Getting to the good stuff

Where: working our summer jobs at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO

Hey! Did you know there are giant mountains in Colorado? Yes, I jest, but we only recently started doing some hiking in the true high parts of the Rockies. I love getting up in elevation! It’s a very busy week, so please enjoy a picture post of a couple awesome hikes we did recently.

First set–Cataract Gulch, with wildflowers, waterfalls, and views of a couple 14ers:


Snodgrass Trail, overlooking the town of Crested Butte:

I promise, more words next week!


Over the passes and through the woods, to the mountains we go!

Where: working our summer jobs at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO.

The high mountain passes around us have just opened for the summer season, increasing the places we can go exponentially.  Our first jaunt was over Ohio Pass (10,065 feet) and Kebler Pass (10,007 feet) to check out the mountains west of Crested Butte.  Finally, we had a chance to be in the terrain I love: high mountains, with wildflowers, waterfalls, and views galore.

But first, when you’re driving down a dirt road around here, you may have to stop for a herd of cows that’s being escorted to another field.  The primary job for the cowboys was to get the cows to stop munching on grass alongside the road and keep moo-ving:

First up: Ohio Pass, to the right of the Anthracite Range:

A closer view.  Sometime soon we need to climb this range–we have to time it for when there’s still enough snow to feed the huge waterfall, but not so much to impede hiking:

Ohio Falls:

Our destination was Three Lakes Loop Hike at the base of the Beckwith Range:

If you camp at Lost Lake Campground, you could wake up to this view:

The hike was a real stunner, with views of graceful Marcellina Mountain:

We loved the multi-tiered waterfall:


There were huge fields of sunny Avalanche Lillies:

This will be an amazing sight when all these aspen turn in the fall:

Alpine Lakes:

On the way home, we checked out a few campgrounds, and were particularly impressed with the view of the Ruby Range from Lake Irwin Campground:

Our route took us through Crested Butte, where we finally stopped to walk the main drag and have some ice cream at the local shop that makes it in-house:

Verdict–pretty darn good, especially the homemade hot fudge:

This is just the first of many mountain adventures that we have planned, so stay tuned for way more alpine photos.  I miss the Sierras terribly, but it feels great to be in landscapes that feel so much like them.

In closing, here’s a shot from an outing to Hartman Rocks…..

with a little help from someone with alternative ideas about photo composition:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison: dark soul with a hidden tender side

Where: working our summer job at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a fairly new National Park, only increasing from National Monument status in 1999, and very lightly visited, with only about 300,000 folks coming through last year.  When you Google pictures of the gorge, it’s easy to see why it might not draw the crowds and adulation of Yosemite or Yellowstone–the dark canyon walls seem to eat up the light, and instead of looking grand and majestic, it just seems foreboding and a little ugly.  But, I had heard that it was much more interesting in person, and at only 70 miles away, it was a must do for us this summer.  We went in the last week of May, timing our visit for the time when kids were still in school, hoping for a more sedate experience.  We got our wish, with very few other tourists in the park, and we learned the secret to the place: the deep gorge is only one of the attractions, with many more unexpected pretties hidden in plain sight.

The view from the visitor center–the dark gorge:

We hiked partway down the rim into a lush forest on the north-facing slope, where more abundant water and shade create an oasis for all things green. There were little seeps where wildflowers were abundant, and the trees provided shelter for millions of birds. It was astonishing to see how different the same area looked with the addition of something besides dark rocks to see.

Better! Gorge plus flowers:

Tree leaves so fresh they didn’t even have all their green:

My favorite–Mule Ears:

These fellows danced all around us:

Where’s JJ?  He’s so patient while I lay on the ground to get these shots:

After that unexpected color, we were ready to head out to other overlooks that afford views across the abyss.   With the patterns of the clouds overhead, I’ll be darned if the same space didn’t look completely different, and somehow more inviting.

If this were an afterschool special, I could make an analogy about how you might get a bad impression about a person on first glance, but that you often find a different story when you take the time to dig deeper.  But, I’ll just say that there’s all kinds of views you might enjoy when you get out in nature, but sometimes you just have to work a little harder to find them.

When the fates collide

Where: working our summer job at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO

Here’s a math problem for you!  What do you get when you add:

  1. A prescheduled dentist appointment that falls on your Friday
  2. An interstitial moment where all the cabins have been spring cleaned but do not yet have nightly rentals in them
  3. The calm before the storm, when the kids are still in school, and tourists have not yet arrived
  4. Lovely weather

Did you get the answer?  You get a three day weekend, perfect for a short getaway!

