A Happy Camper

Our son flew into Denver from Phoenix last Wednesday.  It’s been almost 2 years since our little family of four has been together. So you can imagine, I’ve been one very happy mom lately aka one happy camper with a perpetual smile plastered across my face.Summit Lake

Thursday found us attending a Rockies baseball game that was delayed 45 minutes due to a rain storm or rather a thunder and lightning storm.  I’ll write a post about that game later.  For now I want to share our trip up to Mount Evans… one of my favorite places in Colorado; right up there with Crested Butte or the San Juan Mountains.

tallest paved road in North America
Ingrid, Al, Ashton, and Logan at the top of Mt. Evans

Mt.Evans

Mount Evans
this road is damaged in quite a few areas due to the extreme weather

After two failed attempts this summer to drive to the top of Mt. Evans, I finally made it on Friday.  I guess third try was a charm.

Be warned - this drive is not for the faint of heart
Be warned – this drive is not for the faint of heart

We left the RV at 8:30 a.m. with a full tank of gas and cooler filled with drinks, lunch, and snacks.  It’s crucial to drink plenty of water when visiting an elevation of 14,265 feet (4,348m) to help avoid experiencing any altitude issues.

Mount Evans
folks can be seen hiking from the parking lot to the top. Our family photo was taken at the top of those boulders. Can you see the little specs of people?

Our son, Logan, grew up in Colorado but now calls Phoenix, Arizona, home and has for the past five years.  He’s young and fit but even he got winded as we hiked from the parking lot at 14,130 feet to the top of the boulders at 14,265 feet.

In the photo below, we can see Summit Lake under Ashton’s pink shoe.Mt. Evans

The altitude didn’t stop the sibling rivalry between a Colorado State University ‘Ram’ and a University of Colorado ‘Buff’ (Buffalo).  CSU and CU have had a long-standing rivalry and it’s a big deal when these two universities face off in a football game.  So big, that the game is even held at the Broncos stadium; Sports Authority Field Mile High Stadium in Denver.

that's enough kids.... don't you dare push each other!!!
that’s enough kids…. don’t you dare push each other!!!

Both kids received a bachelor’s degree in Business.  Our son from CU in Boulder and our daughter from CSU in Fort Collins.  Ah, yes…. a proud mom!

Marmot
Even Mr. Marmot enjoys the views

MarmotMt. EvansAfter photo ops at the top of Mount Evans, we slowly drove back down to Summit Lake for some hiking.

But before I go any further, I need to admit…. we were fricken freezing our buns off.

We were all bundled up in sweatshirts that we then took off for the photo ops.  The winds were blowing, gusting, and howling…. I swear I’m not exaggerating… it was cold and unpleasant.

The photo of the thermometer was posted on a building near the restrooms at the top of Mount Evans.  It wasn’t too bad when the wind wasn’t gusting, but boy those winds were nasty.  So bad, that the kids were afraid my camera sitting on the tripod was going to get blown over.Chicago Lakes

Near Summit Lake are some trail heads.  The hike I was most interested in was the Chicago Lakes trail.  This former Chicago gal hiking in Colorado to a place called Chicago Lakes – funny!

Mount Evans
The Chicago Lakes Trail is on a high ledge

I was really hoping as the day progressed it would start warming up, but no such luck. Ominous clouds started rolling in obscuring the warm sunshine.  The winds increased, the sky darkened, and the clouds threatened to let loose.  It was a unanimous decision to forgo any hiking and head down the mountain to a lower elevation in search of warmer temps.

Patches of snow still present in August
Patches of snow still present in August

When Ashton and I visited last summer, it was a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  Not only was I somewhat disappointed with the weather this trip, I was also disappointed the mountain goats weren’t nearby.  We did see them feeding on the side of the mountain but they were too far away for me to capture a nice photo. Here’s some photos of the goats from last summer and you can read about that trip here.mountain goatsMt. EvansLast year, the mountain goats were near the parking lot and I managed to get quite close. This year, I think they stayed on the side of the mountain that was blocked by the blustering wind. Smart animals.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just need to revisit again.Mt. EvansSummit LakeFor anyone planning on driving America’s tallest paved road to the top of Mt. Evans, here’s a few of my recommendations and info.

  1. Start early. Storms roll in every afternoon as well as the number of cyclists and general tourist traffic increases as the day progresses.
  2. The road gets more narrow the higher in elevation you get making it more of a challenge to share the road with oncoming traffic AND cyclists.
  3. Narrow road, damaged road, and severe drop-offs with no guard rails exist.
  4. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to be 20 degrees or more cooler than in Denver and/or be covered in rain clouds while Denver is blanketed in sunshine.
  5. There are two ways to access Highway 5 (the road to the top) off Interstate 70. Twice I’ve driven to the town of Idaho Springs then caught 103 to 5.  There is serious tunnel construction near Idaho Springs. To avoid the construction on this trip, I exited the interstate in the town of Evergreen then caught 103.  This was a very pretty drive with little traffic and will now be my preferred route.
  6. There is a $10 fee to drive to the top of Mt. Evans.  If you want to go only as far as Summit Lake for hiking, the fee is $5.  (since this is Federal land it’s free for those of a ‘certain age’ holding the senior pass)
  7. Altitude; drink lots of water to avoid altitude sickness, dress in layers, and hopefully you don’t suffer from a fear of heights.

Mt. Evans

I’m not sure what it is about Mount Evans that captivates me, but it does and I’m hoping to take in at least one more trip to the top before I head south for the winter.Echo Lake
Echo Lake
Chicago Lakes
Summit Lake
mountain goats

Mount Evans
this road suffers regular damage from the extreme weather

Fourteeners…

Several blogs I follow share their adventures of hiking.  I’ve been inspired by their stories.  Inspired by the photography.  I can’t wait to explore some of these trails myself.  I throughly enjoy hiking, but in the past I haven’t had time to hike more than an hour or so.    Therefore, I have never built up the endurance for much past a four to five mile hike, nor did I have the desire.

Pikes Peak
a snow-capped Pikes Peak behind Garden of the Gods

After reading the accomplishments of fellow bloggers, I am motivated to hike longer and further….motivated to increase my endurance…..motivated to push myself….motivated to explore beyond my dreams.  I actually have an interest in one day hiking a “Fourteener” and  it is now on the “bucket list”.  As I contemplate this goal, I am reminded of a post I did last spring.  A post about “Fourteeners”.

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If you live in Colorado, you obviously know what a Fourteener is.  For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a mountaineering term used to describe a mountain that exceeds fourteen thousand feet above sea level.  Climbing all of Colorado’s Fourteeners is a popular pastime among hikers, especially here in Colorado.

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak,  Colorado Springs, Colorado

Alaska has the tallest Fourteener; Mount McKinley in Denali comes it at 20,320 feet in elevation.  Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, places 57th on the Fourteener list in the United States coming in at 14,110 feet above sea level.

Although I love to hike, I know my limitations.  Thus, hiking a Fourteener has eluded my repertoire of activities, as well as the bucket list.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for those whom have accomplished hiking all of Colorado’s Fourteeners.  I just won’t be one of them.

Grand Junction
Me with daughter and my brother at The Monument

I do enjoy a good hike.  Whenever we visit my brother and sister-in-law in Grand Junction, Colorado, we always manage to squeeze in a visit to The Monument, even if it’s only an easy one hour hike.  That being said, last year daughter and I were on such a hike with my brother and his wife.  The Monument is so beautiful, any hike is better than no hike and a trip to Grand Junction just would not be complete without this activity.

We hiked, we explored, we climbed rocks for photo-ops and that’s when it happened.  A sound escaped my brother…..”Hum, excuse me”. he says slightly embarrassed.  I comment, “No problem.  Consider yourself healthy and normal”.  I proceed to brief him on a recent Dr. Oz show….a show on flatulence, a show about passing gas.  Dr. Oz…. gotta love him.  According to Dr. Oz, the average, healthy person passes gas fourteen times per day.

