectacular train ride that must have been a hundred years ago for those lucky few who got to sample Rocky Mountain heaven riding the rails at 11,000 feet. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Corona Pass, David Moffat, Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railway, Moffat Tunnel, Nederland, Rollins Pass, Winter Park | Leave a comment | The Bat Cat Posted on August 4, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Dora, the “Bat Cat” The little black and white cat was doing her tightrope act again, prowling back and forth on the banister high above the great room. But this time was different. Instead of nibbling on the hanging plant and doing her pirhouettes like she normally does, she instead was fixated on the beams over her head. Intently staring at the ceiling, she kept making these chirping sounds. She would not be deterred from her watch. “The last time she acted like this was when we had a bat in the house,” Bryon commented. “But I don’t see anything.” The words were no sooner out of his mouth, as if they were hanging over his head in a balloon, words spoken in a comic strip, and something flew over my head. Instinctively, I shrieked, as the dark animal came whizzing over my head. The little brown bat was back. This despite the very lovely bat house we built for the bats that has been sitting empty for over two years now. I say back, because this is not a first foray with bats in our Nederland home. We found one roosting on the beam above our bed one night when we were going to bed. We were able to capture that one with a can and a piece of cardboard and release it outside. The second time was also in our bedroom, for which we opened all the windows, removed the screens and eventually it left of its own accord. Despite the late hour of 10 p.m., neither one of us felt comfortable just going to bed while Mr. Bat hung out in our living room. This time the bat was far too high above for us to capture, so we resorted to opening the doors and windows and tossing things at it to move it from its perch. We threw socks which then ended up hanging from the lampshade or on the ledges of our enormous plate glass windows that make up the western side of our house. Then were threw crumpled up wads of newspaper. No luck. Finally, Bryon got and extender pole he uses to wash the tall windows and started poking it. Off it went, zooming around the nether regions of the room. My reaction — a shriek and then lying prone on the floor, so as not to get a bat extricated in my hair. Finally, it roosted one more time in the loft — we opened the window as wide as possible. Bryon handed me the screen and instructed me to use the screen to “guide” the bat out the window. Was it supposed to be like a shield? I was confused. He poked it, I put the screen up in front of my face, then stumbled into the guitar which sounded out a discordant strum. We think the bat is gone. After using a flashlight to search every nook and cranny of the ceiling and loft, our final test is to bring back the “bat cat”, aka Dora. We release her into the great room, she peers at the ceiling for several minutes, but no chirping. She proceeds to lose interest (this is a good thing!) and goes back into the bedroom. All is well, we are bat free for the night! Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: bat cat, bat house, little brown bat, Nederland | 1 Comment | A Dry July Posted on August 1, 2016 by lesliegb6720 As the afternoon wore on, it became noticeably darker and lights illuminated the building. Dark clouds rolled in over head. Cooler air rushed in through the door, providing welcome relief from the heat of the last few weeks. A few minutes later and the pitter patter of raindrops fell on the roof overhead. Rain! In reality, we have a seven weeks of summer left, though usually Labor Day weekend marks the end of the summer season. But it’s been so hot and dry the last few weeks, it feels like summer has been going on, and on, and on. In all my years of living in the mountains, six years in the Sierra, and six years here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I’ve never experienced such a hot, dry summer. And it’s not all in my head. The average precipitation for July is around 2.5 inches, and in the last five years, we’ve been averaging almost twice that for our traditional Colorado monsoon season. But heading into today, the last day of July, we had barely reached an inch, and truth be known, the bulk of that was due to one rainy day a couple of weeks ago. No wonder, twigs are snapping, and everything feels dry and crunchy as I walk through the woods behind our home. The monsoon season we so desperately needed to quell the wildfire danger never came this summer. During other summers up here at 8200 feet, we rarely exceed 80 degrees for the high temperature. And most afternoons cool off from the thunderstorms that roll in. But not this July. Without the benefit of cooler air or air conditioning, there has been many an afternoon that I’ve come home to roasting temperatures inside our house of 85 degrees. No wonder the dogs were panting, looking desperately for a shaded spot to take refuge in. The only saving grace for Simon and Shawnee was a stroll to North Boulder Creek to submerge themselves in the cold and rushing water. And even with the welcome rain this afternoon of a tenth of an inch, we finished the month at less than 50% of normal precipitation. Here’s hoping this is a start of another trend — a very wet August. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Colorado monsoon, Colorado Rocky Mountains, Nederland, North Boulder Creek | 1 Comment | Things that go bump in the night Posted on July 30, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Feeling restless, I got up from bed to go to the bathroom. I felt around with my toe on the floor, not wanting to step on our dog, Simon, who I knew was sleeping right next to our bed. At 3:30 a.m. in the morning, with no moon or other light penetrating the blinds, I could not even see my hand (or my toes). Sidestepping the dog, I made my way gingerly across the carpet and turned the corner towards the bathroom. Konk! I cried in pain, my eyeball felt like it had been hit by a baseball bat. But it wasn’t a bat, instead it was my husband’s head. Coming from the bathroom, our paths had led us right into each other. What’s remarkable is that, in the complete darkness of the room, neither of us had seen each other. The darkness and silence of our mountain home is something I cherish about living up here in our Nederland home. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we live only 30 minutes from the 100,000+ metropolis of Boulder. We are far enough off the beaten path, that there is no road noise, no headlights, and no lights period during the dead of night. Looking to the west, the stars twinkle brightly in the sky. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword. For one, you hand up smacking heads with your spouse because you simply can’t see them. But it also can be difficult to travel to other places. I find myself unable to fall asleep because of a small crack of light filtering through the window shade. Or I toss and turn because of the noise of traffic humming outside the window. I’m so used to the dark and silence of mountain living, it basically has ruined my ability to sleep anywhere else. However, the silver lining is I probably won’t crack my head open in the middle of the night… Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Nederland | Leave a comment | Wild about wildflowers Posted on July 27, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Pink paintbrush in bloom in the Colorado Rocky Mountains The vibrant pink color confronting me was overwhelming. Contrasted against the green tundra with snow capped mountains in the background, it felt like a scene straight of “The Sound of Music”. It was all I could do to keep myself from breaking out into “Climb Every Mountain…” Though this summer has not been my favorite for so many reasons (having a close call with a wildfire being one), what makes up for this time of year is hiking into the high country, encountering the beauty of wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains. Earlier in my life, when I lived a more conventional life, in small towns of Oregon or the suburbs of Maryland, I used to love to garden. I looked forward to springtime, heading to the local nursery, buying up pony packs of annuals and perennials. I would spend my weekends planting container gardens with mixture of golds and purples, pinks and reds. I would water them waiting for the splash of color that would brighten my day when I came home after work. But life in the mountains is different. Water is such a prized resource here. When you live on a well system, Colorado water law dictates how and for what purpose you can use that water. Watering flowers outside is not one of those purposes. So instead I take what Mother Nature gives us. This year, due to our wet spring, it was an abundance of Pasque flowers and Wild Roses right outside our door. And now in the dog doays of summer, I must venture farther from home to get my flower fix, but the rewards are no less stunning. Fields of pink paintbrush carpet the high alpine areas, along with my favorite tundra wildflower, Sky Pilot. It’s that much sweeter to find my tundra wildflower gardens, because without the trees, the expanses of gold, pinks and purples seem to go on and on as far as the eye can see. A lovely couple I know lost their home in the recent Cold Springs Wildfire. I could feel how painful it was for them to not only find their home in ashes but to see the beautiful landscape they had so cherished become blackened and charred. She asked me if it would recover, what would happen next year? Perhaps one of the silver linings to a terrible fire is the rebirth in the years after. One of the most beautiful wildflower displays I have ever seen was here in the mountains the very next spring after a terrible wildfire. I was hiking up the hill, approaching the burn area, and the ground was completely covered in purple and yellow wildflowers. It took my breath away. Wildflowers remind that life is filled with surprises, many of them filled with joy and beauty. Take a walk out there in the high country of Colorado and you will experience the beauty and wildness of the Rocky Mountains. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Cold Springs wildfire, Colorado Rocky Mountains, Colorado wildflowers, Sky Pilot, The Sound of Music | Leave a comment | Fifty-eight degrees Posted on July 25, 2016 by lesliegb6720 Driving up from Boulder, I opened the car window and shut the air conditioner off for a change. It actually felt… comfortable, instead of the typical 90+ degree oppressive. I watched the exterior temperature gauge inside my car steadily drop as I made my 15-mile drive back to our home in Nederland. By the time I pulled into our driveway at 8:30 this evening, the temperature was 58 degrees. Fifty-eight degrees!!!! I have to admit that I feel a bit sheepish complaining about heat living at 8200 feet. Especially when I know the majority of the country has been baking at 100 degrees along with high humidity. I watch baseball being played in St. Louis, where the start of a 7 pm degree shows sweat rolling off the pitcher’s cap. Or the desert southwest, like Phoenix and Las Vegas, regularly exceeding 110 degrees, where it actually is hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. But living in the mountains also means living without air conditioning or swamp coolers (the west’s version of air conditioning in ultra dry climates). We think a hot day as one that exceeds eighty degrees for the daytime highs. This summer, we have regularly been reaching upper 80s and even 90, which is unheard of. The house has gotten so hot, that the interior reached a stifling 84 degrees by the time I get home at night. I’ve become Target’s best customer buying up box fans, and opening every window and running a multitude of fans just to get it tolerable enough to sleep at night. This is the summer of hot, hotter, and hotter than hell. And it seems never-ending. And if that isn’t bad enough, it’s all the summer or no rain in Nederland. Even when rain is falling all around us – rain in Boulder, rain in Denver, no rain in Nederland. The sad thing is even after going through the trauma of this terrible wildfire that go so close to our house, I still feel like the danger and risk continues. There’s still forest outside our door that could so easily be ignited by a stray cigarette, an illegal campfire, a lightning strike. Despite the Cold Springs Fire being declared officially out, I drive around with the fire boxes in my car, not trusting that the danger is over. With no rain and exceedingly hot temperatures, the reality is that we’ve got a good 2 1/2 months of wildfire season yet to go, and my nerves can’t take that. So, fifty-eight degrees feels pretty good. Fifty-eight degrees feels like autumn actually might be around the corner, and fifty-eight degrees feels like a less dangerous night for a fire to break out. At fifty-eight degrees, I might just get a good night’s sleep for the first time in two weeks. Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: Cold Springs Fire, fire boxes, Nederland, swamp cooler | Leave a comment | Next Entries Pages Nederland Current Weather & Web Cam About Nederland Indian Peaks Wilderness About Frozen Dead Guy Days About Us Gallery Contact Us Archives August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 March 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 Categories Uncategorized (356) WordPress Log in WordPress Subscribe Entries (RSS) Comments (RSS) ? A WordPress Site

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