Monday, July 20, 2015

Tourism, Toilets, and Traps

It has been a busy month a the LoDore Campground. Weather has been great with most of the rain falling on either side of my campground. I installed an official rain gauge at the start of July and we've had less than a third of an inch in three weeks.

This is the peak season and I've been assisting four to five raft groups and up to eighty people per day launch their adventures down the Green River.  Dinosaur National Monument has actually seen a 12.7-percent increase in total visitation in the first six months of 2015. This is partly due to the great weather and marketing of the 100th anniversary of the creation of both the National Park Service and Dinosaur National Monument.

Visiting friends help those statistics too. Dave and son, Calvin, DeWitte are coming here for hiking and a one day float trip with me during the first week of August. In addition I get to accompany another River Ranger 3-day float trip this weekend, July 25th. I hope to take some videos on that trip.

Pit Toilets with Solar Lighting
When not working to help launch daily boat trips, I've been doing construction and maintenance projects in the campground. Recent projects have been a) the rain gauge, b) repairing the four photovoltaics powered lighting systems for the pit toilets and c) installing eight "Bear Boxes" in the campsites to safely store food from hungry animals: black bears, ravenous squirrels, wood rats, and zombie bats. Sorry, no pictures are available of them.

I've trapped and transported out of the area three brush-tailed wood rats and a couple pest squirrels that have been either tearing into rafter's dry bags containing food at the boat launch ramp, or making homes in the engine compartments of staff vehicles where they scratch out the insulation materials to make nests.

Double Bear Box

Monday, July 13, 2015

Rafts, Rocks and Pod People

June 29, 2015
I’m back from my Green River raft trip that was shortened from a four day trip to only three. We were consistently surprised throughout the trip. We found no evidence of black bears activity: no tracks, no scat, no scent, and no behavior indicators. Despite that the river campsite was posted as closed and all access was cautioned.
Raft caught in Hell's Half Mile Rapid, July 2015 Seen from River Left
As for the river raft lodged in the Hell’s Half Mile rapid, our mutual assessment was that it wasn't worth the risk to our lives to try and access the raft in order to remove it. Provided here are two of the pictures I took. One shows it from ‘river left’ from which we would be required to wade, first to an island, and then to the raft in deep, swift current. The second shows how well lodged the raft was perpendicular to the current trapped between to rocks. Enlarge the picture to note the mangled aluminum frame bent from the powerful hydraulic forces. I showed the picture to a river guide that frequents the area and he said he had a trapped “ducky” stuck there recently. Surprisingly, it eventually popped itself out. A “ducky” is an inflatable kayak (IK) that has an inflated floor separating two inflated tubes joined at both ends.
Raft caught in Hell's Half Mile Rapid, July 2015. Safe Passage is on Right of Raft
The third surprise of the trip was the freakish rain/wind storm we had on the second night. Try cooking while the wind is strong enough to flatten your tent. It wouldn’t stop until we persuaded the last person in the group to wear and zip-up their rain jacket. That trick always seems to work as the rain and wind stopped. In the distance we watched some large lightning strikes and heard the resulting thunder.
On the next morning we saw a helicopter fly low over us heading up river. It turns out that where we stopped to look for bears was hit by lighting on the ridge and had already burned about 115 acres of juniper/pinyon habitat and was heading down the canyon towards the campsite. Because the area is so inaccessible by land helicopters have been flying water buckets all day to cool down the fire in our 90 degree heat. Twenty or more fire fighters are trying to drive in from the south and west but have been stymied by the difficult terrain.
In the meantime it’s snowing here in the campground. Well sort of. The cottonwood trees are releasing their seeds into the air and there are periods when it looks like a heavy snow storm. The seeds pile up in eddies and look like some alien spawn infesting all back-country.
Sleep well tonight sayeth the Pod People.
Cottonwood Seed Accumulation (The origin of POD People)





Yeah, Science Rocks!

May 22, 2015

I want to recommend reading about the fine work being done by Geologists-in-Parks interns here at Dinosaur National Monument. A great project combining paleontology and computers. Yeah, Science Rocks!

Dinosaur National Monument Facebook Page

Sand Wash Basin: Stallions, Sheep, Steers and Survival

June 5, 2015
Just a short drive from my summer home in northwest Colorado is Sand Wash Basin. “The Sand Wash Horse Management Area (HMA) includes 154, 940 acres of public land, 1,960 acres of private land, and 840 acres of State school section lands, for a total of 157,730 acres. Sand Wash Basin is surrounded by ridges and mesas. Lookout Mountain on the northeast boundary is the highest point in the HMA at 8,120 feet, and the lowest point is where Sand Wash exits the HMA at an elevation of 5,800 feet. 

