Trough Road

The fastest route to go west of where I live is not to go down to the highway, but to travel west through a couple small towns and then west along a long dirt road (Trough Road) through the mountains.  I have taken this route a few times now to get to Snowmass Village where some of my friends live.  The first time I took the route, I just let google maps direct me and I was quite shocked when it took me down this long, steep, not very wide road for over an hour.  After looking at maps closer, I realized, this really is the quickest way.

A large storm was due to hit Denver the day I was supposed to be going to Snowmass.  My plan had been to drive to Snowmass in the evening.  The whole city of Denver was in a panic over the storm.  You would think the end of the world was coming.  Grand County got the edge of the storm.  Schools were closed and the news was covered in warnings.  At one point I looked at the traffic maps and almost every highway was closed.  I debated leaving earlier to go to Snowmass, but I was afraid to get on the highway and I was sure Trough Road would not be navigable.  Plus, the mountains had been trying to kill people with avalanches lately and I was very wary of the avalanche danger.  Many areas that haven’t had avalanches in 10 or more years were covering roads and highways.  I watched the snow plow go down my road at least 5 times during the day even though I could barely see the end of my driveway.

At one point in the early afternoon, the storm lifted a little.  The clouds were still there, but they rose a little higher in the sky.  The snow slowed and I could see the end of the driveway.  I thought, if I’m going to go, now is the time.  The hardest part of the drive was my own driveway since I didn’t shovel first.  All the roads in Grand County were cleared pretty well.  I think the county has a shortage of plumbers, but an excess of snow plowers.  As I was driving, I was wondering what Trough Road would look like.  I was wondering if there was avalanche danger or if the snow would be so thick you couldn’t drive on it.  I got to it and it looked like it had been plowed.  So, I took a chance, hoping I wouldn’t get stuck if it wasn’t plowed the whole way.

It was plowed the whole way, still covered in snow and slush, but not so deep that you couldn’t drive through it.  The clouds stayed low and threatening, but it didn’t snow any more and the wind was calm.  Everything was a monotonous grey.  I saw deer, lots of deer, crossing the street, walking down the street.  I saw some elk also.  I even saw big horn sheep, which I hardly ever see in Colorado anymore.  I only saw one truck.  It was this very quiet world in slow motion as if I was in a secret bubble hidden from the storm, hidden from other cars and other humans.  It was just a pocket of beautiful nature and me.

As I got to the end of the road and close to where I would get on the highway, the road became dry.  The clouds were even higher in the sky.  The western part of the state hardly saw any of the storm.  Instead of terrifying, Trough Road had been a tunnel of safety between the storm and the highway.

Wild Animals

I miss seeing wild animals from my house.  When I lived in Evergreen, I had a fox that visited regularly.    There were lots of deer, elk every once in a while, and bear.  I saw a black fox once which was very neat.  The squirrels told me stories every day and the chip monks terrorized my house.

When I lived in Morrison, I had a bunny factory under my porch.  There were lots of deer, some rattle snakes and I even saw one bobcat.

I was excited to move to Grand County, thinking I would have even more wild animal sightings.  But so far, there haven’t been any sightings near the house.  There have been footprints in the snow in front of my office window so something has been visiting.  I can’t tell from the prints what it is, only that something small has been there.  Is it a fox, a small wild cat, or something else?  Then one day, I finally saw I white blur go running in front of my office window.  It was difficult to see since it was white on a background of white snow.  Maybe I would see it again the next day.  I did see it the next day, and the next and almost once a week.  It was the small white house dog of my next-door neighbor.  Roughly every few days he goes tearing through the neighborhood in the pure excitement of being outside and able to run.

In a Cloud

I always get a kick out driving through the mountains and seeing the clouds dip lower than the tops of the mountains.  You feel like you are driving through the clouds.  Actually, I guess you are.  I have the opportunity to see this more often now.  It’s not often you get to come out of the mountains and see the city hanging in the clouds.  One morning, as I was coming into Denver, the whole city was engulfed in a large cloud.  Only the tops of the taller buildings were visible.  It looked like a floating city.  The clouds were a fluffy white and the buildings were shiny in the early morning sun.  It was a very fantasy world sight.  I also got to see this later in the week when I was driving down into Steamboat Springs.  This time instead of clouds, it was more like fog.  The fog looked like you would see in an 80’s rock concert, creaping across the landscape low to the ground, swirling slowly.  It was fun approaching the fog, just above it all and then finally dropping into it.  I didn’t get pictures of the Denver cloud, but the Steamboat fog pictures are below for you to enjoy.

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Field Ready

Earlier this week I met with my Search and Rescue mentor.  She helped me go through all the stuff in my backpack to make sure I had a pack ready for any Search and Rescue mission.  She also gave  me a short test that went over my general knowledge of the wilderness and Search and Rescue.  I took the required ICS classes back in December.  At tonight’s training, I was granted Field Ready status.  I think this is a shorter way of saying “she knows close to nothing, but is in good enough shape to carry stuff and isn’t a danger to herself or others” status.  They gave me a radio, a t-shirt, hat and a giant red jacket as well as some other gear.  I can now go on missions and continue my education toward the next level.  It’s wonderful to be a part of this group of people.20190213_205149

Winter Carnival

I was searching on-line for things to do in Grand County around Christmas when I came across some information about the Grand Lake Winter Carnival.  I thought, how much fun would a small town winter celebration be?  Even though it was hard to tell how to participate or exactly what you would be participating in, I put it on the calendar and invited one of my friends from Denver to come up and share in whatever festivities we could find.

When we first arrived in town we saw a bunch signs for Ice Addiction.  What is Ice Addiction?  After we parked, we noticed that there were a lot of people hanging out at the lake and something exciting was going on, judging from the announcer’s voice in the background.  Ice Addiction was fully underway!  It was an ice fishing contest.  I’ve never would have thought that an ice fishing contest would have need for an announcer.  Even though we couldn’t quite tell what the announcer was saying, it sounded very exciting.  The ice was covered in people staring down tiny holes waiting for fish.  Even if Winter Carnival was a bust, seeing this was worth the drive.

After watching Ice Addiction for a bit, we headed to main street to see the other festivities.  We missed the tea pot curling contest.  There was a put put golf course in the snow, a bunch of other races and activities for kids and the main event, the bed races.  What is a bed race, you ask.? Teams like up and push a bed down the snow packed street.  It was fun to watch.  In the evening there was a costume party at one of the bars and then fireworks off the lake.  All in all, it was great small town fun!

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Moose Ski

Grand County is supposed to be infested with moose.  I’ve lived here since September and haven’t seen a moose.  I’ve been hiking and snowshoeing many times, going places I think moose might hang out.  No moose.  My neighbor, Kathern, and her friend were going back country skiing because he hasn’t seen a moose either.  They invited me to go with them.  She had an extra pair of cross-country skis I could borrow.  I’ve been cross country skiing at the Nordic center once a week since December.  But I haven’t been on a regular trail yet.  Her feet are bigger than mine so her boots won’t fit right.  What could go wrong?

The trail they picked was beautiful, but it started with quite the impressive downhill.  Off to a good start, squealing as I fly way faster than I want down the hill in the largest, snow plow ever seen.  The trail mellowed out after that.  We passed many moose tracks crossing the trail.  There was moose poop on the trail and you could see where they had laid down to rest.  This had great promise for a moose sighting as they were probably here 5 minutes ago.

The trail got prettier, but a steeper uphill and I was struggling with boots that didn’t fit right.  I had to keep stopping to tie them tighter in an effort to keep my feet in them.  Kathern and Mark continued uphill and I turned around knowing they would probably still catch up later.  I’m sure to see a moose now.  The journey back to the trailhead was peaceful despite the 3 flailing ungraceful crashes.  It’s so awkward to try to stand up with long skinny slippery skis on the bottom of your feet.  I made it back up the giant hill near the trailhead with a bit of huffing and puffing and very little backwards sliding.  Over all, I’d call this a win in the ski department.  But, it’s definitely time to buy my own skis.

After they caught back up with me, we took the moose hunt from the trail to the road.  We drove through the National Park – everyone sees moose there – except me and Mark.  We drove through a Grand Lake neighborhood that has moose all the time.  Yep, you guessed it, no moose.  Mark and I must be wearing moose repellant.  With two of us, we really scared them off.

It was a beautiful day with new friends and the wonder of the gorgeous place I live in fills my heart.  Once again, my choice to move to Grand County is validated as a fabulous choice.  I’ll have to wait for another day for moose sightings.

Father Daughter

There is a local bar/restaurant that has decent food so I go there often when I need to get out of the house or when I don’t want to cook.  Tonight, when I got out of the car, I saw two girls about age 7 or 8 dressed to the nines in pink frilly dresses and Patten leather shoes.  They were with their dads.  Normally, they would be cold in these fancy dresses, but they looked invigorated and excited.  They didn’t even notice it was cold.  The dads were dressed in suits and ties.  I thought maybe it was a wedding reception and these were the flower girls, even though the time of year seemed off for a wedding.

I went inside and sat at the bar and ordered my dinner.  I noticed the girls and their dads sat at a big table with a lot of other girls of different ages, dressed up in silk, tulle, sparkles, and pretty pink, blue and green colors.  Then I noticed that all the adults at the table were men.  Oh, there must be a Father Daughter dance tonight and they were going out for dinner first.  Over the next hour, more father daughter duos came in and took up seats in the restaurant.  It was fun to watch them come in, to see the pretty dresses, the happy princesses and the very proud fathers.  The whole restaurant was full of shiny sparkly girly-ness.

