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, May 28, 2016

Offering Encouragement

We're back from a short trip to Vail and Aspen.

At 8,022' (2,445M), Vail Village is 2,000' (609M) lower than my house.
Snow is mostly melted, even on the mountain.
Trees and spring bulbs are blooming.

Gore Creek is thundering through Vail from spring runoff.
I hiked along the creek, noticing new growth on the banks. 

Bob starting the climb up Independence Pass - about 3,000 more feet to the top

On the second day, we biked Independence Pass, outside of Aspen.
The Pass was still closed to vehicles on the day we biked.
It officially opened the next morning.
The road was cleared of snow and controlled for avalanche.
At 12,095' (3,686M), it's the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the US.
Starting on our ride, spring shows itself in lime aspen leaves and green grass. 

The old gold mining town of Independence (now a ghost town) is just above 10,000'

However, the road climbs relentlessly, up, up, and up. 
Above 10,000' (3,000M), the landscape is still snow covered.
The high peaks hold snow all summer.

thanks, Blake, for this photo - nice talking with you!

I mostly biked alone, at my own (slow) pace.
However, several young people spoke to me as they passed,
encouraging me to "keep pedaling!"
One young man rode with me for awhile, chatting about the pass.
I told him it was a difficult ride for a 72 year old gal.
When he was on his way back down,
he stopped and took this photo of me, still pedaling upward.

Bob's bike at the top

As I kept turning the pedals, I thought about how
just a little bit of encouragement can mean a lot.
The people who spoke encouragingly to me helped me keep going through a tough time.
We never know how much our small kindnesses can mean to someone's day.

Biking Independence Pass taught me
something about resolve and also something about being uplifted by others.

Returning home to Breckenridge, we met snow and cold.
However, each day brings more melting.

Today, I'm encouraged by this little Junco building a nest in my wreath -

and by this tiny critter the size of my thumb,
sunning itself in my rock garden.

Let me remember this:
what seems inconsequential is often just the opposite.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Taste of Spring at High Altitude

Finally, spring is awakening in Breckenridge.

Snow is melted in town.
Streams and ponds are free of ice.

At our house, drifts remain.
Trails behind us are still snow covered. 
However, each day  brings more melting.
Of course, we won't be surprised if a snow storm arrives.

Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla) lift their heads to the sun

Where ground is showing, perennials and wildflowers start to grow,
I'm amazed at their hardiness.

I hiked the River Trail this weekend.
The Blue is high but not over its banks.
There is still much snowmelt happening above 10,000' (3,000M).
The trees and bushes have buds but are not in leaf.

Fly fishing in our rivers is a popular sport.
That water is frigid -
people wear waders to enter it.

Today, we biked to Copper Mountain.
It was a difficult ride uphill - the wind was strong.
My body is still acclimating to altitude after our time at sea level.
This week we leave on a short journey.
We hope to bike Independence Pass outside of Aspen
before it opens to vehicles.
It will be a challenge for me!

I love this time in the mountains.
We're still showing winter, but 
summer is just around the corner.
Birds are returning.
Sitting on the deck this afternoon,
I was startled by a hummingbird.
I looked out over the snowdrifts and watched it fly to my seed heads.
No nourishment there, so I put a small bowl of sugar water on the rail.
I can't leave any bird food  outside because of awakening bears.
But while I relaxed, I could watch the hummer hover and feed.

My heart is happy at home in Breckenridge!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sometimes, Life IS a Beach!

Hello Friends!
It's been a long time since I posted.
From the end of April until yesterday,
we were at the beach in S California.

We walked on sand instead of snow.
Waves crashed angrily to shore.
The surf whispered as it retreated.

My senses were captivated by salt spray and spring blossoms.

Intricate tide pools and rock formations beckoned. 
Sea birds and tiny marine creatures caught my eye.

I walked long distances on wet sand.
When tired, I found peaceful resting places.

The sea teaches as it constantly creates and erases.

I had my 72nd birthday on May 9.
I'm grateful for the gifts of good health and physical stamina.
Family and friends show me love and understanding and respect.

As my time on Earth grows more finite,
I try to enjoy each perfect moment.
We all have both good and bad experiences.
My focus now is on the positive. 

I feel a pure happiness.

PS It's snowing today in Breckenridge.
Luckily, I carry memories of sunshine in my heart.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This and That - and a Bear

We've been traveling, and now we're back in Breckenridge.
The snow melts but seems to fall again every day.
As I write this, a blizzard obscures the mountain.
Perhaps in a short while, the sun will appear.
This dance of spring is familiar to me.
I know the steps and try to follow Nature's lead.

It's often below freezing when I wake.
I hurriedly dress in layers and go outside for my walk.
I feel my spirits lift as the cold air hits my face.
Does the smile on my face help increase my well-being?
Brain science says a smile (even a fake smile)
improves mood and decreases stress.

storm clouds over Aspen Mountain and the Elk Range

I'm interested in neuroscience and the workings of the brain.
I recently finished an interesting  book -

This well-researched and well-written non-fiction
explains current science behind the mind/body connection.
The brain has a direct effect on bodily functions.
Therefore, under certain circumstances,
the mind is a powerful aid to healing.

can you find the bear?

On our recent trip, we biked and hiked near Basalt and Aspen.
We had a bit of excitement when we met a bear at close range.
He was walking down the Rio Grande Trail as we were biking up.
He lifted his nose to smell us curious creatures
before ambling  down an embankment toward the river.
I waited until he moved away before taking a distant photo of him.

