Kirkwood

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Up, eat, out. A moderate drive today, to Kirkwood Mountain Resort, where we hope to enjoy the shade of high-altitude forest, even if it’s hot.

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The first stop of any significance was at Carson Pass. After the salt desert of Utah and the basin and range of Nevada, it’s wonderful to be back in the Sierra Nevada.

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I talked to the bikie. He said he lives in South Tahoe, just decided to come out and ride today. Thought he’d go as far as Kirkwood, then turn around and go back. Good for him!

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We too found ourselves at Kirkwood not much later. We’ve gone past here any number of times, but never turned in. It’s actually quite a big place, condos and lodges, surrounded by a U of volcanic cliffs, with ski lifts going up in all directions. These places are trying to turn themselves into four-season attractions, but I think Kirkwood is falling short. Few people here, trails almost deserted, lots of empty parking places, For-Sale signs everywhere. Only food in walking distance is at the general store, which closes at 5.

While we wish them all success, we’re happy to have the world more or less to ourselves. Jacky and I went out for a hike, along the Dangberg trail.

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Wildflowers everywhere, enough water that they can exuberate well beyond the level possible where we live.

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At the junction of Dangberg and Sentinels trails, we parted company. I wanted to do more work than did Jacky, so I hiked on up to the rim and some distance along it toward Thunder Mountain. Jacky continued on Dangberg trail.

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I heard a loud whoosh, and this guy passed within inches of my head, soared off into space, perched on this snag, turned its head back to look at me and ask, “What are you going to do about it?” Notice the band on its leg.

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A view from the top, showing pretty much all of Kirkwood Meadows. We’re staying in one of the buildings down there.

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Different angle from much the same vantage point, showing a sliver of Caples Lake and highway 88 as it comes down from there.

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Yet a third view, yet further to the left, showing the exposed granite north of here. It is somewhat different geology; the local rock is lava, often containing embedded chunks of rock, which are themselves broken chunks of earlier lava flows.

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I presume that these two large rocks are the Sentinels for which the trail was named. The one on the right is visible from Kirkwood valley.

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Looking the other direction from the top of Sentinels trail. We’re near the tree line; much of what we see here is alpine meadow.

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The flow of lava is clearly visible in this outcropping.

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At the top, and maybe in the depths of the ridge as well, the lava is a barrier only 20 or 100 feet thick; the trail runs below the crest, on the side away from Kirkwood valley. I thought there might be views of Silver Lake down the back side, but not from the part of the trail I hiked.

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I hiked into the trees at the top right of this picture, but declared victory before reaching the patch of snow. I have only one water bottle, it’s mid-afternoon, and I’m not entirely comfortable with an unfamiliar trail and a minimal to nonexistent map.

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Showing how thin the wall of lava rock is at the top.

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We usually don’t think of evergreen patterns as particularly artistic, but this one impressed me.

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Having already seen some of the distant views, I looked more closely at the wildflowers on the way down.

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Went back to the Resort office to see about getting checked in. We’re in a separate building several hundred feet away, a condo room that’s just fine — windows on two sides that can be opened to let in the overnight mountain air! Walked back to the general store for munchies, then returned to the lodge where we sat in the lobby and worked on photos and such.

Home tomorrow; nice to end the vacation on a high note. But no more three-week vacations: it’s just too long.

 

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Dinosaurs

Monday, 25 July 2016

Up early, and ready to go. One good thing about this outdoors-oriented town is that the breakfast restaurants open at 6. We were on the road at 7. We had thought to go to Grand Junction today, but decided instead to stay on US 40 and go to Salt Lake City. Good choice: pretty grassland and forest scenery along the Yampa valley to start with, then getting into open plains, then into the eroded land near the Flaming Gorge, the Green, Yampa and Colorado rivers.

Our early adventure was successfully braking for a deer in the road, which was busy demonstrating why deer are poor life insurance risks.

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We stopped to enjoy blueberries and apples at a rest stop, quite different scenery to the west and to the east.

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A phallic close-up of the rock to the east.

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And the Jacky borrowed my camera and wasted a shot.

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A couple of little birds across the way, pecking for something yummy. No idea what they are.

