Thursday, July 21, 2011

It was my party!!!

Sorry it has been awhile... but I hope to start to catch back up... so here you go!

About a month ago I turned 29, I still can't believe I am almost 30! It seems a bit scary, but I am sure I will be able to handle it somehow. I had a fantastic weekend with friends and Mikey!

It started out with a fun evening at the Golden Bee at the Broadmoor. It is a piano bar that only seats about 60 people. The piano player kept telling us how much he enjoyed our group's screaming, I mean singing abilities, we were his number one table! Also while we were enjoying ourselves, all the waitresses, the hostess and the piano player threw bumble bee stickers at us. I even got a birthday one that is a bumble bee and a cake! It was a very fun night! This is the piano player and probably what we looked like!

Then on Saturday, Mikey and I made our way up to Denver for a night away from home! We wandered around 16th Street Mall for a little while and then headed out to dinner at Cuba Cuba! It was Cuban food, did you already guess that? Well, I miss Cuban food living in Colorado so I have been looking for Cuban restaurants around town and I finally found one that people rave about. We got there and had to wait for a table, but it didn't take too long and it gave us a chance to get some mojitios and some plantain chips and dip! Very delicious. Then for dinner we ordered the vaca frita, and it was even more delicious! I like Cuban food if you couldn't tell. Then for dessert we ordered a quatro leches chocolate cake. I am not the biggest fan of soggy cakes or breads, but it was pretty good and anything with frosting on top is usually edible! It is in these cute little houses.

Then we headed back to our hotel and crashed in the lovely air conditioning. The next morning after breakfast we got ourselves ready for the How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying play. It was to our surprise once we got there that it was put on by the disabled actors. All the actors had some sort of medical condition, I am not even kidding, they listed all of them in the program. It was a little distracting at first to have wheelchairs zooming around, but after the first ten minutes we got used to it and we were very pleased with the show they put on. It was an interesting twist we didn't expect, but they did a fine job.

Could you tell we forgot our camera??

Then once we got home we weren't super hungry so we thought going and getting some chocolate fondue would be a great way to finish my birthday weekend! We called Jim and Amanda and they met us at the Mona Lisa in Manitou Springs. They have a wine cellar/basement that you can go to and just get some wine and some chocolate fondue. We got a bottle of red and two types of chocolate. They let us sign the bottle of wine and leave it for the future visitors, so you go you can look for it amongst the bottles on the shelves. Anyways, the fondue was wonderful and it was great to have a fun little double date with Jim and Amanda.

Next up on the blog is probably another weekend in Denver which includes Brian and Kim's wedding, and we actually took a few pictures of that!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wheeler Geologic Area

Julie and I decided that if we didn't plan weekends to go camping, the Summer would pass us by without getting into the Mountains much. It just so happened that the 4th of July weekend looked to be a great weekend for us to get away. It also means that it was a great weekend for everyone else in the state to go camping, so we had to pick a place that was remote enough to have some tranquility but still reachable for us.

Wheeler Geologic Area fit this bill nicely. The area itself is the result of millions of years of erosion on volcanic dust and ash from the San Juan volcanoes. To get to the area there are two options, to take a 4x4 road for 14 miles, but the descriptions of the road made it seem that it was above my level. The other option is to backpack 7 miles in to the campground they have set up there. This is the option we took, here is the picture at the trail head of our trail.

We arrived the Friday before the 4th of July, since Julie and I both took the day off, and Bill had the day off too. We got to the trail head right at lunch time, and started off in the heat and the dust. The trail was well marked, but hilly. The first two miles were downhill to a neat stream crossing. Unfortunately we had to hike up the other side of the canyon and up to the high rolling plains. We took a few breaks whenever we could find a tree for shade. After about 5 or 6 miles we made it to the road again, and hiked on it for around a mile or so, and made it to the campground. We set up camp, ate dinner, watched the sunset and went to sleep, ready for the next day.

Me in the middle of the the stream crossing:

Taking a break in one of the neat flat areas:

Action shot:

At the camp, we tried out all kinds of new gadgets, I used the new JetBoil stove and Bill tried his new tent and his new water filter. Fortunately all of these devices worked as expected, *phew*

After a nice rest we woke up in the cold, had some breakfast and set off for the area. Less than a mile in, we came to a trail junction and shortly after had our first great views of the area. Towering spires of carved sandstone, with lovely views of canyons and mountains behind. We did the 2.5 mile hike which included overlooks and a few trips into the canyons carved out over the years.

A neat tree with red pine cones along the trail:

Our first full view of the area:

Bill checking out the sights:

Julie posing in front:

Bill in one of the grooves in the rock:

We got back to camp, and realized that there wasn't much left to do there, so we took a nap, and headed back to the car after lunch time. We hit a terrible rain/sleet/graupel/snow/hail storm that we hiked through, oh, and it was up hill at the time:

The first five miles of the hike were much better the second time around (except for the flash rain storm), but those two downhill miles at the beginning were now uphill to get back to the car, and we were tired, it seemed to take longer than we expected. We eventually made it back to the car and began our nighttime drive home.

Finally, our group picture at the trail head:

We had a great trip, and are hoping we get to go backpacking again this summer!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lathrop State Park

For Father's Day we invited both my parents and Julie's parents to go camping with us. Unfortunately we decided a bit late, so just about every camping spot in the state was already booked. But Julie found the last two spots in a place called Lathrop State Park, and we took them.

The park is about an hour and half south of us, by the town of Walsenburg, which isn't known for it's scenic beauty or, really, anything. We were skeptical of the park, but were looking forward to spending the weekend with the families.

We arrived first, and got our tent set up, we unfortunately forgot the pump to our air mattress, which made the whole trip a little bit harder! In all seriousness, it was quite pretty down there (except for the huge snake we saw slithering across the road), and the views of the Spanish Peaks were nice too.

Bill got off work earlier than expected, so they made it down next, and we were excited to sit in the air conditioning!

My parents got there closer to dinner time, and we grilled up quite a feast with chicken, peppers, tortillas and corn. It was excellent. We tried to see the Ranger talk that night, but only caught a bit of it. The entertainment was a local country singer who sang tunes local to the area, but dinner was waiting, so we missed most of it.

The next day we got up and explored the closer of the two lakes in the park, and got a great day of fishing in. Unfortunately we left the camera in the car during the 8 hours of fishing, so there are no pictures! David caught some fish, Bill caught some fish, the people sitting next to us caught a lot of fish, and I just lost one off my line before it got to shore. Overall a successful day. That night we had turkey burgers and chips and sat in the A/C some more, it was lovely.

The Ranger talk that night was a local historian who talked about the mining history of Walsenburg and the surrounding areas. Apparently the town was founded around the Walsen mine which was a large coal mine around the turn of the century. Poor mining conditions and low wages lead to some of the first unionization in the country, and unfortunately to some armed conflicts, like the Ludlow Massacre. It was fascinating to hear the history, especially since the Ranger who gave the talk worked in one of the mines as a kid!

Our last day there we did the 2.5 mile hike which gave some great views of the lakes and the park. It went up to the ridge in between the park and Walsenburg, and we could see a good ways both north and south. We had a great time camping with the family, and we're looking forward to a summer filled of good times!