In the Maroon Bells Wilderness near Aspen,
the landscape was partially snow covered.
The access road was still closed to vehicles.
As we hiked upward, we caught glimpses of the majestic Bells
gleaming white with new snow.

We're planning another trip, this time to California.

sunset from my house

In May, while snow keeps falling at our house,
perhaps we'll be walking on a deserted beach listening to the surf.

I'm smiling at the thought!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Erratic Weather and Ever-Changing Beauty - Our World

We live in the mountains of Colorado at high altitude.
Our house is at 10,050' (3063 M) on a dead-end street that backs to wilderness.
By mid-April, our neighborhood is quiet.
Tourists who came for ski season leave.
The summer season won't begin until June.

Most people can't fathom living in a place where snow lingers so long into spring
(and starts again so early in the fall).
We're asked if we'd consider moving to a warmer, less snowy locale.
Several of our friends have moved for health reasons.
Others don't want the hassle of constant snow.
As long as we're healthy and active, we can't think of a place we'd rather live.

That said, now that we're in our 70's, the endless snows of spring are tiring.
Over the last several days we've gotten about 3' of snow.
The forecast is for more!

The snows of spring are wet and heavy.
Skiing in heavy snow is more difficult and more injury-inducing
than skiing in powder.
There is more resistance and more drag.
After April 24, Breckenridge Ski Area closes.
We'll continue to cross country ski into the wilderness
as long as the snow isn't too sticky.

Inactivity is not good at any age - at our age we lose fitness fast.
To keep ourselves moving, we plan trips to lower altitudes.
In 2 hours, we can be out of snow enjoying spring activities like biking and hiking.

It's true that my gardens won't be free of snow until June.
The high peaks hold snow all year - they gleam white even in summer.
Only the hardiest perennials grow at high altitude.
We often get frost by the end of August so the season is short.
But, if we get enough spring moisture,
the wildflowers put on a spectacular show.

Another plus for high altitude living is that there is very low humidity.
It's never hot - nights can be quite chilly even in summer.
I do cool better than hot.

So even though I sometimes wish I had a switch
to turn the snow off by the end of April,
I love my high-altitude home too much to leave.

Though you might think of snow as being purely white,
there are unexpected colors depending on light and compression.
After lifting my ski pole, the snow glowed a lovely glacial-blue.

A high altitude world is a world of erratic weather and ever-changing beauty.

Our World

All photos taken with iPhone 6 while cross country skiing this past weekend.
Bob's eye is doing very well - thank you for all your kind comments on the last post.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Endless Winter - A New Day Begins

I'm sitting in the pearly light of a cloudy dawn.
News is all about a monster weather system heading our way.
Predictions are for massive amounts of heavy snow.

We were exhausted last evening after returning home.
I slept for 10 hours straight. 
Bob is still sleeping.

In Vail, we stayed at an elegant hotel.
The village was deserted.
We weren't in town for pleasure,
though the surroundings were lovely.

Bob had eye surgery in a nearby town.
We needed a place where he could recuperate
close enough to be checked by the surgeon.

Now we're under a winter storm watch.
Spring always seems like endless winter at high altitude.
I look forward to snow in November, the start of ski season.
By mid-April, the end of the season, my enthusiasm wanes.
However, snow just keeps falling through May.

The flames in the fireplace flicker and dance.
The trees in the forest raise their limbs to the dawn.

All is still.
I sip my tea and wait.

Photos are of Vail Village.
Bob is doing great.
His vision will steadily improve as his eye heals.
A new day begins.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Blue, Blue Skies - Biking, Hiking, and Mountain Lions in Colorado - Sky Watch

This week, we traveled a short distance 
from our mountain home in Breckenridge, Colorado, 
to bike and hike in warmer temperatures.
It was a wonderful respite from the cold and the snow
which continue at our altitude (over 10,000' - 3048 M) through May.

Bob biking on Rio Grande Trail toward Woody Creek and Aspen - Elk Range in distance
rail bed is no longer in use

From our base in Glenwood Springs, 
we biked and hiked near Carbondale, Basalt, and Woody Creek.

Roaring Fork River near Basalt

We pedaled rec paths along the Colorado and the Roaring Fork Rivers.

Though there were scraps of snow left on parts of the Rio Grande Trail,
we could easily navigate around or through it.

Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon

The ecology/geography of the area is high desert.
Along water sources,
Cottonwood trees, Pinyon Pines, Willows, and silvery sage dot the landscape. 

The red rocks in Glenwood Springs still held a dusting of snow.

Mount Sopris with it's double peaks each at 12, 965' (3952M)
gleamed white in the sunlight as we biked toward Carbondale.

enlarge for some interesting facts about lions
this sign was posted in the Mitchell Creek Wilderness

We hiked in the Mitchell Creek Wilderness.
In Colorado, wherever there is sufficient prey and adequate cover, there are mountain lions. 
This includes not only wilderness areas, but areas on the fringes of cities and suburbs.
Sometimes, the Division of Wildlife posts warnings where lion activity is reported to be heavy.

While biking, we came upon the remains of a lion kill (2 forelegs of a deer)
in the middle of the Rio Grande Trail.
Only rarely do people catch a glimpse of a lion.
They normally travel alone and are very secretive.
We didn't tarry at the deer kill in case the lion was resting nearby. 

Storm King Ranch sits secluded at the edge of the Mitchell Creek Wilderness.
We passed by its fences on our way to the trailhead.
The landscape was greening and budding with spring growth.

Back home again, looking out onto the snow in my back yard,
I still carry the promise of spring in my heart.

I hope wherever you are, you look to the skies and find inspiration in Nature.