Next stop was the Dinosaur National Monument gift shop, where we learned that the fossil exhibit was seven miles north of Jensen. Well, why not! (Why not could be that the entrance fee is $20 per car; but we have a parks pass, so that wasn’t a problem.)

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There is a large building over the site of many of the fossil excavations. In the beginning, they removed them and shipped them off to various universities and museums, but close to a hundred years ago, they decided it was best to leave the fossils in situ. And so they are.

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Two grad students were climbing around on the quarry, taking notes. The ranger said they were working on a Master’s project.

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Some of the fossils have been cast in plaster and are more easily seen.

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And models have been constructed for a few of them, too. The allosaurus is of course the favourite, as the biggest carnivore in the local menagerie.

Very hot day, so we didn’t go hiking, although there were plenty of trails. Drove on, enjoying a brief thunderstorm, until we reached I-80 east of Salt Lake. Slow (slow!) trucks making their way up the Wasatch grade on the east side, but on the west side, all of us, including the 18-wheelers, took it out of gear and let it roll. Speed limit 65, actuals up to about 80, except of course for the curves.

A little tricky finding our B&B, getting in, getting ensconced, but we did. Out for a beer and a meal, to Bayou, a nearby cajun restaurant. Pretty good, and only about three blocks. The heat was so uncomfortable that we didn’t go wandering, just headed back to the B&B to mellow out.

 

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Steamboat

Sunday, 24 July 2016

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Allan, one half of our B&B hosting team, is pretty versatile. As well as having done some very impressive athletic things, he also sketched these, which adorn our room.

After yet another great breakfast, we said our good-byes and headed for LaGrange, Cheyenne, Laramie, where we stopped for gas and to get some blueberries and apples for later.

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Later turned out to be Walden, Colorado, where we sat in the grass on the courthouse lawn for munchies. Just across was the Pioneer Museum. Well, why not? The lady on duty told us it was bigger than it looked and she was right. Full basement, two second story sections, more stuff than you could imagine.

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An area of military gear, with rifles as its centerpiece.

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Forestry. Some of these are amazingly long, but when you think of the size of some of these trees, it’s clear that they have to use big saws to take them down.

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Moving away from outdoors violence, we see some telephone equipment.

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I hadn’t realized that Dodge has used the Ram symbol since forever, at least since 1936.

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My mother had a sewing machine like this, except that the treadle mechanism had been retrofitted with an electric motor.

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Just outside Walden, a little nature stop, and a view of more poles than you could count. I thought they were destined as utility poles, until we saw something about material for log houses. Makes sense.

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Some little distance further on, a pull-out with a view of Rabbit-Ears Pass; then a long climb up there and a long descent down the other side into Steamboat Springs.

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We’re staying at the Bristol hotel, above. Nice enough, except that the rooms are very small. Left our things and went out to wander.

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The corner building is a drugstore, where Jacky stopped, while I went on to the second store, with the yellow sign. They had been advertising Lee and Levi jeans on their billboards for miles, as well as Stetson hats. Jacky thought I should get a Stetson.

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Well, certainly not Stetson boots. Does Stetson make boots?

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As to the hat, I don’t anticipate needing to give my horse a drink any time soon, so I skipped the hat. I was able to resist getting a classy western shirt, too.

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We found a place to enjoy a couple pints of stout in a shaded outdoor nook, wandered some more, napped in the hotel, went to Mahogany bar and grill, which was a definite disappointment.

Overall, that’s our reaction to Steamboat, too. When we were here a couple years ago, we liked Steamboat, tourist trap though it obviously was even then, but the appeal is less and less as time goes on. It is becoming so popular that its essence is disappearing. Aspenizing, should it be called, perhaps?

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Scottsbluff, again

Saturday 23 July 2016

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There is a second museum here, the Farm and Ranch museum, FARM, so we stopped to see what there was to see. Much is under construction, not really advisable for unrestricted public access, but a pleasant young woman was kind enough to show us around.

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The first attraction is a house, donated by a local family and restored to authenticity as certified by the family itself. Not completely antique; the phone has a dial.

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Notice the heat exchanger atop the refrigerator. The range was electric, with coiled heater wires exposed in the grooves of the burners.

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Outdoors, the first attraction is a jail cell, manufactured by a company in Detroit and available to those who might have need for such a thing. We presume it would normally be installed indoors somewhere.

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One of the larger of many tractors. The ambition is to restore as many machines as possible to working order, but it is a self-funded volunteer effort, so it’s completely open-ended.

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Not even sure what some of these things are.

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This one is a combine, actually never used, but donated by the manufacturer to the museum.

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There’s a big equipment shed, whose star attraction is arguably this big steam tractor. Our guide wasn’t sure this one would be possible to restore.

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The hearse is sometimes rented out, and not just for movies. Supply your own horses and enjoy a stylish final trip.

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A kit tractor made by Ford, parts from model T or model A, our guide wasn’t sure which.

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A smaller steam tractor, with some of its gubbins, below.

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This is a bullboat, a buffalo hide stretched over a frame. Big enough for one trapper and his load or furs, or a smaller version big enough for the man and his gear but not a load of furs.

We went to Dorthey’s for lunch, but we supplied the lunch. We get far too few veggies on these trips, so we stopped at the grocery store and bought a package of broccoli slaw, some blackberries, and in a concession to the inevitable, fried chicken.

Then off to a tour of the new high school, under construction. They had only enough hard hats for half of those who signed up, and we were in the group that toured the existing high school under the guidance of the principal. My reaction was great relief that I will never again (I fervently hope) be associated with such a place. We bailed out after the first part and never did see the new construction.

After saying good-bye to Dorthey, we stopped at a liquor store for some porter, a couple of bottles of which we enjoyed on the balcony of the B&B. This evening, the formal reunion dinner at the Country Club, and tomorrow back on the road.

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Scottsbluff

Friday 22 July 2016

Up at 5, out to the monument for a beautiful sunrise. We hiked all of the trails that were open from below and got back to the B&B in time for breakfast at 8.

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After breakfast, we stopped again at the monument, went through the visitor center and drove to the top. Very impressive 3D model of the terrain. The entire ridge was originally called Scotts Bluff, but the term now pertains only to the rock beyond Mitchell Pass, above the gap in the photo.

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In answer to my question: why did the pioneers come over the pass instead of going around the end, the answer is the extensive badlands below the bluff (the service road was built much later), and the quicksand further down into the North Platte flood plain.

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As to the rockslide that closed the trail, here it is. The signs warn about the upper surface having been undercut, so there could well be more risk than just loose rock fallen across the trail. We were able to hike only to a point on the near side roughly below where I stood to take the picture.

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I dropped Jacky off at Dorthey’s and went out to explore a little. High 90s again, so I’m not too ambitious, but then there’s not a lot to do around here anyway. Walked the main street of Scottsbluff, enjoying the uses to which the old theater has been put.

Jacky is completely down on Runzas, refuses to eat at Runza restaurants. So I tried one for lunch, just to form an independent judgement. It was okay, but we do a far better hamburger and cabbage pie ourselves at home. Not least because we would use red cabbage.

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Went to Lake Minatare, which has a lighthouse. No idea why. Tight spiral staircase to the top, where there is a view that’s pretty much the same as at the bottom. But it was something different to do.

Found a spot under an awning to read my book until the afternoon thunderstorm blew up. Rained pretty hard while I was in the car looking for trees to get under in case of hail. There were reports of big hail in the area, but none where I was. That’s fine with me.

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Back to Gering to pick up Jacky, and we went out to the reunion picnic, well out of town, but at a very nice meadow with a pretty pond.

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Of course, I didn’t know anyone, but several of the significant others banded together and talked about topics unrelated to the good old days. Probably upward of a hundred people, bluegrass band (without excessive amplification!), the usual picnic fare, and a good time was had by all.

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Gering

Thursday, 21 July 2016

We did nothing much today, visited Dorthey, spent most of the afternoon in the air-conditioned library, took Dorthey to dinner at a godawful good-ole-boy restaurant that was just what she wanted. And escaped with our three remaining bottles of oatmeal porter to the deck on the back of the Barn Anew B&B, looking out at Mitchell Pass.

