Sunday, September 25, 2011


You may not know it, but besides corn, Nebraska is cattle country.  That's one reason they grow all the corn.  Anyway they have developed a sure fire way to roundup the cattle when the time comes.  Rather than herding the cows in the normal fashion, by pushing them ahead of the cowboys, this new approach gets the cows to follow the "cowboy".

Thursday, September 22, 2011


So is Nebraska really flat? Well, not really, but there is a whole bunch of corn. Most of it is grown for cattle feed and ethanol. There are other things to see, so that’s what we’ve tried to do. Here are a couple of pictures of un-flat Nebraska.

We started of trip across Nebraska in Scotts Bluff after crossing the flat plains of Eastern Colorado. The landmark, Scotts Bluff, named after Hiram Scott, is the Sentinel on the Plains. Early settles spent months crossing the plains from the east. After seeing nothing be the vast expanse of the plains, the formations of Chimney Rock, Castle Rock and Scotts Bluff were welcome sights. It signaled the end of one part of their and the start of another, the Rocky Mountains.

Not too far away from Scotts Bluff near Alliance, Nebraska is another must see monument, although this one is man made. You just can’t be in these here parts without a stop a Carhenge. Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge in England, only made out of cars. Carhenge replicates the dimensions of Stonehenge by using primarily 1950’s and 1960’s model cars. I think I did see and 1972 Vega in the mix along with Cadillac, Fords, Chevy’s and an old Willys pick-up. They are planted trunk down and rise 15 to seventeen feet. The cars are approximately 7 feet wide, the same size as the standing stones of Stonehenge.



As we head east from Scottsbluff, we opt to stay off the interstate and pick a route less traveled. We take Hwy 2, or the Sand Hills Scenic Byway for our journey across Nebraska. The sand hills, sand dunes really, encompass 19,000 square miles. It’s Nebraska’s last frontier, a wind blown ocean of undulating dunes, native grass and vivid blue lakes. For those of you who remember Charles Kuralt, he said there was nothing out there on Hwy 2, and that’s what made it one of his most favorite roads. He was correct, there’s a lot of nothing out there, but there’s so much to see. You pass through small towns like, Seneca, Anselmo, Broken Bow and Cairo, all of which time has seemed to pass by, before ending the journey in the City of Grand Island.

We are always looking for nice places to stay, state parks or RV parks that are spacious with full hook-ups. First in Golden, Colorado and now near Omaha, the last four places we have stayed have been in city parks. It seems that many cities in the mid-west have parks with RV spaces with hook-ups. Our experience so far has been very favorable. In Golden, we had a large space right on Clear Creek with full hook-ups and WIFI. In Gering, right next to Scottsbluff, we were again in a city park with full-ups and WIFI. They even had some spaces with cable TV. We found a really nice county park in Grand Island, and we’re currently at Walnut Creek Recreation area in the city of Papillion, just outside of Omaha. These parks are so much nicer than most commercial RV parks, because they are in parks, with lots of grass and trees. The price also makes them inviting. At Walnut Creek, we have a large space with cement pad and electrical for $14 a night. The spaces are far apart with lots of grass in a quiet park with a lake and lots of walking/bike paths.



Friday, September 16, 2011


After spending most of our time so far in the in the mountains, it was time to head for the flatlands and spend some time in the city.  We have been staying at Clear Creek RV Park, owned and operated by the city of Golden while exploring the Denver area.  Clear Creek flows though the center of the city and has been developed into a whitewater park.  From our RV we can watch both kids and adults float down the river.  The river has been re-engineered by the placement of rocks to maximize the thrill of floating down the rapids.  The creek is also the venue for kayak races at times of high water.

Along the river walkway and in town are numerous sculptures of a wide verity of subjects.  This is just a small example of them.  It's a great place for a stroll, bike ride or a power walk.

We spent sometime in Denver, touring the US Mint and the State Capitol.  The mint tour was just ok, but we really didn't get to see too much of the operation.  At the State Capitol after passing through security you are pretty much on your own, free to wander around exploring the house and senate chambers, hearing rooms and up into the dome.   With the legislature out of secession, the place was pretty empty.

As a fan of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network we sometimes like to look up one of the restaurants featured on the show and enjoy a meal.  In Denver we had six places to choose from and decided on Stubens in Uptown.  So we walked from downtown to Uptown and put our name of the waiting list.  If a restaurant on the show wasn't busy before being spotlighted on the show, it will be afterwards.  Stubens is in a converted gas station/garage, was packed during the lunch hour.  Luckily we didn't have to wait too long and we were soon seated in the outdoor patio.  Here's the episode featuring Stubens,

Cathie had the Philly Cheese Steak which was huge, while I opted for the Cayenne Etouffee with crawfish, shrimp, andouille and dirty rice.  The walk uptown and the wait were worth every minute.  The food was delicous and filling.

