So far, nearly all of the "Little Adventures" on this my blog happened in the past, from the 1950s through the '90s. Here's one from just two weeks ago — July 2007 to be exact.
My niece Joan and her husband Tom, who live near Boulder, Colorado, had been inviting me out for a visit for some time, and now it finally happened. On July 18, '07 I left Philadelphia on United flight 99 for Denver, where Tom met me at the airport. We drove to their home and spent hours just chatting, catching up on old times, and playing with Tom's great collection of classic cameras.
The next morning we went into Denver to see the Titanic Exhibit at the Museum of Nature & Science, a show that I'd missed when it was in Philly. This was followed by a brewpub lunch — I had a Rueben sandwich and some good fresh ale — and a stroll down the 16th Street mall.
Then it was off to Mount Evans, whose 14,264-foot summit is reached via the highest paved road in North America. This peak was the subject of Albert Bierstadt's famous 19th-century painting "Storm in the Rocky Mountains." The road there from Denver — a distance of about 62 miles — ran through a narrow gorge, and was quite scenic with gushing water running alongside. Although the temperature in Denver was in the 80s, it began to get cold as we ascended (photo, left), as well as rainy. Finally, just short of the very top, we had to turn around as the road was becoming really treacherous with sleet forming, threatening to dump us off the steep, unguarded drop into oblivion.
Back at a lower altitude, we visited the curious town of Central City. Once known as the "Richest Square Mile on Earth," its story began with the discovery of gold in 1859 in the nearby hills. For a while the town prospered mightily, and even built its own opera house and grand hotel. Today, its permanent population has dwindled to about 500, but casino gambling and other tourist and cultural attractions keep it alive. The photo on the right is of the main street, with Joan and Tom in front of the Teller House, an historic hotel famous for its painting of the "Face on the Barroom Floor." The Central City Opera has been thoroughly restored and features performances by leading stars. This year's (2007) season includes Verdi's La Traviata, Massenet's Cinderella, Menotti's Saint of Bleecker Street, and a world premiere of Wenjing's Poet Li Bai.
The next day, Friday, Joan had to work, so Tom and I took off for a day of driving and hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park, an immense wilderness area to the northwest of Denver.
Our first stop was in the town of Estes Park, situated at the northeast entrance to the National Park. There we visited the grand old Stanley Hotel, built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley, the automotive pioneer of Stanley Steamer fame. His ghost, one among many such apparitions, allegedly haunts the billiards room. Appropriately, there is a restored Stanley Steamer in the lobby. A 1977 stay by the novelist Stephen King inspired his spooky tale of "The Shining," later made into a classic movie and a TV show. The latter was filmed on location here. That's me in the photo, standing in front of the hotel.
We entered the National Park and started out on the famous Trail Ridge Road, which reaches an altitude of 12,183 feet before descending westward to Timber Creek, a drive of 19 miles. Along the way it crosses the Continental Divide. Rain falling on the east side of this line eventually flows into the Atlantic; rain falling to the west runs into the Pacific. There are several scenic lookout spots along the road, and a small field of dirty old snow left over from previous winters. That's Tom standing on a rock near one of the lookouts, and me playing in the snow. Yes, it was a bit chilly up there.
Soon after this highest point we ran into road repair work and one-way traffic. Rather than wait, we turned around and left the Ridge Road at Moraine Park, heading for Bear Lake. Several hiking trails take off from there, with the lowest elevation being at 9,475 feet. The air is thin up there, and UV radiation merciless for those accustomed to lower altitudes. Since I live near sea level, this meant me!
So we started on the easiest trail, a path around Bear Lake itself — which was quite scenic. From there we decided to head towards Dream Lake and maybe Emerald Lake, going by way of Nymph Lake. The first destination, while only a half-mile, involved a climb of some 225 feet and really wore me out. Each lake beyond that was another 200 or so feet climb above the previous one. Not wanting to court danger, we wisely gave up and returned to the car.
On the way back to Boulder, Tom called Joan and we arranged to meet on the Boulder Pedestrian Mall and look for a suitable restaurant for dinner. After considering several from a wide selection of eateries, we opted for The Med, a fun-filled, lively, and noisy place with Mediterranean cuisine. Our table was out on the enclosed patio, and we started off with cold gazpacho soup. Instead of ordering individually, we chose a bunch of different dishes that we could all nibble from. These included spanakopita, cous cous, falafel, tapas, and other tasty morsels.
The Big Event was saved for Saturday. This was a ride on the Ski Train to Winter Park, a 56-mile journey leaving from Denver's Union Station and ending up at the far western end of the 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel under the Continental Divide. Along the way, the 17-car train climbs over 4,000 feet to its destination at an altitude of 9,239 feet, passing through no fewer than 29 tunnels along the way. Needless to say, the scenery is spectacular. The photo on the left is of Joan and Tom on the train.
Winter Park is primarily a ski resort (photo, above), but in summer it remains alive with mountain biking, hiking, and other fun activities. After exploring the resort, we took a bus to the nearby town itself and had a leisurely lunch of Jägerschnitzel out on the patio of the Gasthaus Eichler, a romantic Bavarian-style inn.
The next morning I flew back to Philly and the realities of life.
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
SO, just what Little Adventure am I up to now in 2013? Why, just the most challenging one of them all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.