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While sitting there spoiled, what should my wondering eye behold but a fox. Don’t see many of those, at least not where we live! Cool!

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After doing our duty to the beer, we wandered the grounds of the B&B. We are the only guests tonight, as it happens.

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They have about four sheep wagons, at least two of which appear to have been fixed up such that they could be used for overflow guests. No plumbing, I suspect, so likely just a place to sleep.

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And the head of a windmill. We don’t see those close-up very often.

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I think I mentioned that the B&B had been reconstructed from a barn. There was also a house that was in pretty bad shape. The house itself was demolished, except that its bay window has been turned around and now forms the backdrop for the weddings that are performed here. Nice.

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This the the old barn itself. We sat on the porch and watched the sunset.

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The sprinklers were busy keeping the wedding venue green, and the spray in the sunset light was purely fortuitous.

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One of several cats came around to make friends, but when we didn’t pet it, it decided that a nap was the better part of valor. Agreed. Good night.

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Making our way through the wilderness

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Up early and out of our BnB (no breakfast: just a B, I guess) in Spearfish.

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Drove to Deadwood where we parked curbside, hoping to eat before the parking meter enforcement began. No problem. Pricey breakfast in Bullies hotel and casino, and we headed on south on the scenic route.

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Next stop was two or three points around Pactola reservoir, surrounded by pine forest, with a few boaters already out on the water. Pleasant place.

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Then a quick stop at Hill City to enjoy the trains. Big crowd already lined up waiting for the train ride in an hour. We don’t see any point in that kind of thing, but it’s fun to wander around and look at the  big machines.

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Further south, the map showed Cascade Spring and Falls as notable roadside stops. We didn’t stay long at the spring; signs warned of poison ivy right at the picnic area and more down along the water, and we believed them. Not the kind of adventure we need today.

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But we stopped longer at the Fall, a distinctly optimistic description of a few vertical feet of rapids. Pretty place.

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I like to view the texture in fast-flowing water by setting the shortest exposure possible.

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A family was there, also enjoying the water.

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Much of the Black Hills region is quite pretty, but as we got further south and into Nebraska, we got more into the long stretches of rolling grassland that don’t have much to offer. Stopped briefly in Crawford, where we talked with an Information volunteer for a few minutes, and then we went on to Fort Robinson.

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The fort is back into the pretty country, probably as much because of water as anything else. Cavalry and infantry, late 19th century. Brick buildings, many of them, some adobe, some wood-frame. Big (big!) stables, as would be expected for a cavalry base.

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And stagecoach rides. The employee hitched up the team while we watched, and drove the coach out. The girl got to sit up top with him, and on the way back, she got to drive.

And then, more long miles in the hot, until we reached Agate Fossil Beds national monument.

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Above the visitor center is a trail to a couple of the hills where the big finds originated. We hiked up in hundred-degree heat, glad that it crossed the green of the Niobrara river flood plain, and that the total loop was only a couple of miles.

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When seeing the name, I have always wondered why agate geology and fossils were compatible. Turns out they are not, of course. The ranch was called Agate Springs ranch because of what’s called moss agate found in the springs here, and the spring got lost from the subsequent name. No quartz around here anywhere.

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Gazillions of insects along the trail, mostly grasshoppers, but also those who are happy to prey on grasshoppers.

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Even grasshoppers can be interesting sometimes.

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I think this little guy is a robber fly.

Getting on in the afternoon, and we need to find our BnB in Scottsbluff.

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Scott’s Bluff is the left end of this ridge, and Mitchell Pass is the low point between. Why, we ask, did the pioneers not just go around the end of the ridge, rather than climbing the pass? Good question. Apparently the badlands and muddy terrain along the North Platte flood plain were more difficult than the pass. (But Google Earth shows that the railroad builders went level along the river instead of winding back and forth up the grade.)

Our B&B is the Barn Anew, an old horse barn (percherons: big rooms on the ground floor!) that has been rebuilt for lodging. We’re told that the framing is original, but I imagine that the rest of it was reconstructed. Picturesque.

Into Gering for an evening with Dorthey, another long day, happy to be out of the car.

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