LIfe at High Altitude in Colorado

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

-Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Denver Respite

In Denver this week,
it's chilly with a bit of snow
on the ground.

We enjoy the Chihuly Exhibit at the Botanic Garden.
It's my second visit to the exhibit.
I feel it's even more stunning
backdropped by wintry skies.

The glass "floats" on icy ponds.

We stroll through City Park.
The lake is partially frozen.

Enormous trees shelter us.
Geese honk overhead.
Serenity reigns in the middle of the city.

We walk by our former house.
We frequent the neighborhood coffee shop.
We eat a fabulous dinner at a small Italian restaurant.

One evening, we babysit for 4 of the grandchildren.
They chatter about school and activities.
Amanda plays the piano for us.
Ben strums his guitar.
Jack shares secrets with me at bedtime.

Sam, age 2,  is my appentice photographer.
(He only needs to learn front from back...)

Now, we're in Breckenridge.
A blizzard is forecast over the next 3 days.

Bob, opening day, Breckenridge Ski Area

The family is converging for brunch tomorrow.
November 23 is Bob's 70th birthday.
He finally catches up with me!

One of our sons and his family will stay for the week.
We'll ski with the grandchildren and celebrate Thanksgiving.

I'll count my blessings.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Moosely" Snow - Our World

days and days of snow
howling wind
whirling whiteness

a female moose visits
she peeks at me as I gaze at her
both of us surprised and (speaking only for myself) pleased

she ambles away to graze in the yard

she looks well-nourished
her coat glossy and thick

scratching her butt languidly on a pine
she gives me one last look - goodbye for now
before disappearing into the forest

on touring skis
we add our tracks
to those of other forest dwellers:
moose, deer, coyote, fox, squirrel
there is over 4' (1.219m) of new snow
the door slams on fall
winter begins a blustery residence

I soak up warmth
lounging in flannel pj's
a steaming cup of tea
a crackling fire

Waldo smiles

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Love Affair with Snow

for 2 days, sitting by the fire, Bob and I watch it fall
 sky filled with crystals
drifting steadily to earth

a long, long time ago, on a day like this
I'd pull on layers and heft the heavy wooden sled
(old even then when I was a child)

a thrilling ride downward
(then the work of trudging to the top of the hill)

today, the sled rests on my porch
a reminder of my long love affair

with snow

thankfully, the child in us remains
no matter our age

Is there something from your childhood
that still gives you pleasure?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What Qualities Make an Enduring Friendship?

in the waning days of fall

golden light shimmering off the river

peaks glistening white 

distant views beckoning

we link our past to the present

celebrating friendship

as life flows onward

I hiked with Helen and Sue last week
along the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, CO. 
We were small in the shadow of the Collegiate Peaks.
We spoke of past and present.
Remembering, laughing, enjoying -
embracing life.

Do you have a friendship that has endured?
What makes it special to you?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exercising My Brain

The new 60mm lens was delivered on Monday.
Now, I'm learning the camera, the 12-40 zoom lens, and the macro lens.
Also, Lightroom.

houseplant - good macro practice

A friend sent me an article saying research proves
old brains CAN grow more neurons and synapses.
Digital photography was mentioned as a brain builder.

I take the camera on walks - my husband practices patience

My brain kind of hurts some days.
I hope that means something good is going on in there.

the drying yarrow is still lovely

I've been shooting with a DSLR for nearly 10 years.
However, the Olympus EM1 with all its
buttons, dials, and programmable features
requires me to think - hard.
It's getting easier  to remember the settings I need.
The camera and lenses are very lightweight.
Though I'm still not hitting the sweet spot on many photos,
I tell myself to have patience.
I remind myself to enjoy - have fun.

I delete  - a lot.

follow the white

My photos are no match for the
beauty all around me:
drying seed heads
thick forests
snowy trails

Waldo tells me to "keep smiling"

Have you tackled something recently
that exercises your brain?

PS The book review page is finally up to date.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Ghost Town of Preston, CO, and Mining Remains from the 1800's

We're still enjoying gorgeous fall weather
at high altitude in Colorado.
Though nighttime temperatures are creeping lower,
the warmth of the daytime sun beckons us to come outside and play.

Helen and I took advantage of blue skies this week
to hike to the remains of Jumbo Mine
and to explore the nearby ghost town of Preston.
We followed trails from Helen's house, walking through
young aspen groves and thick old-growth forests
before breaking out into wide-open alpine meadows.
The round-trip hike was about 5 1/2 miles.

dead vegetation in front of Jumbo Mine

Mining began in the Gold Hill area around 1860.
Approaching Jumbo Mine, we encounter the "toxic forest,"
an area of devastation where mining by-products  such as 
cyanide, arsenic, and mercury entered the soil,
killing trees and vegetation and poisoning wildlife.

Behind the mine are the crumbling remains of Extension Mill.

The massive rock tumbler, over 20 feet tall, still dominates this site.

The town of Preston, situated near the mine,
swelled to about 150 people by 1875.
However, by the early 1900's, it was deserted.

When silver prices fell and the veins of ore were depleted,
buildings and equipment were left to decay in the elements.
At one time, the town had a post office, saloon/boarding house,
milliner/dress shop, and fresh produce store.

either the miners were very short, or they banged their heads a lot

Only a few dilapidated log cabins remain.

As we explored the old structures, Helen and I tried
to imagine the daily hardships and grueling life
of the miners and their families.
Knowing the amount of snow we get through long winters,
it's difficult to understand how they could withstand the cold.
Just using the outhouse would be torture!

Perhaps, looking out the windows

their spirits were renewed by these majestic scenes.

P.S. On some of the desaturated photos in this post,
I played with the in-camera color wheel adjustment
of the Olympus EM1.
I like the old-time effect
of taking certain colors out of the photos.
In a couple of the photos I desaturated all but red.
In another couple, I desaturated all but blue. 
I'm still practicing with the new camera! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mining Remnants and a Gravesite, French Gulch, Breckenridge

ice forming on pond

Helen and I set out last week to explore
some of the trails around historic Sally Barber Mine.
The mine itself can be reached by an easy 1.4 mile climb
from the parking area on French Gulch Road.
French Gulch has many mining remains from the 1800's.


The morning was very chilly.
Three layers plus gloves and hat weren't enough to keep me warm.

However, Helen remedied that by leading me up
the steep Nightmare on Baldy Trail.
Lots of climbing plus loose rocks
soon had me generating some body heat!

Helen on mine tailings at Sally Barber

The hike looped onto True Romance Trail, which was was much less daunting.
We explored the area around Sally Barber Mine before heading back to the car.

old wrecks at mine

During our 6 mile hike, gray clouds pillowed the sky.
Graupel (snow pellets that look like styrofoam) started falling.

At the end of our hike, 
we made a discovery.

A single old gravesite enclosed by a weathered picket fence
was visible in the forest along French Gulch Road.
Both of us have been to Sally Barber many  times, but
we have never before seen the gravesite.

A tall pine tree grows on the grave,
seeded since young Milner was laid to rest.
I imagine its roots gently cradling the skeleton of the 24 year old miner.

Alone amidst the trees, the grave's
headstone and footstone are in good condition.
They've weathered the elements for 150 years.

There isn't much information about William Milner,
though some interesting facts emerge at this ancestry site.
Apparently, he died of a "contagion" only a few months
before his parents and brother arrived by wagon from Illinois.

The lower inscription on his headstone reads:

Dearest Brother thou hast left us
Here thy loss we deeply feel
But it is God that has bereft us
He can all our sorrows heal

William Milner's is the oldest gravesite ever found in Breckenridge.
He lies alone in a spot that is still part of wilderness.