Golden Gate Canyon State Park – camping, Aspen Meadows

The following is a trip report for a camping trip we took on July 17th 2015 to the Aspen Meadows campground on the North side of the park. The park is about an hour from Boulder, CO or Denver and is accesable from highway 93 in the east or the Peak to Peak Highway in the west. From the State park website:

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​More than 12,000 acres of dense forest, rocky peaks, and aspen-rimmed meadows laced with miles of trails awaiting the hiker, horseback rider, mountain biker and winter sports enthusiast at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

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Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad – trip report

At the end of June 2015 I had the pleasure of riding the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad – a small out and back tourist railroad that departs daily (summer 10pm and 2pm) from Leadville, CO and travels north for an hour or so toward the now abandoned town of Climax, CO. It’s a pleasant jaunt and ample views of the valley below abound. The conductor, a knowledgable 36 year resident of Leadville emparts historic facts at various times during the trip. The railroad and surrounding area is steeped in history and she does a great job of telling interesting tales of the railroad and Leadville area.
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Glenwood Springs mini vacation on the Calfornia Zephyr

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The following is a trip report on a mini vacation I took with my parents to Glenwood Springs on Jan 8th and 9th 2008. I’d always wanted to ride in a train across the Rockies so a trip to Glenwood Springs and back from Denver sounded like a great way to get the train experience without spending too much tom. The plan was to leave Union Station in Denver on Thursday morning on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, get off at Glenwood Springs where we’d stay the night in a budget motel and come back the following afternoon via the train. My initial plan was to drive to Glenwood and let my folks ride the train, I’d stay with them in the hotel and the the following day I’d drive them back : boring!

I set the wheels of the trip in motion by booking the tickets on Amtrak’s website, pretty painless, one simply prints out a page containing a bar code that you then scan when you get the the station at a little ticket machine. The machine then prints out your tickets and you’re ready to roll. Booking the hotel was a little more of a challenge, there were a ton of budget hotels in the area with prices around $80 and we’d need something close to the railroad station as we’d be on foot once off the train – middle of winter, snow, ice, heavy cases – not good. After some price comparisons on Hotels.com we decided to go with an upscale hotel and settled on a room at the historic Hotel Colorado. It was a short distance .5 of a mile over the bridge crossing I70 next to the railroad station in Glenwood. Booking with Hotels.com was simple enough although I’d signed up to the web site using an alias (who uses their real, full name, to log in anyway) and at the end of the reservation I found that the booking was made under this name! I was a little worried that we’d have problems during checking if I was ID’d but it turned out we were ok. A note about booking hotels online: I called the Hotel Colorado just to check the prices and it seems that our price of $125 from Hotles.com was quite a bargain compared to their price of $175 they quoted me. I also learned that Hotels.com buys up rooms in bulk and at a discount and have no connection to Hotel Colorado an employee told me in a rather grumpy tone.

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After 4 hours sleep I woke up at 5.30 am on Thursday morning, picked up my parents and sis and drove down to Union Station in Denver. Scanning the barcode printout that I’d gotten from the Amtrak website worked flawlessly and the little blue ticket machine spat out ticket for our there and back journey. Upon reading the tickets I learned that we might not even be able to leave the Denver due to the fact that an ID was required. My Dad had his South African drivers license but my mom had not brought any form of ID with her, god know why, this is America, we are at war god damn it! After further inquiry by my now panicking parents we learned that they don’t normally check ID so we calmed down somewhat and boarded the train after a slight detour out of the station in the opposite direction of the platforms. We also learnt that the seating was not reserved so we could sit anywhere. The carriage we entered was petty full and judging my the inhabitants who were mostly sleeping and bedded down with open coolers of food and drink and sleeping bags, they were going all the way to California. The car was also a tad smelly, reeking of sweaty and sleepy people, reminded me of a few past gone Greyhound bus trips, so I was glad when the conductor opened up a fresh car for those just going to Glenwood and Grand Junction. So we manhandled our luggage in the spacious overhead compartments and grabbed some nice seats next to each other.

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The last time I was on a train was on a European jaunt when I was 24 so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but WOW, the automobile is huge step backwards from the train, well at least this train. Firstly the thing was so bloody quiet, as quiet as a Bently Flying Spur or hight end limo. Secondly the space, tons of foot room, at least 3 feet or so between the rows of seats and those big seats recline, way way back almost like a dentist’s chair! The lack of noise is due to the fact that the cars are double decker and this helps to isolate you from the noisy clanking and cluncking that trains like to make. An interesting fact is that the trains from my motherland, merry England are mostly single decker due to the low height of the 100 year old bridges. The observation car was not too bad either. I’d envisioned it having a totally clear roof, perhaps this was on a different train, but it’s fun to sit facing outwards looking out the big windows and watching the world go by. I shot lots of video but I did note that the windows were pretty dirty on the outside so I don’t know how clear the video will come out seeing as it was shot in HD. Another observation was the lack of 110v outlets for us gadget junkies. The only play you’ll find them is in the tiny restrooms so if your willing to spend to quality time on the job then this may be an option. The train I was on had a changing room adjacent to the toilets that had a power outlet in it too so I ended up spending 25 mins in there as I need to charge my camcorder batter. This room was a lot bigger and less smelly than the restrooms. I was also told there was an outlet in the observation deck too so if you don’t want to spend long periods in the thunder hut, this may be your only option. A passenger I ended up chatting with on the way back told me she had found an outlet next to her armrest below the window but it was partially blocked by the sear so god knows if it worked or you could even get a power cord to plug into it.

The scenery was spectacular and it was fun to see many familiar places from the perspective of the train rather that on the ground. I’d often seen the train wind up the tracks west of Rocky Flats going towards Eldorado Canyon parallel to Highway 93 but looking East from the train across the plains was great. The same was true of the road from Rollinsville to the Moffet Tunnel, I’ve always wanted to be on the train as it blazed past us into darkness of the tunnel. I also had visions of dropping trow for the passengers of the train when in the parking lot too!

Some of the best scenery were in the canyons that only the train goes through. We were high up on the side of the steep canyon wall with the Colorado river below us.

The Route – ???

The night before the trip I has browsed Al’s interwebs for info one our trip and a possible detailed google map of the trains route. It appears that the new functionality that google has for showing directions for public transport does not include Amtrak’s route from Denver to Glenwood and there was nothing other than simple lists of the train’s stops online. I knew the rough route of the Zephyr as she headed out of Denver, wove her way around the sw of the city, to the Moffat tunnel and then on to winter park and up to Granby. It was after here that things became a little fuzzy and the train pops out again at Dotzero and does the Glenwood Canyon thing for 30 miles. It seems there is no up to date detailed satellite like maps of the route so I suppose if one were really bored one could follow the rails on google maps to see exactly where she goes.

Glenwood Springs – Hotel Colorado and Glenwood Brewpub

Once we detrained @ 153pm we figured we’d have to lug our kit over the footbridge to the Hotel but we were pleasantly surprised when we were met by a nice man wielding a Hotel Colorado sign. Leonard wisked us to the hotel where we managed to check in under my secret alias. The Hotel Colorado is spectacular, well at least in my book it was. High ceilings abound and the christmas decorations were still up too. It was great, lovely early nineteenth century decor abounded, roaring fires and comfy sofas in the lobby and the place was pretty empty. It seems that the Hotel Colorado has been frequented by dignitaries such as President Taft and President Roosevelt and it is at the Hotel Colorado that the teddy bear got it’s name. See this page this link for the history of the Hotel Colorado .

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After a 2 hour catnap, I needed to catch up on my 4 hours of sleep, a few small glass of some nice Shiraz that I’d brought with me and a warm shower we hunkered down to negotiate dinner plans. After intense negotiations, some of which would make Kofi Annon blush It was decided to head for the Glenwood Brewpub. Fish and chips all round and a flagon of ale took care of our two primordial needs after which we headed home over the icy footbridge and lounged like royalty in the lobby feating on bread pudding and pots of fresh coffee.

Some interesting tips and tricks I learned:

  • Trains are a great means of transport and comfy as hell if you have the time go by train
  • Trains in the US are normally late – or so says our Hotel shuttle guy Leonard
  • No 110v outlets available unless you head to the bathroom!
  • Hotels.com has great rates but when you register use your real name 🙂
  • Ask about shuttle service to the hotel, never crossed my mind that they’d be a nice van waiting to pick us up
  • If you speak to the hotel staff very nicely you’ll get great service and possibly get a freebie of two
  • Shooting video through the train window may or may not work due to dirty windows

Canyoneering Trip Report, Spring 2007 in Escalante, Utah

Below are my perosnal notes on a Canyoneering trip I took to the Escalante region in southern Utah during the Memorial day weekend 2007. Feel free to add comment at the end and contact me personally if you want to know more about the outdoor group I belong Chaos Boulder. We normally takes a jaunt down to the slot canyons in southern Utah in the Spring and Fall each year. On this trip I was sans my biatch Dan so I rode with AJ. We left Boulder at about 4pm getting there at around 1.30am. I slept like a babe, no tent and had a strange dream about bugs eating me. When I woke in the morning I noticed that I’d slept on top of a fire ant’s nest – luckily they’d been sleeping too.

