Monday, May 31, 2010

Denver Trip - Day 3 - Rocky Mountain National Park & Dinner Theatre

We couldn't go to Denver without spending a little time in the mountains. It was a nice day so we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park which was only about 30 minutes from our hotel. I got to use my Senior Lifetime Pass again as we entered the park.

We stopped for photos at the edge of Estes Park. The chipmunks were very friendly since most people had food. Begging is not beneath them. Hey buddy, can you spare a dime.........or a peanut?

Yes, he can.

We took several photos of couples with their camera so they could be in a picture together. There was a steady stream of tourists. I think that we could have charged a dollar a couple and paid for our trip to Denver if we wanted to hang around the Estes Park rock.

Estes Park

A necessary evil. If you are a retired electric utility engineer, the towers have a certain beauty.

Here is my one photo of the day.

Sigrid enjoys posing.

Interesting rocks that Sigrid saw at..........a rock shop.

Heading up into the Park.

What is left of an old glacier.

Click on the photo to enlarge it and read the board.

If you travel much in the west, you know that many of the pine trees have been destroyed by the Mountain Pine Beetles. What a shame. As you look up the mountains, 30-50% of the trees are brown instead of green at lower elevations. It doesn't seem as bad up high.

The snow was still 5-6 feet deep alongside the road once we got up to about 10,000 ft.

We went up until the road was closed due to snow that hadn't been cleared yet. It was a great view.

Sigrid ran into a very nice German couple who were touring the U. S. on their 3 week vacation. This was their second trip to the U. S. and I think they enjoy being here enough that they will return for more touring. We talked for nearly an hour and traded e-mails. They were renting an RV so they would have freedom to go where they wanted and stop when they wanted. We gave them a little advice on their next destination. Hopefully, we will hear from them when they get back home so we can share travel stories.

The Stanley is located in Estes Park. We drove past it on the way back down. The hotel has been used in several movies like "The Shining" with Jack Nicholson. We had a nice relaxing lunch in Estes Park.

Later in the evening, we enjoyed the Boulder Dinner Theatre with family members and friends. I think there were about 12 of us there to see Peter Pan. We really enjoyed the show and the food was good too.

Tomorrow is Jarek's graduation..........the main reason for the trip.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Denver Trip - Day 2 - Dodge City & Pueblo

May 19, 2010 - When we got into town late last night, we checked into our Best Western and then looked for a place to eat. We ended up at Montana Mike's Steakhouse which is a chain restaurant. Sigrid had a salad that she enjoyed while I got a really tough and gristly top sirloin that I chewed and chewed and chewed. I should have gotten a fillet........hardly anyone can screw them up.

Dodge City is on the Santa Fe Trail. The city is on the original site of the 1847 Fort Mann and later Fort Dodge. The city itself didn't really take off until after the Civil War. Dodge became symbolic of the old wild west because of it's freewheeling cattle town nature before being tamed by Wyatt Earp and his brothers. The town is also known for it's Long Branch Saloon, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, and bunches of other gun slingers and law men. Dodge's most famous current hometowner, Dennis Hopper, just passed away yesterday.
The entrance to the Boot Hill Park. Yes, I photoed the back side of the entrance and didn't realize it until it was too late. I had to flop the photo to make it look right..........of course, all the other signs are backwards now.
Old Dodge Main Street is recreated.
Sigrid and I got thrown in the clinker for not wearing cowboy boots in Dodge City.

A little Boot Hill history. Those were tough days.

Part of the old cemetery. The markers are all recreated since they were made of wood and rotted long ago.

National Beef and Cargill have huge meat processing plants in Dodge......some of the largest in the world. Thousands of animals are slaughtered and processed everyday. I have smelled lots of cattle poop over the years, but a processing plant has it own smell that is truly disgusting. It makes you think twice about eating meat when it first hits you. Amazingly, if you spend enough time in the smell zone, your mind can tune it out to some degree. Feed lots and processing plants are all over Western Kansas.
You may have to enlarge the photos by clicking on them to see all the cattle.

When we visited Wamego, there were supposed to be wagon ruts still visible from the Oregon Trail. We looked for them and couldn't find any. There were no signs marking the spot. It was disappointing. As we left Dodge, there were a couple of well marked spots where you could see the Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts. I have wanted to see wagon wheel ruts for my life is one more step closer to being complete.

The trail was in use from 1821 thru 1880 when is was replaced by the railroad as the best way to get from east to west. An early survey was done on the trail by, among others, George Sibley. Those in the Kansas City area have no doubt visited Fort Osage which is located just east of Independence in the town of Sibley. George was the Commandant of the fort and the town's namesake. The site for Fort Osage was selected years earlier by Lewis & Clark on their exploration mission to the west coast.

Again, you can enlarge the photos to read the boards if you like history.

The wagon ruts as they looked in an early photo of the Santa Fe Trail.

Now if you think that the ruts will just jump right out at you as you stand there, you would be wrong. The ruts are subtle. After all, they are just groves in the ground that have been eroding for the last 130 years. In another few generations, they will be gone all together.
To see the ruts you have to look for the slight ridges in the land or even differences in the plant cover on the ground. You can see ridges here and even a little trough about 50 feet wide. The wagons passed through with several wagons side by side at times and they moved from one side of the trail to the other to avoid the deep mud when things were wet.

Notice the variances in the vegetation.

You have to know what you are looking for in places and the photos don't do the trail justice.

It was cold and windy.

The pathway is a nice addition so people don't slog up the ground when they visit. Notice the swail under the pathway.

Kansas prairie short grass is a great place to live if you are a rabbit and the walkway is a good spot to hideout if a coyote is in the neighborhood.

On the way to Pueblo, we passed through Las Animas where the Bent County Courthouse is located. We had great light for photos and a classic structure. If you are wondering why the sky is so blue and the clouds are so white while all the other colors seem to pop out at you, there is a reason. I stuck a polarizing filter on my lens to get the effect. I am sure that many of you have polarizing sunglasses and you have noticed the difference when you put them on........its the same principle in these photos.

I hope you enjoyed these photos of the Courthouse renovation. You are paying for it. There was a big sign out front that said that this work was funded by the Economic Stimulus Program. This is one of those "shovel ready" tasks to put Americans back to least for a few months..........the work here is almost done. We saw a number of these kinds of projects as we traveled.

This is the River Walk in downtown Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is another neat old city that has done a great job of preserving its heritage and adding very compatible new features to make visits more exciting.

One of many 19th Century buildings in the old town area of Pueblo. There are hundreds of shops, restaurants, and other business in this part of town.

Sigrid bought some Southwestern pottery at this shop.

The old train depot.

As we neared Denver, Sigrid wanted to stop and shop at a big new mall in Castle Rock, CO. I, as always, stayed in the car to day dream. I couldn't resist the temptation to take pitures of clouds.

The next blog will feature Rocky Mountain National Park on Day 3.