& Betsy Blais
TRIPS & VACATIONS - COLORADO - 2014
Here is a summary of Bruce and Betsy's trips around Colorado in July and October. These were quasi-work-related trips since Bruce was working in Denver at the time.
This section also includes Colorado visits by friends of Bruce during the year.
The weekend of April 12th, Bruce's friend and mountain biking buddy, Bobby Duncan, came to Denver for a visit. During the visit they mountain biked North Table Mountain and Bobby gave Bruce his first lesson at skiing on snow. Below is Bruce on the learner's slope at Winter Park just west of Denver on day-one of his lessons.
Bruce quickly found his 50+ years of water skiing didn't give him any advantage. This was the one and only trip for the 2013/2014 season. They were supposed to go back the following day, but a blizzard forced cancellation of those plans.
In May, Bruce's friend Bobby Duncan was back out. This time, it was only for mountain biking. Another friend from Dallas, Richard Neidel, was also in the area visiting Jack, so they all met up in Golden for a reunion. Below is Jack, Richard, Bobby and Bruce on the Washington Avenue Bridge over Clear Creek.
Being springtime, Clear Creek was flowing well with the melt-off from the front range. Below is a kayaker in down-town Golden.
For dinner, it was over to the Buffalo Rose in downtown Golden. Below is Jack, Luna, Bobby, Richard and Bruce. Most of the group had Buffalo burgers.
Just down the street was a micro-brewery named "The Mountain Toad". Bobby raises frogs as a hobby, so he just had to try it out.
Finally, a dream come true for Bobby: a tour of the Coors Brewery. Growing up in Texas, Bobby was a big time fan of Coors since his college days, and probably before if the truth were known.
Happiness is Bobby Duncan in the brewhouse of the Coors brewery.
Just to make sure the brew was still "up to snuff", they had to do some quality assurance testing in the lounge. The taste of "fresh from the brewery" beer was incredibly smooth.
Bobby made sure he had enough samples to assure a statistically significant population.
They made one last photo at the big brew kettle at the entrance to the brewery. Below is Bobby.
Bruce at the kettle also. Although his preferred beverage is single malt Scotch, he does drink beer occasionally, and when he does, it is Coors.
Golden in July with Betsy - In July, Betsy came out to spend some time in the area. Their first night was for dinner and dancing at the Grizzly Rose in Denver. "The Rose" is a nationally acclaimed club, winning "Club of the Year" at the Country Music Awards a few years ago.
Their first outing was to Golden. Below is Betsy on the east end of Washington Street, the main street through town. Buffalo Bill days were in progress, so everyone was down at fair grounds.
Since it was the end of July when Betsy came out, the kayaks on Clear Creek gave way to tubes and rafts.
No first time trip to Golden is complete without taking the Coors Brewery tour. Below in Betsy at the ingredients display during her visit.
Next, it was into the Brewhouse. Below is Bruce at the entrance.
Further down into the Brewhouse, it was Betsy with some of the brew kettles in the background.
One more photo on leaving, this one with Bruce at the large kettle on display in front of the brewery.
After the tour, it was across the street to Bob's Atomic Burgers. Many of the locals recommended the place, so they thought they would give it a try. The burgers were great and they highly recommend the place.
Since Buffalo Bill Days were in progress, they made the trip up to the top of Lookout Mt. to the burial place and museum honoring Buffalo Bill. Below is Betsy at the entrance to the museum.
The place was full of all kinds of artifacts and memorabilia from Buffalo Bill's days as a scout and showman. It also included items from Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and other cast members. Below is Betsy at one of the many displays in the museum.
Outside the museum is the gravesite of Buffalo Bill and his wife.
It was a great trip. Buffalo Bill was one of those historical figures you really do not fully appreciate until you visit a place like this.
In July, 2014, Bruce & Betsy visited Estes Park, Colorado on their way to Rocky Mt. National Park. Below is a photo made at the entrance to the town of Estes Park.
Nearby, they saw a flock of wild turkeys at the entrance to the town. You have to look closely to see the turkeys in the center of the photo below.
From the entrance stop, they proceeded on over to the Stanley Hotel, one of the stops Betsy wanted to make. Below is a photo of Betsy by the waterfall at the back of the Stanley Hotel. The Stanley is probably best known for its role in making the movie "The Shining" by Stephen King.
Below is a photo of Bruce with a "Stanley Steamer" in the lobby of the Stanley Hotel.
Below is Betsy enjoying the view from the veranda at the Stanley. The cars in front of the hotel were there as part of a Porsche car show that was going on that weekend.