Since we're not burning calories by hiking in the mountains, a bike ride was in order.  The Denver area has over 500 miles of desinated bike trails which are paved and seperated from roadways.   As an example you can ride from Golden into downtown Denver, a distance of 27 miles, without riding on a street or road.  I didn't make it all the way to downtown, but managed a 36 mile round trip on the Clear Creek Trail.  For the most part thet trail stays in desiginated open space parks from Golden to the Platte River.  The Denver area governments have really invested in these bike paths as they are well marked and maintained.

If you are in Golden, you have to take Coors Brewery Tour.  Your are picked up in a company bus from a central parking lot and taken onto the factory grounds.  After your ID is checked to make sure you can sample the product, you are given a audio guide for the self guided tour.  You see just some of the operation, but the audio guide explains the whole process.  Of course the best part of the tour for most is when you get the free samples.  Coors limits the amount you can drink to 3 tall glasses!  Since I don't like beer it was not an issue, but for some, 3 glasses just might put you over the legal limit.  As we left I half expected to see the local police waiting to make a couple of DUI arrests.

Oh yeah, Coors makes a big deal about the water used in the making of their beer. The water comes from Clear Creek which flows from the Rocky Mountains. Clear Creek is not really very clear, and while we were camping next to it, we watched people swimming, rafting, gold panning and wading in the creek. In addition, just about every one allows their dog to swim in the "Pure Rocky Mountain Waters", up stream from Coors Brewery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


After a day of rain we were able to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park.  We took several hikes on well maintained trails with lots of other hikers.  Even after the Labor Day holiday, the park is pretty crowded with visitors.  Tailhead parking lots fill up by 10 am, but there is a shuttle system to get you around.  We attempted to get a campgound reservation before arriving but all the reserve sites were taken.  By arriving in the middle of the week we were able to get one of the non-reserved sites.  Over the weekend all the campgrounds were full.

One of our hikes was to the top of Flattop Mtn (12,324 ft) a 9 mile round trip with a 2800 foot gain in elevation.  We started early and gained the summit before the crowds.  Lots of people attempt this mountain, not everyone makes it.  Cathie made it!  It was a beautiful clear day, but views to the east, towards Denver, were hampered by haze and smog.  On the way down, about a mile from the trailhead, Cathie was getting tired and asked, how much further.  When I told her it was about another mile, she said, "Get me off this friggin mountain".  She later blamed her irritability on "low blood sugar".  Anyway, she was really a trooper and set her mind to making the top, which she did without too much difficulty.










After any summit is reached, a celebration is in order.  We opted for BBQ in Estes Park finished off with a huge piece of peanut butter chocolate pie. (We shared it)

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Our first day in Rocky Mountain Park and it’s raining with the temperature in the 40’s. The cloud layer in on the deck so visibility is a couple of hundred yards, so we headed to Estes Park. Estes Park is a tourist town just outside the national park. Cathie didn’t want to visit all the shops downtown, yes you heard right, so we went up to the Stanley Hotel, a landmark in these parts.


Forced by poor health to move west, F.O. Stanley and his famous Steamer automobile arrive in 1903. Finding the town of Estes Park lacking amenities, Mr. Stanley set out to change the local economy. Estes Park had a population of 300 full time residents in 1907 and Stanly hired one half of them and began construction of the Stanley Hotel. Completed in 1909, the hotel is the most prominent fixture in the town.


Today the hotel is known as one of America’s most haunted hotels and as Stephen Kings inspiration for The Shining. So in an effort to find out if there really are ghosts in the hotel, we took a tour of the hotel and some of its haunted rooms. Peter, our intrepid tour guide, took us, along with about 15 others through many of the public rooms along with some of the haunted rooms in the hotel. Besides providing us the history of Mr. Stanley and his hotel, Peter filled us in on many of the reports by guests about strange things happening during their stay.

The fourth floor was where the children would stay along with their nannies. It is said that sometimes they can be heard running in the halls. There have been reports of candy left by a guest in their room is eaten while the guest is out, leaving only the candy rapper. People have also reported strange images appearing in photographs they have taken. Now we didn’t experience any ghosts or strange occurrences while on the tour.