The Sand Wash Basin receives 7 to 12 inches of annual precipitation, and the climate is typical of the cold deserts of the Rocky Mountain Region, with warm summers and very cold winters. Vegetation types within the HMA include sagebrush/bunchgrass, saltbush, and pinyon-juniper woodlands.” ~ BLM


Sand Wash Basin is, like most HMAs scattered across the West, controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as one of many western Horse Management Areas. There are roughly 300+ wild horses that live there. They come in many colors and breeds: grey and sorrel, buckskins, duns and paint. Genetically they mostly come from Iberian derived Spanish breeds, Gaited breeds, North American and Arabian breeds. After all, horses were introduced to the continent by man.

So, what do I mean by “wild horse”? The stock definition referring to animals says that being wild is: 1) living or growing in the natural environment; not domesticated or cultivated. 2) Uncontrolled or unrestrained, especially in pursuit of pleasure.

These wild horses compete for the land’s resources with sheep, cattle, oil and gas companies, ORV enthusiasts, and farmers. Money talks and it tends to say wild horses are a nuisance. In fact, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has tried to annihilate every wild horse in the state. The BLM sets maximum permitted heard sizes in the HMAs. When the limits are exceeded horses are often rounded up and sold as meat, put up for adoption by the public, or simply slaughtered.

BLM Horse Management Areas
To the wild horses that inhabit Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin being wild is more personal than the dictionary meanings imply. They like thousands of other wild horses of the West are living a tenuous existence. Their future is uncertain. It’s hard to imagine the west being THE WEST without wild horses.
I visited the Sand Wash Basin last week after the roads became passable after the spring rains. I found several small herds or families of very skittish wild horses along the few dirt roads. A couple pictures are provided here pending receipt of the new camera I’ve ordered to be able to get better pictures from a distance. I’ll return for more images this summer.
For better pictures and to better understand the plight of these beautiful creatures a visit to this website and others are encouraged.
http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-the-proposed-destruction-of-the-sand-wash-basin-herd

And did you know that the area is under consideration, as it should, for designation asa national monument?
Wild Horses of Sand Wash Basin

Watchful Eyes of the Wild Horses of Sand Wash Basin

Floating the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument

July 1, 2015

Below is an evocative, promotional video of concessionaire-based raft trip on the wild Yampa River. The Yampa is the last un-dammed tributary of the Colorado River system that merges with the Green River inside Dinosaur National Monument. That confluence of rivers is seen at 3:50 into the video when you float by the long vertical wall on the right in an area called Echo Park. In my next journal entry I'll post pictures I took during my recent trip down the Green River. Until then watch this journey. American Whitewater Website Description of the Yampa River">

Green River Float – Launch Time

June 26, 2015

We are about to launch this morning but the itinerary and tasks have changed somewhat. We received word of black bear bluff charging at our intended first campsite, Pot Creek, on the Green River We'll be closing the two campsites there until further notice necessitating shifting raft party campsites up and down the river to safer locations. It seems the bear was not easily deferred by throwing rocks at it. This is the second straight year with problems at the site.


Is a fed bear a dead bear? The answer is complicated by variable protocols in state and national parks and how wildlife managers interpret the circumstances and regulations. My experience is likely different than yours with bears. I’ve had bears succeed at getting food out of food caches I've carefully elevated along the Appalachian Trail where I’ve hiked. I’ve also walked up to a dozen wild black bears with a five-gallon bucket of their favorite food and poured it on the ground right at their feet where they sat waiting. I did that at the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary in Orr, Minnesota.

The accompanying link below from the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely, MN addresses this issue of feeding bears and is worth a read.
We’ve also received word of another raft being stuck in the rocks downstream at Hell’s Half Mile rapids. The rafters were unable to extract the raft from the powerful hydraulic forces that hold it fast to the rocks. This may be posing a safety/navigational issue that we will likely try to address.
So, it’s looking like I’ll have an interesting adventure this week. News at 11 (in July when I return).

Fixin' To Float

June 25, 2015

I’m busy today packing gear and food for a four-day raft trip on Friday down the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. I’ll be accompanying the N.P.S. river rangers on their patrol of the 19 miles of the Green before the free-flowing Yampa River joins it for the remaining 25 miles to our take-out at Split Mountain.

Along the way we assist rafters and kayakers navigate Class II and III rapids and inspect/clean about 18 campsites along the river. Descriptions, photos, and videos taken with my new camera of the journey will be posted here in July.
I’m looking forward to this retracing of John Wesley Powell’s explorations (1869 and 1871) of the once unknown river.
"Now ‘tis a black portal to regions of gloom. And that is the gateway through which we enter (on) our voyage (of) exploration tomorrow – and what shall we find?”                                - John Wesley Powell, 1869
One of our first stops should be a Winnie’s Grotto as shown in the etching from Powell’s expeditions. The image above is of the Gates of LoDore.

Rats!

Toad Haul Manor Journal - June 22, 2015

Here in Colorado’s high desert there are lots of rabbits, mice, voles and rats. I have to seal off all the cable entrances so that the tiniest rodents don't crawl through even ¼” gaps.

Ranger Richard’s patrol vehicle has become the favorite dinner spot for much larger, yet adorable 17” bushy-tailed woodrat. It brings its meal of green vegetation, seeds and fruit up into the protected space under the car hood and sleeps atop the air cleaner and battery.

Coincidentally, the vehicle has started having ignition problems. Go figure! As a result, I had to set out a live trap to catch him and his relatives. I've caught and transported four so far. These woodrats have litters of 2-6 once or twice between May and September. They normally make nests of sticks under logs or in a rock crevice On the first attempt, we caught him with a lure of peanut butter. I transported and released him a mile away with the hope he won't return.
Shown below are a couple pictures of our visitor. Adoptions are not available since this is National Park Service property.

Brushy Tailed Rat in a Live Trap #1

Brushy Tailed Rat in a Live Trap #2 (Aren't I cute?)

Brushy Tailed Rat in a Live Trap (Open the Darn Door!!!)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Day With Zeus and Phorcys

June 21, 2015

Two Greek gods were present today: Zeus on Zenobia and Phorcys, a god of the hidden dangers of the deep, on the Green River. This was my day off, but I often stay in camp to assist rafters have a safe boat launch. You develop a sense of responsibility for their safety as you advise them about both the awe and dangers of the ever changing river and the requirements for safety equipment.

My day began with three rafting groups each vying for spaces on the boat ramp: one commercial and two private groups. They were all ready to launch sooner than normal so that afforded me more of the day to go do something different on my day off. Go up into the sky I thought...
Zenobia Fire Tower, Dinosaur National Monument
About 12 miles to the south as the crow flies is the highest peak in the area along a ridge of the Uintas called Douglas Mountain. At its 9,022 foot top is Zenobia Peak. Zenobia means "life of Zeus" It’s about 3,400 feet higher than the campground and has a commanding view of the region. Those 12 miles require 28 miles of travel along poor county roads and then about five miles on a very rugged and steep jeep trail across some private land and then into the eastern approach to LoDore Canyon.

It took me about three hours to drive up to the peak and two hours to drive down. You need the padlock code to get through the Park Service gate about four miles below the summit. Frankly, I was surprised I made it all the way to the top in my little, low-slung 1999 Honda CRV all-wheel drive vehicle. Some of the road ruts were wide and 16” deep from the spring rains. Tough little car!

Atop Zenobia Peak is a National Park Service fire tower staffed by one man on ten out of every 14 days. The fire observer makes his frequent trips to and from the tower in an extended cab, 4-wheel drive pickup that the National Park Service provides.
View from Zenobia Fire Tower NE to Hwy 318

Zenobia Basin, West of the Tower draining into Green River, CO

Pot Creek Drainage Area along the Green River (location of fire that started during my trip)

The Road to Zenobia Fire Tower

The next nearest fire tower is about 12 miles to the south and can be seen with binoculars from Zenobia. Each tower is about 35 feet tall and built of heavy timber, is solar powered, and equipped with a weather station and assorted radio and fire spotting gear.

Amazingly, in the short time I was there we spotted a fire to the northwest that had just started and already burned about six acres. Fire fighters were quickly dispatched from several local agencies in the region to contain the fire. Of course, the views from the tower were outstanding. With a 360 degree panorama I could see 40+ miles. I could have seen up to 100 miles (e.g. Steamboat Springs) but for the haze from recent California fires that has drifted into the region. 

I returned to the LoDore Campground by dinner to be greeted by sad news that Phorcys had likely claimed a 34 year old man from Denver that I helped launch onto the Green River only four days ago. He was lost about 12 river miles below the LoDore Campground in Triplet Falls, a Class III rated rapid where another raft party was rescued just last week.

Soon after my arrival National Park Service river rangers, Moffat County Search and Rescue volunteers, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife came to the campground boat launch from their respective headquarters. They risked their lives to go as far downstream as far as they could in the remaining daylight so they could devote tomorrow to recovery of the still missing body.

The Bassetts, Barons and Bandits

Toad Haul Manor Journal – June 18, 2015
Josie Bassett was born four years prior to her more notorious sister Anna M. Bassett. Their parents, Amos Herbert Bassett and Mary Elizabeth Chamberlin Miller, resided in the area known as Brown’s Park (Now Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge). Herbert was twenty years older than Elizabeth.
Their parents ran a profitable cattle ranch despite and because of the local outlaws and rustlers in the area. Their cattle grazed widely across the Colorado border into both Wyoming and Utah. The outlaw culture preceded the Bassetts in Brown’s Park by several decades. Fresh beef and horse meat were hot commodities in the mining communities in eastern Colorado.
Similar to Josie, Ann Bassett was educated in a boarding school, was intelligent, articulate and desirable to the many men that called northwest Colorado their home. At heart Josie and Ann both preferred the rustic cowboy life to fineries of the big cities of Denver and Salt Lake City.
If you remember any of the B-grade western movies of your youth the common theme in many were the very real conflicts between sheep herders, homesteaders, rustlers and cattle barons. Several cattle barons unsuccessfully tried to buy out the Bassett ranch and when they failed they started a feud by rustling their cattle. Eventually the cattlemen brought in a killer named Tom Horn, (a hired gunman, army scout, Pinkerton, range detective, cowboy, soldier, and assassin of 17 men.) Horn killed several area rustlers but never bothered the Bassetts.
In about 1896 the relationships of both the Bassett daughters got a wee complicated. Josie Bassett was seeing an Elzy Lay, Butch Cassidy’s best friend and liked Butch since a young age. Ann was seeing Ben Kilpatrick. When Butch Cassidy was released from an eighteen-month prison sentence Ann Bassett turned her affections to Butch and Elzy stopped seeing Josie in favor of a Maude Davis, his future wife. Josie then started in with a Will “News” Carver. No matter the intricacies of the changing affections the sisters and the gang all got along and the sisters acquired a degree of protection from Butch and all his gang in dealing with conflicts with the cattle barons.
In early 1897 both Ann and Josie became two of the five women occupants of the infamous Robbers Roost hideout. Some Pinkerton reports and subsequent photographic analysis done at Las Alamos indicates that Ann was actually operating under the alias of Etta Place but Etta was also known to have been the Sundance Kid’s girlfriend!
By April of that year both sisters were sent home from Robbers Roost so that Butch could finalize plans for their next big heist. Butch and Sundance both fled to South America in 1901 to avoid the law that allegedly caught up with them in 1908.
Time moved on and by 1903, Ann Bassett married Henry Bernard. That marriage lasted six years, but her husband stayed to help both the Bassett women maintain their respective ranches. By 1904, nearly all the outlaws that associated with the Bassetts through the years were either in jail or dead. Ann was repeatedly accused by the cattlemen’s associations of rustling, but neither she nor Josie was ever convicted.
Twenty-four years later Ann married for the second time to a cattleman named Frank Willis. Ann stayed at their Wyoming ranch until her death at the age of 77 in 1963. She died having acquired the reputation of Queen Ann of the Rustlers.
http://mentalfloss.com/article/51368/mystery-ann-bassett-and-etta-place

Ann Bassett's Cabin in Brown's Hole

Butch Cassidy Front right) and Sundance Kid (Front Left)

Ann Bassett

A Band of Thieves and the Bassett Sisters

Toad Haul Manor Journal – June 17, 2015

After John Wesley Powell and George Leroy Parker, possibly the third and fourth most famous persons from northwest Colorado were Anna (“Queen of the Rustlers”) Bassett and her sister, Josephine Bassett Morris, or Josie to her friends. Josie is best known for living a long life as an independent pioneer woman. She came from Arkansas to Brown’s Park north of what is now Dinosaur National Monument. She didn’t have the typical upbringing of her fellow settlers in the valley. Her parents had the largest library in the region. Originally home-schooled, she was later sent to Salt Lake City, not to a Mormon school, but to St. Mary’s of the Wasatch to be taught by Catholic nuns. There she learned the social graces. Sadly she had to return to Brown’s Park when her mother died.

That important schooling put her on the most desirable list in a region of few women and a surplus of men. Having her choice of suitors she showed some favor to a young George Leroy Parker, better known to us as Butch Cassidy. However, he was one disinclined to settle into the life of a farmer/rancher. Even so she spoke highly of Butch throughout her life and generally thought that the region’s outlaws and rustlers weren't much different than her contemporaries, they just chose to do their “business” in a more public fashion. Being an outlaw was OK with Josie as long as one didn’t steal a horse or kill anybody. With that attitude she was repeatedly accused of being a rustler herself, but in every court case she was exonerated.

