Sunday, 7 January 2018

Colorado #2: Hiking around Boulder: Front Range

There are many hiking opportunities close to Boulder; particularly many hiking trails in the first range of hills immediately west of the town that tower up to 900 m over Boulder. The views from these tops are fantastic, you look out over Boulder and the flat country to the east, and can see the high peaks of the Rocky mountains to the west. The terrain is very dry and rocky with pine forests. The trails are very nice for late afternoon hikes, but can get quite busy on the weekends.

The trail up to Mt Sanitas

Dry and warm in summer, perfect for lizards

Smoky view from Mt Sanitas over Boulder. Smoke from forest fires in northern Colorado and other states had blown to the Boulder area.

Smoky sun

Great horned owl (?)

View from the Royal Arch over Boulder on a warm summer day

View through the Royal Arch to some of the flat irons

Tony enjoying the evening sun on Green mountain, watching 2 chipmunks running around the rocks

Evening view from Green mountain to the high peaks in the west

Boulder gets spectacular sunsets in autumn

We did get a bit of snow a couple of times in November-December, but it never stayed for more than a few days.

A little pygmy nuthatch

Start of the trail up to Bear peak

View from Bear peak to the north

View from Bear peak to the west

Monday, 30 October 2017

Colorado #1: Cycling around Boulder

Boulder seems to have a bicycle shop on nearly every street corner and cycling is very popular here. We have been exploring the cycling possibilities around Boulder in the last few weeks and do now understand why. I am not a great fan of cycling along roads with cars speeding by, but there are many other possibilities here: bike paths through town, multi-use trails through nature areas, abandoned railway lines that are now converted into forest/mountain trails, quiet mountain gravel roads, and dedicated mountain bike trails. It really is an eldorado for cycling and we have been enjoying this in the last couple of weeks. Mostly 1.5-3 hour afternoon rides around Boulder, but also a few longer rides.

As you can see on the google aerial photo below, Boulder is at the foot of the Rockies and the areas to the north, south and east of Boulder are fairly flat. It is mostly open farmland with some lakes and reservoirs. West of Boulder are first the foothills, mostly forested hills up to 1100 m higher than Boulder (up to 2800m; Boulder lies at ca 1700m). Further west again are the high alpine mountains that go up to 4300m. Most of the cycling was done from home as can been seen from the web of coloured routes around Boulder in the first photo below. The 2 trips higher in the mountains were mostly along abandoned railway lines, Rollins Pass and the Switserland trail, which make great cycling tracks as the now gravel roads are not very steep.

Google aerial photo with our bike routes

Boulder Valley ranch north of Boulder

Beautiful bike paths in Boulder

Beautiful bike paths in Boulder

Quiet roads in Boulder

Evening ride around Boulder reservoir, north of Boulder

Single track in South Mesa, south of Boulder

Gravel track in South Mesa, south of Boulder

Smooth riding on Chapman Drive in the foothills

Switserland trail, an abandoned railway track in the foothills

Icy and muddy along the Switserland trail

Heading up to Rollins Pass at 3554m, another abandoned railway track high in the mountains

Negotiating a bumpy road up to Rollins Pass

An old railway bridge just down from Rollins Pass

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Wyoming, US, #2: Jedediah Smith Wilderness - Grand Tetons

After the eclipse we drove via Jackson to the west side of the Grand Teton national park. This is a stunning area with fantastic views of the Grand Tetons, but without the crowds. We camped at one of the simple but nice forestry campsites at the end of the road and did 2 long day hikes. The first hike was up to Table mountain, which has a fantastic view of the Grand Tetons. Afternoon thunder storms were threatening to spoil our hike; the last part is quite exposed so we stopped and waited to see how the storm developed. Fortunately, the storm stayed in the valley north from us and eventually dissipated so we decided it was safe to continue to the top, which we now had all for ourselves. Amazing views all around, fascinating landscapes and geology! The second hike was a long round trip to the beautiful Alaska basin. We didn't see any bears, moose or bighorn sheep, but we did see quite a few yellow-belllied marmots, pikas and chipmunks. And lots and lots of flowers!

First view of the Grand Tetons

Table Mountain trail - view towards Alaska Basin

Waiting for the thunderstorm to move on

Our destination - Table Mountain

The amazing view of the Grand Tetons from Table Mountain

Tony on the top of Table Mountain

View from Table Mountain toward Alaska Basin

So many flowers (and marmots, pikas and chipmunks)

Alaska Basin

Alaska Basin trail

Alaska Basin trail - lots of flowers here too

Alaska Basin trail

Bison near Jackson

Horned owl

Dinosaur quarry

Dinosaur quarry

Glenwood canyon along the main highway back to Denver

Friday, 6 October 2017

Wyoming, US, #1: Wind River Range and solar eclipse

I haven't posted for more than 3 months, work and life have been quite busy. I will try to do a quick catch up here and in the next posts. We are currently in Boulder, Colorado, US, for 5-6 months as part of a sabbatical and research exchange. As soon as we had purchased a car, about a week after I arrived in Boulder in mid August, we set off to Wyoming to get ready to watch the total solar eclipse on 21st August. We considered a couple of locations, including the Grand Tetons national park and the area west of the park, but we thought (which turned out to be correct) that these areas would get swamped with visitors. In the end we decided on the northeastern side of the Wind River Range, and to go hiking and camping along the Glacier trail. Even here it was, of course, unusually busy, with many people having the same idea. But people spread out along the trail and everyone was very considerate of others when choosing campsites. We found a nice campsite near the tree line around 3200 m altitude, about a day's hiking from the trailhead. On the eclipse day itself, we climbed the local peak of around 3550 m altitude and this turned out to be an excellent spot with fantastic views in all directions. I had decided to just watch and enjoy this one instead of spending the time fiddling with camera settings and carrying a tripod around, so I have very few photos of the eclipse itself. There will be hundreds or thousands of photos of the eclipse floating around the internet, much better than I could take with my equipment, so I am sure everyone now knows what it looks like. I found this the most spectacular total eclipse I have seen so far, maybe because I hardly took any photos and could therefore spend the time to look around and enjoy it, or maybe because of the fantastic location where we could see the shadow approach and leave for a long time. We spent 4 days in this beautiful area before continuing our trip towards the area west of the Grand Teton national park for some more hiking; the latter will be in the next post. Enjoy the photos!

Busy trailhead parking

Start of the Glacier trail

Climbing out of the forest

One of our campsites

Tony following the progress of the eclipse

The shadow is approaching, it is getting dark and cold


The sun is coming back, the shadow moves east

Exploring the lakes near our campsite after the eclipse

Lots of flowers...

...and chipmunks

Hiking back to the car