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)

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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life's Changing Tableau Mirrored in the Sky

High altitude weather is notoriously changeable.
People who live here say,
"Wait ten minutes or travel ten miles."
That was true yesterday.
In a matter of minutes and miles
we went from:







a promise




a silver lining

Breckenridge Ski Area - basking in October sunshine

Are the skies a metaphor for life?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Cycle of Nature

we drove to Vail earlier in the week
an easy 45 minutes over the pass if there's no snow
at an altitude of 8,021' (2,475m)
the village still shows some colorful foliage

we walk, I take photos
we have a great lunch at Sweet Basil

fall at high altitude is fabulous this year
cold and snow waited until late September
leaves weren't stunted early by hard freeze

our yard has been Moose Central the past few weeks
both Mama and grown daughter
plus a huge bull and his young lady love
spend time in our yard
working outside, I'm alert
I don't want to get in the middle of moose-love

most of the perennials have dried and gone to seed
shasta daisies, pure beauties,  bow their heads
readying for winter's sleep

poppy casings hold thousands of seeds
awaiting release for next summer's vivid display

People ask about the Header:
it's a large beaver lodge in Maroon Lake
in the Maroon Bells Wilderness near Aspen

I feel at peace
the cycle of Nature continues

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Blank Slate

Last weekend, snow arrived.
Temperatures went below freezing.
By midweek, temperatures rose.
There was melting, but white still remains.

I walk the trail in my waterproof hikers with gaiters.
The snow makes a loud crunching sound.
It's like biting an apple with each step.
I know bears still roam.
I'm sure they hear me coming!

Relaxing Bears - Four Seasons, Vail

Today, Big Mama Moose and Lilbit (her grown daughter)
browse together in the forest behind our house.
We've seen each singly over the past few weeks.
We thought after 2 1/2 years they'd parted company.
Lilbit (no longer little) is nearly full-grown.
But, Big Mama is still easily recognizable.

We watch them for awhile from the deck.
They glance our way as they continued grazing.
We finally decide to go on our walk,
giving them wide berth as we hike up the trail.
When we arrive back home, they're gone.

I like the first snows.
The landscape is filigreed.
Grasses sway with bowed heads under white weight.

Snow clumps on tree branches and evergreen boughs.

A pure beauty reigns - a blank slate, a new beginning.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Road Trip to Aspen, CO - Our World

We spent part of the week leisurely traveling through fall in CO.
On McClure Pass we looked out over both
snow-covered peaks and vivid fall foliage.

Coming down into ranch lands on our way to visit our Optometrist,
we had a slight delay as sheep undulated around us on the narrow road.
Herders and their dogs guided the sheep from summer pastures
high on the mountain to winter fields closer to home.

Near Aspen, we hiked into the Maroon Bells Wilderness.
Late afternoon sunlight lit aspen forests.
Breathtaking beauty surrounded us.

However, tragedy would soon strike in the Bells.
Two climbers hiked up North Maroon Peak on the day we arrived.
They summited but didn't make it down.
One man is dead and another (rescued by helicopter) is badly injured.
The Maroon Bells are nicknamed "The Deadly Bells" by the forest service.
However, the initial approach through the wilderness is easy and stunning -
the view of Maroon Lake looking toward the Bells
is the most photographed in CO.

The town of Aspen was quiet and uncrowded during our stay.
Perennials displayed their final blooms.
Trees dressed in vivid foliage.
Peaks gleamed white with fresh snow.
Days were crisp and overcast, perfect for hiking and biking.

Aspen Museum - under construction

My favorite place to visit in Aspen is the John Denver Sanctuary.
Gardens, water features, and rock formations engage the senses.
The sanctuary offers a peaceful respite - a place to rest and enjoy Nature.

Weather changes dramatically at high altitude.
We left Aspen to drive across Independence Pass with snow in the forecast.
Highway 82 crosses the Continental Divide at 12,095' (3687m).
There are spectacular views of lakes, meadows, forests, and soaring peaks,
including Mount Elbert (14,440' - 4,400m), CO's highest peak. 

Mount Elbert - highest 14ner and highest peak in CO

By the time we reached the summit of the pass, it was snowing.
When we arrived back in Breckenridge, we lit a fire, heated soup, and poured wine.
We await more snow over the weekend.
Goodbye fall - Hello winter!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Busy Week Including Snow in Breckenridge, CO

I've seen wonderful sights this past week:
two moose grazing in my back yard
a great blue heron (way off course!) winging through the dense forest
a resident pine marten checking me out before scampering away
a mama deer with twin fawns nibbling on the garden's seed heads

A few sights I managed to photograph:

dawn, Boreas Pass

fallen aspen leaves after new snow, Burro Trail

a bounty of gold

one bright dianthus

last bloom

fox tracks and my husband's bootprints crossing bridge in new snow

Lake Dillon with snowcapped peaks

light filtering through aspen at my house

a bouquet for Grammy (do you see me in his sunglasses?)

We've had 4 nights of snow, but all has melted except on the high peaks.
The fall foliage was the most spectacular in my 25 years of living in Breckenridge.
The aspens produced many more oranges this year.
I spend my days hanging the art work
and organizing the items we relocated from Denver.
I walk as usual in the forest and on the trails near my home.

We're leaving tomorrow on a brief road trip. 
We plan to hike and bike around Aspen, CO.
We hope to follow fall to a lower altitude.
Of course, I'll also take the new camera!