Sunday, January 25, 2015

Loveland Pass, Loveland Ski and Arapahoe Ski Basins

One sunny day in October my husband and I decided to take a drive up into the Rocky Mountains for the day. Instead of going through the usual route on Interstate 70 through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, we decided at the last minute to take another route, on Highway 6, through Loveland Passwhich was the road one had to drive before part of the tunnel was opened in 1973. (All photos and photo collages will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on.)

The pass is named for William A.H. Loveland, who was the president of the Colorado Central Railroad and a resident of Golden during the late 19th century. The city of Loveland, located in Larimer County is also named after him. The pass, located on Highway 6, is the highest mountain pass in the world that stays open regularly during a snowy winter season.  On the east side of the pass is the Loveland Basin ski area.  It is one of Colorado's highest ski areas with a summit of 13,010 feet. and the second highest ski lift served areas in North America, at 12,697 feet.  It is one of the closest ski areas from Denver and the Front Range, and popular with locals

As we continued to drive on the twisty road towards the Continental Divide, we could see how this road could be a very treacherous drive during the winter months.

The steep, steady 6.7% grade along the road, with numerous hairpin turns, makes it difficult to snowplow. The Colorado Department of Transportation does its best to keep the road open. This is the major route across this part of the Rocky Mountains for trucks caring hazardous material, as they are not allowed to drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Thankfully, my husband enjoys driving on roads like this, as long as the driving conditions are good, and I like to snap photos along the way! We found the views along the pass so exciting!

At the top of the pass, there is a pullout parking area, and we stopped to take in the view.....

..and to do a little hiking.

The trail was narrow and muddy, as even though it was October, there had already been snow at these elevations.

It was exhilarating to be at the top of the Continental Divide at this point.

We could see a few backcountry snowboarders taking advantage of the early snow to ride down the summit.  Sadly, in April of 2013, an avalanche at Loveland Pass claimed the lives of five snowboarders. It was the deadliest avalanche in Colorado since 1962.

In an effort to control avalanches, the Colorado Department of Transportation will temporarily close mountain roads and use long-range blasting to move the snow down, and then clear it from the road. It is quite an important job here in the high elevations of Colorado, which see large and frequent snowfalls

The view of the parking area that we had from the top of the trail. As you can see there was another, wider trail on the other side. Perhaps a place we will hike in the future?

We returned to our car and continued our drive over Loveland Pass. 

On the south side of the pass, the Arapahoe Basin Ski area is located. A-Basin, as locals call it, has a summit of 13,050 feet. It is often the first ski area to open in North America, as it opens for the season in mid-October, and can remain open until July!

After driving the entire pass we returned to Interstate 70, going west. As you can see in this photo, there were other ski areas in the distance that had yet to receive snow.

This is a familiar sight to see as you drive the Colorado mountain roads--it is a runaway truck ramp. The grades along these roads can be 6% or greater, and occasionally truck brakes overheat. They need to use these ramps to stop and cool down their brakes.

We entered continued our drive on Highway 6 and entered Summit County, where we enjoyed a day out in the town of Breckenridge.

On our way home, we used our usual route of driving back on Interstate 70, through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, completed in 1979, that travels under the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains. With a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet, it is one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world, and it is also the longest mountain tunnel on the Interstate Highway system. The westbound bores for the tunnel are named after Dwight D Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and for whom the Interstate Highway system is named. The eastbound bore of the tunnel is named for Edwin C Johnson, a governor and US Senator who lobbied for an Interstate Highway to be built across Colorado.  After driving over the rigorous Loveland Pass I can see how this tunnel system had a large impact on making crossing the Rocky Mountains an easier and safer trip!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Super Shootout Rodeo at the Denver National Western Stock Show

Yee Haw! It is rodeo time at the National Western Stock Show, held at the Denver Coliseum in Denver, Colorado! The bucking broncos are ready, as well as the strong and skillful cowboys!

There are 16 days of rodeo action at the National Western Stock Show, and we chose a date to see one of them--the Super Shootout Rodeo comprised of rodeo stars from all around the country and Canada.  Are you new to the rules of rodeo?  See this page for rodeo 101 rules and skills required for all the rodeo events.  Boyd Polhamus was the rodeo Master of Ceremonies and did a wonderful job as usual. He leads the crowd in prayer, then the United States National Anthem was sung.

This collage shows the continuation of the bareback riding cowboy I showed in the first photo. 

Another bareback cowboy. Bareback riding is one of the most challenging and physically demanding events in a rodeo.

Their rides are only eight seconds long!

A bareback rider is judged on his spurring technique, the degree to which his toes remain turned out while he is spurring and his exposure or willingness to lean back and take whatever might come during his ride.

This rodeo also had cowgirls performing in the barrel races. Barrel racing requires horse and rider to cross a start line on the run, follow a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels without knocking them over, then dash across the finish line. It takes years of practice for rider and horse to perfect speed and accuracy.

In many rodeos, there is a pause when children as young as five participate in "mutton racing."  The children hold onto the back of a running sheep as long as they can.  They are well protected with helmets and face masks. Most children hold on for only about eights seconds. Every child that participates receives a trophy for their effort.s

An event that takes speed, agility and super cowboy, called a bulldogger, strength is steer wrestling. A cowboy races off alongside a running steer, and throws himself off his horse onto the steer and wrestles the steer--which often weighs twice his weight--to the ground.  The record for this event is 2.4 seconds! This is rodeo's fastest event. Many of the cowboys we saw during the rodeo we attended had a problem either catching the steer or wrestling it to the ground so it is definitely a difficult event.  The steer all popped up quickly afterward and was not harmed.

You can see how fast this happens in the Picas auto enhanced motion photo above.

Rodeo's most dangerous event is bull riding.

Like bareback and saddle bronc riders, a bull rider may use only one hand to stay aboard the bull during his hoped-for eight-second ride. If he touches the bull or himself with his free hand he receives no score. Riders are judged on their ability to stay aboard the twisting bucking ton of muscle and rage.  Balance, flexibility, coordination, and fearlessness are the stuff of which good bull riders are made.

It definitely is intense to watch!  Many of the riders were thrown off the bulls quickly. I have to give praise to the rodeo "clowns" who rush in to distract the bulls away for a fallen rider to help prevent the rider from being injured by the stomping hooves of the bull.

As you see in this action photo, the bulls spin and kick so quickly!

The clowns are almost as brave and skilled as the riders, without the glory!

The winning team of the Cinch Super Shootout Rodeo by total points for all the events was Calgary Stampede from Alberta, Canada! They were awarded $5,000 each and a wristwatch by Cinch Jeans and Shirts. The names and hometowns of all the team members and all the award winners can be read on this link. Congratulations to all for a job well done!

My husband and I really enjoyed seeing a rodeo and we know it will be something we look forward to seeing in years to come, as well as other National Western Stock Show Events. 

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

National Western Stock Show Parade in Denver

My husband and I met my daughter in Denver, Colorado this past Thursday to have a quick lunch with her, and then we joined a queue along 17th Street to wait for the National Western Stock Show Parade to begin.  This iconic western-style parade takes place in downtown Denver every year and is the official beginning of the stock show, which is taking place this year from January 10th through the 25th, 2015.  The parade begins at Union Station and travels 15 blocks across the city, ending at the Brown Palace Hotel. You can see Union Station in the distance, with Mount Evans looming high above in the distance, from our position near the end of the parade route. (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

As we waited for the parade to begin I had to smile at this eager group of schoolchildren sitting on the curb across the street from us.

Soon, we saw the flashing lights of the parade started coming closer!

This is the 109th year of the National Western Stock Show, Rodeo, and Horse Show. held at Denver's Western Complex.  Last year there was a record-breaking 640,022 people that attended the 16-day event! The National Western Stock Show typically features about 16,000 various livestock and millions to billions worth of deals are made between livestock producers and corporate buyers.

It certainly is a thrill to see a herd of long-horned cattle walking down the street!

The cattle herd was pretty large, but under control by many cowboys and cowgirls on horseback as they moved along.

The Denver Sheriff color-guard. 

Denver Sheriffs on horseback.

Burlington Cougars HS band 

Basketball legend, and former Nugget, Chauncey Billups, who graduated from the University of Colorado, served as the parade's Grand Marshall.

Denver businessman and philanthropist, Philip K Anschutz, (seen in the brown hat) was named "Ambassador of the West."  He has contributed much to the city of Denver, and this was a fitting honor for him.

I loved seeing all the stagecoaches and Western Wagons in the parade, many pulled by magnificent draft horses. Notice the horses' blue hooves in the center photo in the collage! 

 There were many varied things to see as the parade passed by., including clowns and the Colorado State mascot ram...

...and many rodeo groups...


....and cowgirls...

The state flag of Colorado can be seen in the middle of the three flags held by these pretty ladies.

Equestrian schools were represented... well as more rodeo stars...

"Pikes Peak or Bust" --  this was the motto of many a gold rush era miner. Glad this rodeo group is keeping it alive!

There were many tractors in the parade...from modern to vintage!

The Grizzly Rose featured the band Buckstein, and they sang a few of their popular country western songs as their float traveled the parade route.

At the end of the parade the Denver street sweepers performed a much-needed job of cleaning the street, and as you can see the city traffic soon resumed their use of the street.

As we were leaving we saw that in front of the Wells Fargo Centerthere was a Texas long-horned steer on display, and brave parade-goers could sit on its back for a photo opportunity.  Neither my husband nor I were brave enough to do that, but many others did!  Just look at the Longhorns on this steer!

We also peeked into the Brown Palace Hotel lobby, as we heard that it is a tradition that a prize-winning steer would be on display in the hotel lobby during the stock show dates. but he wasn't in place as yet.  It was nice to see that some of the holiday decorations were still on display in the hotel's opulent lobby. I celebrated a very special birthday in this hotel a couple years ago--click here to read that post and see the formal tea we enjoyed.  Built in 1892, it is one of the oldest hotels in Colorado.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the parade through my camera lens!  It really is such a fun Denver tradition and part of its Western history. We already bought our tickets for one of the stock show rodeos----as they say out here in Colorado---Yee Haw!!

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