AND THUS…..the new meaning of a FOURTEENER was born !  Have you accomplished a Fourteener?  🙂

The Monument
Really, Mother? Really???

Grand JunctionGrand Junction Colorado

Golden, Colorado

Prairie Dog
Hey, where do you think you’re going?

It’s yet another hundred degree day in southern Colorado.  This summer has been extremely hot and dry.  Al and I haven’t been hiking since our trip to Crested Butte.  Even then, our hiking was minimal due to Bear’s limitations.

Last summer we enjoyed a hike or bike ride along the Arkansas River almost every morning.  Al and I were feeling pretty good and even lost a few pounds (needed and planned).  We’re fortunate to live next door to a State Park, as well as able to travel.  Thus, no excuses for our lack of activity or weight gain  😦    Ah, well sh*t happens!

We decide it’s time to escape, or at least try to escape this summer heat and in the process visit with daughter.  Our destination Golden, Colorado.  Daughter lives about 20 minutes away allowing us to visit as much as her schedule will allow.  We stay at the Dakota Ridge RV Park.  It’s a bit on the pricey side but offers all hook-ups and plenty of amenities, but most importantly a fabulous location.  And very dog friendly.

Golden Colorado
Dakota Ridge RV Park – spaced a bit closer than we like – hill in background provided some great exercise for Al, me, and Bear
Golden Colorado
the trail around the “mountain”

We get settled in.  Not as much real estate as we like – a little more room between rigs would have been nice, but we’ve got exploring to do so we won’t be spending that much time hanging around.  The hill in the background provided some great exercise opportunity for the three of us.  Bear surprised us with his ability to climb and walk around the “mountain”.  Yes, it’s merely a hill, but to fourteen year old Bear, it’s a “fourteener” and he was eager to rise to the challenge each morning.Golden Colorado

Not only is it normally 5 to 10 degrees cooler in the Denver area than the Pueblo area, a mild cold front has come through bringing in some lovely 78 degree temperatures….just what Al and I were searching for.  Now that we’re all set up at the RV Park, it’s time to take a drive and get a quick overview of the town of Golden.  Since this trip was done on a whim without much planning, we’ll assess the area and gather info and then we can plan our stay and activities for the next few days……….

Golden Colorado
Dakota Ridge RV Park, Golden, Colorado – can you spot my rig?

Fourteeners…..

If you live in Colorado, you obviously know what a fourteener is.  For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a mountaineering term used to describe a mountain that exceeds fourteen thousand feet above sea level.  Climbing all of Colorado’s fourteeners is a popular pastime amongst hikers.

Alaska has the tallest fourteener, Mount McKinley in Denali comes it at 20,320 feet.  Pikes Peak places around 57th on the fourteener list in the United States coming in around 14,110 feet.

Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, CO

Although I love to hike, I know my limitations.  Thus, hiking a fourteener has eluded my repertoire of activities, as well as the bucket list.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for those whom have accomplished hiking all of Colorado’s fourteeners.  I just won’t be one of them.

I do enjoy a good hike.  Whenever we visit my brother and sister-in-law in Grand Junction, CO, we always squeeze in a visit to The Monument, even if it’s only an

me, daughter & brother

easy one hour walk.  That being said, last year my daughter and I were on such a hike with my brother and his wife.  Daughter was still suffering from jet lag having recently returned from studying a semester abroad in Sydney, Australia, and a three-hour hike was out of the question.  The Monument is so beautiful, any hike is better than no hike.  We hiked, we explored, we climbed rocks for photo-ops and that’s when it happened.  A sound escaped my brother……”hum, excuse me”, he says slighty embarrassed.  I comment, “No problem.  Consider yourself healthy and normal”.  I proceed to brief him on a recent Dr. Oz show….a show on flatulence, a show about passing gas…Dr. Oz, gotta love him.  According to Dr. Oz, the average, healthy person passes gas fourteen times per day.   AND THUS……the new meaning of a  FOURTEENER was born !

Have you accomplished a fourteener ?  🙂