We had actually planned to head to a campground just 10 miles away, and confirmed with the Forest Service that it was open for the season.  But, when we pulled up to the gate, it was most definitely not open. I consulted my trusty Gunnison National Forest MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map, or “black and white”, which lists areas open for dispersed camping) and discovered that we could continue on the same road and camp anywhere along it.  We very slowly plodded along the steep dirt road, winding through a narrow canyon, until the vista opened to a wide valley with the stream meandering through.  We found a camping spot where the stream made a big U, and created a peninsula, with water on 3 sides.  Just up the road were some old cabins, falling to pieces, and cows grazed nearby on the open range.  Just our kind of place!

To some people, this is a jeep road.  To us, it’s a pretty good dirt road:

Still decent sized patches of snow:

Our dentist visit went great, with perfect reports for both of us. (The dentist seemed a little disappointed when he took a look in my mouth and said “Wow. You have perfect teeth.” with the tone of a man who’s just lost a big sale.) The rest of the weekend was devoted to relaxing and getting out to enjoy the mountains that were just starting to see spring.


Snow covered mountains–going to be a while until we can get up there:

We hiked up a steep and rocky jeep road to Lily Pond, past old mines and ruins of little hamlets where the miners lived. The first half of the trail was all clear, save a bit of mud, but the second part was mostly snow, still 2 and 3 feet deep. We had the road to ourselves, and loved the ultimate views of the mountains behind the lake.

Although it seemed that you could still use it, there’s no amount of money that could compel me to sit in this:

This one might not have a roof, but it comes with a year-round Christmas tree:

Mine ruins:

Lily Pond:

My favorite part was the fact that the road was practically empty. We only saw a couple cars each day, so we felt fine to let little Soupy run free. She was particularly enamored with the prairie dogs all around us, and when she spotted one, she’d sit at the hole, waiting for the little guy to pop out again. She never did figure out that they have multiple exits, and that she was getting outsmarted by a rodent who just went the long way around, and was frolicking outside again, just behind her back.

I enjoyed getting out for long walks on the road, watching birds, and seeing the little things that you miss in a car. One day, I just kept wanting to see what was around the bend, and before I knew it, I was at Spring Creek Reservoir. We had driven past on a cloudy day, and were not very impressed the first time we saw it. That morning, I saw the lake in all its splendor, and just had to sit down to take it all in.

When was the last time you had a little getaway?   We’re already planning another!

Curecanti Creek photo essay

Where: working our summer jobs at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO

I wouldn’t quite say that we’re 100% acclimated to housekeeping, but last weekend we finally felt like we had enough energy after our workweek to get out a bit. It’s a good thing that we have co-workers to guide us, because there’s so many hikes to do, and many of them have an optimum time of year to go, in order to see their best features. With the spring melt in full effect, we were directed to Curecanti Creek, which is more like the Curecanti Waterfall right now.

The water starts as snow melt in the West Elk Wilderness to the north, and careens downhill towards the Gunnison River. Thankfully, the hike includes bridges, because the channel would be almost impossible to cross otherwise. Part of Curecanti National Recreation Area, the trail was practically perfect, with easy grades even through the steep parts. By some small miracle, we had the place to ourselves for a couple hours, even though we went on a Saturday morning.  Clocking in at just under 4 miles round trip, it was the perfect first outing of the season!

Dillon Pinnacles on Curecanti Reservoir:

A preview of our destination.  We’re headed down there!

I love the dainty little Pasque Flowers that are blooming now:

Serious bridges:

The part that’s way more like a waterfall than a creek:

Click to see the creek in action:


In which JJ reenacts a Lewis and Clark painting:

We also appreciated the little bridges for the swampy areas.  How civilized!

The last hurrah before the creek joins the Gunnison River:

From the viewpoint back up on the rim, looking down on where we were:

Rimtop views:

Next time: mountains!

Spring :) Cleaning :(

Where: At our summer job at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO

It’s finally spring!  I was beginning to despair that this part of the country would be forever brown, with naked trees and gray skies, but the tide is turning towards a new season.  Just this week, as JJ and I drove around the resort to clean a cabin, we both noticed green where there was none, I swear, just the day before.  The birds are out, there’s ground squirrels running around in the rocks, and we even have dandelions in our yard!  (As far as I know, those don’t exist in the Sierra or in the desert southwest, so I feel like it’s been eons since I’ve seen those little sunny faces.)

