The Best, Short, Day Hike in Colorado?

This could be it: Hanging Lake, just a few minutes drive east of Glenwood Springs.

You have easy, quick access off of I-70, and about three miles of hiking (total, round trip).

You DO need to be in something better than Standard American Couch Potato Condition, however, as you climb over 1,000 vertical feet in just over a mile. Then you come back down. If you just came from sea level, you might even find the walk challenging, asphyxiating even. Plan on 2-3 hours for the adventure.

Wear supportive footwear as the trail is rough and rocky in places.

Also, be aware that you’ll have to backtrack a bit on the Interstate before you can motor east toward Denver again, if that is your intended direction of travel.

I chose a beautiful autumn day to finally stop and check out Hanging Lake. I can’t believe a have never stopped before…

 

A small shelter you’ll find along the trail (off limits, however). The autumn changing of the leaves was in full swing and turned the walk into an idyllic odyssey:

Hanging Lake Trail, #1. Near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #1. Colorado, 2017

 

You follow beautiful Dead Horse Creek (what a contradictory name, eh!?) as you climb. This is a hand-held image with the Sony RX100iv…that’s right, no tripod was harmed in its making. The key is to snap maybe ten photos at various slow shutter speeds–brace on something if you can (or against the stretched out camera strap on your neck as I did), hold your breath, and gently squeeze the trigger. With luck, at least one will come out sharp and not blurred from camera movement. This one was taken at 1/5 of a second:

Hanging Lake Trail, #2. Hanging Lake, Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #2. Hanging Lake, Colorado, 2017

 

A lone cloud hangs over the narrow slot canyon:

Hanging Lake Trail, #3. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #3. Colorado, 2017

 

The actual Hanging Lake is really more of a pond–but a very attractive one with ribbons of water pouring in from all sides. In the early spring this must be roaringly spectacular. In winter, it must be a quiet paradise of vertical snow and ice. Another hand-held image, this one at 1/8 of a second:

Hanging Lake Trail, #4. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #4. Colorado, 2017

 

Ah, the warmth of autumn colors–but the air was dry and crisp:

Hanging Lake Trail, #8. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #8. Colorado, 2017

 

Another, wider, view of Hanging Lake. I spotted trout in the pond–how did they get there?

Hanging Lake Trail, #9. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #9. Colorado, 2017

 

Just because you might be a bit tired and shagged out from your prolonged walk, don’t blow off the short (five minutes, I promise!) trail to Spouting Rock, just above Hanging Lake. The water pours out of a hole in the cliff above and is almost more interesting than the Lake itself:

Hanging Lake Trail, #6. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #6. Colorado, 2017

 

On the way back down–they made me pose:

Hanging Lake Trail, #10. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #10. Colorado, 2017

 

Dead Horse Creek detail:

Hanging Lake Trail, #11. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #11. Colorado, 2017

 

A view of the main Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River, and the railroad tracks:

Hanging Lake Trail, #12. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #12. Colorado, 2017

 

Glenwood Canyon in autumn:

Hanging Lake Trail, #13. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #13. Colorado, 2017

Tucson’s Newest Murals–Impressive!

These two showed up since my last visit to the Old Pueblo. And there are apparently six or eight more I need to locate…

 

This masterpiece, near 6th Street and Stone, was painted earlier this summer by Joe Pagac, a cycling enthusiast and, obviously, a very talented mural artist. Go to his Kickstarter page HERE for more details and the thoughts behind his imagery:

Tucson Mural Walk, #1. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Tucson Mural Walk, #1. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Across the street from Joe’s mural is the old Tucson Warehouse building, a structure I’ve always admired for its classic signage on the roof (unfortunately, due to storm damage, missing all but the wheels of the Mayflower moving truck). As of the summer of 2016, thanks to the Tucson Mural Arts Program, it has been adorned with a new and impressive work called “Goddess of Agave”, by Cristina Perez.