But after the tour, I took these photos of the main staircase. First with Cathie standing at the foot of the stairs and the second without Cathie. Notice the child’s ball bouncing down the stairs? How did that happen? I never saw the ball while taking the photo only when I downloaded the photo.


Monday, September 05, 2011


Here's a short update on what we've been up to:

We holed up for the holiday weekend near Buena Vista, Co. and managed a couple of hikes, some touristy things and a great dinner.  Most hikes here are at high elevation starting at around 10 to 11,000 feet and going up from there.  Both hikes we took here went to 12,000 ft.  We could have gone higher, but got lazy.  There are numerous peaks in this region over 14,000, so I guess we'll have to come back some day.



We took a day and drove to Canon City, home of Royal Gorge and the Colorado State Penitentiary.  They have a museum at the penitentiary that is pretty interesting, with lots of displays about crooks of days gone by.   The museum is in the old women's prison and each cell has a different theme, from escapes to riots.  There is also on display the old gas chamber.  Just warms my heart.

Next on the itinerary was a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad through the Royal Gorge.  The ride leaves Canon City and travels through the Royal Gorge and returns.  Not as scenic as we had hoped.  Perhaps we were spoiled by the ride on the Durango Silverton train several years ago. We rode in the Bar Car thinking it would be more comfortable.  It was fine until after two hours of drinking, some of the passengers started getting loud.


Earlier in the day we had spied a couple of possibilities for dinner.  One was a Micro Brewery with a really good menu, but we overheard the drunks in the Bar Car talking about going there for dinner so we chose the other possibility.  Michael's on Main in the old downtown of Canon City was a great find.  We started out with green chili bruchetta which is an invention of the chef.  Cathie then had the lasagna while I had the cheese tortellini with lamb meat sauce.  We topped it off with homemade gelato.  Another good thing about this restaurant was that the drunks were at the brewery down the street.

Tomorrow we head north to Rocky Mountain National Park before spending some time in the Denver area.



Friday, September 02, 2011

Black Canyon of the Gunnision

After the Sierras we made a stop in Carson City for resupply before heading east towards Colorado. Not being in a hurry, we like to travel around 350 miles a day, so we took two days to reach Montrose, Colorado. On night was spent in Wells, Nevada. We had friends whose son was a Nevada Highway Patrolmen and he was stationed in Wells. His wife hated it, so we stopped to see why. After settling into an RV park, we took a drive around town. After 5 minutes we were done. Not much going on in Wells, lots of closed business in a pretty desolate part of the country. We’re told the winters a brutal with the cold and wind. Can hardly blame the wife for wanted out of Wells. We left the next morning as one night was enough for us.

After another one night stop in Green River, Utah, another garden spot, we pulled into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The Gunnison River cut this narrow deep gorge through solid rock over time. Forty-eight miles long and 2,772 feet deep at its deepest, it is so sheer and narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it. Hiking into the bottom of the gorge it not really hiking, but more like rock climbing, with some routes requiring repelling, so we didn’t go. We also didn’t consider a kayak trip down the river in our inflatable kayak as the park brochure describes the rapids as Class V to Unnavigable.



We did manage a couple of hikes along the rim or just below it. On one such hike in the early morning, we happened upon a bobcat in the trail. Cathie thinking it was a mountain lion started making a bunch of noise and waving her hands, which was successful in scaring the cat. By the time I got the camera out, it had disappeared into brush.

The Gunnison River in this area cut through the rock for 50 some odd miles. Most of the river has been dammed and only a relatively small portion has been left in its natural state. That is the portion inside the national park. The upper stretches have been flooded by three dams, the Crystal Dam, Morrow Point Dam and Blue Mesa Dam. The reservoirs behind the first two dams are very narrow, filling the confines of the canyon with its steep walls.

We took the park service tour on a boat on the Morrow Point Reservoir for a guided tour of the upper reaches of the lake. Still within a narrow canyon, you have to walk about a mile to the boat dock. Down 232 steps, then along an old rail bed which parallels the river (lake) to the boat dock. The 1.5 hour boat ride through the canyon was really beautiful with the high canyon walls. We did manage to spy a bald eagle in a tree high up the canyon cliff. The only downside to the tour was the walk back to the trailhead and up the 232 steps.


We are now in the Rocky Mountains about 50 miles south of Leadville.  We are in an RV park for the Labor Day Weekend, and plan on doing some hiking in the mountains nearby.  The park is full and trying to find any other place this weekend would be impossible, so we'll stay put.