Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Colorado Trip 2013

Day 1 at the Cabin 

I took this summer off and planned to spend a lot of time traveling.  The longest trip was to Colorado.  We were going to drive, but when Grandma passed away we had no reason to drive through Kansas.  So, we decided to shorten the trip from 5 weeks to 3 and fly to Colorado Springs.  It turned out that my parents, George and Elaine Moeller and my nephew, Tristan (13) were going to meet us out there.  In fact, they flew from Orlando and we flew from Ft. Lauderdale and we were to meet in Dallas for our connecting flight to Colorado Springs.  The problem arose when our flight arrived late to Dallas due to lightning in Ft. Lauderdale, and we missed our connecting flight in Dallas.  The family ended up arriving in Colorado and having to wait for us, while we were stuck in Dallas until the next flight, which wasn't until 3 hours later.  And then we were on the stand-by list on that flight.  Fortunately, they got us on that flight.  The next flight wasn't until 2 hours after that one.  

Fortunately, Hannah and I met a single mom with an 8 year old daughter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport that were on the same first flight.  Hannah and Abby clicked immediately!  They were from Wisconsin and were visiting Abby's father in Miami.  They had a layover in Dallas, so we were able to hang out with them while we waited.  The girls shopped in the airport stores and had ice cream cones.  

When we finally made it to Colorado Springs on the earlier flight, we got stuck on the plane yet again due to lightning.  It had been a long day by the time we finally saw the family.  We rented a small SUV to fit all our luggage, and we were off.  We had about a 2 hour drive.  Midway, I realized no one had brought a cabin key!!!  We decided we'd better find a motel for the night.  We found a Days Inn between Pueblo and Walsenburg, which had a really nice breakfast with waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, etc.  

That morning, we got up and were ready to head to the cabin!  We stopped in Walsenburg for some food essentials and continued on.  Jeanne Briggs said there was a cabin key under their porch step, which we used to get in.  To our surprise, the cabin stunk so bad from what was left in the fridge when Dan Peter's family was here 2 weeks before.  They were evacuated from a fire on the east peak and had to leave all their food.  The fridge was turned off!  It was awful to the point of a puddle leaking on the floor and maggots inside the fridge.  DISGUSTING!!!  While Mom cleaned out the fridge, I cleaned the rest of the cabin.  That's what we did our first day.  

Cabin Day 2 - The Bear

On our first morning in the cabin, July 7, Tristan went outside around 8 am and ran right into a brown bear!!!  He came running in after about one second shaking and gasping.  I said to him, "See, I told you it was cold."  He gasped as he said, "There's a bear!"  I didn't believe him until I looked out the window and saw the tail end of a brown bear walking up the side of the mountain.  I couldn't believe my eyes!!!  The whole cabin woke up to hear our tale.  The big brown bear had been hanging out right by the back table when Tristan walked out the back door.  They were face to face!  Both ran in the opposite directions.  What a morning!

Later, Dad, Tristan, Hannah and I climbed the boulders.  Hannah was scared, but climbed up pretty high.  Tristan and Dad went on up ahead of us.  Tristan and Dad went up a different way from us, via the stairs.  We climbed up the forest side.  In the beginning, we actually were up higher than they were.  But Hannah didn't want to go higher, and they eventually passed us.  

That evening, the kids were playing hide and go seek, while we cooked dinner.  Just after they came in, Mom spotted the bear again in front of the cabin!  Dad and I ran out to get a closer look.  Of course I brought my camera, not being able to get a very good shot.  Before running up, he stood on his hind legs up against a tree, front paws up the tree and looked right at me before running up the side of the mountain.


We bought peanuts in the shell for my dad, but started feeding the squirrels with them.  The squirrels LOVED them so much, that they would do just about anything to get them.  It was amazing how they would crawl right up on our laps and even sit on my shoulder to get a nut.  These were big mountain gray squirrels!  They were the size of rabbits, more than squirrels.  These big squirrels would chase off the smaller ground squirrels.  There were 2 of these gray squirrels.  Their behavior with each other was so funny to watch.  They would also chase each other away.  One was more gray than the other.  That was Chester.  The other had a red tint.  I called him Big Red.  Chester often chased off Big Red, even though Big Red looked a little bigger.  They would do these funny dances with their tails up and their fur fluffed.  They would also rub themselves on things like cats.  When feeding the squirrels, I enjoyed trying to pet them.  They would sometimes let me for a short time before running off to stuff the nut in their mouths.  They would fill their cheeks so full of nuts!  Chester was more brave than Big Red.  He was like my pet…until one day, he BIT me!  I had filled Big Red's cheeks full of nuts, and went back out to feed Chester.  After giving him one nut he came back.  I was about to give him another nut, and he bit my thumb HARD and wouldn't let go!  I had to hit him to get him to release my thumb!!!  It broke the skin and bled.  We were afraid I would need to get a shot of some kind to ward off disease.  I was NOT happy with Mr. Chester!!!  Later, Mom and I drove into town to Google treatment for squirrel bite.  Turns out, you treat it like a cat bite.  Rodents are very unlikely to carry disease.  Thank God I didn't have to go to the ER that night!!!  

Mesa Surprise

One evening, Mom and I decided to hike toward the Mesa to get some exercise.  We ended up going all the way up!  We decided this was a much harder hike than to the Meadow, but maybe not as far.  It is all uphill.  We took short breaks just to catch our breath on the way up.  But once at the top on the rocks, the view was breathtaking!  We could see a lightning storm over Baldy (Gpa).  I'm so thankful that I bring my camera everywhere I go!  We stayed up there for a while just to take in the view, but decided to head back, as it was nearing 7pm, and the family hadn't eaten!  Besides, that's the time the bear is usually seen in the canyon.  The hike back is MUCH easier down hill, but we tended to watch our feet instead of the scene around us, since it was rocky and steep.  All of a sudden, a large brown animal darted out from behind a tree right next to us!  I quickly glanced toward it only seeing a brown rear end about 5 feet from us!I immediately assumed it was the bear!!!  But the fact that it was so close made me go into panic mode.  I gasped and grabbed Mom at the shoulders.  She casually looked up and said, "Oh, a deer."  What a relief!  It took me a long time to calm down after my adrenalin started pumping!  The hair on my arms was standing straight up covered in goose bumps.  My legs were shaking so much, I had to take a break and couldn't walk again right away.  I was really freaked out!  I guess that deer was probably as freaked out as I was.  It seems, he heard us coming and just froze behind some brush.  Since we were looking at our feet, we didn't even notice him.  But when we got too close, he made a run for it!  

This reminds me of a time 2 years ago that Hannah and I hiked to the Mesa with my dad.  On our way back, Dad had gone up ahead of us, out of sight.  As we were walking down the path in the same way, I heard a sound like a bear growling behind a tree about 20 feet from us and heard branches cracking as if it was coming toward us.  Even though we hadn't seen bears that year, I assumed that's what it was.  All I knew, is it was coming toward us from behind that tree!  I then grabbed my little 5 year old by the hand and ran, dragging her behind me!  She had NO idea why I was in a panic.  I was screaming and Hannah was crying.  Then my dad came out from behind the tree.  Not a funny joke!!!!  I was so upset with him.  He had no idea I would react like that!  At least this time, it was a wild animal doing the scaring.  Mom and I both wished we had seen the deer sooner.  

Starting Week 2

After 8 days with my family at the cabin, it was time for them to catch a plane home.  We had rented a small SUV truck to fit 5 people and all their luggage for the first week.  The plan was to drop them at the airport and rent an economy car for the next 2 wks to save money.  As it turned out, after dropping my family off at the airport, we found that none of the rental companies had cars of ANY size available to rent!!!  So, our only option was to keep the SUV and pay the extra.  If I had rented an economy car for 3 weeks in the beginning as planned, I would have paid around $1000 for the 3 weeks!  Instead, the SUV for 3 weeks was $1700!!!  Fortunately, Mom paid for $400 from the first week.  This is like a 2 month car payment for my van!  OUCH!!!  At least driving in the mountains in as SUV will be very comfortable.  It is a nice vehicle with a review camera and parking sensors.  

Having my family here for the 1st week was nice and gave me a sense of security on arrival at the cabin.  But I sure am looking forward to having some time out here alone with Hannah.  I have a lot of cleaning and laundry to do now!  Then I can get settled into my own routine.  

The Flood

It had rained every day a little since our arrival, but this time, the rain came down all day and night.  By morning, the stream was flooded more so than I've ever seen!  We didn't have water running for 4 days!  Thankfully, I had filled the canisters with drinking water, so we were fine.  The Tonn's arrived just before my family left.  So, we took Arlyn to the Meadow.  We had to drive up to the top of the canyon for him to make it.  The path was covered in water in many places, which made our hike especially difficult.  I had to help Arlyn a lot and walk very slowly, while Hannah hiked on ahead of us.  She made it to the meadow long before we did.  Thank God for walkie talkies!!!  

The next day, I went into town to do lot's of laundry.  I left Hannah with the Tonn's to play Monopoly.  I had Dan's and my family's laundry to do in addition to ours.  It was a lot!!!  I was glad to be able to leave Hannah with the Tonn's.  She would have been so bored!  She had a great day with them!  She even won 2 games!

Hike to the Mesa

On another day we hiked to the Mesa.  We found that this hike is a more strenuous hike, even though not as far as the meadow.  On our way up, I ran into another deer, but this time I calmed myself down remembering the last scare when I thought it was a bear.  It is all uphill!  With Hannah, we had to move very slowly and take lot's of breaks, but we made it!  We brought a picnic lunch with us to eat when we got to the flat rock.  I noticed many  more flowers in the pasture now that we've had rain.  The view from the top is very worth the effort getting there!  We stayed up there for hours just enjoying the view and collecting rock treasures.  We also enjoy hearing our echos when we make loud sounds.  

Sand Dunes

We made the drive to the Great Sand Dunes, which are about 1 1/2 hours away.  We stopped at a little family owned Mexican Restaurant on our way there in Blanca.  It was a bright and sunny day till much later in the evening.  I found that we should always plan this trip early in the morning to have plenty of time and to not arrive back after dark.  A guy at the restaurant told us to make sure to visit Zapata Falls, which is on our way to the Dunes.  We stopped into the Visitor's Center first, where Hannah bought a book about kids lost in a cave and a poster of a bobcat kitten.  Then we trekked on to the Great Sand Dunes.  It costed us $3 to get into the National Park.  Not bad at all!  We found the stream of water was very low.  Hannah was disappointed, although, she had forgotten her swimsuit anyway.  We could feel the sun burning against our skin.  Even though it was probably in the 70's, it felt really hot.  Next time, we need to dress in shorts!  Hannah was reluctant to climb the dunes and unimpressed.  We didn't stay too long.  On our way back, we drove up to Zapata Falls.  We had no idea what to expect!  It was a long rough rocky ride getting up there.  Then we had to hike 1/2 mile to get to the stream.  Then we had to walk through the stream into a cave to actually see the falls.  Hannah was already worn out from the Dunes, so it was difficult to gain her interest to make all this effort now.  But she did it, not happily, but she did it.  Thankfully, she had on Crocks, so she could walk through the water with no problem.  That, she liked!  I finally gave up and walked back from the falls with my tennis shoes on.  That is some COLD water!  It was a fun experience.  Hannah was in a better mood after getting a little wet.  It was cool back there, too!  We even fed the ground squirrels there.  We got back at almost dark.  

Lover's Leap

Hannah just loves to visit the Tonn's at their cabin!  On this morning, she wanted to visit them at 10am.  I wouldn't allow her to go till at least noon.  They tend to get up and moving late.  Sure enough, it was perfect timing when she arrived.  I packed up a picnic lunch and headed over to collect her for a hike up to Lover's Leap.  As we were about to leave, we met a family down at the water fall.  It was a lady, Yolonda, with her 2 grandkids, John (4) & Elizabeth (9).  Hannah and Elizabeth really hit it off!  They decided to hike with us to Lover's Leap to eat lunch.  They live locally, so we exchanged contact info to possibly see them next year.  On our way back, Hannah went to visit the Tonn's again, and they played Spinner.  After a while, I went to collect her before dark.  

Bear Break-in

Hannah and I were hiking around eating wild raspberries when we found a bunch around the Moody's cabin.  As we came upon the front door, we saw that it had been bashed in.  There was a large hole right in the middle of the door.  Now, that was a scary sight!  This cabin is a close neighbor of ours.  There hadn't been anyone there since the first couple of days of our trip.  As we looked closer, it was obvious what had happened.  There were scratch marks and large paw prints around the hole.  It was a bear!  The first week of our trip, we had seen that bear many times.  Once, he appeared to eve be coming from the Moody's cabin.  I wonder that's when the crime took place.  That would mean that hole had been there nearly 2 weeks!  We hadn't seen the bear in a week at this time, so I assumed it happened when he was around, or at least I hoped.  I looked inside through the hole and saw what looked like flour all over the floor and more bear tracks around the cabin.  But it didn't seem there was much other damage.  We ran to tell the Tonn's.  Arlyn had Burt, from down the street, board up the door temporarily, so no other wild animals could get in.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night.  

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