Colorado fires continue!

It’s been a bad fire season for Colorado. 2020 did not see much summer rain (typically monsoonal thunderstorms.) In the last few years we’ve come to dread them because they have brought some damaging hail. But this year there was barely any rain, let alone hail.

As a result, it was tinder dry here in Colorado. Our forests are heavily pine, which tend to be dryer than forests with fir trees (less dense, less shade, dry brush underneath). Making matters worse in some areas are the dead trees known as Beetle kill (bark beetle infections.)

There were several large fires in August on the Western Slope that caused poor air quality here in the Denver area. In addition, a fire up north called the Cameron Peak Fire pumped in smoke as well. It started August 13 and was about 50% contained earlier this past week. But then the winds hit us and the fire flared up. It is now the largest fire Colorado every has had (over a quarter million acres.) The smoke blew down toward us and once again our clear skies were smoky and gray. And then another fire erupted on October 14 called the East Troublesome Fire (who names these fires?) The skies turned an eerie orange-gray yesterday afternoon.

Smoke from the East Troublesome Fire

But wait . . . it’s not over. This afternoon I went out to get the mail around 3 pm and saw another huge plume. This one looked to be close to Boulder, just northwest of me. Sure enough, I found out a fire was burning near Jamestown in the Boulder foothills. Jamestown has been evacuated. This fire is called the Cal-Wood Fire. Immediately a wave of sadness fell over me. Cal-Wood is the facility where my youngest son went to science camp in 5th grade. Most kids from around here have gone to science camp their if they attended BVSD schools. I haven’t heard yet about the fate of the camp, but it can’t be good if the fire was named after it. Here are some pictures from today’s smoke plume from the Cal-Wood fire. You can see air tankers in a couple of the pictures. We don’t live far from the airport they refuel/refill at. They’ve been working nonstop it seems for the last two months.

My first glimpse of the smoke from the Cal-Wood Fire
Looking NW from Superior toward Boulder
tanker plane flying back to Rocky Mountain Regional Airport after a drop
McCaslin interchange
Another tanker heading back to the airport

Getting back in the saddle

September has been pretty crazy for me. The temperatures were way too hot a week ago – upper 90s. And then one of our forest fires got worse and the smoke rolled in. This smoke was dropping ash, too. So it was too hot to run plus the air quality was poor. As a result, I was feeling a little lethargic and not motivated to write.

But weather is ever changing in Colorado. On Monday night the temps dropped and by Tuesday we were over 60 degrees cooler with a dusting of snow on the ground. It picked up again in the late afternoon and we probably got no more than an inch. In the mountains it was a different story. Some areas had close to 2 feet. I follow a Facebook page of people who are hiking the Colorado Trail (I didn’t but my brother did). I was very concerned about folks on the trail. It sounds like most had been tracking the storm and took a few days off in mountain towns. A couple tapped out. Clearly some were not prepared for the quick change of weather.

As for me, I went running yesterday. I enjoy running in cool weather. It was 36 degrees and I loved it. The weather is gradually warming again but hopefully no more 90 degree days.

I have found that I have been more productive, too. I got some returns taken care of at Lowes, new wiper blades for my car, and today I’m going to look into new tires. I also got my flu shot taken care of.

It’s important for me to stay busy. We had had a trip planned for Spain in late September. That’s not happening, of course, so it’s a little depressing. I also keep seeing old travel pics in my memory feed on Facebook. However, we do have a trip planned to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October. It’s not Spain, but it is a vacation, so I am looking forward to it.

I just have to keep busy! One day I look forward to going to Europe again. One day . . .

Summer 2020: road tripping around Colorado

Even though this summer has definitely been a strange one and far from normal, I’ve managed to keep busy in large part due to my brother hiking the Colorado Trail. We took him to the trailhead (45 minutes from our house), and then did three road trips to see him as he progressed on his hike and to pick him up when he finished. All together we put more than 1500 miles on my car. But no complaints. I got to see many cool towns in Colorado that I’d either just passed through or never got to see before. I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my summer. I’m lucky to live in such a scenic state.

Top row: Pagosa Springs, Creede, Colorado Trail (Durango), Silverton

Second row: Silverton, San Juan Skyway, Chimney Rocks

Third row: Independence Pass, San Juan Mountain Range

Fourth row: Big-horned sheep, Bethoud

Fifth row: Twin Lakes region

Some bears paid me a visit

I’ve lived in Colorado for 13 years and know all about bears and how to be bear safe. In nearby Boulder many of the people have locking garbage cans and when I camp I’m careful to lock up food (surprisingly there are few bear boxes in campgrounds.) I’ve seen plenty of stories on TV of bears trashing cars with food in them (their favorite cars are Subaru’s) and inviting themselves into people’s houses in the mountains

However, I never thought I’d be a victim. So imagine my surprise the other week when I open the blinds on my rented Lake City cabin and saw two of my car doors open. I dashed out in my pajamas expecting the worst. Fortunately, no damage. Just a lot of dusty footprints. They were small bear footprints to be exact. And some drool on the dash.

A few days later I saw a video from a Colorado Trail hiker who had a midnight visitor by his cabin in the same town: Mama Bear and two cubs. I have to believe they were the same perps who broke into my car.

I was lucky. I actually left my car unlocked (accidentally) after we picked up pizza at Packers Saloon in town. It was delicious pizza. Obviously the beers thought so, too. Too bad they didn’t get any!

Another busy travel weekend

While we may not be traveling overseas, my husband and I have been busy visiting some scenic spots around Colorado. This last weekend we were down in the San Juan Mountains. It was a very last minute trip, but we really enjoyed it.

My brother messaged me through his GPS. He was about 2/3 of the way through his Colorado Trail hike and wanted to see if I could get a room for him in Lake City (thru hikers plan “zero” days to get resupplied and do laundry). Since he had no cell signal, he hoped I would be able to find a room. Lake City is really a very small town with few places to stay – mostly cabins. I managed to find a 2 bedroom cabin. So my husband and I thought, what the heck, let’s go down and see him. My husband quickly planned a hike up two of the nearby 14,000 foot peaks, Redcloud and Sunshine.

The area is very scenic but a long way from Denver. About five hours. Traffic was super heavy as they are detouring traffic off I-70 due to one of the four fires raging in our state. But it was worth the drive. I drove my husband to the trailhead on a narrow mountain road the next day. Only 18 miles, but the last three miles were rough and part was right on the edge of a mountain!! It took 50 minutes one way. But I made it.

The trip back to Denver on Sunday took even longer. We decided to go a different route because Google maps told us it was quicker. Well, bad choice. They had to close down the road and we had to do a one-hour detour. We found out the next day that a motorcycle hit a pickup, flipped over, hit another car, which in turn hit another car. The two on the motorcycle were killed. So sad.

Oh, and my car got broken into by a hear! Not kidding. But I’ll save that story for tomorrow. My car is fine, but I do want to share the story in its entirety.

Trailhead to Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks
Heading up to trailhead. The road is not bad yet
Now things are starting to get fun!
Sending my brother off again. See ya in Durango!
Headwaters of the Rio Grande

Colorado forest fires creating horrible air conditions

Colorado has two forest fires burning in western Colorado right now, the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction and the Grizzly Creek fire near Glenwood Springs. Neither are close to me but you wouldn’t know it by the air quality. I usually sleep with my window open, but my room smelled like a campground this morning. It was so bad that I didn’t even go outside like I usually do to drink my morning coffee.

In addition, the Grizzly Creek fire has closed I-70, the major east-west interstate through Colorado, at Glenwood Springs. Yes, you can still get to the major mountain resorts if traveling through Denver, but if you’re going further west to Utah, you will be affected. In addition, the scenic Independence Pass road is closed (CO-82). A lot of people were taking this as a bypass, but this road is not designed for heavy traffic. I was just there 2 weeks ago and can attest to that. In fact, I saw a pop-up trailer that went over the side of the road at one point (but no car!)

Independence Pass
independence Pass, selfie time

The only good in these fires is that they do make for interesting sunsets.

Smoky sunset
Sun setting over Front Range

Vacation Planning in the Pandemic

I was very fortunate to travel to Italy last September.  In a nutshell: my husband and I flew into Milan, took a quick side trip to Lake Como, then continued down to Florence for a few days, hopped on another train to Naples, transferred to the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei and Sorrento, and ended our trip in a wonderful 400 year-old apartment (updated of course, but still with original wooden ceiling beams) in Rome. So many wonderful experiences. We couldn’t wait to get back to Europe, with the planned destination being Spain (with a sidetrip to Morocco).

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Outside our apartment in Rome

Then Covid-19 happened.

Even my spring birthday getaway to Arizona got cancelled. Fortunately, however, I had made campground reservations for this summer. Campgrounds book up quickly for the weekends and typically you need to do it 6 months in advance. Fortunately, we’re allowed to go camping here in Colorado and judging by the line at REI the other week, a lot of people are opting for this.

We’ll be camping near Twin Lakes just south of Leadville. The campground is at 9,500 feet – I think that’s the highest elevation I’ve ever camped at. Leadville itself is the highest incorporated city in North America (10,152 feet).

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Lakeview Campground, near Twin Lakes and Leadville

As it so happens, my oldest brother will be passing through on the Colorado Trail (part of the Continental Divide Trail) that same weekend. It’ll be nice to meet up with him.

His hike also presented us with another opportunity to do another Colorado staycation. The CT terminates in Durango, about 6 hours from Denver. Since I volunteered to pick him up, naturally I decided to  turn it into a mini getaway. We’ll sightsee  on some of the scenic mountain highways and visit the former mining town of Silverton. We’ll also stay a night in Pagosa Springs. Their hot springs resort has been on my bucket list for years.

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The Springs Resort at Pagosa Springs – check this one off the bucket list!Silverton-Valley-COSilverton, Colorado

Once September comes (when we had planned to go to Spain) it would take nothing short of a miracle to make it to Europe. We still have our tickets as Norwegian Airlines has not officially cancelled our flight to London Gatwick. But we’re expecting that to happen. So in the meantime we’re talking about some things we can do here in the US. One is to rent an RV and do a road trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a 2-day drive. I’m not sure if I could stand my husband’s driving. But it might be fun as we could bring our pug. He’s almost 12, getting up there in years, and he’s never been on a road trip. We’ll see.

In the meantime I hope you all manage to do something fun and still STAY SAFE!