Bright views from a walk in Gunnison:

Our work is still kicking our butts a bit, as we do a combo of regular cleans for short stays, and then deep cleanings as time allows.  Some of the cabins were vacant over the winter, and those spring cleans are fairly straightforward, just a little time consuming.  About 20 of the units were rented over the winter for 6 month blocks, as seasonal housing for folks who work at the ski town nearby.  And we’re discovering that it’s a whole different beast to clean a house that’s been lived in for such a long time–the level of dirt is so much more than in those units that were just for vacationers.  And while I pride myself on my ability to do a damn good clean on an oven, it’s a rough task to do the scrubbing that is needed to make it look pristine.

The warm weather is really good news, because it means that many areas are opening up earlier than expected.  Forest roads that are gated during “mud season” are becoming available for us to explore, to check out possible boondocking locations for our days off.  And the melting mountains mean that lower elevation hikes that parallel streams are a beautiful option until the time we can get into the high country.  Our knowledgeable co-workers have pointed us towards a few early season options that we’ll check out in the next couple weeks.

A great share from a co-worker:

One of the things we like best about the Resort is the huge amount of birds everywhere.  My bird loving mother would be appalled to know that I don’t really know the species around us, but I’m content to know a few by name, and just enjoy the rest for their lovely songs.  There’s a couple hummingbirds that are the most vivid green, zooming 100 feet up and then diving straight down, for hours at a time.  The red-wing blackbirds remind me of home with their distinctive trill.  My favorite are the wacky looking magpies, which look like a long tailed penguin with a blue stripe down the side, and who are apparently the only non-mammal who can recognize themselves in the mirror.

Customers are finally starting to trickle in more, and the place is starting to feel more like a summer hot spot and less like a quiet little backwater.  The restaurant will open in a week or two, and the store is getting fully stocked with all kinds of shirts, hats, toys, and souvenirs. It will be a completely different world when the cabins are bustling and the raft trips are running, and I know that time is not far away.  (Memorial Day, here we come!)

Good news: we get a discount on store items.  Bad news: how will I choose between all these cute shirts?!

In other words, I know we only have a couple weeks of “spring”, before the “summer” is officially here, and I’m enjoying the blooms, the blue skies, and the quiet before the storm.


A cosmopolitan outing

Where: at our summer jobs at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO

One of the major draws to this area of Colorado was the promise of so many things to do as daytrips, and this is a great time to be taking driving trips, since it’s still too snowy for much hiking.  This weekend, we headed east on Highway 50, over Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide, to check out a cute little town in the heart of the Rockies.

At Monarch Pass, it was still full-on winter, with plenty of snow, and the scenic gondolas were not yet running for the season.  We contented ourselves with the pretty good views from the parking lot, and decided that it might be a little while until we return to this area for any hiking.

The drive over the pass and through the San Isabel National Forest was just gorgeous.  The next couple pictures aren’t particularly good, because I took them through the car windshield, but it gives you an idea of the grandeur.

The main event was a visit to the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center, which was originally constructed during the Depression as a WPA project.  The hot springs that feed the pools are 5 miles outside of town, and the water travels just by gravity through insulated lines.  The town of Salida is proud of their pool, and it’s had multiple recent updates.  If you’re feeling more energetic, there is a lap pool, exercise pool, and kiddie pool.  Thankfully, the old school private soaking tubs are still in use, and can be rented by the hour.  We loved just blobbing around like lobsters in a pot, until our ouchy muscles turned to jello.

Salida was just downright adorable.  It had a happy, bustling air about it, with business people walking to grab lunch, tourists moseying through the shops, and families out with their little ones.  Although the trees in Almont are barely beginning to bud, Salida was already in full-on spring, with flowering trees everywhere.  It was a perfect spring day, and we loved poking around town and enjoying the views.

The best part about the town is the Arkansas River that flows though it, a water playground for kayakers and rafters.  There were a few hardy souls out, riding the little whitewaters like cowboys on a bronco.

Because the first time was such a hit, we also took little Soupy for another rock climbing outing to Hartman Rocks.  When people see us out with her, they want to know what we did to train her to stay with us.  The thing is, Soup’s personality is just so people-based that she never wants to be too far from us, so she never tries to run away.  If we want to check out a certain area, she follows behind, and if she obviously wants to go in another direction, we let her take the lead.  It’s a fairly organic process, where we all take turns deciding where to go, and just enjoy each other’s company.

Resting adventure cat: