Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Late Autumn Joy!

Happy Halloween!

I usually don't decorate that much for Halloween, because it is easier to decorate just for autumn and the harvest, but I could not resist this plastic skeleton when I saw him in my local Costco a few weeks ago.  A skeleton costume was my favorite Halloween costume to wear as a child. I think I was influenced by the popular song of the time, called "Dem Bones"-- you can hear the song on this YouTube link...

When I was a nursing student, our anatomy professor told us to buy a paper skeleton and use it as a study aid.  I bought a life-sized one that hung on the door of my dorm room all year. After I graduated it became a favorite Halloween decoration for my apartment, and then my house, for many years.  I discarded it when I moved from New York to Colorado, so now, this plastic "Sylvester" Skeleton will become my new skeleton friend. He's much more durable than paper! 

A new family tradition for us to do with our grandchildren is to visit Anderson Farms, in Erie, Colorado, and go to their pumpkin patch to pick out some pumpkins. There are many activities at the farm to enjoy, and my grandchildren love it, as you can see by the collage above! (Please click on the photo collage to enlarge it) Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with us this year. We did not get the opportunity to take the hayride to Anderson's pumpkin patch, as it began to rain heavily an hour after we arrived, but you can see the glorious views of the Rocky Mountains we had from the farm's pumpkin patch, last year, on this link,

Now that my husband is retired, he is enjoying helping me babysit out granddaughter when both our daughter and son-in-law are working during the day.  They had fun playing together in the leaves he raked this week.  It was a pure autumn joy for both of them!

We actually had to delay raking those leaves this past weekend, because this big beautiful mule buck deer sat in our backyard almost continuously for two days! Just look at his magnificent 6 point antlers! He enjoyed eating the grass and leaves in our yard and then sitting down to enjoy the sun. Since we live in a valley of the foothills of Colorado's Front Range and have lots of open space nearby, we often have deer visitors, but this guy stayed the longest of any!. What a gift it is to see beauty like this in our own backyard!

Finally, we were included in a new neighborhood tradition this year.  Someone rang our doorbell one evening, and when we opened the door a plastic baggie of candy with an attached two-sided note, told us we have been "Boo-ed!"  If you click on the collage above you can read what this means and how we had to share with others. Our block was fully covered, so we "boo'ed" friends who lived a few blocks away.

 It is hard to believe in will soon be November, and in the USA the Thanksgiving holiday will soon be here! I never decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving -- just one holiday at a time, please! Autumn is my favorite season, so I like to make it last as long as possible.  Do you do the same?

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sprague Lake, Bear Lake and Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain NP

My husband and I visited Rocky Mountain National Park in early October to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.  I showed many photos of the beautiful autumn colors we were fortunate to see in the park in my last post at this link. During our visit, we also hiked around a few of the beautiful lakes in the park.  Sprague Lake, a 13-acre lake located along the Bear Lake Roadhas a half-mile walkway around it that offers scenic views of the Continental Divide Peaks of Taylor Peak (13,158 feet), Otis Peak (12,486), Hallett Peak (12,713) and Flattop Mountain (12,324).  The lake is named after Abner Sprague, who, along with his wife, owned a resort in this area from 1910 -1940, and introduced their guests to the pleasure of high water fishing and hiking in this area.

The opposite view from Sprague Lake, as we walked its perimeter.

Another view.

As we walked around the lake, enjoying the scenery, we saw a couple in the distance who were exchanging marriage vows!  Just look at the beautiful mountains in the background as we approached where they were standing!  (I blurred their faces with an editing program to protect their privacy)

About three miles away from Sprague lake is Bear Lake.  Bear lake's elevation is 9,450 feet, and the trail around it is 0.8 miles.  The top of Hallet Peak can also be seen from Bear Lake...... well as Longs Peak (14,259 feet)! I love how I am learning to recognize the mountains in the park, and I love this view

A close up of the summit of Longs Peak.

As you can see by the informational placard and the trail sign, Bear Lake is the starting point for many trails.

We decided to take a trail through the woods to see Alberta Falls. I am not the best vertical climber, and the first part of the trail was easy, but I struggled towards the end as the trail began to climb higher, by about 200 feet to 9,400 feet.

Happily, I kept hiking, and at last, was rewarded with the view of Alberta Falls! The scenic 30-foot waterfall thunders down a small gorge on Glacier Creek  If you would like to hear Alberta Falls you can watch a short video on my facebook page at this link. Alberta Falls is named after Alberta Sprague, the wife of Abner Sprague, both of whom were early settlers of Estes Park and owned a resort lodge that was located in the early years near Sprague Lake.  Their resort was torn down in 1957 by the parks department to return the land back to a natural state.

My husband and I enjoyed sitting by the falls for a while, enjoying the sound of the water and the late afternoon sunlight that made the trees glow.

This was the only wildlife we saw on the trails along the lakes and waterfall -- the Golden Mantel Ground Squirrel! They look like chipmunks but do not have stripes on their head. They are used to seeing many people on the trails and can be brazen, begging for food, but we always follow the rule not to feed the wildlife--there is plenty for them to eat in nature.

The most exciting part of our visits to Rocky Mountain National Park is when we drive up to the highest peaks and walk on the Tundra Trails, but I'll save that for a future post.  If you'd like to see our trip up to the "Roof of the Rockies" last year, click on this link.  This visit we saw the remnants of a snowstorm in the high elevations that was there from the week before. It was so beautiful!

See you back here soon!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park in Autumn

The 100th Anniversary celebrations of Rocky Mountain National Park began this year in September, with special events held each month until next September, and my husband and I felt that visiting the park again on our 40th wedding anniversary would be a fun thing to do! I want to thank everyone for all their well wishes on our anniversary and my husband's retirement on that post--you made our celebrations even happier with all your nice comments!

Autumn's full tree and shrub color begins early in the higher elevations of Colorado in September, but we hoped there would still be some color in early October......

....and, happily, we were not disappointed! 

There were still many aspen trees on the lower part of the park in full leaf.

They made a beautiful necklace around the lowest perimeter of the park leading towards Longs Peak

The spectacular Rocky Mountain vistas are breathtaking, but autumn colors along the way made this visit to the park an extra special treat.

We were fortunate that there had also been a snowfall on the high mountain peaks the week before, that made them also look even more defined and beautiful!

Everywhere we drove there were autumn trees to light our way.

The first day we entered the park, we stopped at one of the large meadows towards the late afternoon, as we knew the elk rut season was still in progress, and we hoped to see some elk herds gathered there. The first meadow we stopped at was in the Moraine Park section.  We saw a large elk heard in front of the Stanley Hotel the day before in Estes Park--click here to read that post and see a couple ghosts-- but seeing the elk in Rocky Mountain National Park is always a treat, as they are in a more natural environment.

Again, we were not disappointed!

We watched this herd from afar as the elk bull paid careful attention to his harem of females and young juveniles.  He also entertained us with quite a few bugle calls--click here if you'd like to see a youtube of an elk bugling!

The fencing in the backgrounds of some of the photos above is an effort by RMNP to conserve some of the trees and vegetation from the ever-growing elk population. The entire report about this effort can be read here.

We were excited to see two young bulls practicing their dueling skills in the meadow. When they are mature adults they will be able to attract females by proving their superior physical strength as part of the mating ritual, by challenging other bucks and winning the duel.  Some bulls will even fight to the death!

Also delightful for us on our first day in the park, was taking a few strolls along aspen trails.  The wind rustling the quaking aspen tree leaves is such a beautiful sound!  Would you like to hear it? Then please go to my blog's facebook page at this link, and you will!  I posted a short video there. It was quite windy the first day we were in the park. I hope you will also look around at other things on my facebook wall as I always try to share uplifting and interesting things I find on Facebook, as well as blog updates and personal things.  I also have an Instagram page which you can access on this link. I am amazed by all the wonderful photos I am finding on Instagram, and connecting with people through photography.

I have more to show you about our autumn visit to Rocky Mountain National Park on future posts. It's a big National Park!

If you'd like to read a more detailed trip we took through the park last year--we traveled the entire Trail Ridge Road through the park, which is the highest continuous paved road in the United States--you can click these links: RMNP Part One, RMNP Part Two, RMNP Part Three.


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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park--America's Most Haunted Hotel?

As I wrote in my last post, my husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in early October. After a special dinner celebration in a local restaurant with our family, we decided to also celebrate by spending a few days in one of our favorite places in Colorado--Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park and the surrounding areas were hit hard by flooding last September, when over 14 inches of rain fell on consecutive days, and the rivers swelled and overran their banks with water and mud. Tourism is one of Estes Park's major commodities, and they lost millions because the damaged roads and businesses from the floods halted one of their busiest seasons.  They worked hard under the motto "Mountain Strong" to rebuild, and we wanted to support their efforts by spending time there.   Estes Park is about 73 miles north of where we live, and to get there we drove the very scenic Peak to Peak Highway.  As you can see from the photos above, the views along this road are spectacular!  There was still plenty of autumn foliage remaining that made it even prettier.

As we drove into the town of Estes Park we saw the beautiful and historic Stanley Hotel standing on a hill in the distance.

We were excited to have a three-night reservation to stay at this hotel, and our excitement grew even stronger when we saw this enormous herd of wild elk grazing on the grass of the hotel's front lawn!

September through October is the "rut season" for elks, where elk bulls gather elk cows into harems, and aggressively guard their harems against other bulls. The bull elk for the harem that was in front of the Stanley Hotel this day was very busy herding his many cows to a place under the trees to eat and rest. He kept a close eye on them to keep them from harm.

The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley, the inventor of the Stanley Steamer. He had been sent west by his doctor, a few years earlier, as it was thought that mountain air would improve his health. He did feel better staying in the town of Estes Park and fell in love with the area.  He bought land from Lord Dunraven and built his magnificent hotel there--a complex of eleven buildings, some of which are still in use today.

The hotel is full of vintage photos, and historical markers.  F.O. Stanley can be seen in the collage above in the upper right.

As soon as I stepped onto the front porch of the hotel I could see why it is world renown.  Its views of the Rocky Mountains are outstanding! Longs Peak has particular prominence in the distance.  I took a short movie of the clouds passing over Longs Peak, while I was sitting on the front porch of the hotel, which you can view on my blog's Facebook page click here.

The main staircase inside the hotel.

Views from the back of the hotel, inside the main lobby, special side rooms, and the staircase.

Our very comfortable room was on the third floor in the front side section of the hotel and had three windows that looked out at the mountains and the town of Estes Park.

That evening we had dinner in the hotel's Cascades Restaurant.  Inside the restaurant, there is also a Whiskey Bar and Lounge that offers almost 600 different brands of whiskey!  The menu is American steakhouse style, with an emphasis on locally grown Colorado foods.  We had a view of the Stanley Hotel's backyard cascading waterfall from our window as we dined.  I enjoyed the Crispy Prawns as my appetizer, followed by Braised Boneless Short Ribs, while my husband had Burrata Mozzarella served in a wild mushroom fino sherry jus, followed by a Colorado Lamb Shank served over wilted Swiss Chard and Lentil Ragout.  Afterward, we both enjoyed Irish Coffee as our dessert.  It was a memorable and delicious anniversary dinner!

Some views of the Stanley Hotel at night. Our hotel room can be seen in the top right photo.

The Stanley Hotel has a long reputation for being haunted!   The hotel even offers tours that highlight all this paranormal activity. The novelist Stephen King was a guest in the Stanley Hotel in the haunted room 217, and he found the experience so unsettling that it inspired him to write his bestseller novel "The Shining."  I've always thought that The Shining was the scariest book I've ever read--it is much scarier than the movie version--and I was intrigued by the thought that this hotel could be haunted, although I really don't believe in such things.  Like all older buildings, we did hear squeaky stairs and rattling windows, but I slept very soundly all three nights, without any sight of a ghost.......
............. But wait.........look at what I found when I downloaded the following photos........

Please click on this collage to enlarge it for easier viewing. The photo on the left shows the back of Hotel Stanley's reception desk. When we were checking in I noticed that the old-fashioned room keys hanging on the wall grid behind the reception desk began to glow and flash.  I wanted to ask the reception clerk if that was a special effect of some sort, but because my husband was conversing with the clerk I did not want to interrupt and took this photo instead. Soon after I took the photo the keys stopped flashing, so I did not mention it to the clerk or my husband.  Imagine the chill I had when I finally saw this photo!  Do you see the streaky shadow to the left in the photo?  If you look closely you can make out a hand......or at least I can see you?
The photo on the right is even creepier. My husband and I walked down to see the outside of room 217 --the room that is supposed to be haunted, and the room Stephen King stayed in.  I took a photo of the door and thought no more of it.  Can you see what I see in the flash reflection on the door? At a quick glance, I see a face!  Do you?  I can't say I believe in ghosts, but I did think these photos were pretty uncanny! What do you think?

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