Friday, July 31, 2015

Manitou Springs, Colorado

There is a lot of charm to be found in this older mountain town.  It has preserved some of its older buildings and resorts.  One such building is Miramont Castle, built in 1895 for Father Jean Baptiste Francolon and his mother.  They were quite wealthy and had a chateau in France, which they returned to in 1900.  The Father had been poisoned in New Mexico and had some lingering ill effects from that.  He came to Manitou Springs with the hope that the Sisters of Mercy would care for him in his castle.  He became the local parish priest.  After he returned to France the Sister converted the building into a sanitarium.
What an impressive place this is, on many levels.  It is built into a mountainside, has 30 rooms and 14,000 square feet.  There are four flours stepped up the mountainside allowing for each floor to open onto the ground floor.  There are 9 styles of architecture within the building, and unusually shaped rooms.  One room, later converted by the Sisters into a chapel, has 8 sides, and a guest bedroom has 16.
 Miramont means "mountain view", and the castle was built with that in mind.  The room pictured above is the seven-sided glass solarium which has a roof with an 18" crown.  It originally had a glass roof.  The Sisters found this room to be ideal for minor surgical  procedures.   The castle also has a couple of interesting museums, one of which  relates to Fire Departments and shows the advancement of their equipment over the years.  A resident of the area, Judge John Carlton Young, was one of several judges who presided  over the Nuremberg war trials.  He brought back official trial photos which are on display in the castle.  There is an art gallery in the great hall on the fourth floor.  That floor has been used for local civic meetings, weddings, as well as for functions of the local Air Force Academy.
After touring the castle we decided to check out some of the other historic buildings of the town.  Pictured above is the Cliff House built in 1874.  By 1913 it was one of the largest and finest hotels in Manitou Springs with 265 rooms.  After seeing some of the older buildings we decided to wander further through the downtown with its many unique galleries and shops.  We also were aware that the town has 8 mineral springs.  Native Indians were the first to come here for the natural soda springs which they thought has healing properties.   We found a couple of the springs and tried the water which reminds me of a dilute, sweet alka-seltzer. It maintains a temperature of 49 to 55 degrees.    Pictured below is Cheyenne Springs.
An interpretive sign there explains that in the stone building the water is temporarily separated from the carbon dioxide for sterilization.  The water comes up from limestone aquifers a mile deep and is believed to be 20,000 years old.  A bottling water plant started in 1892, bath houses were also begun in the town then.  In the picture above, next to the building, is a bridge over a rushing mountain stream.  Both Fountain Creek and William Canyon Creek play a role in aquifer recharge.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

North Cheyenne Canon Park

Sometimes I wonder about my tour guide.  John said we were going to see Seven Falls, but we ended up at North Cheyenne.  They both can be reached by Cheyenne Blvd in Colorado Springs.  Seven Falls is privately owned and requires an admission pass, whereas North Cheyenne is owned by the city and no fee is required for admission.  So maybe on the way to Seven Falls he saw this other park and we happened to wander into it, I do not know.  We had a beautiful drive through a canyon with striking rock formations, saw two tall tumbling falls and got a good hike in- I was satisfied and my tour guide redeemed himself!
The first falls are named after Helen Hunt, who came to Colorado Springs in 1873 because of ill health.  She is the author of Ramona and A Century of Dishonor.  She wrote of the beauties of Cheyenne Mountain. I will quote here a verse of the poem she wrote regarding the falls:  "Here in these water slides of North Cheyenne Canyon you shall see in one small space water moving from side to side in a stately minuet motion over a many-colored surface of rock more beautiful that a mosaic".
 From the lower falls we hiked to the upper one called Silver Cascade.  Even though there was a trail it was a bit treacherous with lots of loose rock.  Patches of wildflower made it all worthwhile.
John had noticed driving into the falls area a dirt road with caution signs.  He inquired about it at the visitor's center and was assured that it was all right to take for our return trip to the city.  My tour guide came through again, it was a bit of a scarey drive, but we saw some great scenery.
The road was mostly narrow, curvy and one lane with no guard rails. Fortunately there were few other cars on the road.  No one had warned us either that there were two short tunnels to go through.   Entering them we were not sure what was at the end of the tunnels.  The beauty of the canyon was still worth it.  Sometimes there were steep rock walls on either side of us, other places we could see large red rock formations in the distance.  A very rugged land indeed with a beauty all of its own.