Tucson Mural Walk, #2. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Tucson Mural Walk, #2. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

Two More Mohave Desert Oddities

If you ever find yourself on vehicular cruise control floating across the simmering heat waves on the rather isolated (and deadly, according to California accident statistics) stretch of State Route 62 between Twentynine Palms and Parker, through the Mohave Desert, stop, wake yourself up, and pay humble homage to these two unusual monuments to human creativity, boredom, and excess…

First, the “Iron Mountain Sign Pole” at the intersection of Route 62 (Rice Road) and Iron Mountain Road:

Miles From Nowhere. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Miles From Nowhere. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The Roadtrip America website has what appears to be a legit explanation of the origin, evolution, burning of, then the re-evolution of this telephone pole cum signpost. It seems the credit goes to an Aussie couple who, for God-knows-what-insane-reason traveled the road “extensively”, back in the day. So, it was Steve and Wendy Page who nailed up the first mileage marker in 1993 or 1994, which read, “Perth, Australia, 9,469 miles, 15,246? kms” (it is no longer there–casualty of fire?).

You can read their personal letter to Roadtrip America, with all the details, HERE.

A bit farther east, punch off the cruise control once again and pull over with your camera at the intersection of SR 62 and the Rice-Blythe (or Midland) 4WD road–on which, by the way, on this particular day, I ran face-to-face into a full-sized semi-truck and trailer rig, stopped and stuck deep in the sand at a narrow wash crossing. He claimed that his GPS made him do it. Once committed, just out of Blythe, he had nowhere to turn the rig around, so it was onward to the north and hope for the best! He said the cavalry (with his boss) was on its way, it was cool out (70s), and he had plenty of water, so I turned my dusty rental car around and retraced some 13 miles of desert track back to Route 62, from whence I had bounced and sand-surfed.

ANYway…The Shoe Tree and The Shoe Fence (amazingly, the latter marked on the all-knowing Google Maps with a camera icon) will be found here.

Here is an image of current The Tree. The old one was apparently an actual tamarisk tree on the opposite side of the road, so this is a modern version that has sprung up after the demise of both the original tree and this service station:

The Shoe Tree, #2. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
The Shoe Tree, #2. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

Here is what Wikipedia currently says about the origins of The Shoe Tree/Shoe Fence:

“Rice became noted for its Shoe Tree, originally an underwear tree, a lone tamarisk on a turnout just south of the highway, adjacent to the main entrance to Rice Army Airfield. This hallmark for a trailer-based business that catered to personnel at what is now the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, customers passing on Highway 62 (also known as Rice Road) to and from the Colorado River would toss a pair of underwear in the tree’s branches. After a fire burned most of the tree and all the underwear, the custom changed and the tree’s burned husk became a collection point for old shoes. The tree was featured on California’s Gold, a PBSprogram hosted by Huell Howser. The tree burned flush to the ground in 2003 after which a ‘shoe garden’ replaced it; a fence on which people hang shoes. Also in the immediate area, travelers occasionally stop to spell their names and initials on the nearby Arizona and California Railroad right-of-way with the multi-colored volcanic rock used as track ballast. Hand-assembled graffiti lines the railroad for the entire distance that it parallels Highway 62.”

 

So, carve out a personal mileage sign and bring an old pair of shoes with you on this stretch of desert highway! Leave your mark!

Somewhere in the Mohave desert…

Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017
Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017

 

…you will find this abandoned site. It was originally an Air Force Station, operating ground-controlled intercept radars, from the 1950s into the 70s, then the place was converted into a minimum security prison (a “Club Fed”!) from the mid-70s to the year 2000 (See the end of this post for some curious factoids).

Flirting with ghosts…faint voices floating by on the dry desert winds…

I didn’t see the No Trespassing signs (8 1/2 x 11 photocopies on a wall) until I was on my way out. Regardless, I feel like it is important to document such sites and their reaction to the wind, rain, human abuse, and the passage of time. Touch nothing, take nothing but pictures, and be careful where you step…and definitely stay away from the radar dome as that is an active FAA site.

Better yet: If you see signs, comply, and don’t trespass!

With a little internet research, you can find a pile of interesting historical facts about this place.

 

The still-active FAA radar dome sits above the abandoned Air Force Station/prison site:

Abandoned, #1. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #1. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The Bureau of Prisons seal by the main offices slowly disintegrates as the passage of time and the elements do their relentless work: 

Abandoned, #3. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #3. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

Main offices? Purpose? For visitors?

Abandoned, #4. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #4. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

I’m not sure if the “Don Vito” here refers to Don Vito Corleone of Godfather fame, and I am also not sure if any of the many Don Vito’s in history actually came up with this quote. But, it is indeed a wise quote:

Abandoned, #5. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #5. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The visiting area as of the fall of 2017:

Abandoned, #6. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #6. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The sunset view from one of the bedroom suites:

Abandoned, #7. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #7. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

A toilet of penal luxury in its time:

Abandoned, #8. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #8. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

I’m guessing young vandals (or, perhaps, Goths or Visigoths), threw these mattresses out of the building so they could take turns jumping onto them from the roof. Just a guess, though:

Abandoned, #9. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #9. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The graffiti is everywhere, as it always is in such places:

Abandoned, #12. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #12. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

It appears the handball court makes a nice secluded gangland bonfire site and art studio:

Abandoned, #13. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #13. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

A basketball court with a view of the empty (yet teeming with hardy non-human life) Mohave Desert:

Abandoned, #14. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #14. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

An eerie eye peers out onto a courtyard:

Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017
Abandoned, #15. Mohave Desert. California, 2017

 

This looks like it was once fairly nice family housing for the Air Force Station folks. From what I have read, the structures were converted into group housing for the low-risk inmates:

Abandoned, #17. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #17. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

This dark corner must have tremendous meaning to someone, somewhere:

Abandoned, #18. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #18. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

The slots below were telephone booths. Imagine the place full of inmates calling home to family or friends (or to their stock brokers or lawyers) far away. On the vertical posts, it said “Monitored” and “Vigilado”:

Abandoned, #19. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #19. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

This I saw on the way out, posted on a low cinder block wall. Oops:

Abandoned, #21. Mohave Desert, California, 2017
Abandoned, #21. Mohave Desert, California, 2017

 

Some interesting details about the site when it was refurbished as a prison…

 

–This “Security Level 1” facility housed some 300 to 500+ mostly white-collar-type criminals (“paper crimes” mostly).

–The prison had no walls–unless you interpret the vast desert expanses surrounding the facility as “walls”. Very few tried to escape as getting caught likely meant getting sent to a “real” prison  with all the abuse that implied. 

–The prison included dorms, classrooms (profs from Barstow Community College came calling), various workshops, a chapel, a medical clinic, a fire department, racquetball and basketball courts, two libraries (one specializing in law since many inmates worked on their own cases to some degree), and so on.

–Inmates were paid a small wage to work for Unicor’s Vehicular Component Factory, fixing up government vehicles. Rehabilitation work at its best, I’m sure.

–Some of the more interesting characters who resided here: Grant Affleck (real estate fraud–victims were primarily working class Mormons), Ivan Boesky (insider trading; he was mostly at Lompoc, but apparently served a few months here, too), Senator Joseph B. Montoya (a CA state senator convicted of corruption and misuse of funds), Michael Milken (insider trading; still alive and now worth a couple of billion dollars), Harold Rossfields Smith (embezzled over $20 million from Wells Fargo bank–money not recovered), David Jenkins (Olympic athlete convicted of distributing steroids), and Rueben “Porn King” Sturman (convicted of tax evasion and eventually of extortion, briefly escaped, then eventually died in federal prison in 1997).

The American West

Nevada Basin and Range, #3. Highway 50, Nevada, 2017
Nevada Basin and Range, #3. Highway 50, Nevada (Near Hickison Petrogylphs), 2017

 

Ah, the landscapes of the American West. I have a love affair going on with that zone of extreme geographic contortions and distortions. It’s canyons, slick rock, skies, clouds, mountains, rivers, basin and range undulations, forests, and all creatures contained therein, large, small, venomous and not (though the West does desperately need more wolves, lynxes, wolverines, jaguars, black-footed ferrets, and grizzlies)…

A West of not too many human beans, thank God.

Yet.

I’m off on a CO-CA-AZ circuit of nearly 4,000 miles in barely ten days to visit family in one last nostalgic embrace of the West (and of family and friends) before heading off to new and much more citified digs in Barcelona, Spain.

Or would that be Barcelona, Catalunya?

From one divided country to another, I am fond of saying lately. From the Divided States of America to the Bourbon-occupied principalities of the Spanish Empire. Interesting times, these.

But first, one last embrace of the land that is in my bones.

 

Somewhere near the Utah-Nevada border on a lazy, autumn-cirrus afternoon. This is trilobite country for those who collect such fossils:

Nevada Basin and Range, #1, Highway 50, Nevada, 2017
Nevada Basin and Range, #1, Highway 50, Nevada, 2017

14er Report #37: Uncompahgre Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions, South Ridge Route)

Uncompahgre, #12. Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado, 2017
Uncompahgre, #12. Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado, 2017 (In the red light of an autumn sunrise.)
 
“Uncompahgre” – From the Ute word for “red water spring” or “red lake” or “dirty water”, take your pick–or ask a Ute elder, to be sure.

 

After a day of resting our bones (see the September 15, 2017, Handies Peak Report) and checking our phones in the bustling berg of Lake City (population 500, counting dogs and cats), Rik Fritz and I were ready for our next 14er objective. Again, we talked of Wetterhorn, but yet another brief dusting of snow up high the night before made us reconsider. Fickle autumn! So, to avoid any chance of a Fritz-Joder epic (see my post “The Fall” for an extreme example of just such an “epic”), we chose the relatively easy trail up Uncompahgre Peak for the adventure o’ the day.

If you happen to be in this area in mid-September, by the way, plan for a day of hanging out in Lake City as their Lake City Uncorked Wine and Music Festival takes place then. A fun event! Also, the leaves will likely be changing (as they were for us), so it is a fine time to be there. Bring both a jacket and short sleeves–it will be chilly in the shade, but hot in the sun!

Also, of historical and, perhaps, gastronomical interest in this land of many gold and silver mines, is the strange 19th century tale of Alferd G. Packer. He and five prospector companions found themselves snowbound here in the San Juans one winter and only Alferd came out alive when the storms cleared–apparently, thanks to a bit of cannibalism on his part. He was eventually convicted of murder for his acts, although there is a good chance he was railroaded and was simply a “creative survivor” of a tough situation (not unlike the Donner Party (1846-1847) and the Uruguayan rugby team (1972).

Some morbidly humorous Alferd Packer trivia: I remember eating at the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill at the University of Colorado back in the 70s (Since renamed the “Alferd Packer Restaurant and Grill”, apparently–spoilsports!). I think they had a “Cannibal Burger” on the menu then.  Some of the slogans I have heard related to this eatery…”Have a friend for lunch!”…”Serving humanity since 1874″…and, “He ate the only two Democrats in Hinsdale County!”

But enough raucous levity. Let’s get back to the topic at hand–the trip report of our ascent of Uncompahgre Peak in late summer/early fall/light snow conditions. May you find it useful and/or entertaining.

 

…Click here for the complete report and a couple of dozen images to stimulate your retinas!

14er Report #36: Handies Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions–Snow!, East Slopes Route)

Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017
Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017 (Both autumn and winter are approaching at the same time!)
 
Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever.
–Anon

With a pending move to Barcelona this year, I thought I might get motivated and finish the basic list of 58 14ers this year but, alas, ’twas not to be. Rock climbing seemed to be the outdoor priority for me this year. So, I guess I’ll be back from Spain for a month or two next year with the remaining 14ers in my sights! Who wants to join me?

This particular trip up Handies (and the one to follow, up Uncompahgre) was special in that I was able to team up with a very close friend from way, way, waaay back in junior high and high school days–Rik Fritz. In fact, he called me up and got me going back to the big mountains on this trip instead of the local rock climbing crag.

Rik is an amazing guy and really needs to write a book about his exploits with rattlesnakes, on Yosemite big walls, on long, high altitude, cross country flights in his hang glider, and on his seriously salty sailing adventures. He is definitely a man who has lived life to the fullest–and continues to do so. (See my near-death blog post from June 27, 2017, “The Fall” to catch a bit of what I mean.)

It was great to catch up with him and talk about all that “Back In The Day” stuff! Ahhh…the stories…the stories…and all included at least 10% truth!

Our initial goal for the 3-4 days we had available was to haul our fannies up Sneffels, Uncompahgre, and Wetterhorn, starting with the Class 3 scrambling route on this last one, “Weather Peak”. Handies wasn’t even on the list. But, ah, the best laid plans…In mid-to-late September in the Colorado Rockies, weather can be tricky and fickle pickle, as we quickly discovered.

A pounding, hours-long, cold rainstorm the night before–as we camped at the Wetterhorn/Matterhorn Trailhead–made us rethink things. There would surely be snow above and, sure enough, morning revealed a heavy coating on the high peaks tapering off finally at about treeline. Hmmm…best not to do exposed Class 3 scrambling on icy and snowy rock without the proper gear and attitude, we both said. So, instead of Wetterhorn, off to Handies we bounced in our 4×4 pickups–Handies would be a much easier peak, even with a wet, white blanket o’ schnee.

What follows, then, is what eventually transpired, to the best of my sometimes-faulty recollection, along with my usual merry montage of inspiring images…

…Click here for the rest o’ the story!

Barcelona Peace Rally, August 26, 2017

 

More than a half million Barcelonans, many carrying a single long-stemmed rose, filled the streets this afternoon for a peace rally in the aftermath of the senseless terrorist attack on Las Ramblas. There were people of all kinds–Catalans, tourists, recent immigrants, even a large number of Muslims.

The above short video will give you some flavor of the event.

Some of the signs:

“We are not afraid”

“No, to Islamophobia”

“Your wars, our dead”

“Felipe [the King], if you want peace, don’t traffic in weapons”

“The best answer is peace”

 

Here are a handful of images with my commentary:

The crowd moving down Passeig de Gràcia on their way to Plaça de Catalunya:

Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

The idea is to have the Muslim world together with us (as just about all already are) in this battle against extremism:

Protest for Peace, #2. Barcelona, 2017

 

The sign that is being dismantled said, “Spain against terrorism…Thanks, Your Majesty! [the King]” and was accompanied by a number of Spanish national flags being waved about on tall poles. The message sounds good, except that it was really pissing off the local Catalans and the police siphoned them away from the main march and had them disband as they were being bombarded by jeers, whistles, and shouts from the home crowd. Why? Well, these protesters were Madrid loyalists (Spanish flags) and, from the Catalan point-of-view, Madrid is essentially in bed with the terrorists and the root cause of the various terrorist attacks in Spain due to Madrid’s support of the Iraq wars and ongoing international arms sales. Then, of course, there is the Catalan tendency to dislike all that is Madrid and anything related to the Bourbon royal dynasty (see especially the Siege of Barcelona, 1713-1714):

Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #4. Barcelona, 2017

 

Red Cross and police vehicles were soon decorated with roses in thanks for their service during and immediately after the attacks:

Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #5. Barcelona, 2017

 

Much of the crowd continued on past the Plaça de Catalunya and visited the various memorials along Las Ramblas:

Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #6. Barcelona, 2017

 

Muslim marchers rest in front of the Las Ramblas Burger King after the rally. The messages: “Love wins over hate”, “We want peace”, “Barcelona embraces peace”, “We want peace…end terrorism”:

Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017
Protest for Peace, #7. Barcelona, 2017