In 1909, this was the first “luxury” hotel to open in Boulder and it is still going strong as one of Boulder’s most famous icons. Many historic items, furniture, signs, the cherry woodwork, etc. are all still tastefully preserved inside.
Come on out during the Christmas season to see a decorated tree that, at 28-feet, is taller than even the official White House tree! And it is a live one at that!
Some say this is the best place in Boulder to celebrate on New Years Eve (the hotel opened on New Years Day, 1909). So, you have just a couple of days to get your tickets to the party.
A few random images from our visit…
The ceiling was replaced in 1960 after heavy snow collapsed the original:
Probe around a bit this time of year and you just might encounter an entire Christmas village, complete with train service:
Be sure to check out the catacombs in the basement–now a quite fashionable bar (License No 1 Liquor Bar) offering live music, spread throughout a maze of darkened and cave-like rooms:
Did I say bar? Liquor?
Looks like a rather daring…nay, scandalous!…wedding dress from the flapper era:
Direct from the shrinking glacier up on the Continental Divide above Boulder:
Dang, what the heck are these weird old machines? (Texted the twenty-something to the other twenty-something):
Here are three, to give you an idea. The message should be quite clear, I would think.
The difficult part with these photographs is deciding which images should be layered together, then finding the “just right” placement of one over the other.
Most of these pictures came from files that were originally quite small (some were from my iPhone). I ran them through Topaz Impression to give them an effect I liked in addition to converting them to black and white. I have them currently sized at 18″ x 12″ but they could probably go to 30″ x 20″ quite easily.
I mention this somewhat technical information because it seems that many photographers get caught up in squeezing out maximum sharpness from their 24 to 36 to 50 megapixel super-machines when sometimes it isn’t really necessary. Yes, for a classic landscape, you likely do want that sharpness. But, if there is a specific concept in play that involves social or political commentary or story-telling, then the compositional elements and whether they are successful in communicating with the viewer are way more important than high definition and pixel resolution.
Indeed, we were there last Saturday (Dec 17) for a “Three Brothers” climb of one of the most prominent peaks in the Monument, Ragged Top, and we never saw another sapien soul…just a white-tailed deer and plenty of fresh bighorn sheep droppings. So, I guess the word has yet to get out amongst the more intrepid of us human beans.
There is plenty of info online about how to get to the base of Ragged Top, so I will dispense with redundant navigation directions–you can figure it all out. And the pictures that follow will give you plenty of bread crumbs to follow once you are in the area.
One key recommendation: Make sure you pick a cool day to minimize the amount of water you have to carry. With highs in the 50s and calm winds, we chose the perfect day. This is definitely a winter season hike if you are in to reasonable comfort.
Other minor recommendations: Wear long pants, long sleeves, and sturdy boots. There is no defined trail, lots of loose rock, and the catclaw will ambush your every move, especially once you are confined to the narrow gully high on the mountain. Tweezers, a comb, and/or pliers wouldn’t be a bad idea, too, for pulling out those Cholla cactus needles from your boots, calves, and shins.
From the main dirt road, plan on 4-5 hours to cover the roughly four-mile and 1,700′ vertical out-and-back trip. There is a bit of Class 2+/3- in the last 50′ to the top, but below that it never really exceeded Class 2 if you chose your route carefully.
Conditions were not great for photography–this was a mid-day trip and there were almost no clouds in the sky for miles around. So, what follows is not so much “art” as it is helpful beta for your trip.
The object of our affections for the day…From the road the peak looks spectacular and quite improbable to ascend, but have faith as the massif will retreat into apparent simplicity the higher you climb up its slope:
A roadside oddity. I am hoping it was not due to human abuse:
From the main dirt road, the walking is pleasant and innocuous enough at the beginning, but gets more difficult as you climb higher. There is no trail, so pick your way toward the North Gully (see arrow below) as best you can using washes, sections of game trail, and more open areas:
The slope begins to steepen and the hardy Sonoran Desert vegetation–all of which scratches, sticks, pinches, pokes, or stabs–begins to thicken:
Ragged Top is quite am imposing mass of rock, but it is actually composed of many separate walls and spires. The standard route goes up the North Gully to that U-shaped low point in the middle of the picture:
Nearing the base of the North Gully, here is the view behind you. Greg (photographed there for scale) has stopped to fix his camera:
Looking up at the gully and wondering if it “goes”. It does, but expect some scrapes and cuts from rolling/sliding rocks, and the palo verde and catclaw:
A cold front had just moved through dropping the temperatures from the 80s the day before to the 50s on this day. I am not sure if the haze was residual humidity or a generous gift of gas from the lovely Los Angeles basin:
Greg works his way up the easy Class 3 rock of the last fifty feet to the summit, GoPro in hand:
Brian collects a few summit photos…and displays on the back of his shirt our increasingly common refrain. Note the vintage 1970s era water bottle. Yeah, I am probably being slowly poisoned by the toxic plastic:
There are bighorn sheep somewhere in them thar hills. Not many, but they are indeed present–the only endemic herd left in Arizona and numbering maybe 75-100 sheep souls in total:
On the way down, the sun had moved a bit so I was able to get better images of the route:
A closer look with the telephoto at 200mm. Take care working your way up and down all the loose rock:
Looking through the haze and into the Silver Bell Mountains:
A nice sunburst as we come out of the shade of the mountain and the slope lessens. The North Gully is actually on the very far left (wide-angle lens distortion here). That main gully just left of center with the white debris slide is not what you want unless you are looking for a longer and more mysterious adventure:
This is not much of a summit as far as mountains go. In fact, the total climb barely exceeds 50 vertical feet–maybe as high as a good fire department extendable ladder.
Still, the formation is geologically veddy, veddy interesting.
When you zip by at 75-per on the nearby busy autobahn, you can see its dark turd-like countenance not far away on the east side of I-10 (opposite Picacho Peak), contrasting sharply with the light-colored, flat, and over-grazed desert.
From the summit of “The Plug”, looking west toward I-10 and Picacho Peak:
A more artistic view of Picacho Peak from the railroad culvert:
Here I’ll offer up two more “beta” images for you, taken on another day (18 December) from what I would call the East Summit of Picacho Peak (a sub-peak of that massif).
In this first one (pre-dawn), you can clearly see the red and white tower (a good reference point), the culvert under the railroad tracks (a place to park and the best/safest way to cross the tracks), and the flat desert leading over to the plug (even an old concrete foundation can be seen just before the plug).
In this one (taken just after sunrise), you get a slightly bigger picture of a similar scene in which the oddness of the basalt plug is obvious:
2016 Black & White Magazine, Spotlight Award Winner! (Issue: June, 2017, #121)
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