Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Brothers and On to the Park

Sunday, Aug 19
Unlike the night before, I slept like a rock. And unlike the night before, Mark did not. I brought along my little tiny Zen Nano MP3 player which has a "sleep therapy" track, and as such tracks go, this one is a winner. Plus I was pretty tired from a bad night's sleep, a long drive, and a full stomach. We had bought some beer in Idaho Springs and I had one before I went to bed which pretty much sealed the deal. I bought some local Colorado beer (90 shilling ale), and Mark had bought this Mississippi Mud stuff -- which was pretty good.

So I was looking for two things: coffee and a Two Brothers Deli breakfast wrap. If I'm ever in Idaho Springs in the morning, I like going to the Two Brothers Deli and getting a wrap. In the search for a graphic for this post I just found out that they have another location in Georgetown -- so we could've gone there. But the Idaho Springs location still has the same lady from 5 years ago, and from 25 years ago for all I know. Sweet and new potatoes, scrambled eggs, and a couple of cheeses wrapped in a flour tortilla with optional salsa and then lightly pressed toasted. It must be had to be appreciated. Good stuff! Then off down I-70 East just a mile or so to the US 6 exit, which leads right to C119.

After several miles, a pleasant surprise when we popped over a hill was a kind of a sun dog coming down from a cloud with a spectacular mountain backdrop. We had to stop the car. It's stuff like this that I live for out in the mountains. The unexpected spectacular sight. It was a great photo opportunity, but fleeting. As it faded, we hopped back in the car and wound our way farther north.

The coffee shop in Idaho Springs wasn't open yet. We got some coffee at Two Brothers, but were looking for a really good cup of Joe for the morning. And 119 goes through one of my favorite mountain towns (even though this would only be my second time through) -- Nederland (like "Netherland" with a "d").

It's kind of a hippie mountain town. I once read it described I think on the Hiking in Colorado site as the place where all the old Boulderites moved when the millionaires drove the housing prices up too far and drove them out.

There was a coffee shop there in a railroad car ("Happy Trails"), complete with an array of neo-hippies, cyclists, motorcyclists, and motorists like us, and the coffee was excellent. Put it in our cups and drove off into the morning light.

Another planned stop, which I'd been to twice before was St. Malo's Catholic Church and Retreat Center in Allenspark, at the foot of Mount Meeker (just under 14,000 feet and neighbor to Longs Peak). This is literally on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. You can't see Longs from here because Meeker's nearby mass blocks it from view. I knew Mark would love it... and of course, so would I. It's a very small church built of stone back in 1935. Its an interesting story involving a meteor. The setting is certainly inspirational. The morning light and blue sky was perfect for photography, and this time we went in to see the simple but beautiful inside, including a nice stained glass piece of St. Catherine.

We got to Rocky Mountain National Park about 10:30 am, hoping to scout the campsite loop for desirable camp sites and then come back and reserve whatever we found for some combination of 6 nights. The ranger there, however, said he couldn't do that there, that all reservations had to be done through the 800 number or website. We could find a site for that night (no same-day reservations) but we'd need to call the 800 number for the rest.

The 800 number was less than helpful. The lady there said there was no site available for all those nights and seemed not to get the fact that we'd move around if we had to. She gave us a choice of two rather undesirable sites. I thought I'd go book tonight's site at the gate and then see what sites near there were available via the 800 number, taking my chances again.

When I got to the campsite ranger station, there was a new guy there, Steve Miller, who was much more helpful. He not only got us a good site for the first 5 nights, but he got us another not so good but nearby one for the last night for an easy move. Only problem was, Mark wanted to pay his half with credit card and I had cash. Steve thought that would be fine, but then had trouble with the computer system. Eventually I just paid cash as a line developed behind us and a grumpy supervisor came out to see what was the matter.

We went and set up camp in D158, and then early afternoon wandered down to Moraine Park Valley and sauntered along the Big Thompson River bank, where several people were fly fishing. We saw a family of humans and a family of ducks. My duck pictures all turned out blurry since it was getting cloudy and I was using the honkin' telephoto extended all the way out. But rain was coming down the canyon and we started heading back to the car. We reached it just in time, but not before I accidentally yanked the bite valve off of my hydration pack and it spilled all over my pants. That looked real interesting to passers by, I'm sure. But I had extra pants in the car and just changed right there.

We then headed to the Beaver Meadows visitor center for a weather forecast and maybe a souvineir. I had originally planned (hoped) to wait until Thursday or Friday for my Longs Peak attempt so I'd have longer to acclimate, but the forecast definitely pointed to Tuesday for the most worry-free day. Thursday and Friday looked like "normal" summer days at that time with a 20% chance of afternoon storms. Tuesday, a post-frontal day, looked clear. I pretty much made up my mind right there. They had a pewter replica of the USGS marker from the top of Longs Peak... but I told myself I could only buy it if I succeeded in reaching the peak.

After that we went out to find a sight to see. I opted for the Lawn Lake alluvial fan. It turned out to be a great choice. I didn't remember a waterfall being there -- I think I was there in a pretty bad drought year and I think I would've remembered a sight like this. We climbed up on the boulders and had plenty of company just enjoying the sight and sound in the lengthening sunlight.

At this point, I thought maybe this would be a good night to go catch Brad Fitch, otherwise known as Cowboy Brad (Dot Com!!!) who I was introduced to over the net by college friend Sarah. Sarah and her family have come out here often and have seen him a lot. I think they even hired him for an event (anyone here order up a cowboy?) Brad does a lot of his own material, a lot of sing-along material, and a lot of John Denver. He even looks a bit like the late singer/songwriter. He and his wife Kathy seem to be involved with the Estes Park YMCA and other Estes Park endeavors. Sarah had sent him a song I wrote a couple of years ago that he may have been mildly interested in (he went a different direction with the album and didn't use it. No biggie. It wasn't that good a song anyway.) The night before they had given a John Denver Tribute concert to benefit RMNP, I believe, or some associated cause. We missed that (but 2,000 other people didn't! Good for them!), and I didn't know what other night would be good with me doing Longs on Tuesday (meaning getting up at 1:00am Monday "night") and other plans for the week. Tonight was open. We went to see one of his singalongs so I could meet him in person.

It was a very family oriented show, and of course he is more talented than I'll ever be. I'll bet the Denver Tribute concert was great. The singalong was an enjoyable show, and the kids loved it. The man is obviously a genuinely caring good person. It was a pleasure to shake his hand and get a shot with him to prove to Sarah I'd been there.

After the show, I bought his latest CD from him. We went back to camp and had either the last of the pastrami & some trail mix, or some grilled salami. And by that time it was almost time to hit the sack. Which we did fairly shortly.

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