By 1914 when she was only 40 years old Josie had churned her way through five (5) husbands, bore two children, and decided to move out of Brown’s Park to an area called Cub Creek within the current boundary of Dinosaur National Monument.

The site was adjacent to a natural box canyon (see photo). It’s a pretty and secluded spot maintained by the National Park Service with its own natural spring that once fed several gardens. She raised cattle and kept hogs in the canyon. Trees have since taken over the canyon, but a small hiking trail leads up to the end of the canyon. In the nearby meadow she grew field corn, alfalfa, potatoes, onions, radishes, and grapes.

Her solitude was idyllic and she was able to socialize as needed by ride her horse to the town of Jensen, Utah. She’d also drive her buckboard to town about every 10 days to acquire what she couldn’t grow for herself in extensive gardens fed by a local spring. Pictures provided below show the present state of the rustic cabin some 98 years after its construction. She lived there 47 years and was active until age 90 when a horse knocked her to the ground and broke her hip. It took several days for someone to come to her rescue and take her to a hospital. While recovering, she fell and again broke the hip again causing her to be sent all the way to Salt Lake City for treatment. She wanted to convalesce at home but before that became possible she died and was subsequently buried in the Bassett family plot in brown’s Park.

Josie’s rugged life and pioneer spirit along with her association with known rustlers and bandits led to her life being chronicled in Life Magazine in 1948.

The story of Josie’s notorious sister, Queen Ann, is best left for another day.





Lizard Sighting

June 6, 2015
The other day I was fortunate to capture a picture of this odd looking lizard outside a building? I’ve never seen this one before. Can anyone help me identify it? It looked very fast and about 2’ long from nose to tail.

What is this?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Vermillion Falls: Sand Slurry and Stingers

Toad Haul Manor Journal – June 4, 2015
Rain in northwestern Colorado is low and infrequent. Most rain arrives in May concurrent with the snowpack melt from the Uinta Mountain range. Between the LoDore Campground and Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the north the Green River is fed by numerous small drainages plus several seasonal creeks including the Vermillion.
Summer comes quickly after the rains cease. Until then whenever it rains the Green River turns brown carrying with it enormous quantities of sand from the adjoining hills. Now that the river level has dropped, the once clean concrete boat ramp at the campground is now covered in 18”of sand deposits.
There’s a nearby river gauge at Vermillion Falls where the abrasive contents cascade over a twenty foot high escarpment before entering the Green River just above the campground.

Most of the eroded sand washed are flat and become dry or desert marshes during the dry season and, as such, very quickly become breeding beds for voracious mosquitoes that are presently inundating the campground. It has been in the 80’s for four straight days. This is making mowing and raft launches difficult. Yesterday while mowing a service road adjacent to the marshy draw it became quite uncomfortable. I had a swirling cloud of mosquitoes around my head constantly dive-bombing my eyes and ears. Time to order a mosquito head net!

At today’s morning raft launch my green pants legs were literally covered with mosquitoes that couldn’t penetrate the fabric. My special long-sleeve also prevented pointed proboscis problems. Thankfully, once the rafters enter the Gates of LoDore Canyon the mosquitoes greatly dissipate due to lack of suitable habitat and steady river canyon breezes.
Saturday, June 6th is the 146th anniversary of explorer John Wesley Powell’s first Green River expedition camping at our location before entering the Gates Of LoDore to chart the Colorado River basin. We’re having a simple ceremony the next day including an interpretive Ranger’s talk about the importance to western expansion of this brave and deadly journey.




Rangers, Remodeling and Retirement

May 21, 2015
Out of frustration with the unpredictable WiFi reception in the campground I just ordered a signal boosting radio, router (WiFiRanger Elite), and antenna, and 23’ portable/RV mountable mast that will allow me to pick-up signals from up to 2 miles away. Just as important, the Park Service management agreed to increase our internet service provider’s data limit because we are bringing on two seasonal law enforcement rangers that will be housed at the LoDore Campground for the summer. We receive our Internet feed via a satellite dish connection from Exede.com
I also really need to do something about the telephone reception here, but it’s an expensive endeavor to have a fall-back carrier or also buy a cell signal booster system. Cell phone service is basically non-existent and we have to rely upon land lines that don't always work. I’m stuck in a Sprint/CREDO contract for many months. Even the Verizon MiFi gifted to me by Mark and Mary Million won’t work in this rural area despite having the best nationwide coverage of all the carriers. Only occasionally do AT&T cell phones work here. No other carrier serves this part of Colorado. The MiFi will come in handy when I plan to migrate to Las Cruces, New Mexico for the winter. (For the geographically challenged, New Mexico is not the same as Mexico.)
We just finished the remodel of the unused ranger bunk house, installed a new gun safe and composite flooring, and cleaned out the living area and garage so the first seasonal employee can start work today.
So, it looks like it’s becoming a testosterone-laden “All Boys Camp” here for the summer. I’m retired and these are three guys are all at the start of their park service law enforcement careers. I’m two or three times their age. Time will tell how that will play itself out.

Safety, Syndromes, and Sirens

May 20, 2015
I had hurried back to “Campground LoDore” the night before because I needed to get up early to drive the two hours to the Utah side headquarters of Dinosaur National Monument. The Monument Superintendent had scheduled the start-of-season training and potluck day and Ranger Mike and I needed to be in attendance. There were well over 50 staff on hand to get an introduction to Monument procedures and protocols, safety training, etc. I got to meet more of the personnel that I’ll be working with throughout the summer including the “River Rangers” that start patrolling the river today.
Some of the training was redundant to classes I had taken through the American Red Cross on topics such as blood-borne pathogens, fire safety, customer service, integrated pest management [We have deer mice, white-footed mice; rice and cotton rates, brushy-tailed rats,and pack rats], infectious animal disease precautions (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Tularemia, Giardiasis, Colorado Tick Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and OH JOY, THE Plague.)
Staff got to practice discharging ABC class fire extinguishers onto contained fires. P.A.S.S. for fires was the acronym of the day: Pull the extinguisher pin, Aim, Squeeze, Spray the base of the fire with fire retardant.
Fire Extinguisher Practice
My highlight of the day was fast driving the law enforcement outfitted 4-wheel drive Jeep back on the muddy roads to Campground LoDore. Sorely tempted was I to play with the radar, light bars and Yelp/Warble/Thunder/Wail siren. Oh well, better to be a mere driver than wearing plastic handcuffs while in custody in the back seat. Been There, Done That.                                           No, not really.


Beer, Babes and Bowls

 May 19, 2015
Arapahoe Basin Colorado
In departing from Rocky Mountain National Park my goal for the day was to head south to I-70 near Denver and west up the foothills and over Loveland Pass a very short distance to the Arapahoe Basin ski area base at 10,780 feet. I’d purchased an online lift pass from Liptopia (highly recommended) that included two discount beer coupons and a $15 lunch.
Getting out of YMCA of the Rockies took longer waiting for the cafeteria to open. After snarfing down breakfast I hurried to A-Basin to arrive by 9:30 AM, the start of the Golden Hour when the snow ceases being icy from the night’s freeze and is not yet water-logged from sun melting. Come on folks, this is May 18th! A-Basin gets 350 inches of snow in a typical year. It is the only ski area that is still open for business and will be until June 8th this year. Saner people have moved on to their summer mountain sports of hiking, biking, camping and white water rafting. There may be snow above 7,500 feet, but that doesn't stop the early birds maximizing their time in the mountains on the trails or water.
The lift lines at A-Basin were non-existent and the skiing was great at higher elevations. Fast groomers and open southern ski bowls lured what I estimate were 90% expert skiers and boarders. There were an amazing number of expert, very young, women skiers .It's no longer a male dominated sport. I met one of the beginners on my last run of the day.
I first time I skied A-Basin was in 1963, but I’ve only skied it a couple more times since preferring many other Colorado resorts like Vail and Breckenridge. After 50+ years the slopes felt different: less intimidating, warmer, easier, but still challenging. After a couple hours trying what seemed like new runs to me I headed down to lunch. The cafeteria was closed in order to herd patrons to the more expensive bar restaurant. Good but pricy Calzones and 1554 Black Lager beer.
As the afternoon wore on the snow got wetter and wetter until at the base one had to steer the skis as if you were water skiing in melting snow cones. You start to think it would be easier to ski wearing pontoons rather than skis. Wet, heavy snow can stop you in your tracks even on a very steep run. It can be dangerous, especially for beginners. Such was the case on my last runoff the day. I stopped by this cute 22 year old that was being abandoned on the hill by her better skiing relative. “What if get hurt she deplored?” I offered to follow her down the remainder of the trail. She took off barely under control. It was only her second day ever skiing.
As we progressed the snow got stickier and heavier with every turn. Eventually her skis went one direction and she went the other followed by a loud pop in her right knee. At rest her skis were pointing downhill. She tried to get up and somehow did before she could stand no longer and for the longest time just kept careening out of control gliding and bouncing on her derriere with outstretched hands trying to grab the slope to stop. I shouted repeatedly to just lie down to affect a stop. Eventually she did. I flagged a skier down to send for ski patrol.
A patrol arrived in about 5 minutes. In the interim I got to practice my Wilderness First Aid incident assessment protocol just relearned just three days prior and transferred the info to the patrol upon arrival. The young lady’s relative finally appeared on scene as it began to intermittently rain and snow and was persuaded to take the victim’s skis and poles to the bottom and inform her husband.
With that drama over I made my way to the hill bottom, passed on the second discounted beer and packed-up to drove 3.5 hours to Craig, CO to get a week’s worth of groceries and then drive the final 90 minutes in rain to “Camp LoDore”. Long day! The Dufus Brothers were very glad to see me and clung to me all night.
Arapahoe Basin received another 20” of snow that night. That gives me three weeks to return before the ski season is over…Hmmmm...