Pike's Peak

We are still parked in Colorado Springs, probably leaving tomorrow.  I was not too happy having to park within a bustling city, until I walked from our home to a nearby trail which runs along Fountain Creek.  Before even leaving the rv park, a black squirrel ran across my path.  They are rare, some towns we have been through have as their only claim to fame the presence of black squirrels.  However, we never saw them in those towns.  Funny that I found one here.   As I then walked down the trail a mule deer and her baby stepped out from the brush along the creek and stared at me.  A young man I met later made the comment that deer are more prevalent in this city than in all of Colorado!  Finally I want to show the view of Pike's Peak which we have near our home.  I am coming to like where we are parked.
The famous mountain top has the patch of snow on it.  It was the first mountain peak in the Front Range of the Rockies seen by pioneers in their covered wagons after they had traveled the Great Plains.  Soon the favorite phrase became "Pike's Peak or bust".  Zebulon Pike and 28 other men, assigned by President Jefferson to investigate the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase, tried to scale the mountain but did not make it because of inclement weather.  However, Pike was the first one to write of it, and his name was then given to the peak.   Kathleen Bates, a professor from Wellesley College, was lecturing at Colorado College in 1893.  She joined an expedition to the summit of Pikes Peak.  Thrilled with the beauty of what she saw there she wrote the poem which later became known as "America the Beautiful".
 John and I took the cog railroad to the summit yesterday.  In the mid 1880s Zalmon Simmons (founder of the mattress company by the same name) took a burro up the mountain and decided that there had to be an easier way to go for everyone to see the peak.  Being an inventor, he liked the cog railroad system and began building it, and it was completed by 1891.
 We have taken the railway before, but I am glad we did it again.  Traveling up the steep grades of the mountain we saw tall forests of fir and aspen, as well as meadows of wildflowers.  Coming down there were mule deer in those meadows.  We also saw rushing mountain streams as well as large granite boulders along and in those streams.  Shortly stepping off the train at the summit a herd of bighorn mountain sheep greeted us. I was able to capture a picture of one before they headed down.  By the way, it was 47 degrees art the summit, with a wind chill of 41 degrees.  After taking in the views at the top, a cup of hot cocoa tasted good!
One last photo here,  that of  a view of the Garden of the Gods in the foreground and Colorado Springs from the summit.  In the other direction was the Continental Divide, under a bit of cloud cover.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Garden of the Gods

Somewhere in our tour brochures we read that this is the best and most unique city park in the world.  Notice I said city park.  Charles Elliott Perkins, who once owned this 1,350 acres of land, told his children that the Garden of the Gods should forever be free to the people of the world.  His children gave the land to city of Colorado Springs in1909.  Yesterday, Sunday, we drove around the park as well as hiked some of the trails.  One of the first formations we saw was balanced rock.
Hard to believe that the 700 ton of rock pictured above has been resting on a narrow pedestal for thousands of years!  A lot of rock formations in the garden are red but others are grey or white.  Ancient mountains eroded over the years, their sediment getting washed into streams.  The resulting sediment over time got pressed and compacted into rock.  Sandstone mixed with iron oxide formed the red rock above; some of the mud formed shale, and other sand and pebbles formed a rock called conglomerate.  The delicate base holding the structure above is shale.  Some of the rock in the garden is grey or white, which is shale or conglomerate.  They can be seen in the picture below, called the Sleeping Giant.
Hope you can make out the giant!  His head has the whiter rock.  In the picture of the Kissing Camels you can also see the lighter colored rock.

There are many rock formations to be seen in this park, and they all represent hundreds of millions of years of geology.  We were hesitant to do it at first, but we did hike the ridge trail, which gave us a feeling of being among the rocks.  Pictured in the foreground of the picture below is a structure called the Three Graces.
Other formations we saw were Pulpit Rock, Tower of Babel, Sentinel Rock and the Cathedral Spires.  It is a beautiful place and should not be missed by anyone visiting Colorado.  My first visit here was when I was about 7 years of age,  since then we have taken our children to see the park.  One last picture here is that of a couple of rock climbers trying to scale the sheer walls.

Fossils and Burros

South central Colorado was certainly a different world some 34 million years ago, which we learned at the Florissant Fossil Beds.  Currently it is forested with ponderosa pine, spruce, fir and aspen.  Back then it was a warm temperate climate where tall redwood trees grew.  Study of the tree rings showed that the redwoods of Florissant had more favorable growing conditions than those of the California redwoods of today.  At this national monument we took a trail through the petrified forest of redwoods.   Scientist figure that these redwoods once were 13 feet wide and as high as 250 feet.
This area was once the site of an ancient lake where in its bottom sediments many insect, leaf, and fish fossils formed.  Evidence of their existence have been collected, inventoried and photographed by scientists since the late 1800s.  These fossil beds have yielded over 50,00 museum specimens from fossils of over 1,700 species, 1,500 insects, 150 plants, and one of the world's only known record of the tsetse fly, now only found in Africa (information obtained from the park's brochure).  We were able to view some of these fossils at the monument's museum.  They were discovered on pieces of shale lying around in the area.  Unfortunately many have been picked up by collectors until the park became protected by the government in 1969.  Fossils found here are in over 20 U.S. and U.K. museums and universities.
It was a volcano many years ago that covered the Florissant valley with mudflows which buried mammals, plants, and insects in stream deposits and fossilized them.  Eventually parts of trees were also encased in the mud and became fossilized.  As we walked around the park and its rolling meadows it was hard to imagine that this was once a forest of massive conifer trees.

From this park we took a scenic by-way, Highway 1, to the town of Crippled Creek  Along this highway we were treated to beautiful purple and yellow fields of wildflowers.  Also, off in the distance, are tall rocky bluffs.  One does not have far to drive in Colorado to find some awesome sights!
In the late 1800s gold was found in the hills of this area. Currently here there is historic and modern mining operations, remnants of railroads and active ranching.  In the town of Cripple Creek we were greeted by a couple of burros, maybe they are ancestors of the ones once owned by the miners!  We walked around the main street of the town, which has about 6 casinos.  One local claimed that at one time the town had about 25 of them.  There are a few shops, but casinos now seem to dominate the town scene, and it is in those places where one can find food and hotels.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Royal Gorge

We have moved our home south and now we are parked in Colorado Springs.  Yesterday we continued our search for a family reunion site.  We started looking in the area around us, but then widened our search to the land southwest of Colorado Springs, which explains how we ended up at Royal Gorge.
My last posting was regarding a canyon, this time I am writing about a gorge.  Although the two different terms are used interchangeably, there is a difference.  A gorge is narrower at the bottom whereas a canyon is as wide at the bottom as it is at the top.  Royal Gorge is 50 feet wide at its base and wider at the top.  From top to bottom the granite walls are 1,250 feet tall.  The gorge was first viewed by Lt. Zebulon Peak in 1806.  In 1929 the world's highest suspension bridge spanning the Arkansas River was built over it, it is 1,260 feet in length.
About 30 years ago we took an an incline railway down to the Arkansas River.  It traveled 1500 feet at a 45 degree angle, the world's steepest railway.  Some of the the masterminds behind that project were engineers from the Otis elevator company.  Unfortunately that, as well as 50 other buildings, including a visitor's center, burned in 2013 because of a forest fire.  Today the various options for enjoying the gorge, besides the suspension bridge, include a train ride through the gorge, river rafting, and aerial gondolas.  In the picture below rafts can be seen on the Arkansas River, as well as a train wending its way through the gorge.  It can be boarded at Canon City.  In 1906 Congress ceded the land comprising the gorge to that city.  There have been various battles over the years between various railways over right-of-way through the gorge.
Oh, I failed to mention one other way to see the gorge, that is by zip line. John and I thought we would do that another time. 
We only walked the bridge, that was good enough for us.  While we were on it we felt a few sprinkles of rain.  We could see a larger rainfall coming down off in the distance.  A big part of the beauty of the gorge are the various plays of light on its granite walls.  The may lie in shadows or have bright shafts of light beaming on them.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Castlewood Canyon State Park

The past week has pretty much been devoted to helping our daughter and her cousin Heather check out campgrounds for the Lohrmann reunion in 2017.  In the process we have managed to get some sightseeing done.  One day we took a trip south through the mountains on highway 70 and were able to get a good view of some snow covered mountains which included Mount Elbert and Pikes Peak.  The entire drive took us to Colorado Springs with stops in Leadville and Buena Vista.  It was a beautiful trip, and we were also lucky to see pronghorn antelope.
Several days after that trip we again headed south to check out a campground near Castlewood.  The rock structure for which the town is named is pictured above.  Ten miles from the Castle Rock is Castlewood Canyon State Park.  There we took the Canyon View Nature Trail first, which is a handicap accessible pathway that follows along the rim of the canyon.

According to information provided along the trail, many years ago pressure within the earth built the Rocky Mountains.  As the young peaks grew, they shrugged off layers of sediment and rock.  Raging rivers then rolled them off the slopes unto the plains.  Some of them rolled 30 miles south from Pikes Peak and embedded them in the caprock pictured above.  Those smooth rounded cobbles can also be seen in the walls of the canyon, I took a close-up photo to show how all those little pieces of rock built up the canyon.
Our path along the rim brought us to the Inner Canyon Trailhead, a much more rugged trail.
It was a beautiful walk down into the canyon.  Here we saw a variety of wildflowers, some of which were a first for us, as the harebell and butter and eggs.  Pictured below is a patch of penstemons.
An interpretive sign along the trail pointed out that within the canyon are 5 ecosystems: caprock, riparian, shrubland, conifer forest, and grassland.  The caprock area is dessert-like with cactus plants.  At the bottom of the canyon we walked along Cherry Creek, which has the riparian as well as shrub and grassland ecosystems.  They all can be seen in the picture below.
Another picture here shows the end of the trail for us, where we had to turn around instead of completing the loop out of the canyon.  We encountered two groups of hikers warning us that they had seen rattle snakes on the rocks where we would have had to cross the creek to get to the other side.  We also noticed that by continuing on the trail we would have had to do some rock scrambling and go through quite a bit of brush.  Much as we would have liked to have continued on the trail, we retraced our steps.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Denver Zoo

As some of our readers know, John and I have seen a fair number of zoos by now.  The Denver Zoo was not particularly on our radar to see, but we had a couple of free hours late Saturday afternoon, and it is close to Heather and Ann’s home.  Heather seems to love the place and was especially pleased that we were going there.  She has been there many times and proved to be a great guide for getting us around the place and into exhibit buildings out of the rain.  The zoo has 700 species, and 4,000 animals on 80 acres. 
What Heather likes about the zoo is that most of the animals are up and active and not sleepily lying around.  The polar bear in the picture above seemed to be enjoying the rain ( which was coming down from small to moderate amount of sprinkles the whole time we were at the zoo).  He is sitting on a ball, not sure what he plans to do with it!  I never did understand the different sections of the zoo, and how the animals were categorized, but the bear is in the Northern Shores exhibits. 
In the Tropical Discovery we found this interesting tree frog.  Its secretions are used in the treatment of aids and some cancers.  Native people use it as a mind-altering drug.  Because of those reasons it is a threatened species.   I believe it was in this area where I saw a sign noting that our rain forests are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Many scientists predict that the forests outside of parks and preserves may be gone by 2045.
The aquarium building had some wonderful displays, especially that of sea horses.  I find them rather unique and interesting creatures.  Equally fascinating is the sea bubble anemone, pictured above.  It can be found in the rocks and coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean.  It paralyzes and devours fish that brush against its tentacles.  However, the clown fish is immune and finds a safe haven among its tentacles.  Two clown fish can be seen hang out in the sea bubble anemone inthe picture above.
I also liked the pretty flowers and other decorative items displayed around the zoo, as pictured above.  In another area baskets and fabrics of Africa are displayed.  I must say we did have fun at the Denver Zoo, despite the rain and shortage of time!  It will be one of our more memorable zoos.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Golden, Colorado

We had a beautiful drive down here from Estes Park last week.  Our route took us through the Big Thompson Canyon and along the river by the same name.
We are now parked in Golden, Colorado.  Our plan was to be either in or near Denver because our niece Heather lives in Denver and our daughter was coming with son Nathan to plan with Heather the location of the next Lohrmann family reunion.  It has been a busy past few days, consequently.   However we did manage to find some time to explore Golden.  We walked the one main street in historic Golden.

There are wonderful sculptures all along the main street of the town, including that of Adolphus Herman Joseph Kuhrs (after arriving here from Germany in 1868 he changed his last name to Coors).  By 1880 he owned the Coors Brewery, along with a partner.  At the turn of the 21st century it is considered the largest single site brewery operation in the world.  During prohibition 17,391 gallons of the good brew were poured down Clear Creek.   To stay solvent at that time Coors began making near-beer and porcelain products.  It also supplied malt milk to the Mars Candy Company.  One cannot visit Golden without visiting the brewery, which we did at another time.
Running through town is Clear Creek, we walked across it on the Washington Avenue Bridge.  The creek is now flooded, a playground below the bridge is under water.  The creek must be a bane to this town, from 1859 (when the town was founded) to 1965 it flooded 25 times.  During the many times it went over its banks, crops, building and railroads were destroyed.   This, and other town historical information, is posted on plaques along the bridge.  We ate at the Capitol Grill, and discovered additional information regarding Golden.  The restaurant once was where legislative sessions were held for the Colorado Territory from 1862 to 1867.  As we walked around the town we noticed a rather striking large rock formation outside of town which makes a nice backdrop for the town.  It is called Table Mountain.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Flowers and Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear with me on this, I was not going to bother with the plants and animals we saw on our hike Monday.  But I imagine you all know me by now, I cannot pass up taking pictures of them.  Saw some Indian paintbrush and also aven (yellow flower in picture above).  I learned at the Alpine Center that aven are pollinated by flies, and I did see some flies on these flowers.  The flower lies open for easy access.
There was a fair amount of forest diversity on our hike- from dry rocky slopes to to moist areas along streams.  Only in one area did we find ferns. and a one lone pink pipsissewa.  I am starting to learn the Colorado wildflowers!
A couple of different jays were flitting about, a gray and a stellar jay (pictured above).  And, lastly there were quite a few chipmunks.  One kept running ahead of us and when he stopped to munch he seemed totally oblivious to our presence or that I was taking his picture.  His cheeks are full!