Monthly Archives: September 2012

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs pool

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I have a picture of myself when I am a little girl in a patterned one-piece swimming suit, playing with a herdof My Little Ponies on the side of the Glenwood Springs Hot Springs pool, paying no mind to passersby. I remember sitting in my polka dotted dog intertube here, taking afternoon naps with my dad on the grass, and being heartbroken the year I couldn’t ride down the waterslides because I broke a blood vessel in my nose and had to have it cauterized.

Hot springs have become a bit of a hobby for Alex and I in the last few years, but Labor Day in Glenwood Springs has been a family tradition since before I was born. Now I have grown out of my blissful girlhood and am admittedly irritated with parking and waiting in line among the holiday weekend masses. When my sisters and I were growing up, my parents would get up early and leave the campground to get a parking spot at the pool. When we all woke up we would eat breakfast there and head into the pool to pick our prime spot on the grass before the crowds flocked in. But now each of us girls have built little families of our own, adding husbands (for me, a fiancé J ) babies, and dogs to the tradition. This year we didn’t get to the pool early and had to contend with mid-morning crowds. But once we got inside it was just the same as ever.

There are 15 different minerals in the water, and the springs that fill the pool deliver 3 and a half million gallons of hot water each day. Needless to say the pool is huge, leaving plenty of room for groups of visitors to have their own space. Kids climb the stairs on the west end of the pool to wait in the line at the top for a ride down a waterslide. People’s bare feet slap along the wet, narrow pool sides as they make their way to the bathrooms, snack shack, or hotter pool on the east end. The smell of sulfur is subtle in the air and the polished rock bottom of the pool cast the water in brownish hue.

Our family breaks into small groups, traversing the pool from our grassy daycamp at one end to the hot pool at the other. We watch my nephew proudly jump off the side and I realize my parents were doing the same thing with his mother-their first kid- 30 years ago at this pool.

A holiday weekend visit to Glenwood Springs certainly doesn’t offer the quietude that I often seek in the outdoors, but as my irritation with the crowds dwindles I realize that the familiarity of a lifelong family tradition is a pretty cool feeling too!

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Rogers Pass to James Peak

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James Peak with Bancroft and Parry Peaks

A view of James Peak, on the far left, from the trail with Bancroft and Parry to the right, respectively. Photo courtesy of Alex Romanyshyn at www.alrophoto.com.

Hiking Details:

Mileage: 9 miles roundtrip to the peak

Altitude: 11,081 at trailhead, 13,304 at summit

Elevation gain: 2,223 feet

To get there: If climbing James from the Winter Park side, take Highway 40 to CR 80/FSR 149 (between mile markers 231 and 232, north of Winter Park Ski Resort), also known as Rollins Pass. Follow the road for about 10 miles to the old railroad trestle. Park at the Rogers Pass Trail sign on the right-hand side of the road.

If climbing James from the Denver side take I-70 to the Fall River Road/St. Mary’s Glacier exit and head north for about ten miles. Park at the trail head.

The chill of fall is in the air as we set out around 8 a.m. We are hiking in the shade of a spruce forest, looking at the approaching timberline. I am wringing my hands, keeping my fingers in motion as I eye the rising light of the sun to the east. We are out of the shaded trees quickly, only to spend the remainder of the hike on the wind-whipped tundra.

“Getting out of the trees that fast makes me feel like we’ve gone further than we have,” I comment. In my experience, walking up the tundra usually means the summit is close. But not today.

As much as I love a grove of Aspens in the fall, the squatting grasses and groundcovers on the tundra reward an autumn hiker up close. The deep red of Alpine Aven (which pikas use as a natural preservative for their winter food stores) and the russet grasses change the mountainside subtly, letting only the hiker who walks alongside them notice this signal of coming winter.

As we continue, we come to a fork in the trail and follow the Ute Trail. We walk along a narrow, rocky path that ascends toward the Continental Divide. We have views of Parry, Bancroft, and James, which was named after botanist Edwin James, who was the first person to do a recorded ascent of a Colorado 14er (during the same expedition that Stephen Long discovered and named Long’s Peak) Instead of said 14er being named after him it was named Pikes Peak and Mr. James left his namesake on this 13er instead. On top of the Continental Divide ridgeline the trail begins to level off and we follow another right fork for the final climb up James’ slanting shoulder. At the top we come to a ‘T’ in the trail and turn right to find small rock shelters. Out of the wind here, we can finally bask in the high sun.

We discover gaggles of hikers coming up the other side of James Peak from a trailhead at St. Mary’s Glacier that can be easily reached

Taking some time to balance on the Continental Divide.

Taking some time to balance on the Continental Divide 🙂 …I’m a clumsy gal so this didn’t last long!

from Denver. It is a flawless, blue-skied day so we laze around on the summit for a while. On the way down we stop multiple times on the Continental Divide ridgeline to take pictures and identify the spattering of lakes below us. We know that winter is on its way and that there won’t be many more days like this; we lollygag back to the car, making any excuse not to go home and go back inside.

Hiking details from ‘Hiking Grand County, Colorado: A Backcountry Guide to Winter Park, James Peak Area, Fraser Valley, Indian Peaks, Never Summer Range, Troublesome Valley, Williams Fork Mountains, Vasquez Mountains, and Beyond’ by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan,  from http://www.summitpost.org/james-peak-st-mary-s-glacier/150240, and from http://www.americanjourneys.org/aj-144a/summary/index.asp.

Jim Creek

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Cascades on Jim Creek

Cascades on Jim Creek, near Winter Park, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Alex Romanyshyn at alrophoto.com.

Hiking details:
Mileage: Up to 7 miles roundtrip

Altitude: 10,449 feet at waterfall

Elevation gain: 1,221 feet

To get there: Take US Hwy 40 to the Bonfils Stanton Foundation/ Winter Park Outdoor Center sign, between mile markers 232 and 233.

We begin our hike in the Winter Park Outdoor Center, along the Discovery Trail. We are alone on the trail here, and can hear cars behind us on highway 40 and Jim Creek trickling to our left. Within 10 minutes we pass under a viaduct that transports water to Denver, and soon after we are crossing a road and another small parking area for the trail (we never did quite figure out where the turnoff for that road is off of highway 40). This is where the trail really gets pretty. It is narrow and shaded by a thick tangle of plant life: fallen trees, willows, vines, and a number of things we can’t identify. As we continue parallel to the creek we can see the adjacent hillside covered in changing aspens, splashing orange and yellow light over the green ravine. About an hour into the hike we stop in a small meadow next to the creek. The low grasses are drying up and turning tan and orange on this early fall day, and the leaves of the creek-side willows are a deep auburn. The fall is by far my favorite season, and I could be perfectly content sitting here for days and watching the hill change (until night falls that is…it was 36 degrees when we woke up this morning).
We decide to leave the trail, cross the creek, and walk back to the trailhead along the water. I begin to feel like a little kid, exploring my neighborhood woods. We go tromping through moss and mazes of fallen trees, the autumn light dancing through the pines overhead. We make a game of walking on river rocks and eventually stop at a big sitting log that has fallen across the creek below a small series of cascades. Again, I am content here, with the light moving on the water, looking at the last lush green of the year, and watching an ouzel bounce as he stands on a rock with the creek washing up over his little legs. It’s easy to be happy on a day like today, a day speckled with leisurely exploration and freedom and easy youthfulness under the yellowing the light of coming autumn.
Hiking details from Hiking Grand County, Colorado by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan.

Hot Sulphur Springs

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The name for the hot springs in this tiny Colorado town is fitting. They are definitely hot, with some pools getting up to 109 degrees, and, well, they smell like hard-boiled eggs. It took months to get the smell of sulphur out of my towel and swimsuit last time we visited these hot springs (don’t wash your towel with other clothes…or everything will smell like sulphur). This resort has 22 pools, some only big enough for one person; two if they don’t mind rubbing up against each other. There is a pool for every preference it seems: covered pools, a mountain view pool, super hot pools, a cold pool, pools out of the way of the others, a pool with a waterfall, pools that seat 1,2,4,10 people. Most of the pools have underwater benches in them, which makes it easy to lounge and relax. Because of the lack of shade and the heat of the pools, I find Hot Sulphur Springs hot springs in the summer to be more enjoyable at night than during the day. However, I look forward to going back this winter (when it just might be negative 56 degrees) since I live right around the corner from these hot springs.
We were at the hot springs until closing time and then went to camp with our friends at the free campground right across the train tracks. The pros of this campground are that it’s free, it’s easy, it’s in pretty good shape, it’s on the river, and I don’t think it fills up too fast. Suspicions about why it doesn’t fill up fast? One: There are frequent trains that barrel by, honking and rattling and screeching, on the tracks right next to the campground.Two: There’s a steady flow of people (we thought they were high schoolers) speeding by on the dirt road that goes by the campground. Three: Hot Sulphur Springs is weird and gives off creepy vibes…I don’t really know why. With the fire ban in Grand County lifted, we were able to enjoy the campground with a long fire before we good ol’ fashioned Coloradoans retired to bed in our Subarus for the night.
The last part of our visit to Hot Sulphur Springs was 18 holes of Frisbee golf the next day. This was a challenge. The course has a lot of long holes and is also populated by many trees, bushes, and tall grasses to lose a disc in. It’s possible that we spent a longer time searching for discs than actually playing, the climax being when we kept throwing them over the fence that blocks the course from the train tracks (lucky for us, someone who must play the course frequently cut conveniently-placed holes in the fence for disc retrieval). After this hours-long game in the midday sun, we stopped at the Dairy De-lite for a satisfying dipped cone.

A frigid history lesson + poll

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In 2007 Fraser, Colorado, where I currently live, ‘battled’ International Falls, Minnesota for a title. As the winter months approach, I wish that they had been battling for the title of ‘warmest winters’ or ‘most powder days’ or ‘the least windy town in the world.’ But, sadly, none of these things are even close to true. The title they were battling for was ‘Icebox of the Nation.‘ How on Earth did a town in Colorado battle with a place that’s almost in Canada? It’s just not right!  Both towns claimed to have been using the title for decades, but when International Falls, Minnesota let their trademark on this horrible phrase expire, the town manager of Fraser filed an application for it. Why oh why would he do such a thing? Who wants to be reminded that they live in an icebox!? Ignorance is bliss….I’m just pretending it’s going to be a great snow year for skiing purposes and not get to 50 something degrees below zero this winter. In the end, International Falls won back the official title of ‘Icebox of the Nation,’ but both towns still use it and Fraser claims to be the coldest incorporated town in the lower 48. 

As it goes, the closer winter gets, the lower the temperatures in peoples’ winter stories drop. The first mention of below-zero temps was my landlord saying when it gets to be negative 20 or so, we might want to do this and that so the pipes don’t freeze. This was enough to make my jaw drop, but it wasn’t long before a co-worker was saying, “One day I was walking to work and it was negative 43. I had my big down jacket on…” Blah blah blah! I tuned out after “negative 43!” The most recent? Alex’s colleague at work has a friend who works in the meat department at Safeway, which is right on the Fraser River.  They have some kind of fancy thermometer that reads the temperature when it’s pointed at an item. Just for kicks, they took it down and pointed it at the river one day. Let me just mention that I live across the street from this river. The thermometer read negative 56! Maybe I’ll get used to. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even love the cold enough to agree when Alex asks me to go winter camping with him.

I’m already planning on eating lots of fatty bacon, stocking up on long underwear, and sitting by my remote control gas fireplace every day (which I do when it’s a mere 45 degrees out) but I am also thinking I will need to thaw out at the end of winter. This leads me to the second part of my post: a poll.

Where should we go to thaw in April? When it comes to getting warm, I am not too picky as long as the end goal is accomplished. However, there are a few criteria for the trip.

– It has to be cheap. The cheapest plane ticket to anywhere tropical will do.

– It has to be easy to enjoy in 9ish days.

– No malarial areas…I have had enough Doxycycline for one year.

– Uncrowded beaches and an ocean that doesn’t have waves that give you a concussion when you’re trying to swim.

Any ideas? Soon enough, my frantic searching of kayak.com will begin and when it’s negative 56 outside I’ll be able to look forward to sweating again someday and wearing flip-flops.