Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Colorado Vacation (Third Day): The Continental Divide and Maroon Bells...and a Little Fishin'

We started our third day by making the drive up the mountains and over the Continental Divide. That was quite the drive. I would have enjoyed myself a bit more if I wasn't the one on the side where it dropped what seemed like thousands of feet down. Brooks, who was my side, also wasn't too fond of the drive. Bailey and Blake were the ones that should have been over there. They aren't afraid of heights. On the way up, Bailey spotted the snowfields. She said the one thing that she wanted to do for the day was to eat snow, but they were too far off the road. Blake promised her that before the day was over, we would find some snow to eat. Eventually, we made it to the Independence Pass. The elevation was very high and we all could feel the difference. Bailey and Brooks ran up the path where as Blake and I chose to walk. My heart was racing like crazy. There was a huge temperature difference between our campground and the Pass. It had dropped at least 15 degrees. It was quite chilly and I was the only one that had brought a jacket.

On the other side of the Divide, we headed down to Aspen and on to Maroon Bells, two beautiful peaks side by side. This is a place that Blake has been wanting to go for a long time. I'm so glad that we got to be with him when he finally got to go. Due to its popularity, they won't let the public drive up to the park after 9AM in the morning. After 9, they only allow visitors by buss. In the past, there were just too many cars overloading the park and damaging the land. So we hopped on a bus in the valley. 

The kids enjoyed riding the bus. On the way up, the bus driver was on the overhead speakers giving historical and geological information about the area. Bailey, who was sitting so nice and quiet, leaned over to Blake and said, "This is really important, isn't it?" Funny. We got to Maroon Bells which was just breathtaking. I had seen pictures of it but it was so much better in real life. At the base of the mountains is a beautiful blue-green alpine lake. The kids took their shoes off and waded into the ice cold water. They could only stay in it for about 5 seconds before their feet would go numb.

We took a short hike down the to the other end of the lake. After a short break, we rode the bus back down to Aspen for lunch. We chose to eat at, where else, McDonald's. I have to say that Aspen is quite pricey. The value meals were around $8...Jeesh!!!

From Aspen, we headed back towards the Continental Divide and our campground. Before reaching the Divide, we stopped by a place called the Grottos. It was a very neat trail to hike. While looking at the trail map at the trailhead, we were passed by a couple with young children who said we were in for some real surprises. The map showed ice caves and cascades. We headed off down the trail. After a short distance, we came to the ice caves. It was a slot canyon about 20 feet deep with a ribbon of thick ice in the bottom of it. The sign at the trailhead stated that the ice remained the cave all year round. In places, the rock bridged over the top of the canyon to form a "cave". Blake and the kids climbed down the canyon walls and into the caves. It was very slippery and dangerous down there. I had flip flops on so I chose to stay up above and meet them at the upstream end. But after making their way up the canyon, we found that the upstream end ended in a waterfall with an ice column climbing up from the ice sheet in base of the canyon. They had to head back to where they went in. While in the caves, Blake and the kids had passed some rock climbers climbing the canyon walls and taking advantage of the cool temperture. They pointed out a chute up the canyon wall that they could take as a shortcut out. Brooks headed up the chute and made it to a bench about halfway up. From there, it got a little steeper and Brooks wasn't so sure. Bailey was having trouble just getting up to the bench. One of the rock climbers told Blake to climb up to the bench and he would hand Bailey up to him. After handing her up, he headed up to the bench to help Blake get the kids out from there. Nice guy. The kids did an awesome job doing their best to get out! From there, we were off to see the cascades. They were a beautiful set of waterfalls tumbling over huge boulders of granite. They were fed by freshly melted snow right off the mountain side and were really loud and very, very, very cold. They kids again had to take off their shoes and to put their feet in the water. Bailey came really close to falling into a waterhole. She would have been fine but it would have froze her to the bone. Glad we avoided that!! We headed back to the trailhead and finished our hike by throwing some rocks into a creek. 

On the way back over the Divide, Blake made good on his promise to Bailey. Near the top of our climb, we spotted a patch of snow that didn't look like too far of a hike. It turned out to be a lot farther away and a little larger than a patch. Once they got out to it, Blake said it was massive compared to what it looked like from the road. Bailey scraped the top part of the snow off and got her some clean, cold Colorado snow to eat. She was a happy, happy girl!

After crossing the Divide, we passed our campground and headed to the nearby town of Leadville to buy some fishing gear. From there, we went to Turquoise Lake to do some fishing. It was a bit chilly with the sun going down, but we were catching us some rainbow trout. It was a lot of fun. Beautiful lake. Where we were fishing you could see the town of Leadville right through a break in the mountains. (pic below)

It was a great day! Busy and packed with fun times and great memories!!!

Climbing the Divide

On our way up to the Maroon Bells

Balancing on a log in the water

Two beautiful kids, two beautiful mountains!
One HAPPY Daddy!

The Maroon Bells

The kids in the FREEZING cold water

Entertaining themselves by climbing the rock wall outside the restrooms while waiting for the bus

Bailey not wanting me to take her picture

On the way back down from the Bells

Hiking to the cascades and the ice caves at the Grottos

Playing on a HUGE rock

Daddy and the kids climbing down into the ice cave

The ice! You could feel the coolness from the ice up above the caves.

The kiddos down under standing on the ice

Runoff from the mountains

Making their way out to the snow so Bailey can eat some!

It was a long walk. If you look real hard, you can see the truck in the distance just to the right of Bailey.

Bailey girl got her some snow to eat!!!

Someone was tuckered out after all that hiking and snow eating.

Gonna do some fishin'!

Brooks and his rainbow trout, Bailey trying to stay warm

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Colorado Vacation (Second Day): St. Elmo's Mining Ghost Town and Leadville

On the road again for our second day. It was a beautiful day to be traveling. The weather was perfect the whole time we were in Colorado. With the exception of it getting down in the upper 30's at night while we were camping for two nights.
We made a stop by the river to see some rafters going by and for the kids to feel how cold the water was. They had a good time climbing on rocks, throwing rocks and waving at the passer byers in their rafts.
We made a stop by an old Mining Ghost town called St. Elmo's. It was pretty neat to see how peopled lived back then. Makes you grateful for a few things. We walked the town, looked in some buildings, walked down by the water again Brooks walked all the way across to the other side in the freezing water.
We then went back up through the town and noticed that a few people were gathering in one spot. We quickly figured out why. They were feeding little chipmunks sunflower seeds right out of their hands. One lady was laying down on her belly and they were sitting on her back. Chipmunks were everywhere we went in Colorado. They are like squirrels here in Kansas. The kids had a ball feeding them. Brooks liked to scare them away but just a few seconds later and they were back to get more food from him.
We drove through town and stopped at a gas station to fill up and get a few snacks. We saw this wood all bundled and put in a "jail" like cage. We thought it was funny! Blake and I kept saying," bad, wood, bad wood!!" The kids didn't notice! Then we were talking about how we really haven't seen any wild life yet except for the chipmunks . About that time we look up and there is a dear running right thru the middle of the town we were in. Blake said that he didn't count as "wildlife". I thought it counted. The deer was pretty wild to me, it was scared, lost and running thru the middle of a town.
It was time to head to our Campground. We got there and walked up a few steps and up over the hill was the most AMAZING view ever. It was the best and most beautiful spot i had ever camped in my life. It was breathtaking.
We camped for two nights there and it got a bit chilly at night. Thank goodness we had a tent heater. The second night it got down to about 37. The kids slept perfectly. Blake and I on the other hand got a bit cold. Was not miserable but a bit on the cool side.

                                      Brooks half way up before i could get a pic. He has always been a climber!

                                                  saying "hi" to some rafters floating by
                                                                      "Bad Wood"

                                                     Brooks crossing the freezing water!!
                                                                       He made it!

                                              looking to see what was in the old buildings

                                                            feeding the chipmunks
                                          An old Mine that is falling from the mountain side!

                                                   Bailey helping Daddy set the tent up!
                                                     Brooks being a good helper as well

                                                      Bailey fishin the the freezing water
Both kids trying to see how long they can stand the cold water
Momma and her babies