From the Stanley and Estes Park, it was on to Rocky Mt. National Park. Below is Betsy and Bruce at the entrance to the park. They drove Trail Ridge Road through the park.
Further along they stopped at one of the turnouts and Bruce took a photo of Betsy with Long's Peak in the background. This is 14,259' flat-topped mountain that has been used as a navigation aid for thousands of years. It was used by prehistoric hunters, the Ute Indians and early French trappers. Maj. Stephen H. Long led an expedition to map the area in 1820 and the peak was later named after him.
Further down the road, Below is a photo Betsy took of Bruce at overlook above Horseshoe Park.
Next, it was Betsy's turn for a photo at one of several overlooks along the way. At this point they were up at 11,000' and above the tree line. The ground was tundra and the peaks in the distance are in the range of 12,922' to 12,713'.
Even in the frozen tundra, spring was apparent.
Down the road they stopped at the Lava Cliffs. This is a geological formation known as a Welded Tuff. It was formed as the result of a violent explosion about 28 million years ago when the volcanic vents in the Never Summer Mountains 12 miles to the west became clogged causing the eruption. The lava came out so fast it fused into a solid mass creating the cliffs. Below is a photo of Betsy at the observation point. It was the end of July, and there was still snow around.
Bruce hiked up a trail to Mushroom Rocks. These rocks were born of fire and water. The dark-colored schist was originally sand, silt and clay at the bottom of an ancient sea. Magma invaded the schist and gradually cooled into the lighter colored granite. Mushroom shapes formed when the granite stems eroded more quickly than the schist caps.
The trail ended just past Mushroom rocks. The elevation at that point was 11,284'.
Coming on down, they crossed the Continental Divide. Below is Bruce at Milner Pass and on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide.
Below is Betsy at Milner Pass and on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide.
Betsy at the Beaver lake at Milner Pass. The beaver trade brought a new figure to the American west: the Mountain Man. Brigades of these men trapped beaver between 1820 and 1840. The illustration on the sign is from a painting by Jacob Miller of Baltimore made in 1837.
A mama elk and baby seen along the way.
Rocky Mountain National Park is an exceptional place and a place everyone should visit during their lifetime.
The following day, Bruce and Betsy began their "Grand Tour" of Colorado. This was a trip from Denver, through Evergreen to Mt. Evans, and then on to Vail and beyond. Below is Betsy at Evergreen.
Betsy & Bruce took a short tour of the town of Evergreen on their way to Mt. Evans. Below is a photo of the main street and down-town area.
Down at the end of the "main drag" is a quaint restaurant called the Prague. Notice the carved mountain lion on the ridge beam and the grass roof.
Inside, the furniture and finish was very rustic. The food was very good too!
Outside Evergreen is a Buffalo preservation area. Below is a photo of the herd with calves born that spring.
From Evergreen, they drove westward to Mt. Evans. On the way up to the summit, they passed Summit Lake Park.
Below is a photo of Betsy with Summit Lake in the background. The lake is 12,838' above sea level.
Up near the summit, they came to the end of the road and the parking lot. The sign there says you have reached the end of the highest paved road in America. The view behind the sign is obstructed by clouds.
Below is a photo of Betsy taking a break on the final hike up to the peak. The view was breath-taking. This is the first 14er she had done since going up Pike's Peak as a child.
The view from the top of Mt. Evans was spectacular. Below is a photo of the clouds and the horizon from the summit.
Going back down, they had to go through clouds.
Below is a photo of Betsy stopping to pose with some flowers along the way down.
More clouds to drive through. Driving through the clouds wasn't too bad, except where the road was narrow and dropped off quickly.
The road is bench-cut into the side of the mountain. Betsy was on the passenger side with white knuckles as they squeezed past oncoming traffic. The photo below shows the road in the clear. Part of it was descended in the clouds.
Below is an unnamed lake fed by Bear Creek, the outflow of Summit Lake.
Mount Evans was a great trip. If you are ever in the area during the summer, make the drive.
From Mt. Evans, it was on to Vail for Betsy's birthday dinner. She hadn't been there in over 30 years and wanted to see it again. She was amazed at how much it had changed.
Betsy admiring the flowers.
Betsy by the main plaza in Vail Village.
Betsy felt the town had lost it's quaintness, and was now nothing more than a millionaires playground.
On the way to Durango, Betsy & Bruce passed through Ouray. This is a very quaint town on US-550. The photo below is a panoramic from the highway south of town.
Some day they want to go back and spend some time in Ouray.
Down in Durango, they stopped into The Diamond Belle in the Strader Hotel for lunch. Below is an "after lunch" photo at the Diamond Belle.
From The Diamond Belle, it was over the Railroad Museum. Below is Bruce at the front of a locomotive in the museum.
Below is a photo of Bruce, a real engineer in the cab at the controls.
Below is a photo of a rail bike. It is interesting how the railroad mindset is on reciprocating action to make things go rather than spinning action.
The museum is in an old roundhouse. Outside the the museum is an old turntable used to bring locomotives into the roundhouse.
That evening, it was dinner and a show at the Bar D Chuck wagon. This is a world-renowned BBQ and western show. The BBQ dinner was average by Texas standards, but the show was very good.
On this trip, they didn't leave enough time to really see and do all Durango had to offer. Next time they will allow a couple more days.
On October 3, 2014, Bruce and Betsy drove up to the summit of Pike's Peak outside Colorado Springs. This was a memorable experience.
Below is one of the many views on the way up. For a high-resolution version, click on the panoramic image below and use the full-screen view on your browser.
The requisite "photo op" at the top of Pike's Peak is shown below. The altitude of the peak is 14,110 feet (4,300 m) above sea level.
Yes, it was cold up there! The temperature was 27F according to the dashboard, and the wind was blowing hard. Below is a photo of what the Suburban was telling them about the air temperature at the time.
The guy with the bike rode up! They passed this rider on the road up, near the top. The big question is, how do you get down off something like this? It was 20 miles and 6,000 feet of descent back down. Brakes would melt for sure.
Below is a panoramic view from the top. For a high-resolution version, click on the panoramic image below and use the full-screen view on your browser.
As they started down off Pike's Peak, they passed the Cog Train on the way up. the cars are diesel powered.
Below is another beautiful panoramic vista near the top. Betsy is taking it in from the comfort of the Suburban. For a high-resolution version, click on the panoramic image below and use the full-screen view on your browser.
Below is a panoramic photo looking towards Colorado Springs on the way down. For a high-resolution version, click on the panoramic image below and use the full-screen view on your browser.
Below is the North Slope Recreation Area at the 9,160' level on the up. For a high-resolution version, click on the panoramic image below and use the full-screen view on your browser.
The drive up to the summit of Pike's Peak was quite experience and one everyone should try to do.
From Pike's Peak, it was down to the Garden of the gods. The road to this attraction is off the road to Pike's Peak. Below is Betsy at Balanced Rock.
Below is a photo of Bruce making a slight "engineering" adjustment to Balanced Rock.
Below is a photo of Betsy at Steamboat Rock.
Below is a photo of "Scotsman's Head".
Below is a photo of the "Kissing Camels". Notice the opening at the top of the right camel.
Below are Gateway Rocks at Garden of the gods.
More rocks in the garden.
Below is Betsy with Signature Rock.
The tour of the Garden does not take long and can easily be combined with a trip up Pike's Peak.
On October 5th, Bruce and Betsy rode the Royal Gorge Route Railroad from Canyon up the Royal Gorge.
On display at the boarding area, was a Shay geared locomotive. This is a unique design specially developed for the mining and logging industries because it resulted in a more articulate locomotive that could better handle tight curves. Below is Bruce with the Shay.
The Shay has three vertical cylinders and an "automotive-like" crank shaft. The design pre-dated the internal combustion engine. Below is a photo of the bottom of the cylinders and crankshaft.
The side-mounted steam cylinders drive the front and rear four-wheel trucks using a system of drive shafts. This particular model had one front and two rear trucks.
Below is the "official" railroad photo of Bruce and Betsy getting ready to board the train. Their seats were in the domed observation car at the left of the photo.
Once on board, they ordered lunch, got comfortable and got ready for the ride up the gorge.
Below is one of the first sections going up the gorge.
Another view going up the gorge from the observation car.
Below is a photo of Betsy in the Club Car. The train also has an rogue ale specially brewed for the train.
Below is a photo looking up the Arkansas River made from the open observation car.
Looking back down-river with a rafting group on the river.
Below is a photo of Betsy with the gorge and bridge in the background.
A photo of Bruce with the gorge and bridge in the background.
Another shot down the gorge is shown below.
And yet another gorge shot.
The Royal Gorge Route Railroad has a nice promo video up on YouTube.
After riding the train up and down the gorge, Bruce and Betsy drove up to the bridge.
It was windy on the suspension bridge, and it was bouncing and swaying. The movement was a little spooky at first, but after a while, they got used to it. The bridge is 1,053 ft (321 m) high and is the highest bridge in the world. Below is a photo on the bridge with their hair blowing in the wind.
Below is a photo of Betsy with a better view of the gorge.
Needless to say, it was a bad hair day.
After visiting the Royal Gorge, it was back to Denver.
Version 0.2, November 14, 2014