Thursday

The first day Rom, AJ, myself, Brian and Ben decided to warm up with an X canyon, Egypt 4. X canyons are the most physically demanding of all canyons, even Chop Slot is only rated an R. We all started off in good spirits, after all it was only about 2km long or so – how bad could it really be. Most of us who’ve done canyons before have stemmed – you basically climb over an obstacle or two for short distances using your arms and legs to get you up and over. You’re blazing down a canyon and you hit a log jam, or water, up you go on the side of the canyon walls like bloody Spiderman using your prefered method of motion wether it be bum on one wall and both legs on the other or in my case, a leg on hand on each wall. But as it turned out, E4 what only ONE BIG STEM – FROM START TO FINISH! I swear we touch ground twice and that was for 20 or 30 feet then back up on the walls like a friggin tree monkey! The bloody stems were 40ft off the ground in some cases, so no falling or even thinking about falling. Now I’ve got nothing against stemming but 1.5km of it is a little much to say the least. I don’t really do any upper body workout so after about an hour of stemming I was nearly at my wits end. My climbing technique is also shite, I’ve been bouldering a couple of time and my arms are ready to fall off after about half an hour or so. So when you add one LONG stem to bad technique, no arm or knee pads and, I had a heavyish pack too, you can see where we’re heading with this story. After about 3 hours I was ready to abort this goddam mission impossible, I wanted out, bad! We luckily came upon a climb-out spot before the end and I manged to start a small mutiny too as Rom and Brian joined me with the AJ and Ben soldiering on for what turned out to be only another 500 or so meters. I was well and truly whipped and small note to self and trip planners: let’s not do an X canyon on the first day again!

After the Egypt 4 incident we hiked back to the cars and drove to the start of the hike down to what would be our home until Monday morning. Another suggestions: Let’s not have to hike 3 miles down a sandy rocky slop after doing an X canyon! When I finally got to camp, a spot where fence creek joins the Escalante river I was well and truly knackerd out!

Friday

We got up at a somewhat godly hour and left at 8am to do Neon. I’ve done Neon before so I knew what to expect but we decided to drop in further up the canyon to add as little spice to our sorte. I was glad they did, it made Neon a little more challenging but it was still a pleasant experience non the less. The upper part even had some deep water to swim in the , something missing from the normal Neon route. Some of us decided to trap ourselves in a huge keeper pothole to see if we could get out. AJ filled the little rope bag thingy with rocks and tossed it over the lip of the pothole and together with a few packs that also had ropes attached to them we were all able to climb out. Getting out of the keeper pothole rang reinforced what I’d read on a canyoneering website: you can’t just be a seasoned outdoorsman or climber you have to be an experienced canyoneer. When you face a huge log jam or get stuck in a keeper pothole it’s all about technique and I’m happy to say these lads knew their stuff or I’d still be in that bloody keeper pothole today! We also ran into some huge black crows that were somehow not able to fly out of the canyon. The poor little things were so sad, ruffled feathers, wings all cockeyed and they were so exhausted they even let us pick them up and carry them for a distance. We surmised that they’d flow down from about to eat a tasy morsel of a poor creature that had met it’s maker down there and on trying to fly out had injured their wings due to the narrowness of the canyon bottom. Even if we could of carried them for a while I’m sure there would not of been any way to rap with them so I presume they didn’t make it but let’s hope one got out and lived to tell the tale!

Sat

I went with the less aggressive group as I didn’t fance bivying on some sand bank for the night and getting bitten by 1000 deer flies and bugs just so we’d be close to a slot. The sane non aggressive group took a little walk down to a canyon called Ringtail. It was lovely and cool in the mouth and we hung out there for a while. We didn’t end up getting very far down it due to slippery narrow walls that we didn’t feel like climbing up. In the afternoon I lay out on the rive bank with my Ipod and rocked to Queen, boy can that Freddie Mercury rock the house.

Sunday

The nutjob more aggressive group took on Chop slot, getting up an ungodly hour while I had a nice “lie in” till 8 am. This slot claimed two lives back in 2002 so it’s notoriety added to the excitement and the loss is a lesson to us all – respect, respect them canyons! I was tempted to do Chop but I really don’t like the cold and when I’m good and ready I’ll do it, really I will! (Good and ready means: 7mm full wetsuit, knee and elbow pads and a willingness to get up early)

I spend the day tooling around with my GPS and a map AJ had given me, retracing the other more aggressive groups steps for the fist 2km or so then broke off the trail and attempted to get as close to the last rap as I could. My plan was to look down into the grim section as it is called and hurl insults at the aggressive group. It turned out that Chop Slot was so deep 200-400ft I couldn’t see jack shite, never mind get near to the last rap but I could hear them quite clearly from my birds eye view above but as loud as as I could shout they didn’t hear me at all. It was fun to spend some quality alone time and I had fun with the GPS. I made little marks in the sand on my way there, marking them with the GPS and then trying to locate them on the way back. The group actually finished Chop in record time, about 1.30 pm. Most of the group headed back to camp when done but some ass clowns more brave members of the sortie (Ben and Tim) decided to go back through the GRIM section and do it all over again, yeah boys, BOOYAH! – bloody well done!!! They certainly kicked Chops ass but in the future the canyon will get more log jammed and it’ll be a much more difficult I suspect so revel in your time chaps, revel!

Monday

Up early, we embarked on the standard “grit your teeth and carry your heavy heavy pack back to the cars” hike that we did last year. I donned my headphones and with Freddie raging on the ipod I forgot about the pain and the heat and I was up on top in no time without much drama. We had planned to rap off some waterfalls (these guys are relentless), but we ended up at Karva Coffee house. The food was not really up to par compared to times before (my potatoes were undercooked) and I discovered a nice little rock in my dish that I almost bit down on but thank god I was chewing lightly or I ‘d of sued them for a new toof. I felt it my duty to tell our waitress about my find but on taking the little rock from me she merely looked at it with a slightly puzzled expression on her face and walked off without saying a word. I wasn’t in a fighting mood but looking back at it now I should of said more. The ride back was uneventful and we got back into Gunbarrel at about 10.30pm

Conclusion

Overall a very enjoyable trip, AJ’s trips seem to be more intense than Rom’s so don’t know if I’d go on another, they always seem to go, go, go but one can always choose to skip a day or two. The mosquitos and deer flies were relentless, probably the least enjoyable part of the trip but next time I may be forced to don some Deet. I’m going to post a related article on beginner canyoneering and will link to it here when it’s done. Add your comment below:

James Peak Wilderness – Backpacking

We decided to take a little overnight jaunt up to Heart Lake which is situated about 800ft below the continental divide in the James Peak Wilderness Area. We started at the east side of the Moffet Tunnel which is located about 4 mile west of the town of Rollinsville which is just off the Peak to Peak Highway. The South Boulder Creek Trail follows the South Boulder Creek all the way up to Heart lake so it was a relatively easy 4 mile climb in nice cloudy 70F weather. The pups had fun and managed to find some nice mud holes. We had a good laugh at them as they emerged from the mud with their newly acquired black mud booties -very sexy! There were quite a few people on the trail but most were heading for the closer Crater Lake. We made it to Heart lake in about 3 hours and proceeded to scout out the area for a secluded camp site.

Thabo had gone missing some 10 minutes before this and I just assumed he was digging or chasing something and that he knew where we were. Well it turned out that he didnt know we were at the lake (because of the loud noise of the river he probably didnt hear our calls) and made a b-line back to the car! I realize this when asking some hikers who were behind us on the tail if they had seen a little red wolf dog. So off I ran at high speed down the 2000 odd feet of elevation back to the car and it seems that everyone on the trail had seen him come whizzing past them, sans owner and wondered where the hell he was going!

I found him in the crowded parking lot looking a little lost. He was happy to see me I suppose and was probably wondering where the hell we were! So off we went jogging back up the friggin trail. The folks who were down hiking were quite amused to see us heading back up! First dog, then some time later, owner tearing down the trail, now dog with owner jogging back up the trail – what in gods name ! It also started to rain but I told myself it was nice to be out in the woods with my boy and I that there was food and water at camp, something that, in my rush to find Thabo, I had failed to bring with me.

I managed to make it back to camp by 3pm and collapsed into my sleeping bag in the tent that Aimee had pitched in my absence. She was glad to see us as I hadnt told her that I was heading to the car to get hound. I had a mega nap till about 8pm then we ate and I hung the bear bag and read my book till about 11pm. Thabo wanted to sleep in the tent with daddy and as usual he pushed me to one side of my therma rest so it wasnt the most comfortable of nights sleep.

In the morning we hiked up to the top of the divide Mr. GPS told me it was 11900ft so we had nice views from the top but gray skies to the west of us shorted the divide excursion. The dogs also found two nice snow banks to roll around on. We broke camp at around 1130am and made it back to the car at 130pm.

Summary: Nice hike and its a pretty easy jaunt to the divide from the Moffat Tunnel. Would be nice to of stayed out longer and done a loop up onto the divide then down the Forest Lakes Trail. Plenty of spots to camp a few miles some easy week day camping perhaps?

Gear Report: I need a pillow inflatable one me thinks. New pack is nice but tent has to go on outside cos when i put it inside there was no room at the inn.

Flat Tops Wilderness – July 2005

On Friday July 15th Aimee, I and the pups set off for a little weekend getaway to The Flat Tops Wilderness Area – the 2nd largest wilderness area in Colorado. It’s a large area who‚Äôs center is located above Glenwood Springs. It was about a four hour drive or so and the final 17 miles were a rutted dirt road with particularly sharp and nasty loose stones covering it. It was one of these stones I theorized that broke a piece off my plastic gas tank protector under the car and also loosened or split a little gas tank breather hose around the same area.

I realized something was amiss when we stopped to look at a roadside map and heard a strange goose like noise coming from the gas tank. Upon closer inspection I smelt gasoline and noticed a leaking gas breather hose near the fuel pump. Anyway, seeing as this is a friggin trip report and not an Audi related item I will just say that we stopped some time later and decided that there was not much we could and to avert the imminent fiery inferno Aimee was assigned to man the mini fire extinguisher and when the flames appeared she was instructed to toss it to me and then to evacuate the pups from the back seat while I would attempt to tame the fire! Needless to say we eventually forgot about the impending danger and nothing ended up happening – thank Allah – but it did add a little excitement to the final part of the ride to the trail head.

Now on to the rest of the trip – got to the trail head at 6pm I seem to remember and made our way up towards the Devils Causeway – lots of bugs, this was unfortunately going to be the theme of the trip, mosquitoes and those nasty black flies that, to add insult to injury, sting you as well as suck your blood – bastards! We set up camp on a relatively flat clearing just below the final steep switch back up to the causeway The files, sensing we were the only fresh blood for miles had now launched a full scale attack and we both wished to be anywhere but here. The Pups also were getting the shite bitten out of them – poor babies cos their fur is pretty thick so the mozzies go for weak spot, the snout, and tis was a pitiful site to see Gaia lying stretched out look looking up at you all forlorn with a ton of bugs on there little nose.

In the morning we made a hasty clamber up to the Devils Causeway, a narrow piece of mountain that ran east west from out campsite. At one point it’s so narrow you can see the 500 ft drop on both sides. The pups had great fun chasing little critters and would run right up the the drop giving us a both near cardiac arrests a few times. The view from the tops was magnificent but we were in poor spirits due to the bugs so on return to camp we decided to “blow the joint” and head for greener pastures. While we were evacuating the campsite a Ranger came by and upon inquiry about the bugs he commented that he hadn’t seen it this bad in years!

We took a little dip in the reservoir and decided we‚Äôd head for Steamboat and camp on the top of the Rabbit Ears pass in a Forest Service campground. On arrival we found a nice spot and I‚Äôm happy to say it was relatively bug free. The next morning we packed up camp and made our way down the other side of the pass and drove down a side road, parked and continues to hike down the dirt road ‚Äì no cars, no bugs and no rednecks/hunters nice …. dogs off leash and cool. We parked in a great future camping spot with lovely views of rolling hills so I made a mental note to go back sometime in the future to camp. We then headed back towards I70 and stopped in Frisco for some lunch. We hit the highway at peak rush hours it seemed and we sat in bumper to bumper to traffic ‚Äì arggg! At least an extra hour and a half of driving ‚Äì note to self ‚Äúavoid I70 at all cost on Sunday afternoon and early evening!!‚Äù

Summary: Not the best trip ever and perhaps staying at home would have been better idea 🙂 but it was nice to be outside with the pups in nature. Note to self ‚ÄúBugs and heat suck in July ‚Äì unless you‚Äôre up really really high forget it I say. Perhaps I should of used DEET as the stupid citronella bug spray did jack shite, the bugs seem to like it but then there‚Äôs the added nicety of DEET being a pesticide and it getting on my skin, clothes and on the dogs too.

Gear Comments: Would be nice to have an extra day pack to take with.