Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Golden Gate Canyon State Park - a winter workout

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is 1 of 42 Colorado State parks, and only lies 16 miles north-west of Golden, and within an hour of Denver. The park has more than 12,000 acres of land to enjoy, and a variety of mountain scenery ranging from sweeping views to green meadows, to groves of aspen. Since the park is so close to Denver, it does get a lot of foot traffic, and the campsites get booked in advance at peak season.

The park can be enjoyed in all seasons whether you are on foot, bicycle, horseback or snowshoes. The first place I recommend stopping at is the Visitors Center, the center houses a small exhibit about the park and the wildlife, has free maps and brochures, and they can issue the $7 daily park fee.

Our first visit to the park was during winter with the intention to snowshoe, but traction devices were all that was needed on the compacted snow and ice, and we virtually had the trails to ourselves. The park volunteer recommended heading for the Horseshoe Trailhead to get a first taste of the park, this Trailhead is the beginning of the Horseshoe trail, a moderate 1.8 mile steady climb up to Frazer Meadow.

Start of Horseshoe Trail

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rocky Mountain NP - a Park for All Seasons

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, was established as the USA's tenth park in 1915, the National Park is approximately 80 miles north of Denver and sits between the town of Estes Park to the East and Grand Lake to the west. The park encompasses 415 sq. miles of protected wilderness and natural beauty, and boasts the highest continuously paved road in North America "Trail Ridge Road". The park elevation sits between 7,860 feet and 14,259 feet, and for those coming from sea level the altitude can make you feel light-headed and long for more oxygen.

The park is open year round (fee required), and each different season has something new to offer the visitor, late May through to late September sees the most amount of visitors.

The snow starts falling in the park in late Fall (or sometimes earlier). Trail Ridge Road closes typically mid-October, the crowds thin out, and wildlife and solitude return to this wilderness. I love visiting the park in the winter, you really get a feel for the harshness that winter brings, but at the same time, you get to feel a peacefulness without the crowds.
Depending on how harsh the winter is, you can easily explore the park still on foot or in the car, hiking may require snowshoes or traction devices, and backcountry experience if venturing off the beaten path.

Moraine Park is a large open meadow area close to the Beaver Meadows entrance and is a great place to spot wildlife year round. Cub Lake and Fern Lake trails start from Moraine Park and are both accessible during winter.

Windswept Moraine Park

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rabbit Mountain - Where Eagles soar, and snakes are rattled

Rabbit Mountain is 1 of 27 trails/open space park areas managed by Boulder County, Colorado, and the closest to the city of Longmont. Rabbit Mountain was created when the earth began uplifting to create the Rocky Mountains, and a fault line shifted this ridge slightly east of the foothills.

The Arapaho Indians once called the area home, the mountain created shelter from the westerly winds, and was abundant with edible plants and game to hunt. Prospectors came along in the middle of the 19th Century hoping to strike it rich from Gold, but the wealth was in short supply and many turned to farming. Boulder County acquired the Open Space area in 1984 for all to enjoy, and help protect its natural state.

Rabbit Mountain trailhead

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

California Zephyr - rails to snowy trails

Our "almost annual" pilgrimage to Glenwood Springs from Denver on Amtrak #5 started with some unexpected excitement (or inconvenience depending on how you look at it). On the eve of our outbound journey, the snow gods decided to blanket Colorado with a dose of the white stuff and drop the thermometer into the single digits. This fresh snow made navigating the roads at 5.30am on a Saturday morning interesting, and finding the parking garage entrance to the NEW Denver commuter train Westminster station an additional challenge in the dark.
We had to race for the train with luggage laden arms, frozen fingers, and along icy paths, with seconds to spare; most of the drama here was trying to actually figure out how to get from aforesaid parking garage to the platform (not very obvious in the dark).

Snowy Downtown Denver

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cornwall (Kernow)

The County of Cornwall makes up the very southwestern tip of Great Britain and includes the most southerly point and the most westerly point of England. The county is the 9th largest by area (out of 48) in England, and is the only county to border only one other county (Devon). Kernow is the Cornish name for the county, the dialect is still spoken, deriving itself from Common Brittonic (the language spoken in Great Britain before English started to dominate).

Cornish Flag