Sunday, 14 September 2014

Into the Rockies to Dillon

Deer in Estes Park

We’ve finally left Anne and Larry’s ranch at Livermore and driven to Dillon via a very scenic route over the Rockies and through Estes Park. Our last day on the ranch turned out to be fairly miserable and damp but, for me, it started off with a longish drive to pick up Roger and Jane from Estes Park and take them to Denver airport for their three week European holiday, taking in six days in Iceland, seven days in the Grand Massive in France and eight days in Paris. 

The light dusting of snow in Estes Park
They will be back before we leave the US and we’ll be seeing them again for a few days at the end of October, so look forward to hearing of their holiday. After my 06:30am start, after feeding cats and dogs at dawn and driving through drizzle and rain and low cloud, I was at Roger and Jane’s by 08:00am in time to say hello to Bill and sit and read the daily paper whilst flapping was going on around me! Have you got your passports was my only question, but despite the heavy rush hour traffic in Denver (yes it’s the same the world over), I dropped them off at the airport on time at 10:30 and was back home in amongst animals and ranch life by 12:30, still in the drizzle! The only place it was nice was in Estes Park, where it was sunny, they really do have their own micro-climate there.

We were amused by this Portapotty in a parking area. It says 'Potties for the Rockies'
A walk above the lake in Dillon
The damp weather continued, so we went off to the Farmers Market that is supposed to be on every Thursday 3:00pm to 6:00pm, but when we arrived at 3:20pm it was all closed up, so instead we took a trip into Fort Collins where, in the Nepalese shop Pauline bought a fabulous pair of trousers, while I chatted to the Nepalese owner. When we got back to the ranch some things had moved, potted plants had been brought inside, tables and chairs had moved, but all became clear when we had a call from Anne who said they had asked a neighbour to bring in the plants as it had gone much colder. 
Brian, Pauline and Jackie
They were on their way back but as they had been driving through heavy snow they were worried they wouldn’t get back. They arrived back at about 7:00pm, just as we were finishing dinner and we had an evening with them chatting and drinking wine, before they retired to their bed in their RV outside, and we went to sleep in their house! It felt very strange, but we were up at 07:00am to feed goats, let out the chickens, feed the peacocks, feed the wild birds, put out nuts for the squirrels and feed dogs and cats all for the last time. After packing the car and saying goodbye to Anne and Larry we were off (after picking some fresh veg from their garden) and all felt very sad we wouldn’t be seeing them all again, particularly those big eyes and soppy looks from the two dogs Coda and Jet.

The cute little chipmunks in Dillon
As we had the whole day we decided to take the pretty route to Dillon rather than the Freeway, which involved taking the same route back to Estes Park I had taken the previous day through Lapointe and Loveland. The open land closed in as we approached the mountains, entering a steep sided gorge with only a road and river, with a sign at the entrance that said ‘In case of flood, climb to safety’. The road had been swept away in places in the flood of September 2013 and, on looking at the steep cliffs on either side of a road squeezing in the narrow pass alongside the river, you can just imagine the horror of those people who were caught and drowned when a wall of water funneled down and swept them away. It’s dramatic and beautiful in there, but it’s a reminder of the power of nature that a little river flowing can be so dramatically transformed.

And a Jay
As we entered Estes Park the weather again was brighter and sunny, but there had been a little snow overnight and the trees and mountain peaks around had a light white covering, making it look more like a ski resort. A brief stop, allowing Pauline to buy a pair of shoes, a coffee and some salt water taffy (a local sweet), we drove round the town looking for Elk to show Pauline. We’d seen loads when we stayed with Roger and Jane, but do you think we could find any?! We carried on due south following the scenic route, came upon some deer that were a fine substitute for not seeing Elk, found ourselves up at 11,000 ft with great views of dramatic mountains and on passed ski lifts, ski hire shops and then down to Dillon, set at 9,100ft in the midst of 14,000ft mountains towering round this small town with a huge reservoir. Just as the weather forecast had predicted, the sky was blue, it was fairly warm and the views fabulous. We took a walk along the river, picked up the key to our airbnb apartment, cooked dinner, cracked open a bottle of wine and watched a film (that turned out to be crap!).

More chipmunks!
They were very tame and quite happy to come close
Today, clear blue sky again and a warmer temperature, although cooler first thing in these alpine altitudes (At 9,100 ft, the town is almost twice as high as Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK), we set off for a driving tour of the lake. The way to do it is by bike, it’s 22 miles round and has quite a few stiff climbs on it and, being a Saturday, it was busy with local folks out for the weekend on their bikes. Half way round, on top of a small hill overlooking the lake we did a short 2 mile hike round the hill for wonderful views of the lake, towns and the surrounding magnificent mountains. It’s a justifiably popular walk, with quite a few other people there and we had to do half of it again to reach a viewpoint that was busy with people on the first circuit. The viewpoint had a double bonus, not only great views, but half a dozen or so tame little chipmunks, who were quite happy to come up close to us and pose for pictures.

The repositioned old Frisco buildings
even the jail was original, as I found out
The town of Frisco was our next stop, down at the lakeside and a great little place. Some of the old buildings in the old town had been saved by moving them to a special area and rebuilt as a museum. They were not replicas, but the original buildings, furnished with original artefacts, making it a very interesting stop. We were accompanied on our tour by a local 13 year old, who was very sweet and ‘adopted’ us for our visit. The town was also quite interesting, but Pauline thought it looked a bit like a ski resort, despite the girl in the Visitors Centre pointing out that we were in the original Town Hall.

Frisco and it's mountains
The original Town Hall, now a visitors centre
Walking back to the car we passed a glass making shop, decided to drop in and found the owner in the process of making a special wine glass for a customer. She was so excited to see her wine glass being made, he getting her involved by blowing through the glass making tube, rolling and forming the shape along with him. It was really quite interesting and, of course I took loads of photos, which I now have to email to her!

In the glassmaking shop and the customer blowing the glass
Even Jackie had a go
One more walk for the afternoon, just a little walk up to Lily Pad Lake, halfway up a mountain at 9800ft, only 3 miles round trip and only 600ft of ascent we told Pauline! It turned out to be quite a climb and Lily Pad Lake was a bit of a disappointment, but we got occasional good views through the trees, got conversation with some people we met on the way and a good couple of hours out in the mountains.

The glassmaker (John) and the customer at work
Not quite finished, but as much as we saw
It’s our last evening here and both Jackie and Pauline are sitting yawning after a bottle of wine and dinner, but I wanted to do a blog entry as our next stop near Glenwood Springs, in a cabin by a creek has no internet, so we’ll not be in contact for the next two days!

The walk up to Lily Pad Lake

Halfway up at a river crossing

Some great views on the way

But the lake was a little disappointing

1 comment:

  1. Sad you didn't take more doggie photos! It all looks jolly interesting. What do you mean the lake was disappointing? You lot are getting spoilt!