Friday, August 29, 2008


We have seen so much beautiful scenery recently that it is almost impossible for me to pick out the few photos that make it to the blog. Today, though, I am answering a request - to post the photos that will show Jackie the views that she, Buddy, Odel and I missed when we hiked at the top of Independence Pass on a cold, raw, rainy day (obviously, we didn't go too far!).

Here are the snapshots that best capture the last couple of days - captions are below each photo.
I took this photo yesterday, as we drove from Westcliffe to Buena Vista, traveling Highway 50 alongside the Arkansas River heading west. Around 20 miles from this spot, Highway 50 climbs out of the Arkansas River valley and climbs Monarch Pass, traveling through the high mountains in the background.

This is a photo of the Chalk Cliffs. taken from one of our favorite "any day" hikes near Buena Vista. A 10 (or so) mile drive from our RV park, along the base of these cliffs, ends at a stretch of railroad grade from the heydey of mining in this area. The tracks were removed long ago, and now the gentle grade makes a great hiking trail with fabulous views. Nearby, gentle, scenic, and almost exactly 10,000 steps - perfect!

When Jackie and Buddy were our neighbors and hiking buddies earlier this month, we tried to hike the Continental Divide at the top of Independence Pass, but cold, wet, weather turned us back. Today, we met our friends Mark and Kathy to give it another try. It was a great day for the high country. Jackie, this is the view to the west. I felt like we were on top of the world.

Here I am at the top. The view is to the south.

This was our lunch spot, 12,851 feet. Jackie, we didn't go to the HIGHEST point...
we would have needed your tireless leadership for that.

Here's Odel at the top. We hadn't seen Mark and Kathy since our days in South Dakota earlier this summer, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Odel was happy to note that he never had to stop talking, even on the steepest part of the hike!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This picture could have been taken on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday... the daily afternoon drenching. Finally today, our last day in Westcliffe, it looks as though we will have a dry evening and a nice sunset.

As we had heard, Westcliffe is a beautiful spot, with sweeping vistas in all directions. For me, the week was somewhat of a disappointment (other than Bishop's Castle). The soaring Sangre de Cristo mountains are impossible to penetrate by car; the single road in this area that crosses that high range is a 4 wheel drive road.

There are many trails into the high country, but the wild weather precluded any ambitious hikes. As the woman at the visitor's center said, plan to be out of the mountains by 2 pm if you don't want to get caught in rain or worse.

The afternoon thunderstorms are intense. Lightening all around, and HAIL. On Sunday afternoon, while I talked with my friend Becky on the phone, the hail got so big and noisy I finally had to hang up because I couldn't hear her any longer. It was like being inside a popcorn popper! That was the storm that shredded our slide topper awning.

Hikes were confined to morning hours. We visited two different trailheads for the Rainbow Trail, a 100 miles trail partway up the eastern flank of the Sangres. The hikes were lovely... but I had hoped we would be able to peek into some of the high-country valleys or lunch beside an alpine lake. Not to be, at least not this week.

After our hike this morning (this photo), we came home and ran through the "pre-departure routine". Odel dumped the tanks and checked the tire pressures; I vacuumed and dusted. Tomorrow we plan to get an early start, heading back to Buena Vista for four days. There are still hikes in that area that we'd like to explore, and it will keep us off the road over Labor Day weekend.

Now, I'm heading out to enjoy a good book in this rare afternoon sunshine.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Last month, we met Gary Greff, whose giant metal sculptures have been installed on farm land along the "Enchanted Highway" in North Dakota to attract tourists to his tiny hometown of Regent. His story is that of a man obsessed with his project, a man completely devoted to his vision.

Yesterday we visited the project of another obsessed individual, and equally fascinating: Bishop's Castle in the Wet Mountains in Colorado. In this case, the artist/builder is Jim Bishop, and this has been his project since 1969.

Researching the area around Westcliffe, I had seen Bishop's Castle mentioned a few times. Located in a national forest area around 20 miles from our current "home", a visit to the castle was a convenient stop on yesterday's planned sightseeing drive.

If not for the 20 or so cars parked haphazardly along the road through the heavily forested mountains, we could have zoomed right past the mostly hidden castle - and look what we would have missed!!

What now appears to be a medieval fantasy castle began as a simple, handbuilt stone house on a small piece of private property. When the U.S. government objected to the builder's use of rock from the surrounding national forest, Jim Bishop objected - and became obsessed both with his building and with the government's interference.

The Forest Service eventually worked out a permit agreement, but Jim Bishop's obsessions continuted to grow. A multitude of anti-government signs adorn the property, almost as fascinating as the castle.

As you view these photos, keep in mind that ALL the work has been done by one man, alone. Certainly a man with far more imagination and drive than I!

Here I am (above), standing on a concrete stairway leading up the outside of the castle. This is the prime "posing" spot for us tourists, but the steps are only about 6 inches wide.

This photo (above) shows Odel in one of the main rooms. On the inside, the castle feels as "hand-built" as it looks on the outside - the floors aren't quite flat, lots of odd angles... circular staircases creep up through turrets, openings going nowhere draw you to explore.

This is the largest of the rooms, quite beautiful, with a vaulted, cathedral-type ceiling and leaded glass windows. Many doorways lead out to the wrought iron balcony and walkways that surround the outside of the castle. Walking out, you stand on a stiff metal grating, through which you can see to the ground far below. Up so high, with not much between you and the ground, the anti-government ranting on the signs posted near the front of the castle return to mind - and you realize it is unlikely that code enforcement officials have given these structures their blessing.

Above and below: some of the many balconies, walkways and bridges we DIDN'T explore!

Another view of the castle, from up the hillside at the back.

Photo above: the first of the public notices posted as you enter the property... a sign of interesting things to come.

The rest of our sightseeing day was beautiful, including a short hike around a lake ringed with summer cabins. People fished from the shore and explored in kayaks and canoes. It was a quintessential last-days-of-summer scene. We took a back road home, happy with our interesting day.

Two hours later, the blue sky was gone, the weather radio was blaring, and a massive thunderstorm bore down on our peaceful valley. Wind, rain, lightening, thunder, and blasts of hail transformed the day. Wow! It swept through in about an hour, followed by a flash flood warning transmitted via weather radio. No floods for us, just giant puddles everywhere. Quite an eventful day.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Panorama of the Sangre de Cristo mountains west of Westcliffe, Colorado.

Our stay at Mueller State Park was too short. We had a great visit with a friend of Laurie's from her decade in Boulder, Colorado, a couple of hikes, a trip to the grocery store... and it was time to leave. Ah, well, at least we moved to another gorgeous spot.

Even before we arrived in Colorado, we had heard mention of Westcliffe, Colorado, a very small town in a rather out-of-the-way valley in the southern part of the state. After the Boomerang in July (which is how we ended up in Buena Vista), several of our Boomer friends moved to a boondocking site near Westcliffe - and Westcliffe went on my list of places to visit.

Westcliffe is south of Mueller State Park, in a high valley between two mountain ranges, the Wet Mountains to the east and the super-high Sangre de Cristos to the west, virtually impassable (top photo - some of those peaks are over 14,000 feet). The area between Mueller State Park and the Arkansas River (north of Westcliffe) was one of the most prosperous mining areas of Colorado and the three roads that travel that area are collectively know as the Gold Belt Scenic Tour.

The description of Phantom Canyon Road begins "Vehicles over 25 feet are not permitted on Phantom Canyon Road. The road is unpaved through most of its length and winds through the canyon with steep drop-offs." Cross Phantom Canyon Road off the list.

How about Shelf Road? "Blasted out of the wall of a canyon in 1892... the road narrows to one lane with turnouts for 8 miles where it crosses The Shelf. Four wheel drive is recommended...". Yikes, absolutely the stuff of Scoopy's nightmares!

If we wanted to avoid a longer route, doubling back on roads already traveled, that left High Park Road: "Originally a trail linking the ranches and farms of the mountain parklands to the towns of the Arkansas Valley... the road is paved throughout its entire length." The ranger at the Mueller S.P. Visitor Center confirmed that it was paved and said it was a good road for RV's. Excellent - off we went.

Well, yes and no. Paved: yes. Good for RV's: small ones, yes. For us, winding down 2 miles of steep grade in first gear, negotiating 15 mph curves that we couldn't see around... it was beautiful, but it wasn't relaxing!

The drive used all of Odel's driving skills, which by now are considerable. The ambient air temperature, an important part of driving a bus-sized motorhome, was close to 90 degrees, so engine overheating was to be avoided as we slowly climbed up curvy passes; overheating of the brakes was to be avoided creeping back down. We saved 45 miles, around $25 worth of diesel... and saw truly beautiful and historic scenery. The jury is still out on whether we would drive High Park Road again.

Once we were settled in our site at Grape Creek RV Park (read our review and see photos here), we headed out in the Jeep to explore town (check out the hollyhocks in the middle photo). Our first stop (as usual) was the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, and we are loaded down with information about scenic drives, hikes, restaurants, the events of the coming week. It's a small town, but has several restaurants, a few galleries, and a lot of history - definitely a week's worth of sightseeing to be done around here.

I took this final shot around 6:30 this morning as the sun rose over the Wet Mountains to illuminate the Sangre de Cristos. The temperature was 45 degrees, the sky completely clear, with a forecast of 80 degrees today. Time for breakfast, then off to our first hike in the area.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Friday, rain and no hiking - which was OK with me because we had hiked to my limit on Wednesday and Thursday.

Saturday, rain and no hiking. Inspired by the fact that Odel had shampooed our carpets on Thursday, I got into the cleaning act, too. Out came the wipes - leather wipes, wood wipes, disinfectant wipes, aromatheraputic wipes. Wipes are the most effective way to control the endless dust in the full-timing life. While I cleaned, Odel shredded, carrying out two BIG bags of shredded "sensitive", outdated paperwork - including the now unnecessary login list. The Olympics provided background entertainment.

Sunday, MORE rain! I scrubbed the sinks and countertops. Odel washed the sheets. We jacked up Scoopy and Odel crawled underneath to drain any water out of the compressed air tanks. I "wiped" the leather dashboard and dusted all the gauges. More Olympics.

Thanks to the inclement weather, Scoopy is sparkling - and I know more about the summer Olympians than ever in years past. I know Michael Phelps, and his mother. I've heard every detail of the Big Question of the Chinese girl gymnasts' ages. Sixteen? HAH! Misty May and her partner Kerry, and the tape on her shoulder. The horses, the fencers, the syncronized divers, the one-one-hundredth-of-a-second, too-fast-for-the-human-eye-to-see win of Phelph's 7th gold medal... We've seen it all. The endless replays and detail-by-detail analysis gets tedious, but it is SO much better than usual daytime/summertime TV!

We are longing for sunshine.

Three years ago, we visited a state park in Colorado that we loved - Mueller State Park (read our review and see photos here), west of Colorado Springs. Tomorrow we are returning, happy to have reserved our favorite site for a few days.

This is the view from site 4 in the Peak View loop, looking towards Pike's Peak as the sun set. The loop has just 5 sites, looking towards Pike's Peak to the south, deep forest to the east, and a meadow and pond to the west.

The only drawback to this great site? No Verizon service - no phones, no aircard.

We'll be at Mueller, and out of touch, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Ta, ta - we're on vacation. :-) Wish us sunshine.

Friday, August 15, 2008


We knew colder weather was on the way, so spent the past couple of days on the trails. On Wednesday, we headed back up to St. Elmo, a "ghost town" of privately owned historic buildings used as summer homes that marks the eastern end of a very popular 4-wheeling trail over a high pass. Unlike most visitors, we came to hike. The Poplar Gulch trail starts above 10,000 feet and climbs just over 1,200 feet in 2.2 miles.

Though it was pretty, I've been spoiled by spectacular. A rocky, steep switchback up an aspen-covered mountainside ended at a small meadow surrounded by high peaks and trees - no breathtaking alpine lakes, no 360 degree views of 14,000 ft. peaks... just lunch and a walk back down. Not a hike to revisit.

I took this photo the next day, on an easy, gently undulating hike along the Twin Lakes to Inter-Laken, the semi-restored remains of a lakeside resort popular during the late 1800's and early 1900's. The hike was scenic and relaxing, the buildings and history interesting... I loved it.

As we expected, we awoke to low clouds and cold this morning. We spent the first couple of hours on trip-planning, researching routes and campgrounds in northern New Mexico for our travels next month. Menu planning and a trip to the grocery store was next, and we had two packages of mail to sort through, deal with, and file. All pretty standard stuff, except for one task...

See this purposely blurred photo? It is an 8 1/2 x 11 inch page, a long list of websites, login names and their passwords, even social security numbers... the EXACT kind of information you are warned NEVER to write down, let alone write down in one place. Not only did I have a printed list, it also existed in a file on our laptop - and on our external backup disk. A total and complete NO-NO, but my memory is insufficient to store this crucial information - and I am sure I am not different from many of you.

A Boomer friend (thanks, Bob) recently recommended RoboForm, software that keeps track of all that stuff for you, protected by just one password. When he described what it can do, and told me about the 30 day free trial, I went to the RoboForm website and downloaded the software.

I played with it a little at a time and found it to be just what I needed to eliminate my written notes. After the 30 day trial period, you can choose to pay for the program, or to continue to use a mini-version (I think you can save up to 10 login/password combinations). I paid, and over the past couple weeks I have transfered all the logins/passwords, our credit cards information, social security numbers, answers to "security questions"... all that sensitive stuff you need for online banking, purchasing, prescription ordering - it is all there on my computer, protected by one (strong but memorable) password.

Today I got to delete the old file from our computer and from our backup disk, and tomorrow I'll shred the old list. YAY!

If any of you are in the same boat, I recommend Roboform. Once you work through the learning curve and complete the set up, it fills in logins/passwords automatically, can fill in your mailing address, credit card information... no more consulting the list of logins, no more getting your credit card out of you wallet to type the number or look up the security code. It can generate random passwords for you, save miscellaneous bits of sensitive information in "safe notes" and more. Great software.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


It's been a little over a year since we discovered Kiva and began lending money to finance microloans in developing countries. Since we began, our initial loans have been repaid and the money reloaned at least once, so that the amount we have loaned is more than double our original investment. Out of 78 total loans, only one has defaulted.

In today's email, we received an update on one of our loans, to Rita Basnet in Nepal. It tickled me so that I decided to post it. Check it out - what an entrepreneur.

"After taking her first loan, Ms. Bashnet purchased her first cow. After setting aside enough money from her milk sales, she took advantage of an NGO subsidy that allowed her to install and operate a simple methane gas tank on her property. This tank stores gas released during the decomposition of cow manure and can be used in her home and excess is sold to others in her village. As Kathmandu continues to face long-term gas shortages, Ms. Bashnet has not only met the needs of her family but can make a substantial profit at the same time.

"With the profits from this operation, she contributed to the purchase of a small van for her husband. He now drives the van along one of Kathmandu’s many public transportation routes. This additional cash income has allowed Ms. Bashet and her family to build a new home on her property.

"With this most recent loan, Ms. Bashnt purchased a high-yield jersey cow that is now giving up to 22 liters of milk per day. At about USD $0.50 per liter, she’s able to even further contribute to the income of her family.

"From her first loan, Ms. Bashet has now purchased 2 cows, a small van, met her energy needs, and begun construction on a new home. On the day I met with her, I tasted some of her fresh milk--heated using gas from the same cow--and tried one of her cucumbers on the roof of her new home.

"Ms. Bashet is truly grateful for the opportunity provided by microfinance."

Heated using gas from the same cow... I LOVE that statement!

Monday, August 11, 2008


They're off!

This past weekend, Buena Vista held their annual "Gold Rush Days". Music, storytelling, a parade, a kayaking demonstration, a rubber ducky race, vendors - and my favorite event, the Third Leg of the Triple Crown of Pack Burro Racing!

The first pack burro race in Colorado was held on July 30, 1949 - a 23 mile race from Leadville to Fairplay over Mosquito Pass, the highest pass in North America. Since then, pack burro racing in Colorado has evolved to a series of six mountain races. The last three, held in Fairplay, Leadville and Buena Vista, comprise the Triple Crown, with a cash award and a traveling trophy.

Each burro wears a pack saddle carrying 33 pounds of mining gear, including a gold pan, a pick and a shovel. The rules specify that the runner may carry (or push, pull, or drag) the burros, but the burros cannot carry the runners.

The Buena Vista race is 13 miles long, run on the Whipple Trail at the end of Main Street, the hike we like on days we don't want to drive into the high country (we don't do 13 miles). The runners and burros looked fresh and fast out of the starting gate (above) - the burros still looked fresh as they crossed the finish line, but the runners looked pretty well exhausted.

The events program for Gold Rush Days has an article written by Tom Sobol, who has finished in first place in nearly 60 burro races. He describes burro racing as "Colorado's only indigenous sport"; I liked his advice on "How To Win A Burro Race":

"Find a burro that wants to run. Burros are just like people. Many burros enjoy the equivalent of sitting around eating too much junk food and watching TV. Others enjoy getting out of their pens to see what is out there. Find a burro that likes to get out."

The runners and their burros seemed like great friends - every burro got a big hug and lots of positive encouragement when they crossed the finish line.

These burros look like siblings, don't they? They crossed the finish line together, like they were buddies, and wanted to hang out near each after the race.

After the race ended, we headed home to sit around, read the Sunday paper, watch the end of the golf tournament and another day of the Olympics. We sound like the non-racing burros, don't we? Even more so when the clouds blew away, the sun came out, and we decided to grill hot dogs for dinner! The Bartees fell right in with the plan - Buddy had been hankering for junk food all day.

Nothing but sunshine this morning, a great travel day. The Bartees stay had ended and we reluctantly said goodbye to our hiking buddies. I know some of their friends and family have been following our blog to see what Jackie and Buddy have been up to... here is the final photo as they rolled out of their site before 9 am.

We're here for another week, which will be easy to fill with golf (for Odel), hiking, sightseeing, and some deferred chores. For now - time to get dinner going.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Independence Pass, Colorado: high, historic, breathtaking. About 20 miles north of Buena Vista, it has been on my "want to do" list since we first arrived here. We picked our wedding anniversary, August 8th, as the day for the trip, and invited Jackie and Buddy along for a hike and a picnic. We four planned to take off early Friday morning for another great day in the high, high, high country.

It rained all night, and we awoke to low clouds - almost a fog. We reluctantly canned our plan, choosing to stay closer to home and save the high country trip for Saturday, which had a slightly sunnier forecast.

So, what to do?? I collected five geocaches from the internet and we headed off up Clear Creek Canyon to search 'em out. We hit three "ghost" towns - Beaver City, Vicksburg and Winfield - historic old mining towns with a few hearty summer residents. The photo above shows a miner's cabin from the 1800's at Winfield, where the geocache took us to the small cemetary.

With three successful cache finds under our belts by noon (Sue Pace, if you are reading this, we saw "RV Paces" in each of the logbooks!), we took a break for lunch on a log close to Winfield.

After lunch, we still had a bit of pep and time before the afternoon showers began, so we hunted another couple of caches, one in the historic cemetary at Granite.

When I woke up at 6:30 this morning (Saturday) and peeked out my window, I couldn't see a cloud in the sky. We hopped out of bed, pulled ourselves together, and were on the road before 8 am - with clouds already beginning to form and rain in the forecast.

See that sign - elevation 12,095 feet? I took that photo at 8:38 am. It was 45 degrees, cloudy, and breezy. I think that we four and the man who took the photo for us were the only five people there at that time - with good reason. We did a short, fast loop around the overlook, hopped back in the car, and headed down the west side of the pass towards Aspen.

Around 2,000 feet down, we came to Independence, Colorado, a short-lived mining community that is unusually well-preserved and unusually easy to reach (roadside). Founded on July 4, 1879, it grew to a population of 1,500 people, 40 businesses and three post offices.

With snow from early October until May, Independence was a tough place to make a living. By 1888, only 100 residents remained.

My favorite part of the story: In February of 1899, a series of severe snow storms cut off the supply routes to Independence. The few remaining miners and their families, running out of food, proceeded to dismantle their homes, made 75 pairs of skis, and escaped en masse to Aspen!

After an easy walk through the remains of the town (and a coyote sighting), we, too, headed down the hill to Aspen. Check out the road - between the cliff and the drop-off, it is too narrow for a center line!

By the time we got to Aspen, our minds were on our picnic and food! As we drove into town, we spied a farmer's market, which we wandered through while debating where to eat our picnic. A chile roasting drum caught my eye - actually, it was the smell that pulled me over. Don't these freshly roasted chiles look yummy?

These two small pecan tarts were exactly what we needed to top off our picnic of cold chicken, mashed potato salad, and fresh pineapple, which we enjoyed in the sunshine at a conveniently placed picnic table. Pretty as Aspen was, with beautiful flower gardens and awesome homes, I was happy to escape the congestion and head back up over the pass.

We stopped at a turnout to take a photo of the road we had just traveled, a sweeping switchback with a fantastic view.

When we got back to the pass, around 1 pm, it was 10 degrees warmer than it had been at 8:40 am, and the parking lot was packed with cars and motorcycles. We took off for a longer hike, away from the crowded overlook trail we had hiked earlier. Those tiny figures are Jackie, Buddy, and Odel, hiking up among the wildflowers while the clouds boil up ahead at the top of the world.

Independence Pass was worth the drive - great views and amazing engineering. One of these years we need to come back to see it in full fall color - those aspen trees would be breathtaking.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


The beginning of August marked the arrival of the monsoons here in Colorado. Sunny mornings give way to thunderstorms in the afternoon - or cloudy mornings give way to rain in the afternoon and on into the night.
We have had heavy rains on a couple of days, but nothing like the front range cities - Ft. Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs. Denver even had tornado warnings yesterday evening! As I write this, flash flood warnings are posted for the urban areas along the front range, where the Rockies meet the plains to the east. Here in the high country, we are experiencing only light sprinkles.

We woke up to clouds this morning, so went to one of the two local trails that I think of as "daily walks" - a short drive to a pretty hike that doesn't take all day. This one (top photo) follows an abandoned railroad bed, so the grade is gentle. Wildflowers line the trail, which runs above a narrow road alongside Chalk Creek. We finished our walk before any raindrops fell.

Instead of high-altitude views, I have a couple recipes to share. I recently made Farmer's Market Garden Salad for a meal we shared with Jackie and Buddy, and they asked for the recipe. This is the perfect time of year (in fact, the ONLY time of year) to make it: fresh corn, fresh tomatoes, and fresh green chilis.

The other recipe is a very simple, very plain-looking, pie. I pulled the recipe out recently for our friends Joann and Doug.

They are workamping at a guest ranch this summer, and desserts figure prominently in their days. When pecan pie was mentioned on their blog recently, I sent the recipe for Francis Oliver's Coconut Pie - very similar to pecan pie, but made with coconut. It is unusual and rich and, in spite of it's unassuming appearance, it is always a hit. Comments on their blog today indicated that the recipe should be in wider distribution.

These both are recipes I have had for many years, tried and true. A summer meal of grilled salmon, Farmer's Market Garden Salad, and Coconut Pie... YUMMMMMMMM!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Jackie and Buddy are great hiking companions. Since they will be our neighbors for a week, we have plans for more high country hiking while we are together. Today we drove up Cottonwood Pass to the Continental Divide, then hiked south along the divide on a ridgetop that gave us views into both the east and west drainages. I took, hmmmmmmm....
I don't know how many pictures! Here are those that give the best feel for the glory of the hike and the day - captions are below each photo; double click on any photo to see it in large format (and use your back arrow to return to the blog).

We weren't the only people at the parking lot - a willing photographer took this "tourist shot" before we set out on the trail. Men on the Atlantic side, women on the Pacific.

We were above 12,000 feet for the entire hike, looking across valleys to peaks above
14,000 feet. Before long, we were above treeline, where the meadows were covered with
six-inch tall wildflowers.

We four, in the rocks stacked at the top of the first summit we crested, around 12,500 feet.

Sharp-eyed Jackie spotted this ptarmagin as it moved in the rocks. I took half a dozen photos - in three of them, I couldn't find the bird even though I knew it was there. As we hiked, it ran along the side of the trail just ahead of us, finally angling away. As we stopped to watch, we saw a fluffy chick hop around the rocks not far from mom.

This is what I usually see along the trail: Jackie's back! The woman is phenomenal -
she can out-hike all of us.

This is the view to the west from the Continental Divide. This tiny photo can't do it justice; double click on the photo if you would like to see the larger version.

We kept hiking towards the second, higher summit, watching a dark cloud form and grow in our direction. Just as we crested the summit, the rain began, mixed with small hailstones.
Time to turn back.

As we headed down the final slope to the parking lot (that's Odel in his orange raincoat, with Buddy ahead of him and Jackie out in front), the rain stopped and the sun reappeared. At this high altitude, the sunshine dried our clothes quickly. The winding ribbon you see in the background is the road over the divide, heading down the western side. We hopped in the Jeep and drove a short distance to an overlook with a picnic table and ate our lunch in the sunshine.

I had marked a few geocaches on our GPS, in case we had the energy to search 'em out. One was within a quarter mile of our picnic spot, so off we went. Here are Buddy, Odel, and Jackie searching for the cache...

... and here is the victory shot! Geocaching is new to Jackie and Buddy, but they've taken to it.

As we drove away from the overlook, Jackie and Odel spotted two beautiful bucks on the side of the road. Look at them pose together (double click for a larger photo).

Peaks, lake, hail, sunshine, a geocache, a ptarmagin and this pair...
what more could we ask for from a hike?