Mentor

I decided to join Grand County Search and Rescue.  It’s an all-volunteer group and they provide training for free.  I started going to the regular Wednesday night trainings.  At some point I was told that I would have a mentor to help me with training.  But I have been going to trainings for almost 2 months and I feel very lost and don’t have a mentor to ask questions of.  The trainings aren’t geared toward newcomers.  They are more like refresher courses for people that have been on Search and Rescue for a while.  They are full of words I don’t know, processes, and acronyms.  I feel dumber each time I go.

Then one night I get there and everyone is in snow gear for the strategic shoveling practice.  Apparently, there is an email group that everyone uses to share information, information like, show up in your snow gear because we will be out in the snow for training tonight.  I am not on the email list so I was in jeans and clogs – no where near ready for snow activities.  I felt so left out, so useless, and generally defeated. I tried to watch the training, but soon my shoes were full of snow, my feet were wet and I was shivering.  I lost feeling in my feet and hands and went home crying.  What am I doing here?

It kicked up all sorts of “poor me” issues I have.  The adult in me knows I just need to ask for what I need, but the child in me says, “if they wanted me on the team, I’d be on the email list and have a mentor”.  It’s the old “If you loved me, I wouldn’t have to ask for what I need” game.  No one ever wins that game.  But the battle between child game and adult reason went on for days.  I finally gave up the game and sent an email to the training director telling him I was lost and had no one to ask questions of and that I wasn’t getting emails that would be helpful to know what was expected of me.  It didn’t make me feel better, I felt worse.

Tonight, I still felt defeated and there was a tinge of poor me hanging out, so it was difficult to drag myself to training.  I sat down and immediately Rose came over to me and said “I’m going to be your mentor.  We are going to have so much fun”.  She got my phone number and we made a plan to meet up and go over what I needed to do next and answer the questions I have so far.  Rose is my age, full of so much energy, and just seems like a delightful person.  We ARE going to have so much fun.

This is the first training I left when it wasn’t a blizzard.  As I was driving east, I could see the outline of the mountains, illuminated by a faint glow of orange behind them.  It was a dark night and the mountains would not be visible if it wasn’t for the glow behind them.  It was kind of like impending sunrise, but it was 8:00pm.  Or like a forest fire had set the distant mountains a blaze.  I pulled over and looked at a map.  I was directly west of Boulder.  Boulder is about 30 miles west of where I was, on the other side of the Continental Divide, unreachable by car.  The orange glow was light pollution from Boulder.  Even though it is pollution from a world I am trying to leave behind, it was a very beautiful sight and a great end to the evening.

Ice Fishing

I had seen advertising around town for the upcoming ice fishing tournament.  I didn’t think much about it as this seems extremely unexciting to me.  I went to the town of Grand Lake to go hiking.  As I was driving by Lake Granby I was amazed at how many tents were on the ice.  The lake was covered in ice fishing tents.  It looked like someone had spread confetti on the lake as each tent was a different color and no part of this large lake seemed to be  untouched.  You couldn’t see individual people as they were far away, but you could see movement, snowmobiles wandering between the tents.

I went for my hike.  On my way back by the lake I was shocked to see how few tents were left.  In a couple hours someone had swept most of the confetti off the lake.  I had wanted to get better pictures of how covered the lake was, but I guess the fishing was done and everyone went home.  Mother nature did treat me to a yellow glowing ball of fire sunset instead.

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All those “rocks” in the distance are actually tents.

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All that was left after everyone was gone

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If you want more info on the tournament:

https://www.facebook.com/3lakesicefishing/

Ice Crystals

I think I mentioned before that I sometimes have to drive very early in the morning to Denver.  And that it’s cold very early in the morning.

This morning as I was driving tons of gook was coming off the streets and up onto my windshield.  So I sprayed some washer fluid on the windshield.  It sprayed blue splatters on top of the grey gook and then the wipers did their thing clearing it all off.  Then the slight bit of moisture left on the windshield turned to ice.  It wasn’t a solid ice, but a moving expanding array of crystals.  Geometric shapes appeared and and moved outward in all directions across the windshield.  Then they were gone.  What shiny magic is this?  So, I did it again – washer fluid, wipers, magic.  This time the shape and pattern the ice grew in was different.  It danced across the windshield as the shapes moved and expanded in ever growing circles of fractal beauty.  Then they were gone as fast as they had appeared.  Of course, I continued to do this most of the way to Denver, partly because the roads were so wet and partly because the art show was so delightful.  I swear each time it was different.  The shapes were smaller or bigger or moved in different directions.  How could the drive get better than this?

Then I got to the part of the highway where I get to drive directly east, directly into the sun itself.  Often this part of the drive is terrifying as the sun tries to remove my eyeballs, wondering if I will ever see again, wondering if the car behind me will ram into me since that driver is now blind too.  I was lucky today.  It was painfully bright, but just short of dangerous.  I hit the washer fluid again so that I could see better and the crystals began to spread only this time they were iridescent, rapidly flickering between 6 or 7 shades of blue and purple.  Oh my god, just when you thought it couldn’t get better, the sun brought color into the show.  I continued to recreate the blue crystals until it got too warm and the show was over.