Lory State Park

Lory State Park

Just twenty minutes west of Fort Collins sits Lory State Park.  The park covers over 2500 acres of beautiful terrain consisting of unique rock outcroppings, grassy open meadows, shrubby hillsides, and ponderosa pines.  The park offers a variety of activities such as hiking, backcountry camping, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing.

There are twelve clearly marked and mapped trails.  Our first stop is Waterfall Trail for a short stroll to what we hope will be a waterfall.  What we discover is a small trickle of water.  The snow melt isn’t significant enough just yet, thus a mere trickle.  After a little laughing and joking we return to the truck and drive up the road a piece.

son and daughter hiking Lory State Park

We take the road to the far end of the park.  We contemplate the Arthur’s Rock Trail but opt for the Shoreline Trail which takes us toward Horsetooth Reservoir.  The trail is clearly marked and easy.  The red sandstone is a striking background to the grassy meadow.

As residents of Colorado for over fifteen years, we’ve learned to always keep an eye on the sky.  Colorado rates second in the country when it comes to lightning strikes, Florida number one.  Therefore while hiking in Colorado, it is prudent to pay attention to the weather and to the sky.  Weather here can change abruptly and severely and since the ominous clouds are starting to roll in, we head back to the vehicle and call it a day.

If you’re in the Fort Collins area, I would definitely recommend a day trip of picnicking and hiking at Lory State Park.  The drive to get here is also worth seeing.  Allow plenty of time to stop along the way.  You won’t be disappointed!

Advertisements

Mother’s Day

I had a wonderful Mother’s Day this past Sunday with my husband and both our children.  We were still camped at Horsetooth Reservoir and the weather couldn’t have been more agreeable.  Our son had flown in from Phoenix for a long weekend.  We had a lot to celebrate…..daughter’s graduation, Mother’s Day, and son’s birthday.

family photo

Not knowing when the next time the four of us will be in the same place together, I made it a top priority to take some family photos.  Shortly after our arrival at Horsetooth Reservoir, I went on a scouting drive in search of the perfect backdrop.  What I discovered was a multitude of potential locations.  The area just west of Fort Collins is lovely and just about any stop would work beautifully for a family portrait.  I decide on one particular overlook…..overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir.  Sunday morning the weather was clear and photo-op time it is.

As I arrange the family, I set the self-timer on the camera, and run to take my place.  Running in flip-flops near rock ledges, makes my husband extremely nervous.  I admit, it did present some challenges.  After an hour of fun and a change of shirts, we return to camp for lunch.

Lunch….for lunch today we will be having Bison burgers.  Yep, we’re having Buffalo.  Bison is extremely lean, thus I mix an egg in the ground Bison prior to patting into burgers.  Even with the aid of the egg, I flip the burgers minimally as I sense they may start to fall apart.  I grill the burgers to a medium – medium rare….perfect. I serve the Bison burgers on freshly baked rolls that I had purchased that morning.   The burgers are delicious and Al hopes Bison becomes a regular addition to our diet.

Bison burgers

When I purchased the ground Buffalo I also purchased some jerky.  The fact that my kids are in their twenties and on their own, does not stop the sibling rivalry.  We laugh as brother and sister jokingly fight over the jerky.  So, we will definitely be purchasing more meat from Black Forest Bison.  They offer five seasoned flavors of jerky.  I sampled all five flavors and purchased one package of the Teriyaki and one of the Pepper.

After lunch, we go for a hike and explore Lory State Park.

Lory State Park

Graduation

Saturday was graduation day for our daughter from Colorado State University, Fort Collins.  She had an amazing four years in Fort Collins and is off to the “big city” of Denver to start a new chapter.

Fort Collins is located in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is an easy one hour drive north of Denver (45 minute drive south of Cheyenne, WY)  The town is full of charm and character with an abundance of parks and hike/bike trails.  At an elevation of 5000 feet above sea level, residents enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year.  The town offers every shopping convenience that a population of 144,000 would want.  In 2010 Money Magazine ranked Fort Collins sixth amongst “Best Places to Live”.

Horsetooth Reservoir and Lory State Park border Fort Collins and are part of Larimer County.  After the graduation commencement ceremony, we return to our campsite at Horsetooth for a celebration.  Pulled pork, chips, and smores with family and friends around a campfire….yum.

Colorado State University is a vital part to the community of Fort Collins.  The university is home to one of the leading Veterinary colleges in the country.  Fort Collins is probably the most pet friendly town I have ever visited.  There are dogs everywhere.  Last August while moving daughter, we had to stop in at Lowe’s and it was too hot to leave Bear in the truck.  So Bear enjoyed a shopping cart ride and plenty of attention at the Lowes in Fort Collins.

Outstanding university, safe community, great weather, gorgeous enviornment……I’m glad my daughter enjoyed her college years in Fort Collins.  Go Rams!

Go Rams!

New Belgium Brewery

plenty of samples – our guide, Marie

Time for a brewery tour.  Thursday afternoon, daughter scheduled a tour at the New Belgium Brewery Company.  The tour is free and provides plenty of samples along the way.  Colorado is home to lots of breweries and micro-breweries.  Even Governor John Hickenlooper is an entrepreneur in the brewery industry.

New Belgium Brewery started in a basement in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the early 90’s.  They remain headquartered in Fort Collins and are now building a second facility in Ashville, NC, allowing for expanded distribution.

We arrive a bit early for the tour and start the sampling in the “tasting room”.  This is their retail center and samples are $2 with the proceeds going to a local charitable cause.  The proceeds that day were going to help a local elderly gentleman whom had fallen on hard times.  The staff seems very knowledgable and passionate about this cause.

The tour takes about an hour with plenty of samples offered along the way.  Although I’m not much of a beer drinker, I prefer wine, I find myself sampling along with everyone else.  One of my favorites is in the Lips of Faith category…Tart Lychee.  It’s actually barrel-aged in old wine barrels collected

daughter and Al enjoy a sample of Tart Lychee

from around the world.  It’s on the citrus side….bit sweet, bit sour.  Our guide, Marie, is very knowledgeable about the company and about all the beer.

As a matter of fact, ALL the employees are extremely friendly, helpful, knowledgable and happy.  You get the feeling they want to be there and love what they do.  New Belgium Brewery has a corporate philosophy to have FUN and it shows.  They are environmentally conscious and community oriented.  I wish more corporations shared their values.

The tour ends in the retail “tasting room” and although I said the tour was free, we did not leave without dropping a ‘Ben Franklin’.  I’m a sucker for cute T-shirts.  We also purchase a couple of pints of beer sampled on the tour, as well as some old-fashioned bicycle bells for our bikes.

All in all, the tour was fun and worth doing.  It was low-keyed, informative, and enjoyable.  Oh, and it didn’t smell, which surprised me.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir, CO

A few days ago, we arrive at Horsetooth Reservoir, just west of Fort Collins, and quickly set up camp. It is a gorgeous Colorado Day.  The Lake is as smooth as a mirror and reflects the landscape.  The drive was easy and uneventful….thank goodness.  Knowing Interstate 25 has some serious construction work in progress near Santa Fe Drive (not far from downtown Denver), we opt to go around Denver by taking I-470.  Although I hate paying tolls, in this case while pulling a Rig it made the drive less stressful and much more enjoyable.  So I gladly pay the tolls.  FYI… the system here does not work on a cash basis.  You never have to slow down to pay.  Your license plate is photographed at various check points, and you are mailed an invoice several weeks later.

Once settled in and all hooked up at Horsetooth Reservoir, daughter joins us for dinner and a campfire.  This will be a busy, fun-filled weekend.  Daughter graduates from Colorado State, it’s Mother’s Day weekend, and son’s birthday is in a couple of days.  Son will fly in from Phoenix and other family members will fly in from Chicago to share in the festivities.

Tomorrow daughter set up a Brewery tour in Fort Collins.

Bison – part two

I am fascinated by buffalo and was super excited to see wild herds at Custer State Park while on a trip there a couple of years ago.  I had the opportunity to observe and photograph these interesting animals.

Tomorrow we will take the RV on a three-hour drive north to Fort Collins.  Our destination….Horsetooth Reservoir.  We have family from out of state joining us to celebrate the Mother’s Day weekend.  We will be hosting and entertaining at our campsite.  As I put together a tentative meal plan, I consult with husband and daughter.  The general consensus is to do something “Coloradoie”.

I’m not a fan of wild game.  The thought of eating Bambi just doesn’t sit well with me.  My daughter recommends Bison.  Hmmm……not sure how I feel about eating these guys.  I remember watching the Cooking Channel featuring a Bison Ranch in Black Forest, Colorado.  Time to Google!

I decide to at least visit the store and see how I feel….  Black Forest Bison.   As I enter the quaint shop, I’m drawn to a magnificent and huge photo hanging behind the counter.  I comment on the lovely photograph.  The gals’ response is, ” Yes, they live a wonderful life”.  The photo is of the Black Forest Bison Ranch herd with a snow-capped Pikes Peak in the background.  They are free ranging and grass-fed.  Does this make me feel better about eating them?

The gal offers me samples of their specially seasoned jerky.  I hesitate but try the samples….delicious.  After a few more samples, little more chatting, and wandering around the store, I leave with a shopping bag filled with Bison.  Yes, I will be serving Bison for Mother’s Day.  I’ll let ya know what everyone thinks……..

Pronghorn Antelope

Will we fit?

There’s a quiet beauty to Custer State Park with its dense forests, open grasslands, and towering granite.  The towns, more like villages, through-out the Black Hills have a laid back charm.  With the exception of Rapid City, you won’t find any chain restaurants or big box stores.  What you will find are plenty of narrow, winding roads with the occasional one lane tunnel (RVer’s beware!) and plenty of wildlife.

Pronghorn Antelope

I was successful in my hunt for Buffalo and today I’ll be in search of Pronghorn, or more aptly called Antelope.  Colorado is heavily populated with Antelope and it’s not unusual for me to see a herd while traveling Interstate 25.  However, I have never had the right opportunity to photograph an Antelope.  Thus today will be the day….I hope anyway.

Daughter and I get off to an early start.  That is an early start to a college student, a late start in my book.  It’s about nine in the morning and we’ll take Wildlife Loop Road again.  Since we’re familiar with the area, we now know where we plan to focus our efforts.

It isn’t long after turning onto Wildlife Loop Road that we come upon some deer.  How cute is this little guy?  We continue heading south and shortly after, we notice some Antelope.  We find a place to pull off the road and now it’s photo-op time.  Normally Antelope are very skittish, but these guys allow me to get unusually close.

Antelope are one of the fastest mammals in the Western Hemisphere.  They can run as fast as 60 mph.  Antelope are poor jumpers and therefore they won’t jump fences.  They live primarily in grasslands, and can be routinely seen in Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, and New Mexico.

I find these guys fascinating and am pried away by a bored daughter.  How do we top this day?

Bison – part one

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I went on a road trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  My main goal and objective was to see the herd of free ranging buffalo.  I guess the proper term is Bison (Latin) but the name Buffalo (Europeans title) is more commonly used.  According to all the info I read published by Custer State Park either term appears to be acceptable.

Custer State Park is home to almost 1500 head of Buffalo.  Each September the Park has a Buffalo Roundup, available for visitors to view.  Park staff and volunteers will have up to 60 horseback riders and 20 trucks aiding in the round-up.  This yearly round-up is important in the control and health of the herd.  Round-up; note to self for a future visit.

I was not disappointed in our quest to find a herd.  It did take some exploration though.  We found a herd while driving Wildlife Loop Road.  However, our first wildlife encounter were Burros.  There is a herd of Burros that wander the park, and although considered wild, they are accustomed to people.  Caution and common sense are prudent when approaching these animals.

daughter finds this little guy “way too cute”

The Wildlife Loop Road is an eighteen mile paved scenic drive with numerous gravel roads off shooting in different directions.   We did venture down a couple of these gravel roads in search of buffalo.  The first herd we encountered were pretty far off in the distance.  So, back to the paved road and thirty minutes later, we met a herd on the side of the road…..awesome.We spend a good half hour observing these large animals.  My daughter gets concerned as this calf starts to approach me.  Where there’s a baby, there’s a mama.  A quick photo-op and I return to the vehicle.  These guys are huge.  The bulls can weigh as much as a ton while the cows come in at 900-1200 pounds.  New born calves are about 50 pounds…ouch!

Tomorrow we’ll be in search of Pronghorns…..

What’s for dinner?

What to fix for dinner?  This past week has presented some emotional challenges and the last thing on my mind has been fixing meals.  I search for inspiration.  I’m a big fan of the Food Network and Cooking Channel and thus go to their websites regularly for ideas.

