Travels With Dick and Judy

Follow us in our trials, triumphs and tribulations, while on the road in our motor home "The Liberty Belle". We chose to forsake the conventional lifestyle in our 3,000+ square-foot home to move into a 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom. Travel with us as we take you on the road with us in our new lifestyle.
I may grow older, but I'll never grow up!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Well, as usual, we have been getting too comfortable here and not doing the hiking and sightseeing we promised ourselves.  So this past Saturday (last weekend), we opted to get out and head up the Old Fall River Road.  We got a late start, as usual, being delayed by the sighting of a new critter next door at Chuck and Michele's campsite. At first, we were calling it a mole or possibly a vole, but after not finding anything on Google that matched up, I sent a picture and query over to Colorado University at Boulder and one of the professors answered that, although he could find no reference to anything with similar spots, he and colleagues determined it was a Northern Pocket Gopher.  The spots make it extremely rare if not totally unique, so, it was quite the trophy.
Northern Pocket Gopher????
The Old Fall River Road has always been a challenge for me, so I dutifully took my anxiety meds as we started out on our trek up the one-way gravel road.  The last time we took this route (about 20 years ago) the narrow, winding road with no shoulders and steep drop-offs firmly etched itself into my memories.  I guess the medicine did its thing, because this time around, despite the challenges, it was a joy.  Beautiful vistas, quick rushing waters and wondrous rock formations bathed our senses throughout the 9-mile trip.
Looking down Endo Valley towards Estes Park

The small rivulet below is the Fall River.  We would be 
traveling up to its headwaters about 2000 feet higher

About five miles up the road, we stopped for a relaxing picnic next to some of the head waters of Fall River.  The sound of water is one of the most relaxing sounds of nature and this instance held no exceptions.  There was an air of strangeness about it all, though.  The last time we took the drive, we had two kids to keep track of.  This time, we were able to totally enjoy the moment with just the two of us.
Chicken-fried-chicken sandwiches, yummee!
After lunch...the white noise of rushing waters and a good book!
As we began the short walk back to our SUV, we took a slightly different path back through a boggy area in search of my wildflowers and bugs.  Just a few feet into the bog, I was surprised to find some very fresh animal tracks.  On closer examination, I determined them to belong to a black bear that must have exited as we arrived. Black bear are not usually aggressive, just hungry in search of food, and usually choose flight.  I am somewhat surprised that he didn't challenge us for our lunch and ice chest during our picnic.

This photo doesn't show it, but moisture was starting to seep into the track...fresh!
A short way further, we came to a pull-off that had quite a few cars and opted to stop.  Rather than join the throngs that belonged to the cars, Judy and I picked a path that led off in another direction.  At the end of the path, we found a fairly large cabin. We soon learned from a couple of women who were weekend guests that it was a "rescue hut", used as a station during the winter for the rescue rangers and during bad weather for workers and rangers, just to "hunker down".

From the station, we could see the Alpine Visitors Center up on Trail Ridge Road, looming above us as we proceeded toward it.

About 8 miles into our journey, we broke out above the tree line and were treated to brand-new vistas.  Short, stunted brush-like trees, tight, short grasses and a cool, almost chilly breeze was the new "climate" here above on the tundra.

We had started up the Old Fall River Road at about 1:00 p.m.  As we turned into the Alpine parrking lot, it turned 5:00 p.m.

Rest stops are never quick and, in after another half  hour, we headed back down the hill.  It wasn't long before we came across an area strewn with boulder rubble and a couple out in the middle of it taking pictures.  We stopped.    That choice to stop was indeed a good one.  I met the couple, Dick and Paula Orleans, a local photographer and his wife, and soon Paula was pointing out the hordes of elusive Pica running about gathering straw for their winter nest.  Only in this case, they weren't so elusive.  As I sat still, waiting for one to show himself, another sneaked up on me and began to attempt to "harvest" my boots and jeans.  Judy was amazed at how, after 40 years of trying to spot them, they were all around us.

It was hard to tell where they were, their calls were coming
from everywhere.

Cute lil' fellas
This one sneaked in and tried to chew my shoes.  When unsuccessful with shoes, he switched to Levis!
Hopefully you enjoyed joining us and sharing our short outing.  Our next outing is to the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve near Long's Peak.  So stay tuned and we'll be asking you to join us on this hike as well.

See Ya!   ~dick~