Rocky Mountain National Park - May 18, 2015


Ahhh....a nice end to the day; finally at the highest alpine road I can ascend in Rocky Mountain National Park west of Estes Park, Colorado. My dogs stayed at home in the RV under the care of Ranger Mike.

I've just completed two days of a refresher course on wilderness first aid and two additional days of outdoor leadership training from the National Outings Program of the Sierra Club.

After the 120 participants left I am staying an additional day to re-explore Rocky Mountain National Park where I've traveled three times previously at different times of the year. Had I waited one week I could have fully travelled to the summit and down the back side cutting two and one-half hours of my drive to or from my RV located in northwestern Colorado.

This afternoon I drove to the summit closure sign of Trail Ridge Road situated at about 10,000 feet elevation and then traveled by foot a ways up to road to get a better view of the winding road and the surrounding peaks, valleys, rivers and wildlife. The crows and magpies, as well as the chipmunks and marmots, are out in force begging for food from the already growing number of tourists venturing into the hills. There are as many international visitors present as US citizens, all seeking glimpses of mountain bluebirds, western Tanagers, Wapiti, black bear and Bighorn Sheep.

View towards YMCA of the Rockies
The air is sunlit, warm 39 degrees and the panoramas are scented in fresh pine, all breath taking, and inspirational. In the “parks” and game trails below I can see herds of elk waiting their chance to also ascend to high pastures and fewer disturbances from humans. By "parks" I mean the 1880 definition of “parques” (meaning enclosures) that they defined the open meadows of the valley floor. In these meadows were the beaver they trapped and the brown and cutthroat trout they fished. Estes Park acquired its name from the presence of these many parques.



Soon these meadows will be covered by Snow Buttercups, bright yellow Golden Banner, orchids, alpine sunflowers, Blue Columbine, and wild roses.




Like Dinosaur National Park, this is the Centennial year for Rocky Mountain National Park, Celebrations will occur throughout the summer. This is a good year to make your visit.










YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park

A small herd of wintering elk roam the paths and greenspaces of the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, CO where I am spending four days in training with the national outing program of the Sierra Club.

John Wesley Powell and the Gates of Lodore, 1869

Toad Hall Manor Journal – May 8, 2015

John Wesley Powell (photo below) is famous for his explorations of America’s West, in particular the Green and Colorado Rivers. Author David Worster (A River Running West: The Life and Times of John Wesley Powell) has described Powell (or Wes, as his friends called him) as a fervent nationalist, a trained scientist and skilled ethnographer… He has come to represent all that is daring and wise in the move west: a one-armed man who took a boat down the wild Colorado River, who undertook to survey the great reaches of the new frontier, who stood up for indigenous people and protected the environment.”
Three days after the driving of the spike at Promontory Point, Powell met his expeditionary crew to prepare for his adventure. A few days later he began his journey in four wooden boats from the Flaming Gorge area of Wyoming into what is now Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah. Powell and crew of nine stopped and stayed overnight on June 6th, 1869 on the very spot my RV resides today: the entrance to the Gates of Lodore on a wide elevated sandbar occupied by sage and pinyon brush and a couple very old Cottonwoods.
Rising up to the south of this spot is a cathedral like chamber that draws your vision up and into the mysterious canyon. Sometimes glowing, sometimes sullen, and occasionally shrouded in a Shangri-La-like mist what lies beyond the entrance was a great mystery to Powell. All he really knew is that in a distance of 900 miles the river dropped nearly a mile in altitude.
On June 7th this one-armed man climbed the a couple thousand feet up mountain at the entrance to try and get a better view of his future. He wrote in his journal that night “The river fills the channel from wall to wall… and as I write, the sun is going down and the shadows are setting in the canyon. The vermillion gleams, and rosy hues, the green and grey tints are changing to somber brown above, and black shadows below. Now ‘tis a black portal to regions of gloom. And that is the gateway through which we enter (on) our voyage (of) exploration tomorrow – and what shall we find?”
Unbeknownst to him ahead lay true disaster, but I leave that story for another day. Better that you begin your own journey mental journey down the river in the same mood of romantic adventure that captured these brave men. As they began their journey one of Powell’s crew suggested the formal name for this location based on his remembrance of an English waterfall in a poem written by Robert Southey:

The Cataract of Lodore

How does the water 
Come down at Lodore?
My little boy asked me
Thus once on a time
And moreover he tasked me
To tell him in rhyme.

Anon, at the word,
There first came one daughter,
And then came another,
To second and third
The request of their brother,
And to hear how the water
Comes down at Lodore,
With its rush and its roar,
As many a time
They had seen it before.

So I told them in rhyme,
For of rhymes I had store;
And ’t was in my vocation
For their recreation
That so I should sing,
Because I was Laureate
To them and the king.

From its sources which well
In the tarn on the fell;
From its fountains
In the mountains,
Its rills and its gills,—
Through moss and through brake
It runs and it creeps
For a while, till it sleeps
In its own little lake.

And thence at departing,
Awakening and starting,
It runs through the reeds,
And away it proceeds
Through meadow and glade,
In sun and in shade,
And through the wood-shelter,
Among crags in its flurry,
Helter-skelter,
Hurry-skurry.

Here it comes sparkling,
And there it lies darkling;
Now smoking and frothing
Its tumult and wrath in,
Till, in this rapid race
On which it is bent,
It reaches the place
Of its steep descent.

The cataract strong
Then plunges along,
Striking and raging,
As if a war waging
Its caverns and rocks among;
Rising and leaping,
Sinking and creeping,
Swelling and sweeping,
Showering and springing,
Flying and flinging,
Writhing and ringing,
Eddying and whisking,
Spouting and frisking,
Turning and twisting,
Around and around
With endless rebound!
Smiting and fighting,
A sight to delight in;
Confounding, astounding,
Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound.

Collecting, projecting, 
Receding and speeding,
And shocking and rocking, 
And darting and parting, 
And threading and spreading, 
And whizzing and hissing, 
And dripping and skipping, 
And hitting and splitting, 
And shining and twining, 
And rattling and battling, 
And shaking and quaking, 
And pouring and roaring, 
And waving and raving, 
And tossing and crossing, 
And flowing and going, 
And running and stunning, 
And foaming and roaming, 
And dinning and spinning, 
And dropping and hopping, 
And working and jerking, 
And guggling and struggling, 
And heaving and cleaving, 
And moaning and groaning; 
And glittering and frittering, 
And gathering and feathering, 
And whitening and brightening, 
And quivering and shivering, 
And hurrying and skurrying, 
And thundering and floundering; 
Dividing and gliding and sliding, 

And falling and brawling and sprawling, 
And driving and riving and striving, 
And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling, 
And sounding and bounding and rounding, 
And bubbling and troubling and doubling, 
And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling, 
And clattering and battering and shattering; 

Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting, 
Delaying and straying and playing and spraying 
Advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing, 
Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling, 

And gleaming and streaming and steaming and beaming, 
And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing, 
And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping, 
And curling and whirling and purling and twirling, 
And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping, 
And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing; 
And so never ending, but always descending, 
Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending, 
All at once and all o’er, with a mighty uproar; 

And this way the water comes down at Lodore.

Sierra Club National Outings Program Training

May 7, 2015
Well, I no longer use an external frame pack, and my sleeping bag is about one-quarter the volume, but I do still go camping. In this picture (circa 1960) I’m heading off to YMCA summer camp in Evelyth, Minnesota. Next Wednesday I’m travelling to a different YMCA location, the palatial YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado for the Sierra Club’s National Outings Program leader training refresher. Besides the leaders meeting, I'll be renewing my Wilderness First Aid (WFR) [pronounced woofer] training certificate. I’ll get to spend some time in Rocky Mountain National Park where I've been several times, last with my wife Jan.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Old Fashioned Updates

You have to marvel at what passes for news some days especially in small, rural communities. One of the top three Google news items listed online today for my current community (Mind you that community is encompasses about 7,400 square miles of NW Colorado!) says:
“The Friends of the Hayden Library will be updating one of the bulletin boards in downtown Hayden across from the Kum & Go to inform the community of events and other newsworthy items.”
In times of war, racial and sectarian violence, and Hollywood scandals one can come to appreciate the simple things in life that don’t have to include updates on what the Kardashians are up to now. What an exciting time to be in Hayden.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Floating the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument

Toad Haul Manor Journal - July 2, 2015 I recently had the pleasure rafting for three days down the Green River with two National Park Service River guides (both women) and a river law enforcement ranger.

Provided below are some photos of the journey: