Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vacation: Day 7 - Stony Pass (with Rain and Hail!)...

After reading that Stony Pass (12,650' high) was open, we decided to try it today.  I have very fond memories of that road from my visit here with my dad several years ago.  As it turned out, it was even better than my memories.  We had poor lighting for photography (especially closeups of flowers) most of the day, as we had thick cloud cover.  Intermittently we had rain and hail (occaisionally quite heavy), and gusty winds.  So the flower photos today are of very mixed quality; in low lighting I just can't get the crispness that comes with good depth of field.

Despite that little photographic glitch, we (including the dogs) had a wonderful time today.  We saw quite a bit of wildlife, lots of wildflowers (which we could enjoy, even if I couldn't photograph them), and wonderful sightseeing.  In one particular area (starting a mile or so south of the pass, and for the next several miles) we saw more iris than we have ever seen before in our lives).

Here are some of the scenes along the road today:

And of course we found some waterfalls:

On a side road off the Stony Pass road, we found these old, abandoned pieces of mining gear.  The towers hold up the cables on which bucket carried ore from the mines to the processing facility.  I'd love to have seen these in operation.  The cable closeup shows the cable on which the bucket's wheels traveled.  It's much smoother than a normal stranded steel cable.

And here's the flowers, including a nice orange columbine.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation: Day 6 - Wandering All Over...

We set off today intending to do a course with a couple of loops that would take us to Engineer Pass, Animus Forks, and some other places.  We ended up going up Engineer Mountain Road, but then getting turned back by snow drifts across the road to Mineral Spirit, and then wandering off course on our way up Engineer Mountain.  I paid too much attention to the scenery and not enough to the GPS!

But no matter – though we wandered all over the place, we saw and experienced much that was fun.  We particularly enjoyed a rough road that wound up into a small gulch northeast of Animus Forks – there were great views and lots of wildflowers up there.  We spent most of the day above 10,000', including several hours above 11,000'.  The timing of the wildflowers is starting to look almost random to us.  We saw Colorado Blue Columbine in prime at 11,800' with a southern exposure – and also at 9,700' with a southern exposure.  I have now completely given up on trying to predict where and when the wildflowers are in bloom.  An arbitrary and capricious god is controlling it, and his actions are unknowable to us.

Here's a few more scenes from the day's driving:

Our dogs had a great time on today's trip, playing in the snow and in the water:

At one point on the way to Mineral Spirit, we stopped and poked around in some old mining machinery. I figured out the rock crusher, but the purpose of the giant wooden tanks escapes me. We also saw an impressivly large steam boiler (for power) there. The wood is rotting away, and as you can see the building has mostly fallen down:

We also saw a bit of wildlife today, though not as much as yesterday – a few deer and marmots.  But for whatever reason, today I was able to get close enough to get a photo.  The deer acted extremely hungry, and was not at all cautious about our presence.  The marmot just seemed a little bit braver than most, perhaps because he had a hidey-hole right nearby:

And here are the plants and flowers that I took pictures of today: