Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nederland Colorado

September 18 - 21, 2016:

On leaving the campground at Estes Park, I stop at the dump station where they have a sign, "dump black tanks only", so I guess it’s OK to dump gray water on the ground ?  I look down at the drain pipe and it's not OK to dump at all, it’s completely full to the brim, but no out of order sign.  After a few expletives I go to the Sani dumps web site, look for other dump stations and the County Fairgrounds shows up.  As it is only a couple of miles away and I go there and dump with no problems and no signage about a charge, amazing how things sometimes work out. 

Our drive to Nederland, Colorado is only about 50 miles but the route is very scenic and called the Peak to Peak Highway.  We debated about taking this route as the name sounds rather ominous and there was a longer, less scenic alternate route.  In the end we went for the gusto and it was a good move, a beautiful route although plenty steep in places.  

Aspen road view near Nederland

We are house sitting for a few days at our friends, Judy and  Hughes Moir while they are away.  They live in the forested hills outside of Netherland Colorado, a very interesting town.  We were with them back in July at Logan Lake, British Columbia when they had to leave hurriedly as a forest fire was threatening their house.  Thankfully the fire was stopped about a quarter mile away and we now get to see the house.

The fire was a little too close for comfort

Nederland which the locals refer to as “Ned” is a rustic, quirky and somewhat alternative culture small town in a beautiful 8,200 foot mountain setting. You won’t find any chain restaurants, stores or fast food in town, but if you need that you can simply drive the 15 miles through the Boulder Canyon to get to Boulder for that stuff.  Nederland does have a diverse range of good culinary options available and businesses to cover all the basic needs.  It’s an outdoors activity mecca with hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, running, rock climbing and skiing. 

Railcar used by Buffalo Bill Cody in his Wild West Show 
converted into a coffee shop and cafe

Train Cars Coffee

Friendly door to the Pioneer Inn

Historic town Hall

Old garage with vintage Coca Cola sign

Flash Mountain Flood Band performed at Train Cars Coffee
were really great !!!

Steam shovel used during construction of the Panama Canal

Present Netherland, formerly called Middle Boulder was the site of a Silver Mill for the Caribou Mine owned by Abel Breed.  In 1874, Abel sold his Caribou Silver Mine to the Netherland of Holland mining company.  The miners referred to Middle Boulder as “the Netherlands” meaning “low lands” as compared to the Caribou Mines at 10,000 foot elevation.  In 1874 when the town incorporated, the people chose Netherland as the town’s official name. 
The Silver mine was short lived, the Dutch company pulled out and by 1890 Nederland became nearly a ghost town.  A second mining boom developed in the early 1900’s with the discovery of Tungsten used to make Steel. This continued until the 1950’s when mining faded away and Netherland then became mostly a beautiful place to live.   

As we had a neighbor in our prior life in Hightstown, NJ who once lived in Boulder and thought it was the greatest place on Earth, we had to go there to take a look.  We really didn’t see that much of it in about half a day, but the Pearl Street Mall area was awfully good.  However, the traffic, the crowds, the trendiness of it and the development were too much for me.  A nice place to visit but wouldn’t want to live there sort of place.

Many Breweries and Restaurants are good

Lots of activity in Boulder

So many architectural wonders

The Boulder Theater is really spectacular

As is the Boulder Court House, but don't want
to go there

Nicely landscaped Pearl Street Mall area

Beautiful Buckingham Building

Beautiful Odd Fellows Hall facade

To get to Boulder from Nederland is quite a spectacular trip through Boulder Canyon which must have been an engineering feat when constructed.  This road is in dire need of maintenance which eventually is going to be a nightmare for the local travelers. One of the beauties of Netherland, I think, is that it is a little remote and hidden away between the mountain peaks.

We notice a gravel side road heading into the rocks from the highway.  I return at a later time to investigate and find a small creek flowing between towering rock formations.  The caulk marks in the cracks going up the vertical rock faces, tell me that this is a prime rock climbing spot.  It is also a prime fishing, hiking spot and photography spot.  Unfortunately, the sky was mostly flat so the photos were drab.

The Jeeps look small next to that rock,
a climbing route was directly overhead

Crystal clear river

Someone fun art project on a dead tree in the river, it fooled 
me for a moment

Old ranch building along the Boulder Canyon Road

This house siting activity is pretty cool, large bathroom with shower, hot tub, satellite TV, working WiFi, this is the way to camp.

I frequent the Pioneer Bar downtown for lunch, have a really good bowl of green chili and strike up a conversation with a local woman.  She tells me she has been coming to this bar for 40 years and it’s about the only thing in town that remains virtually unchanged.  I was thinking they have done a god job of retaining the old town feel, but her point was that all the original town businesses are now tourist oriented and many of the residents are transients.  She was definitely an aging hippie type who lived in a 10 X 20 cabin with no electricity or running water in a nearby old mining town.  I have to wonder what the locals thought in the 1960's when all these young free spirited people came on the scene ?  

Pioneer Inn where several notable rock stars have performed

I can’t help but notice one thing in Nederland, every store and restaurant I have gone in has had good music playing.  We went to Crosscut Pizza which was excellent with nice classic music playing.  We went across the street to the friendly Rustic Moose store, again nice music.  The Pioneer Bar across the street has an open jam session night, a blues night and live bands most weekends.  This town has many resident musicians and live music definitely lives here.

Judy and Hughes return on Tuesday evening and suggest several good sightseeing adventures for Wednesday.  We start with a great breakfast at the Sundance Cafe followed by a ride through the old mining town of Eldora.  There seems to be about 100 old cabins, many real log cabins, some newer, all rustic looking.  We then drive to Brained Lake where we hike to Long Lake, over 9,000 foot elevation, in view of a glacierAfterwards we return to Nederland for a ride on the incredible “Carousel of Happiness”.  Back at the house, we watch the documentary film  “Grampa’s in the tool shed” about Trygve Baugve who brought his frozen dead grandfather from Norway and stored him in a shed.  Trygve eventually was deported, but the frozen body remains, after considerable controversy, and has become a major festival in town.  Finally we have a fine dinning experience at the historic Gold Hill Inn adjacent to the Bluebird Lodge, both built in the 1870’s when Gold Hill was a vibrant mining town.

Twinkles, Judy and Hughes at the table, check out
the huge plate in my spot, yum !

Road through Eldora

View along the Peak to Peak Highway

View along the road to Brained Lake

Trail view

Judy and Twinkles with the dogs

View from river bridge

Hughes and Twinkles on the bridge

It's an old vintage Carousel platform with hand carved
animals done by a local artisan.  Very Cool !!!

The bar at the Gold Hill Inn, I wonder if all these historic
bars originally had the girlie pictures ?

I thoroughly enjoyed Nederland, it’s my kind of town and surely will return in the future.  Last but not least, a special thanks to Judy and Hughes for their hospitality. 

Next stop is Colorado Springs, Colorado,

Twinkles and Slick

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

September 14 -17, 2016:

It’s another windy drive on route 287 south through Wyoming into Colorado. I have two GPS routes, one on the Garmin and one on the iPhone and am a little perplexed as to which route is best, I don’t really trust either one of them, but eventually go with the Garmin version.  These GPS directions often take you in convoluted paths, but you are never lost, well almost never.  

I eventually get on route 34 which runs along the Big Thompson River through a deep twisty canyon following a line of traffic through a construction area.  The River was beautiful and lined with fishermen, tourist cabins and camps.  I was actually happy to be traveling slowly through a construction zone as otherwise I would have been creating a backup behind me and pulling over when possible to let cars pass.

Approaching the front range of the Rockies

We arrived at the Hermit Hollow Campground a few miles outside of Estes Park, Colorado in early afternoon.  It’s one of several campgrounds operated by Larimar County, Colorado.  We originally hoped to camp inside Rocky Mountain National Park but found it fully reserved.  Hermit Hollow Campground is situated a few miles up a curvy gravel road, rough in places, at an elevation of approximately 8,400 feet.  It’s very secluded feeling as we have this camp loop all to ourselves at the moment, but most sites are reserved for the weekend.  It’s really quiet and dark, even with the current full moon and the park ranger told us to watch out for the bears as the road in front of us is one of their favorite paths.

A nice open campsite

We take a ride to downtown Estes park, it’s your typical tourist town, lots of restaurants, souvenirs, outdoors gear, tee shirts, etc, but still has a small town feel to it.,_Colorado

Nice landscaping on Elkhart Avenue

Lots of mountain gear

Also Salt Water Taffy

The historic Park Theater

The Wapiti Pub deck

The historic Stanley Hotel built by Freeman Stanley of
Stanley Steamer auto fame

 It’s a perfect sunny day as we start off into Rocky Mountain National Park on the Trail Ridge Road.  The park is definitely crowded this time of year with the changing colors of the Aspen leaves and the bugling Elks. This is a crazy road, actually the road condition is excellent, but the sights and change in elevation and weather as you travel is unique.  The road climbs from an elevation of 7,840 feet at the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center to it’s high point of 12,183 feet just prior to the Alpine Visitors Center.  At the higher elevations, dark clouds rolled in and we even had a brief period of snow.  At the Alpine Visitors Center, we warmed up with coffee and headed back to Estes Park.

In the valley where the Elk roam

A scenic turnout on the way uphill

In the arctic zone above the tree line

Into the clouds and snow flurries 

Alternating sun and clouds on the way back down

Our next adventure is on the Bear Lake Road which we first drive to the end, stopping at a few roadside pulls for photos.  Our destination was the Bear Lake trailhead at the end of the road.  The signs indicated the parking lot was full and they were correct, so we then backtracked to the Park and Ride Lot where we caught the free shuttle bus.
It would be an understatement to call this trailhead crowded, as the Bear Lake Trail and it’s connecting trails are probably the most popular trails in the park.  The Bear Lake Trail is fairly level through the forest to the Lake which is a beauty, we then continue around the lake and then head beyond to Nymph Lake which was equally scenic.  The wildlife, the ground squirrels and Clark’s Nutcrackers, along the trail have adapted to the presence of humans and come up to you without fear to beg for food.  We had seen this before with the squirrels, but the birds were a surprise.

In the valley

Great views

The Aspens are starting to turn

View at Bear Lake

Bear Lake trail view

Nymph Lake view

Nice reflections

We then took the shuttle to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and took the trail to Alberta Falls.  As we are over 9,000 elevation and haven’t been hiking lately much lately that was enough exercise for us.

Trail to  Alberta Falls

View from edge of river gorge

Alberta Falls

View from the top of the Falls

Close up view of Alberta Falls

Estes Park has an Arts and Crafts Fair and the town is packed with people.  We go the fair for a while, it’s a good one with quality stuff, but the RV is overfilled now, we need to get rid of stuff.  We leave and take a ride Fall River Road to the Alluvial Fan Area.  We find a place to park and take a short hike across part of the bolder strewn Alluvial Fan.  This is a huge washed out area created by the failure of an upstream Dam after a period of heavy rainfall. The level of destruction is  pretty amazing and they have left it all natural to better illustrate the power of water.

Early 1900's view of the road in spring

View of the Alluvial Fan area washed away by the flood

The flood waters carried huge boulders
downhill like toys

I venture down the hill to Estes Park for a while on Friday evening stopping at the Wapiti Pub for a beer and to listen to a local performer.  It’s a interesting pub right off the main drag, mostly outside tables with gas heaters, a bar to the side and a stage.  The musician played from 7-9 mostly for the dinner crowd and was very good.  At the end of his set, someone requested a Jimi Hendrix song which was a stretch for his acoustic guitar, but he complied and got on a table for it.

The bar scene

Table top playing

We then leave the Park and drive south on route 7 to Lily Lake where we park and walk the trail around the lake.  This road is very scenic and known as the Peak to Peak Highway.  We also stop at the Longs Peak turnout for the view of 14,255 foot Longs Peak, the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Along the route is a historical marker for Enos Mills.  He is quite a story, he arrived in 1885, at age 15, from Kansas and built a cabin.  He worked as a cowboy, a miner, climbing guide, innkeeper, author, naturalist and conservationist.  He wrote well and proposed the creation of a National Park from Estes Park to Colorado Springs.  President Theodore Roosevelt supported the idea and in 1915 Rocky Mountain National park, of a reduced size, was dedicated.  The original homestead cabin remains and is open during the summer for tours.

Longs Peak view along the Peak to Peak Highway

View from the Lily Lake trail

It’s Sunday and the journey must continue, the next stop is Netherland, Colorado, 
Twinkles and Slick