I’m lost today.  I’m in a funk.  The computer screen just stares back at me.  My husband comes in the room and after a short chat, he crosses the room and hands me a couple of cookbooks.  “Perhaps these might help”, he lovingly says.  I glance at the books and smirk.  This smirk leads to an enlightening conversation between Al and me.  A discussion on the mass diversity of my/our interests.

Chicago

Al and I love our outdoor activities, just as most RVers’ do.  We love exploring remote, uncrowded locations.  On the other hand, we enjoy the excitement of a city.  We enjoy the culture and activities that a city has to offer.  Having spent years in the construction industry, I’ve been known to be dressed up, wearing heels and running around a construction site.  I like dressing up but have no trouble getting dirty. I like my hiking books, I like my heels, and I love my flip-flops.

Cover of "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipe...
Cover via Amazon

So back to the two cookbooks Al handed me.  The first is The Pioneer Woman Cooks, By Ree Drummond.  Ree is married, a mother of four, and living on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma.  I’m a follower of her blog and have found many recipe posts to my liking.   She’s what I would refer to as a wholesome, down to earth kind of gal.

Nadia G. on the other hand is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Nadia also got her start with a blog and has her own show on the cooking channel called Bitchin Kitchen.  My daughter is a huge fan and she and I watch Bitchin Kitchen when we’re together.  Nadia is single, wild, and has a crazy accent.  Nadia vs Ree, talk about polar opposites.

Both Women are amazing cooks.  Both women are extremely talented.  I enjoy Ree’s photography and Nadia’s sense of humor.  Their recipes are also immensely different, thus offering me the diversity I crave.  The diversity I enjoy.

Am I inspired, yet?  Nope, still in that funk, saddened by the events of the week, but we’ll give one of Nadia’s recipes a go…..Fettuccine Rose with Shrimp.  My daughter says it’s delish.  A nice glass of Pinot Grigio should finish things off.  Bon Appetite!

*************************************************************************************************************

The meal WAS “delish” just as daughter said.  A recipe I can easily make in the RV.  A prerequisite these days.  I even took some pictures.  Oh, what sad pictures. Therefore, until I improve my photo taking ability in this department, I will refrain from sharing the poorly shot photos making the food look barely edible for human consumption.  So, IF ANYONE can offer help or suggestions on Macro or close up photography, I’m all ears.  Unfortunately, I use a point and shoot….gave up the SLR when I gave up film.  🙂

Stories…

Last evening, Ingrid and I discussed our travel plans for the rest of the year.  While reviewing the bucket list, we flipped through the scrapbook Ingrid recently completed on our six-week adventure.  What an amazing album!  It brought back memories of some of the fantastic folks we met along the way and the unique locations we visited.

The Art Institute of Chicago

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire sharing stories, especially when you click with these folks. I’m the kind of guy comfortable roughing it out in the woods or dressed up going to the theater in a city.  One memorable evening was spent discussing the museums in Chicago.  My favorite is the Field Museum while Ingrid’s is the Art Institute.  As the discussion continued, I added this…..

Years ago, Ingrid and I attended a Poet Society competition.  These were talented poets from across the country.  Each poet was held back stage in a sound proof booth.  The first poet entered the stage…..

He was a distinguished chap dressed in a suit and bow tie.  The host/announcer gave the poet the perameters….within sixty seconds he was to come up with a poem in iambic pentameter ending in the word Timbuktu.

The gentleman cleared his throat and in a proper British accent…..

  • Hot across the burning sands,
  • We drove our desert caravans.
  • Men and camel, two by two.
  • Our destination, Timbuktu

The crowd stood and applauded.  Oh, what talent.  He would be hard to beat.  Next poet up…Oh, my.  The guy comes on stage totally disheveled.  It looks like he hasn’t bathed in days.  His clothes are dirty and torn. He has a scruffy beard and matted hair.  Once again the announcer gives the perameters……within sixty seconds please create a poem in iambic pentameter ending in the word Timbuktu.

The dirty street poet steps up to the microphone and proceeds to belch….Uh, dah

  • Uh, a Tim n me a huntin went.
  • Found three whores in a tent.
  • They were three n we were two
  • So I bucked one n Tim buk tu.   🙂

This only goes to show, art and beauty are in the eye or ear of the beholder!