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Old Jun 5 2006, 07:29 PM   #1
Brenda
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In case you didn't know or forgot, I'm doing another Student Conservation Association internship this summer. I'm at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument at Florissant, Colorado! It's close to Pike's Peak. I'm sharing a funny little A-frame house with two other interns, and we're having a pretty good time. I've already started working at the Visitor Center desk, but I'm still working on the program I'll be giving eventually.

You may have figured out that what's special about Florissant Fossil Beds is the fossils! There are two kinds - huge petrified redwood tree stumps that were buried in a volcanic mudflow, and tiny delicate insect and leaf fossils in shale composed of ash from the same volcano. These are some of the most detailed insect fossils in the world - you can see the veins in a leaf, a fly's wing, even a flower petal. (If you want to see some of them, go to http://www.nps.gov/flfo/index.htm and click on "online museum" at the lower left.)

So far I've seen three kinds of ground squirrels, chipmunks, Abert's squirrels, elk, and mule deer. And I'm surrounded by aspens and ponderosa pines; and the weather is still cool - even cold at night. It was a very dry spring, though, so there is very high fire danger right now. Everyone is hoping it will rain soon.

I'm having a good time so far, and I will check in here to tell of my adventures about once a week! (I have to drive into town to use the library computers.)
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Old Jun 5 2006, 10:48 PM   #2
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Very cool Brenda, thanks for the update, and keep 'em coming!
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Old Jun 5 2006, 11:06 PM   #3
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Love the update, Brenda! Thanks for keeping your MoM friends updated. I hope you have a wonderful time! It sounds like you've had a great start!
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Old Jun 6 2006, 06:45 AM   #4
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I'm JEALOUS!!

(Don't we have a smiley that cries?)
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Old Jun 6 2006, 07:14 AM   #5
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Hmm, no crying smiley. But we're working on finding a jealous smiley at the moment.
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Old Jun 6 2006, 04:09 PM   #6
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Thanks for the update, it's appreciated! Good luck on the internship
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Old Jun 7 2006, 02:22 PM   #7
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Well, I’m finally getting into a routine. All the seasonal employees and summer volunteers are here now, so we’re about to get into our full schedule. This means that I have to give my first program tomorrow! I’m nervous but not panicking – I know the basic story of Florissant Fossil Beds pretty well. (I’m almost finished typing it out – I’ll post it when I’m done!)

As I mentioned, I’m living in a subdivision just outside of Divide, Colorado, about eight miles from Florissant in one direction and Woodland Park in the other. Woodland Park is where I go to get groceries and do laundry. I also caught a movie yesterday – there’s a little 2-screen theater, and I was able to watch Over the Hedge for $4! It was great.

For more entertainment, Colorado Springs is less than 45 minutes away. I’ve been there twice now, with other people driving – once to an Irish pub where the head ranger’s wife was singing with a ceiligh group, and once to a little barbecue place where a trio was doing bluegrass on guitar, bass and mandolin. Afterward we went and saw X-men 3, which was better than I expected.

Joe, who is working on the park website, was here as an intern last summer, which is how he knows about little barbecue places in Colorado Springs. He also takes incredible pictures, including some of the pair of mountain bluebirds nesting in the porch of the park’s Admin building! Click here for photos of the parents who are kept very busy now that their brood has hatched. They fly off when we open the door but we can watch through the window – and now we can sometimes see baby beaks sticking up! They make a racket, too, even after the door is opened! The father is the most incredible electric blue.

So far I’ve been working in the Visitor Center a lot. In the rare times when no one is there (for a small park no one’s ever heard of we get around 200 visitors on a weekday!) I’ve been reading a series of children’s mysteries we stock in the bookstore. They all take place in national parks, and they’re some of the best kid’s mysteries I have ever read – great plots, and they teach a lot without being obvious about it. I’m quite impressed.

The flowers are starting to come out – blue flags (small wild iris) and blue flax, Indian paintbrush, among others. Summer is almost here – it’s still cold enough for blankets at night, but it gets hot during the day. When a cloud does come over, the temperature drops about ten degrees – probably because of the dry air.

In case you didn’t catch it, I am having a wonderful time out here in the mountains, among the aspens and ponderosa pines. Catch you later!

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Old Jun 7 2006, 03:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
So far I’ve been working in the Visitor Center a lot. In the rare times when no one is there (for a small park no one’s ever heard of we get around 200 visitors on a weekday!) I’ve been reading a series of children’s mysteries we stock in the bookstore. They all take place in national parks, and they’re some of the best kid’s mysteries I have ever read – great plots, and they teach a lot without being obvious about it. I’m quite impressed.
Okay, Brenda ... so SPILL IT! Series title, writer.... I am always looking for things to read to Dancer.
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Old Jun 7 2006, 10:49 PM   #9
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Brenda, sounds like you'll be having a WONDERFUL summer! Wish I was there. Keep going with the updates!
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Old Jun 8 2006, 11:42 AM   #10
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I've been there! It's a nice place. Hubby's parents live just north of Colorado Springs, so one day we were driving around trying to figure out what to do with ourselves and there it was on the map, so up we went. On one of your trips to the city stop at Garden of the Gods if you can. So pretty. Nice rocks.
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Old Jun 8 2006, 03:36 PM   #11
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Brenda, Nice to hear that you are really enjoying yourself out there in Colorado this summer. Keep up the interesting post, and I hope that you get to meet a lot of interesting people during your talks.
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Old Jun 13 2006, 09:40 AM   #12
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I am so glad that you are enjoying your self so much this summer, and have such an interesting job . Like reading the updates, but don't need the booklets.Thank you for the offers though
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Old Jun 13 2006, 10:03 AM   #13
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Host note -- I moved the posts with the details of the book series to the other authors forum -- that way more people might see it as it won't be hidden in a Cafe post.
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Old Jun 14 2006, 01:07 PM   #14
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Okay, thanks!

Well, I have had a busy week! I spent some time recovering from a sprained ankle (acquired on a field trip for a seminar, during which I climbed all over boulders but managed to trip on a smooth, gradual slope twenty feet from the road.) I gave my first program, and two to three each day afterwards. I helped trap a golden-mantled ground squirrel who was consistently interrupting every program – he was too used to people and ready to beg, and he was pretty darn fat! He was relocated to a more remote area of the park.

The mountain bluebirds that are nesting in the Admin building’s porch have been working hard to satisfy the set of gaping beaks that have become quite vocal! The babies’ heads are now visible most of the time, and they have even started flapping a little. They may fledge soon! I’m going to try to get some pictures through the window in the door!

Another set of babies, those of the Richardson’s ground squirrels, have emerged from their burrows in the last week. The adults are about half the size of a prairie dog, and kind of cute; the babies, on the other hand, are about the size of a chipmunk and are extremely cute! They are also a lot more skittish, as opposed to the “wild” adults who come up to people and beg for food!

Yesterday I went on an expedition to Colorado Springs, after spending over an hour on Mapquest the day before figuring out alternate routes to some of my destinations (Mapquest takes the most direct route, but I really didn’t feel like merging onto the interstate to go to the bank.) Getting there was much less hectic than I anticipated – it’s only about 15 miles from Woodland Park, and the road is four-lane and divided, so I just stayed in the slow lane. It was a very curvy road, but I enjoyed the drive. Once I got to the edge of town I didn’t have much trouble following my directions to Garden of the Gods park. Garden of the Gods is an area where sandstone layers were tilted to vertical as the Rocky Mountains were upthrust, and then the surrounding rock eroded away, leaving huge red sandstone walls at the base of the mountains. I was there at sunset years ago during a summer trip and I can still remember the awe I felt when I saw one of the formations casting a shadow on the sky.
www.gardenofgods.com
http://www.caingram.com/Colorado/Dun...arden-gods.jpg
I had gotten a late start so it was already very hot. I decided to just drive the park road and come back another time, earlier, to hike. I ended up taking a side road that was unpaved; it provided some incredible views but took a long time because I couldn’t drive very fast on it.

After I left the park (I had lunch in the picnic area) I headed into town to find a U.S. Bank. My directions were pretty helpful, except that instead of N. Wasatch and S. Wasatch, there were two roads where the sign said only Wahsatch! I had to backtrack a little but had no trouble otherwise. I deposited a check I had gotten in a belated birthday card and then went across the street to Goodwill. (I was planning to see a movie, but decided not to try and make the 2:00 show; going to the 4:00 show gave me plenty of time, even if I got lost.) At Goodwill I got some board games – we have no TV at the house so have been seeking other forms of entertainment. (When I checked later, only two of the games included the instructions. If you know how to play the Parker Brothers game “Probe”, please let me know!) I also got some tapes and a book – Thoreau’s “Walden” and other writings, in very good condition. The man behind me in the checkout line said he had just brought that book in the week before!

Now came the hardest part – getting to the movie theater. Knowing the street names isn’t always enough, if you can’t read the signs in time! I was on a route parallel to the highway but it was still a very busy road. Things were going okay until I went left when I should have gone right – and didn’t realize it! The next street was a loop, so it crossed the one I was on twice, and I thought I was going the right way! I went in circles for about half an hour and finally asked someone for directions, then found it so easily… I made it just in time for the 4:00 show and bought my snacks, but they wouldn’t let me into the theater – because the show time was 4:40! I had read the listings wrong! Luckily I had a book in the car.

This was the most stressful part of the day – but the movie, Cars, was worth it. Pixar has done it again. I can’t believe how much heart they put into it. It’s a wonderful tribute to Route 66 as well. The short that came first, “One-Man Band” was really great – the music was incredible! The score for the film was incredible too. I loved the ending, and the outcome of the big race was what I had hoped would happen… YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE.

I also so a preview for the next Pixar movie – Ratatouille, about a rat who isn’t satisfied with garbage. He likes good food. And he lives in Paris, where good food is everywhere – but it’s very dangerous to get! (Chase scene with flying knives from a rat’s-eye view…) Looks like a fun one.

I was going to drive through Manitou Springs on my way home, but since I had gone to a later movie than originally planned it was already getting toward sunset. I’ll do it next time – I want to go to Garden of the Gods again! I had a lovely drive home.

This morning I got up early so I could get some pictures of Blue Flags – wild irises. There are some blooming about a block away from my house, and I wanted to get them in the early morning light. I had been putting it off, but they’re almost done blooming so I had to do it today! There were some good ones still – and a yellow swallowtail butterfly showed up as a bonus.

I’m going to go to work early tomorrow and walk the one-mile loop trail to see if any other flowers are blooming!
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Old Jun 15 2006, 10:12 AM   #15
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Sounds like your hands are full with watching all the new babies emerging from there nests. That would be wonderful to see, I hope that you can get a picture of the baby birds in the nest.

It sure sounds like you are having one of the most interesting times of your life so far. It will be one of those time you will always remember as you grow older.:

Have you been making a lot of new friends too ???

It is great haveing all of you news, and interesting links that show us where you are, feels like I have had a tiny vacation.
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Old Jun 16 2006, 12:35 AM   #16
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Brenda, thanks again for the update. Thanks for the link to the park. It goes well with your descriptions. Keep them coming!
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Old Jun 21 2006, 07:18 PM   #17
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What a crazy week!

Thursday evening I got home before the others and went upstairs to change. When I came down again, there was a puppy in our living room! Erica had picked her up along Twin Rocks Road, still in the park near the picnic area. Puppy didn’t have a collar, but she might have slipped out of one. The shelter was already closed, so she brought the dog home! (We’re not supposed to have pets, but this was a special case.) It was a black lab puppy - not a baby, but definitely a puppy! She was so friendly I couldn’t believe it - definitely well taken care of and happy. And playful. And boy did she have energy! She figured out how to fetch a Frisbee, although she sometimes decided not to bother bringing it back; she completely demolished an old sock that was used for tug-of-war! She would jump up in a person’s lap as soon as they sat down, and there were very quickly no crumbs of any size left in the kitchen. Being such a very social creature, she apparently started whining when everyone closed their bedroom doors, so Erica ended up sleeping with her on the couch. (I was upstairs when this happened. Two days later we found the cordless phone down between the cushions. I was also upstairs when Puppy did what she hadn done the last time she was outside - possibly because we had her on a makeshift leash that time. Apparently she did it twice, on the same spot on the carpet.)

Friday morning animal control came to take Puppy to the shelter, and were as enamored of her as we had been. (Everyone went completely ga-ga over Puppy, including me.) They assured us that if she didn’t get claimed by her owners, she would have NO trouble getting adopted!

When I got to work that morning I thought I saw one of the baby bluebirds down on a ledge on the wall, with a parent; when I got closer they were gone. The babies had all left the nest. Naturally that was the day it stormed. I was going out to give a program at the amphitheatre and I realized it had started to sprinkle, and was threatening more. It was actually cold - I was wearing a jacket. I hurried to the amphitheatre, announcing as I went that I was about to give a talk under a roof! I had a good-sized group, maybe a dozen. Just as I was starting the storm really let loose. Thunder and lightning and rain pounding down on the metal roof made it hard to hear myself. I really had to holler! One of the kids was really nervous about the thunder. The wind was really blowing, too - everyone was on one side of the amphitheatre because the rain was blowing in! Fortunately it let up briefly just as I was finishing. I dashed back to the Visitor Center and from there to the Admin building for lunch, just as it started to hail! Not big hail, pea-sized slushy hail, but enough to turn the ground white for about five minutes!

All this sounds pretty bad but we were all very glad to have it. It’s been extremely dry, and everyone’s worried about fire. Conditions right now are worse than they were for the Hayman fire in 2002. So to get more than a sprinkle was very welcome. We got a little over half an inch.

We also had some people come in and tell us it had snowed on Pike’s Peak! They had been driving up the toll road there, and the sign at the bottom said it was only open for the first fourteen miles. They turned around after ten miles, and when they got back down the sign said only the first seven miles were open! Since Pike’s Peak is visible from the parking lot at Florissant Fossil Beds, several of us rushed outside to look. The entire top of the mountain was white! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture, because I didn’t know it wouldn’t last very long - it was gone by that afternoon. (Next time I will be ready!)

Saturday nothing much happened to me, but there was some interesting goings-on at the weekly seminar! This one was on flint-knapping, and Jeff Wolin, my supervisor, got hit by a flying shard of obsidion! He had to go to the clinic in Woodland Park and get some stitches in his wrist! (I told him later that we need to start calling ahead to the clinic next time we give a seminar - this is two injuries in a row! First my ankle, now this!) He was fine - the main damage was to his dignity, because he hadn’t stayed far enough away from the person whose shard hit him. Obsidion can literally be razor sharp - he was really lucky!

Sunday there was some excitement: a woman had gone off the trail behind Big Stump and was collecting (which is punishable by a very hefty fine.) Laine, one of the interp seasonals, rushed out at once. The story has a happy ending: apparently the woman had gone out to the Scudder Pit on a short trail that branches off from the main loop, not realizing that she was no longer on the main loop, and then just wandered along from there. She had been picking up rocks that she wanted to ask at the Visitor Center about. So she was oblivious, but not malicious.

Monday I gave my first guided walk. I had gone to observe Shawn and Harv do theirs, so I had a basic outline in my head of places where I would stop to talk. It went pretty well ?four geology students from South Park, and an older couple. I had an hour and a half to do it in but finished it in an hour. I need to work on that. I’ll probably spend more time explaining about the petrified redwood stumps at the beginning next time, and try to walk a little slower - the older couple started falling behind after a while, having a harder time because they weren’t used to the altitude. Still, I felt it went well. Luckily it wasn’t too hot - the sun was out but the breeze was strong and cool.

Tuesday I got up at 6 a.m., had breakfast at McDonalds in Woodland Park, and drove to Colorado Springs. I got to the Garden of the Gods a little after 8 a.m. I had wanted to get there while it was still cool enough to hike a bit. I walked the 1½ mile paved loop trail, which winds around the bases of the biggest formations. The birds were really noisy! Swallows chattering as they flew overhead, and a constant drone of pigeons. Both these birds like the holes that the sandstone formations are pocked with. It was a nice walk, especially when I was in the shadow of the formations very pleasant and cool! I saw a few flowers, including white prickly poppy. I also saw several jackrabbits. They have really big hind feet, and they are FAST!!! They really shot off when I got too close! When I was almost back to the beginning, I ran into an employee who pointed out a prairie falcon on top of the formation! Apparently there’s a family of them flying around. Of course the sun was behind the falcon, but hopefully the telephoto shot will come out! I was in awe - even from a distance the bird was huge.

After that I drove to another trailhead, the Ridge Trail. This was a half-mile loop that went over the top of a sandstone ridge; I was right up in the formations. I was at the level the swallows were flying at! This was a rougher trail, with some incredible views.

For lunch I drove to Bear Creek Park, a county park. I got lost first, of course, but got back to the street I was supposed to be on. I stopped at the Nature Center in the park – it’s really nice! The creek was a little disappointing, but the picnic area was nice. I drove through Manitou Springs on the way back to Woodland Park, where I went to the library for an hour or so and then to the little movie theater to see Pixar’s Cars. Again. Hey, for four dollars its definitely worth a second round!

Today I planned to drive to Eleven Mile Canyon (an area in the Pike National Forest) and due to a spectacular misunderstanding did a lot more driving than I needed to! I thought I could go around and come in the back way, so I drove past the turn at the town of Lake George and drove up Wilkerson Pass. I stopped there and did a short hike out to the point – it was a great view but it was starting to get hot! From there my understanding was that I would drive down a county road, past the Eleven Mile Reservoir, and be able to enter Eleven Mile Canyon. I drove down from Wilkerson Pass into South Park. The sudden, utter flatness of the land was very strange! I drove past a bison ranch, but saw no other signs of life for several miles. When I finally got to the reservoir, I found out that I had entered Eleven Mile State Park, and couldn’t get to the forest service site from there after all! I continued on the county road, which took me back to Lake George, where I turned at the place I had driven past so confidently a few hours before! (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all the scenery I drove through. It was just frustrating to find out I was so far off in my understanding of how to get there! It’s all Yinan’s fault; he was giving me directions, and I don’t think he understood which place I was trying to get to!)

Finally I had reached my destination. Eleven Mile Canyon is a narrow, rocky gorge downstream from the reservoir; the Lower Platte River rushes through it, a picturesque mountain stream. THIS was what I had been missing. I love water, but I love mountain streams the most, and had not seen any. I was really missing it. When I turned the bend and saw that first series of miniature cataracts and white water, I literally had tears in my eyes. It was so beautiful. The road was not. It was a washboard, all the way! But that just meant I was driving more slowly and taking in every second along that river. I stopped at the second picnic area; getting up early meant that even after getting lost I was just in time for lunch! There was quite a crowd who wanted to share my lunch: three golden-mantled ground squirrels, a pair of Stellar’s jays, a very bold robin, and a very timid chipmunk! No crumbs remained uninvestigated. I just sat there and read for a while, enjoying the background noise of the river. After a while a family with little kids showed up. I couldn’t read with all the noise they were making (kids were playing Three Billy Goats Gruff on the bridge!) so I went for a walk. I followed a little trail upstream along the river, from the relatively calm spot by the picnic area to some more white water, rushing around boulders. I saw a lot of flowers – wild roses especially – and currant bushes which weren’t quite ripe. I even saw a little brown snake who disappeared very quickly! I walked until there was no ground left – the bank gave way to a nearly-vertical wall of granite. I walked back a little ways, and what I did next should not surprise anyone who knows me: I took off my shoes and socks and stuck my feet in the water. Boy was it COLD!!! It really felt good. It had been overcast, but the sun came out – my rock was in the shade but my feet in the water were in the sun. What a lovely massage!

Eventually I dried off and went back to the car to drive the rest of the road. I only stopped a few times to take pictures; next time – and there will be a next time – I will stop every chance I get. The road got narrower and climbed a bit, till it was high above the river. In three places there was even a short tunnel through a section of the mountain! I was mentally cataloguing the best places to get in the creek – wading, and possibly even swimming. I finally got to the end (it was indeed a dead end! Phooey on the map that did not even show Eleven Mile Canyon!) I hadn’t realized how much I was going uphill until I turned around and coasted all the way back! I drove into the rain, which continued all the way to Woodland Park, where it stopped; it has just started up again. I can hear it on the library roof. Wonderful, wonderful rain.

I am DEFINITELY going back to Eleven Mile Creek. I need water.

Tune in next week to Brenda Gets Lost in Colorado!

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Old Jun 21 2006, 09:04 PM   #18
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Brenda, great update, once again! I want to be in that creek with you! I hope you get back there soon.
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Old Jun 22 2006, 07:03 AM   #19
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Wow, I can hardly believe you remember all those details! Thanks for another great update!
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Old Jun 22 2006, 11:39 AM   #20
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Brenda, Your Eleven Mile Creek adventure sounds terrific, I would also loved to haved had a book to read, while dangling my feet in the water. Sounds lovely, enjoy yourself next time too !!!
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Old Jun 22 2006, 02:51 PM   #21
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Quote:
Tune in next week to Brenda Gets Lost in Colorado
ANd here I was thinking it was "Brenda's Colorado Adventure"!
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Old Jun 22 2006, 03:09 PM   #22
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Brenda,

I just started reading your 'diary' here - it looks like you're having a blast! I'm glad you take the time to tell us what's happening up there - it is so interesting.

I would probably be that lady going off the trail and 'collecting'. I try to get myself a rock from every place I visit.

Enjoy yourself. I think I'm going to tell the husband I want to go to Colorado for a vacation!
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Old Jun 28 2006, 01:49 PM   #23
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Well, this week wasn’t nearly as crazy as last week. There were no puppies and no hailstorms. There was a lot of rain; we seem to be settling into the usual summer routine of small clouds in the morning that increase in size until the afternoon thunderstorm, and then it clears up by evening. It was actually cold enough for a jacket for a few days.

Friday morning I got up bright and early to go to the farmer’s market in Woodland Park. It wasn’t huge but there were quite a few stalls. I got a cantaloupe and some tree-ripened cherries and peaches. Oh, the peaches! It’s been a LONG time since I had peaches that fresh and ripe and sweet and tangy… I missed the Missouri peaches last summer, and I had forgotten about Colorado peaches! We’ve had them on trips before. I now am wanting to actually do things with the peaches – cobbler, smoothies, maybe even preserves. I’ll probably wait a while until I’m slightly more sane regarding peaches, although I hope I don’t get used to them!

I also fell in love with the stall from a French-style bakery. Baskets full of those huge round loaves… I bought a small loaf of pecan-raisin bread. It’s delicious with a little butter; I had it for dessert several times without craving any more sweets.

So obviously this farmer’s market is well worth getting up in time to go before work, and is going to be a Friday tradition for me.

One other event that happened during the week was an incredibly beautiful sky on Saturday night. I get off work an hour early on Saturdays so I can go to church in Woodland Park, since I don’t have Sundays off. After church I went to a Mexican restaurant for supper. (It’s literally right next door to a Taco Bell; I wonder who decided to set up next door to the other?) It was really good. When I left it was just starting to rain. As I drove home, I was driving in the rain, but since the storms around here are so localized there was sunlight shining into the car from just outside the storm! Of course it was obvious there must be a rainbow somewhere, and as I pulled into the driveway I finally saw it! It was really beautiful, and inspired me to write this:


That’s pretty much just the way it happened.


Yesterday, Tuesday, I decided to go for a hike at Florissant Fossil Beds. I never have time during the week, and since it had been so cool, even chilly, I hoped it would continue that trend. It didn’t, but it was still fairly nice weather.

Before I went on the hike, I stopped along the road to take some pictures of a patch of Indian paintbrush that I had been seeing from the car on the way to work every day. It really was bright.

I walked the Sawmill trail and the Hans loop, which come out to about three miles total. It took me more than three hours, partly because I wasn’t power-walking and partly because I kept stopping to take pictures. Unfortunately I found that the roll of film in my dad’s manual camera, which I had been using to take pictures of flowers, had not been advancing; I didn’t load it in right. So all the pictures since Wilkerson Pass last week hadn’t actually been taken. I was crushed. I’ll have to go back and redo the pictures of the paintbrush.

The hike was quite nice. It followed a little creek for about a third of the way, and sometimes the creek even had water in it! I saw a whole bunch of “shooting star” flowers, which was pretty exciting for me. The Hans loop was an extra mile that went further along the valley before climbing up onto the ridge and circling back to rejoin the Sawmill trail. I was really high up at one point! It did get hot, with the sun out, but there was a nearly constant cool breeze that really helped. It got cloudy near the end, which was nice. I had plenty of water and I stopped to rest a few times, so it went pretty well. I was glad afterward that I’d done the extra mile – when I got to the fork where I could either take the shortcut or the longer loop, I was in the sun and had to force myself to go the long way, but I knew that once I did it I’d be glad I had. I was right. I’m glad I’ve walked that trail now, so I can tell visitors what it’s like.

I had gotten a later start and taken longer than I expected, so I didn’t get back until almost 2 pm! Luckily I’d had a big breakfast, because I was starving. I had brought a lunch and I ate part of my sandwich as I was leaving. I saved the rest because I was going back to Eleven Mile Canyon.

I got there much quicker this time, since I knew that there was only one way in! I splurged and bought an annual pass so I can go there anytime I want and not have to pay $5 each time. Instead of eating at the picnic area I pulled over at a likely spot and went and sat down on a rock sticking out into the water to eat my lunch. This was one of the wilder spots, a narrow place where the river was squeezed between two rock walls and was therefore deeper and faster and much more fun to watch! I sat there for quite a while, and then the sun came back out and I was getting hot. I drove to the end of the road – they must have just smoothed it, because all the washboard ridges I’d had trouble with before were not there! I stopped a few times to take pictures, but mostly was looking at places that I would like to get out some other time. Once it gets a little hotter I might even get in the water – there are some calm places as well as white water. Mostly I was just enjoying the view.

After I left Eleven Mile Canyon I drove back to Florissant and started out on an expedition. I had decided to drive up around Crystal Peak, which is a big bare peak that can be seen from the Fossil Beds. I had downloaded a map from Mapquest, so I knew that if I just stayed left I’d eventually get back to the highway, but otherwise I had absolutely no idea where I was going! It was a fun drive; I ended up in sight of the peak, but there was no place I could pull over for a picture. It was fun exploring. I ended up on the highway back by Lake George, where I’d seen a sign advertising homemade hand-tossed pizzas. I’d passed that several times by now, and I really wanted to try them! It was not quite 5 pm by this time. I got a ham and pineapple pizza and it was really good. After I ate I drove to Woodland Park and spent some time in the library, then went home and watched the Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary DVD. I had the pop-up facts feature turned on, and learned some interesting things. For instance, many of the would-be nannies that get blown away were actually male extras! (I wrote down a few of the best ones and then forgot to bring my notebook with me to the library!)

Today, Wednesday, I had been considering driving to Seven Falls near Colorado Springs, but decided instead to actually sleep in for once. I would have had to get up really early to get that in and still get to the library and do laundry and grocery shopping. This week I’m going to start seriously planning trips to Seven Falls, the cliff dwellings at Manitou Springs, and hopefully even a whitewater rafting trip and a trip up the Pikes Peak cog railway!


Until next week!

Brenda
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Old Jun 29 2006, 10:50 PM   #24
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Brenda, LOVE your rainbow poem and your update! I can see you doing all those wonderful things. You are one very lucky lady! Keep enjoying your summer and I'll keep enjoying your updates.
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Old Jul 5 2006, 07:15 PM   #25
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Well, nothing much happened Thursday. Friday I went to the farmers market before work again – fresh peaches, cherries, tomatoes, and bread! Not long after I got home after work I got a phone call from my cousin Sherri. She and her husband, Scott, and their little girl Sky had been planning to visit me – I’d given them some hotel information – and were at a hotel in Cripple Creek, about 15 miles away. I was a little surprised because I had thought they would stay at Woodland Park! (I wish they’d told me they were thinking about Cripple Creek, because I could have told them the town has nothing of interest – it is all casinos.)

I drove down to meet them – it was a really pretty drive, part of a National Scenic Byway. When I got there the first thing I heard was two-and-a-half-year-old Sky, who was very excited to see me! I was actually a little surprised that she remembered me, since we don’t get to see them very often. I gave Sherri some of the peaches and cherries from the farmer’s market, and after chasing Sky up and down the hall for a few minutes we left to find someplace to eat. (She ran into one room whose door was open, closed the door so it locked, and when she figured out how to get out left her shoes in the room. Sherrie had closed the door when Sky came out so that she couldn’t lock herself in again, so then we had to get the key to that room to get Sky’s shoes back! Apparently Sky hadn’t gotten much sleep in the last few days, and was therefore more hyper!) We took a 50-cent shuttle down to the strip and found a place with an all-you-can-eat buffet. The food was okay, but not that great, but it was fun just being out somewhere. We ended up walking back; it was only about a mile. I left pretty soon after that; I was a little nervous driving back in the dark, because I kept thinking I’d gotten on the wrong road!

The next morning at work I was out at the Hornbek Homestead – it’s a restored homestead with an original house and several outbuildings that were brought in from nearby properties. The house isn’t small by today’s standards – two stories, seven rooms, each room much bigger than a typical homestead house! Adeline Hornbek was a widow, which made her the head of the household and eligible to apply for a homestead in her own right; she was quite well off, as is obvious from the size of the house! One of the other buildings, a small barn, actually started out as a homestead house, so visitors can compare the size. Usually the buildings are opened up for an hour or two each day; they are only open when an employee is there because there has been so much vandalism in the past. At the Bicentennial celebration the house was filled with period furniture; someone broke in and stole all of it. So now the house is empty and the buildings are kept locked.

Anyway, when I got back from the homestead Sherri and Scott had just arrived at the Visitor Center! It was time for my lunch break so I ate with them. Later they came to my program. When they came back to the VC I was hard pressed to keep up with Sky! I tried to steer her away from the stuffed birds that make noise when you squeeze them, and got her interested in the finger puppets which have no delicate electronics involved! She quickly took all of the puppets out of the basket and lined them up on the floor according to type of animal, gleefully announcing each time she “made a match!” It was sprinkling a little and had gotten chilly out, but Sherri and Scott decided to go walk the one-mile loop with Sky. Sherri came in a while later to tell me that Sky had finally fallen asleep in the car after the hike! They headed out.

I met them after church that evening and we went to the Pizza Factory to eat. Sky was more interested in doing experiments with her food, like dipping it in her water glass, than in eating! After we ate I played a round of pinball (three plays for a dollar!) while she watched, exclaiming with glee every time something flashed or made noise (pretty much the whole game!) Then I tried a memory game where you have to repeat the sequence that’s flashed on four lights. I got pretty far on that one! Then Sherri and Scott headed back to their hotel and I went on home.

On Sunday Sherri, Scott and Sky showed up at the park to see me one more time and say goodbye. Sky was very upset that I couldn’t come with them and refused to hug me goodbye; she kept saying that she could stay with me and Mom and Dad could go on alone to visit Grandma and Grandpa! Tempting as that was, I don’t think I could handle her for very long by myself! I think she had a good time though.

That afternoon it started raining – pouring, then pounding. I was in the VC at the time – it must have been really loud in the amphitheater! It had lessened a little when I went out to give my 3:00 program; Greg, who had given the previous program, was just leaving; no one had wanted to go out in the rain! I actually had a pretty good crowd; people probably were glad to be able to do anything in that weather. Afterward I was in the Admin building and had just finished logging in the numbers from my program (we keep track of how many people show up) when the electricity, which had already flickered a few times that day, went out completely. Immediately every computer in the Admin building started beeping loudly, just in case no one had noticed the power was out! It was driving me crazy, so even though I was still on break I went over to the VC, which was full of people who had come in out of the rain! We had a big flashlight for people to use to look at the displays – it was too dark outside for much light to come in – and used a calculator to make sales. Since the well is powered by electricity, the only bathrooms were the outhouses out in the parking lot. We actually had about six kids go through the Junior Ranger booklet after the lights went out – scouring the displays with the flashlight, or filling in the activity booklet out on the porch where they could see. It was pretty neat that so many wanted to do it even with the power out! We had gotten about 1.3 inches of rain when they checked in the middle of the afternoon, and it continued to rain steadily. This was no localized storm either – the sky was gray as far as I could see in every direction.

That night I started playing with peaches. The tree-ripened peaches out here are so delectable that I wanted to do something with them – I’m planning on making jam at some point, but I started out with cobbler. I had found the recipe online; when I emailed it to my mom she said it was just like what her mother used to make! A biscuity crust laid on top of the peaches. It turned out so perfect. Just enough cinnamon… not too much sugar… a thick crust to blend perfectly with the peaches… it took a while to prepare the peaches (those things are slippery once you take the skins off!) but it was definitely worth it!

Monday when I got to work, several of the rangers were having a conference in the parking lot. It turned out the power was still out – the phones had been out the day before, and no one had called from home after work. We had business as usual, other than sending people out to the parking lot to use the latrines. The power finally came back on around 1:00. We ended up getting some more rain. Monday was really busy because it was so close to the 4th of July; the parking lot was so full that the employees had to move our cars behind the admin building!

When I was driving to work Monday morning, something that I had noticed the day before was even worse: something was wrong with my brakes. They were making a grinding noise if I pressed the brake pedal too hard, and sometimes the noise would continue after I stopped braking… I called my parents that night to tell them about it, and Dad told me what I had pretty much decided – I needed to get the brakes checked.

Unfortunately the car place was closed Tuesday for the 4th of July. Fortunately, Erica woke me up around 9 am (just before my alarm went off) to ask if I wanted to come to Woodland Park with her and Yinan. The ceiligh band that Rick’s wife Keri plays in was going to be playing, and then they were having a party at their house. Erica made a custard to bring; I decided to make deviled eggs. We got to Woodland Park in time to hear the last half hour or so of the concert; they really are good. Fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, drum, flute, pennywhistle, and a really good bodhran player, and they can sure sing too! I may end up getting one of their CDs. We walked around a little but had to hurry to get home in order to make the deviled eggs. They turned out delicious! We walked to Rick and Keri’s house, which is only about two blocks away. One of the cats fled at the sight of strangers, but the other, Gandalf the Gray, came and went intermittently, stalking things, pausing to sniff hands but not staying to be petted; as aloof and mysterious as his namesake. There was a young mule deer buck about fifty yards from the house, under the “deer tree” – a spot where deer apparently like to just relax at! We had snacks, and around 3 the enchiladas were done – they were really good, until the spices caught up with me and my tongue started hurting. We had to go inside when it started raining again! The hot apple crisp and vanilla ice cream solved that problem! Erica and I got a ride back to the house with Zach, because it was still sprinkling a little. We thought about playing a board game and ended up playing hangman for about half an hour, then Zach and Erica messed around on their guitars for a while. Erica ended up driving down to Colorado Springs to see the fireworks there (there weren’t many places having fireworks because of the fire danger). Zach and I walked back to Rick’s house because I had left my camera there (I got a couple of good pics of that deer, I think!) It was around 7 when we got back; Zach left and I was alone in the house, free to watch Mary Poppins! I had already watched it once, and now I watched it with the commentary: Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews, Karen Dotrice and Richard Sherman, and Robert Sherman. It was funny hearing Karen Dotrice reminiscing – she played Jane, and as a little girl didn’t always realize what was going on! She would sometimes get so caught up in the huge sets that she would forget it was only acting! A lot of the children’s reactions were real – they didn’t know how a hatrack could be pulled from a carpetbag, or that different colored medicines would come out of the same bottle! They didn’t know that it was Dick van Dyke playing Mr. Dawes, Sr.; Karen remembered thinking that he was going to die during the shooting!

Today I slept in. When I got to the car place in Woodland Park they asked me to come back at 1:00; I did and they were done at 2:30. They had had to replace the brake pads and rotors, which had been wearing through. (I assume that’s a bad thing.) So I’ll have to wait until next week to visit Seven Falls, but at least I won’t have to worry about my brakes!
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Old Jul 6 2006, 04:55 AM   #26
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Okay first thing..the brakes on your car. Brenda, with the roads you're driving, you are one VERY lucky woman. When the brakes start making that grinding noise...I knew it was the pads and rotors the minute you described the noise.(Had two different cars do that to me...the first one, I ignored it a little too long, and lost the brakes completely. Luckily, all I hit was a pile of sand.)

Quote:
Usually the buildings are opened up for an hour or two each day; they are only open when an employee is there because there has been so much vandalism in the past. At the Bicentennial celebration the house was filled with period furniture; someone broke in and stole all of it. So now the house is empty and the buildings are kept locked.
Doesn't it STINK when that **** happens? I know over here, the security on such places is one of the reasons some places are really expensive to visit.


Is the "deer tree" an apple, by any chance? Or oak? I know in New YOrk, that's were the deer tend to congragate!

I am still SOOOOOO jealous of you this summer!
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Old Jul 10 2006, 08:22 PM   #27
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The deer tree is an evergreen - probably spruce. It's actually a trio - a tree trio - close together.

Whitewater rafting tomorrow!
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Old Jul 11 2006, 09:59 AM   #28
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Brenda, glad you got the brakes taken care of quickly. You just don't want to mess around with things like that. Glad you'll be safe.
Sounds like you had a short, sweet visit with family. Sky sounds like she's a handfull, but then 2 year olds are handfulls.
Hmm, I've not watched Mary Poppins with the commentary, I'll have to do that. Have done so with Pirates of the Caribbean tho and enjoyed both commentarys that they included.
I'm certainly enjoying your summer! Keep those updates coming!
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Old Jul 13 2006, 11:36 AM   #29
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It rained all week.

Not in the normal pattern, which is: clear all morning, small clouds continue to get bigger until there is a localized, isolated storm that lasts less than an hour.

Instead, it was raining when I got up, rained all day, and continued to rain.

There wasn’t that much lightning or thunder, just steady, steady rain; the fire danger is down considerably and the landscape is a bit greener. Also, I now know what true potholes are! A lot of the roads, like the ones through my subdivision, are dirt and gravel, and really got messed up in the rain – potholes all over the place, and deep ruts where the water ran down hillsides. Now that I’ve got my brakes fixed, I’m hoping the shock absorbers will hold out!

Saturday instead of working, I got to go to the weekly seminar. This one was taught by writer Gregory Denman (http://gregorydenman.com/), and was titled “The Worth and Wonder of Words.” It was more for teachers, to give them ideas of how to teach creative writing, particularly poetry, to elementary-level kids, but we did some fun exercises as well. It was raining so we were mostly stuck inside, but were able to go out under the eaves. I wrote several new poems and, after asking Mr. Denman for input, made some changes to my poem “Sunstorm” as well. I’m putting the poems in my poetry thread.

This week I suddenly realized that my summer was more than half over and I only have five weekends left!!! This meant that I was suddenly trying to remember all the things I wanted to do, like whitewater rafting, the Pikes Peak railway, and just going somewhere slightly higher in elevation so that I would be out of the dry, dry montane ecosystem and into the wetter, lusher, flowery-er subalpine. I started talking to some of the people at the park, and Harv, one of the other interp rangers, suggested Cottonwood Pass, which is near Buena Vista and relatively close to me… I will definitely go there before the summer is out! He also told me about Signal Butte, which is near Florissant; it’s part of the area that was burned in the Hayman fire, so has great views (because of the lack of tree foliage) and great raspberries, for the same reason! He showed me on a map, I went on mapquest to try and figure out the best route. Unfortunately when I went to look for it after work on Sunday, I got lost again! Not lost in the sense of “I have no idea where I am or how to get back”, just “I have no idea where I am in relation to where I thought I was going!” I ended up in part of the Pike National Forest. The road was in even worse condition than the one by my house; it was raining, and foggy, so I could only see a little way through the trees. Some of it looked like a burn area, but I didn’t see the side road Harv had described. I did see many beautiful flowers along the road. It was a beautiful, eerie drive, but hard to enjoy the scenery because I am SICK of getting lost!!!

At work on Monday I looked at a big map of Teller County and was immediately able to tell what had happened. A lot of the roads out here are county roads with assigned numbers, but some of them have names as well. Mapquest had only given the names, and the signs had only had the numbers! I could tell exactly where I had been, and where I was supposed to turn; I had had farther to go still than I realized.

I mentioned whitewater rafting. I had made a reservation that same day for the coming Tuesday, for a half-day trip down the Arkansas River in Brown’s Canyon, starting at Buena Vista at 9:00 a.m.! (I also made a reservation for a trip up the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway for the week after.) I got a call on Monday that no one else had signed up for the 9:00 departure, so I ended up in the 1:00 group.

Tuesday morning I got up, finished getting my stuff together, and drove to Eleven Mile Canyon for about half an hour. I remembered seeing gooseberries there on my first visit, and I wanted to see if they were ripe. Only a few of them were; they were tart but not sour. I didn’t bother to pick more than a taste, because most of them were still green – and they have THORNS!!! I may go back in a week or two and see how they are.

I went on to Buena Vista. It was a beautiful drive, over Wilkerson Pass and across the incredibly flat South Park, then up into the mountains again. Unfortunately I began to get sleepy – I was almost there or I might have had to pull over.

I was there at about 11:45; check-in was at 12:30. I ate my lunch in the car, then went to check in. They offered rental wet suits; I hadn’t been planning to get one, but was convinced by a notice stating that the water was 45° F! I went to see if they had one that would fit me; they did, so I sprang for it. It was VERY efficient insulation; unfortunately we had to wait another half hour before we got in the water, so it got pretty hot! We got on a bus at 1:00 and drove to the put-in. There were permanent double railings in place, used to slide the rafts down the bank while we climbed down the steps holding on to them – this place has a LOT of rafting companies that start there! I was in a boat with two older couples. (When we started talking, I found out that one of the couples had attended college at Kirksville when it was still NEMO instead of Truman, and were the first couple to be married in the Sunken Garden! They live in NY now!) I sat near the back. The guide was behind me.

I had ended up in a paddle boat instead of an oar boat – I had originally planned to take an oar boat that the guide would control with oars, but because of the time change was in a boat where all the passengers had paddles and had to work together. It ended up being fun, although the unaccustomed work and the cold water made my hands get a bit sore.

The float started out fast but smooth; we practiced paddling together. Our guide was named Chewy or Chewbacca – he had shaggy red hair and was a liiitle crazy! – but he really could steer that raft! We had several miles of Class 1 rapids with a few Class 2 spots, then we headed into the canyon itself and things really got exciting – up to Class 3! We paddled through the bigger rapids to keep up our momentum so we wouldn’t get caught in backcurrents. We went through the “Screen Door”, the “Barn Door”, and the “Zoom Flume” first; then “Pinball”, which was a section that we had to keep switching back and forth to avoid rocks; then “Hemorrhoid Rock” – we came down HARD on that one! And then “Big Drop” – Chewy took us right over the middle so the drop was REALLY long! I had my foot under flap in the raft, but was not feeling very secure, so every time we went over a drop I leaned way in. If I lost my balance I wanted to fall inward, not out! “Seven Steps” was a set of drops at short intervals. Chewy gave us a really exciting ride – we were leading a group of about 6 rafts, and when we looked back at the rough sections that we had been flung through, the other guides were taking their rafts through so smoothly… But we had more fun! This was what I had paid for!

There were three more big ones – “Toilet Bowl”, a big swirling pool, and “Meat Grinder” and “Raft Ripper” – both with a lot of very sharp rocks as opposed to the smooth, well-eroded boulders we had been encountering.

Near the end of the bigger rapids, we suddenly saw a guy on the bank – in a tuxedo! Walking along the river! He looked very out of place – it was really weird.

We went into a calm stretch and Chewy said this was a good place if anyone wanted to swim. We just looked at him. Then he jumped in! It was really funny. He got back in just in time for “Last Chance”, the last big rapid; after that it was very smooth, and then it was over. We had floated about ten miles in about three hours. I had brought two waterproof disposable cameras, and used them both up!

We rode the bus back and got there around 4:30. I peeled the wetsuit off – it had really been worth it! I had been splashed a lot but mostly didn’t even feel it! My feet, which had just been wearing sandals and had been submerged in river water at the bottom of the raft, were nearly numb.

After all that cold water I wanted something hot, so I went to a little restaurant in Buena Vista that one of the other guides had recommended. It was just about 5:00 by then. I got a chicken-fried steak… sooo good.

Since it was so early I decided to head back to Woodland Park to use the library. I had been thinking about checking out Cottonwood Pass, but I didn’t feel like starting another expedition – I was tired after all that paddling! I went to a gas station and bought a soda and some candy to nibble on while I drove, and headed out. I didn’t have any trouble staying awake this time. I went to the library for about an hour until it closed at 8, then went to Walgreens to drop off my cameras. I’ve been saving most of my film to develop when I get home, but I didn’t want to wait to see these pictures!

I went to Safeway and then home. When I was unloading the car (it took three trips what with the groceries and all the stuff I’d brought with me) I suddenly heard animal noises – sort of a disgruntled chirring. I was a little nervous as I’d seen a skunk by the house the other day (he crossed the driveway while I was pulling in, then disappeared). I saw something moving and could tell it didn’t have a white stripe, so I thought it might be a porcupine – I’d heard they make that kind of sound. I went in and got my camera, came out and took a flash photograph; more noises, not too happy! I went inside, then remembered one more thing I’d left in the car. I finally remembered where my flashlight was, so I took it and the camera out to the car. The moment of truth: raccoons! Four of them! They really scooted to get under the shed when I shone that light! I turned it off and got my notebook out of the car; by then my eyes were adjusted enough to be able to see where they were. I took several more pictures, then shone the light again. They really are cute! (I know they can be a nuisance, but they’re so cute!)

Not long after this, Yinan came in and broke the bad news: the owner of the house was coming the next day to take pictures! The main floor was mostly pretty organized and clean, but I had to do some serious work on my room. A bulldozer would have come in handy; I had things that hadn’t been put away in the whole time I’ve been here! I had to sort my laundry anyway so I just hung up the clothes that weren’t dirty, and picked up most of the odds and ends and stacked the others. I am now very annoyed with myself for not having done it sooner. I have a floor!

Wednesday I got up, not as early as I’d been planning since I’d stayed up late straightening my room. I went to Woodland Park to do my laundry. While it was going, I went to City Market, the small grocery store, to buy canning jars; Safeway, the BIG store, didn’t have the half-pint jars my recipe calls for. After my laundry was done I went to the library for an hour or so, then went to the 1:00 showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest! It was mostly great fun; like every middle chapter of a trilogy (think of The Empire Strikes Back) it starts right in on the action because the characters are already familiar, and it gets a bit less fun toward the end, and then it stops. It leaves everyone in a crisis. So now we know what the third movie is going to be about. But as I said, it was mostly fun, and the music was incredible, and there’s this hilarious three-way swordfight between Captain Jack, Will Turner, and another character I choose not to name... Not quite as good as the first one, but definitely worth seeing in the theater.

After the movie I went back to the library, then drove home, changed, and drove off to Florissant. I had been told by several people that I should go to the Grange there – an old schoolhouse used as a community center. Every Wednesday night there’s a potluck and then music. There were all these people with guitars, and a drummer and a fiddler and a guy who also played pedal steel (I think that’s what it’s called...) They played everything from Johnny Cash to Bonnie Raitt to “I’ll Fly Away.” Maybe next time I’ll sing too. I wish I’d known about this earlier!

Until next week!

Brenda
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Old Jul 13 2006, 02:50 PM   #30
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Gods, Brenda... the more I read, the more I envy you!

BTW.... My mother ordered the full 12 books, and they are in. She's bringing them over with her in two weeks. I can't wait!
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Old Jul 21 2006, 05:22 PM   #31
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You didn't bump into Yanaba Maddock did you? It sure sounds like a Petaybee potlatch.
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Old Jul 22 2006, 02:21 AM   #32
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Wow, how'd I miss this when you last posted?? Sorry, but at least it's before your next post! You have had such a wonderful summer so far! I (and others too) are enjoying it almost as much as you, Brenda! Thanks again!
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Old Jul 22 2006, 05:58 AM   #33
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I hadn't realised just how empty parts of Colorado are:

Hinsdale COUNTY -- pop 467!
of whom 223 live in Lake City
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Old Jul 22 2006, 07:50 PM   #34
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I was going to post this Thursday but couldn't get to the site:


For the last several weeks I had been planning to make jam, looking up recipes online, asking around at work to find out if anyone had canning equipment I could borrow, buying three dozen half-pint jars. Friday morning at the farmer’s market I bought a big box of peaches. When I got home I counted them: 46 peaches. I was committed now.

Later at work an astonishing thing happened. A family came into the VC and I was giving them the basic spiel on what there is to do in the park. They went over to look at the fossil cases, and then they came back over and said hesitantly, “Were you at Theodore Roosevelt Park last summer...?” They recognized me from TR! They remembered going on my beaver walk! I was quite flattered that they remembered me!

That night I made my first batch of peach jam, and an incredible mess. It’s inevitable to make a mess when working with peaches – once you get the skins off (just dip in boiling water and they slide right off) those things are slippery! Or as my dad would say, “slicker’n snot on a doorknob!” It took a while just to cut them up, and I needed two quarts. The recipe called for “crushed” but I didn’t have a food mill; I put one quart of peaches in the blender, and cut the other into very small pieces. I didn’t realize how long it would take the canner to come to a boil; I should have done that first.

The jam never did thicken. It said to cook the peaches and ½ cup of water for ten minutes, then add 6 cups of sugar and cook rapidly till it thickened. I cooked it for at least half an hour; it thickened a little at the end, but the resulting jam was a bit runny. (Very good though!) I’m not sure if this was because I only crushed half the peaches, or because of the altitude, or because the recipe was a little off.

I didn’t have any trouble filling the jars or getting them in and out of the water bath (jar tongs are very handy!) Since the jars were so small I had worried that they would fall out of the canner, so I had used cotton twine to weave an intricate web dividing the canner into sections so they would stay in one place and not bump each other. The recipe had suggested that it would make about 7 ½ half-pint jars, but to my surprise it completely filled 9 jars! I had to hurry and sterilize another one! I was worried about the jars sealing – when my mom makes jelly and jam she doesn’t use a boiling water bath to process the jars once they are filled, she just inverts them and hopes that they seal. Well, I had nothing to worry about – the lids popped into place the moment I took them out of the water!

I made two more batches Saturday and Sunday night. The peaches were big enough that I had several left over (I’ll probably make cobbler with those.) I got a bit of a routine down, but it still took a long time. I ended up with 27 jars; I took one to work for folks to try, along with some sliced french bread to eat it on. Though runny, it is very tasty!

One other thing I did was to boil the peach skins and save the juice; I’m going to try making “peach honey”, where you add half a cup of sugar to each cup of juice and boil till it’s the consistency of honey.

Tuesday I got up bright and early and drove down to Manitou Springs to catch the Cog Railway up Pike’s Peak! I had decided to spring for the train ride rather than try to make hairpin turns while light-headed from altitude! It was a beautiful ride – if you ever come out here, it’s definitely worth it. I was in a row of three with two older ladies; I was in the middle, but the setup of the train was such that we were in the last row, facing backwards, on the uphill trip, and in the front facing forward on the way back down. So I had a pretty good view. We drove past rocks and trees, getting different views; then we passed the treeline and went up into the tundra. I could see a lot of flowers just from the train. We also spotted several yellow-bellied marmots! When we got up to the top I was a little disappointed; I hadn’t realized it would be bare rock, I thought we’d get to walk around on the tundra. I took some pictures, had a close encounter with a marmot, and went to buy souvenirs. I bought a T-shirt that says Got Oxygen? Pikes Peak. I had actually been feeling very lightheaded, a little dizzy, since just before the top.

I had expected to have more time at the top, but we only had about fifteen or twenty minutes before the train left. I barely made it back on! (Anyone not on the train at the time of departure is automatically a hiker. They’re not kidding, and it’s a LONG way down. I’d probably try to hitch a ride.) On the way down the conductor was selling booklets about the Cog Railway. When we got down to the bottom, after a lovely trip, I bought a few more souvenirs – postcards, and a pair of aspen-leaf earrings.

I was planning to go to Seven Falls later in the afternoon, but I had a lot of time to kill first. I drove until I found a fast food place, then went back to explore Historic Manitou Springs. I ended up doing something I really never do: shopping just to shop! There was a loop of little stores, art galleries, art stores, gift shops, etc. It was fun looking in them. I even bought a few things. Eventually I ended up a the arcade I had tried to find on my first trip down to Colorado Springs. It was a big open area under a roof, plus several store-sized buildings, with machines ranging from PacMan and Tetris to SkeeBall to ancient nickel Pinball machines. I spent more time and money than I should have there, but I had fun; I might have left earlier but it had been POURING rain since just after I got under the roof, and I was trying to wait it out. Finally it lightened a bit and I ended up making a run for it. I made one more stop on the way back to the car, at a custom T-shirt store. I ended up getting two T-shirts that each said Colorado on them; I have a hard time finding T-shirts that fit me, so it was nice to get some wearable souvenirs.

Since it was raining still, I ended up skipping Seven Falls. I did explore a little as I was driving out, taking Manitou Avenou instead of just going back to the highway; I recognized where I was and wound up at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center! I filled up my water and headed home.

Wednesday I went to Signal Butte, which I had gotten lost trying to find previously. I stopped first at the Fossil Beds to take pictures of some Indian Paintbrush flowers; I realized the whole meadow had gotten a lot greener since that week-long rainstorm!

I was about halfway to Florissant when I realized I had left the map I’d printed from MapQuest on the table, but I thought I remembered how to get there. I had to turn right on CR 51, at the place where I’d turned left before.Then turn left. Afterward I could take 51 back to Divide. So I turned on 51 and started looking for CR 362. I went a lot further than I thought I should. Finally I knew I’d gone way too far; I could see a town up ahead, and I would either have to stop there and ask for directions or turn around and go back the way I came. I came to the stoplight and recognition bashed me in the face: I was in Divide! I’d come full circle! I was really annoyed. I drove home, got the map, and headed out again. I suspected that the reason I’d missed the road was that this time, instead of having a number and not a name, the sign had had a name and not a number.

I turned on 51 and started driving. I got to a road that I knew was after the one I was looking for, so I turned around and went to look again.

The problem wasn’t what was written on the sign. The problem was that THERE WAS NO SIGN!!!

Once I figured that out it wasn’t hard to find the place!

Signal Butte is a huge bare rock mountain. It’s even more bare because it’s part of the area that was burned in the Hayman fire. As far as I could see were standing dead trees. There were a lot of flowers because of all that light, and some great views. I had been told that there were also a lot of wild raspberries along a trail, so I went out with a plastic container and my cameras. And, as though I hadn’t been warning visitors for a month and a half about the dangers of high altitude and dehydration, I left my water bottle in the car. BAD IDEA. I got maybe a third of the way up the butte, struggling quite a bit, and turned around when the trail started going straight up the mountain. I knew I couldn’t handle it. On the way down I picked raspberries. They were all over the place, but because the mountainside was so steep I was afraid to leave the trail. Even so, I got probably three cups of tiny, sweet raspberries.

I was in really bad shape by the time I got back to the car – dehydration plus lack of any shade whatsoever. Thankfully, a cloud came over for a while. I sat in the car and ate my lunch and drank probably a quart of water in about five minutes.Then I got out and took some pictures of flowers, and drove home.

I really enjoyed myself, despite what it may sound like. I was awed by the views, by the damage wrought on the forest, by the flowers that sprang up in response, by the incredible flavor of the raspberries. Even when I was in the process of getting lost, I was thoroughly enjoying the ever-winding roads and the endless groves of glowing white aspens.

I went to the Grange again for the potluck and music session. I managed to get up and sing harmony to one of the old songs; I’m going to try and find some that I know and that they know, so I can sing some more! I do love to sing.

The other thing that happened this week was that my grandmother on my father’s side passed away. It wasn’t a suprprise; she’d been going downhill pretty quickly, and we were expecting it. It was a bit of a relief, since she’d been so sick lately. She hasn’t had any short-term memory at all in the last few years, so it’s like we’ve been grieving her all this time, since she stopped being able to take care of herself – she really wasn’t herself anymore.

I was sad that she’s gone, but it was even harder because I couldn’t go to the funeral. I wish I could have been there and seen everyone. Joanne sent me an email telling me about Sky and Connor, the two great-grandchildren, playing together; I can picture it pretty well, but it’s just not the same.

But instead of the funeral, I got to hike up Signal Butte, and pick raspberries, and see vistas that took my breath away... or was that just the altitude?

Until next week.

Brenda
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Old Aug 3 2006, 12:17 PM   #35
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Alert! Alert! I found out that those children’s National Park mysteries that I was so excited over are going out of print! I am really upset about this because they’re such wonderful books, entertaining and teaching at the same time, so I sent an email protesting this to the publisher. If you want to do the same, here’s the info:

The books are the “Mysteries in our National Parks” series, by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson (both are award-winning writers.)
The publisher is the National Geographic Society, and you can contact them here.



This is what I sent:


Dear Sir or Madam,

This summer I am working as an intern at Florissant Fossil Beds, a small national park in central Colorado. One of my favorite items that we carry in the bookstore here is the children’s book series “Mysteries in our National Parks”, by award-winning writers Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson. I am 22 years old but have read through these books with delight; they are excellent children’s mysteries, but more importantly, they teach a great deal about many different national parks, and current issues in the parks, without making it obvious and boring. I feel these are a great and entertaining educational resource, and have been enthusiastically urging visitors, family members and friends to buy them.

Recently I learned that these books will soon be going out of print; that the publisher was going to stop producing them. I would like to register my protest, as someone who plans to have a career in the national parks, that these wonderful books will no longer be available to teach and entertain children. On your website it says that your mission is “To increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical and natural resources.” These books are an ideal way to do just that, and I think it is a great shame that you will no longer be producing them. I doubt that one voice will make any difference in this decision, but on the off chance that one might I am speaking out. Thank you for listening.
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Old Aug 4 2006, 12:15 AM   #36
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Brenda, I'm so glad you posted the alert. I'd missed your prior post of the weeks events and missed them! What will I do when your summer is over??? I have enjoyed reading about your adventures, I'll miss them very much.
I think your jam didn't turn out because you didn't mash them all up. I'm not a jam maker but it seems that you do need to mash 'em.
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Old Aug 4 2006, 02:31 PM   #37
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It may be lack of Pectin *tries to remember mum making jams*.

Either get some from a drug store/health food shop, or chop a bit of apple into the jam mix.
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Old Aug 4 2006, 06:24 PM   #38
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None of the recipes I looked at online seemed to require extra pectin.

Oh well, it tastes good!
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Old Aug 5 2006, 08:19 PM   #39
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Wow Brenda--I'm jealous! Just from reading your posts makes me want to visit Colorado again. I lived in Colorado Springs for over a year--many, many years ago.
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Old Aug 6 2006, 08:50 AM   #40
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Quick thought ..... you ARE using a cooking thermometer aren't you?
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